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The Neanderthal Extinction

Dreamed 2008/7/30 by Wayan

A college class. Our teacher gleefully draws on the blackboard; her scribbles start moving, illustrating her points. Oh. A vertical strip of the chalkboard is programmable, though I don't know how she triggers the animations she wants. Or is her entire lecture scripted and carefully timed to match the appearance of a planned animation? No one questions her, throwing off her timing, so I can't tell.

Her anecdotes are witty, but where's she going with them? And what class is this, feminist history? I'm only guessing that because nearly all my classmates are women; see only one other man.

She talks of "universal" patterns of history that sound, to me like human-and-chimp territoriality. I decide to challenge her. "What if homo sapiens hadn't evolved? Given the host of other highly intelligent creatures--ravens, squid, elephants--it's clear some other people would have evolved--eventually. Would our historical patterns really turn out to be universal, or are they peculiarities not of "civilization" but of our species? Convince me giant parrots or bonobos would have wars, virginity fetishes, honor killings, capitalism..."

"What do you mean by species?" she asks. "If we'd died out, wouldn't Neanderthals just have replaced us? Or were they truly a different species?" Modern woman cuts throat of Neanderthal man. Nightmare sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

"I agree that's not clear yet. Most physical anthropologists think of them as just a subspecies. They were intelligent; but there's neurological evidence we're hardwired for language differently, and may not have been too cross-fertile with Neanderthals. Either, if proven, would justify a species designation. But I'm asking you to postulate a distinctly nonhuman history--if you think Neanderthals are too human, extinct them too--design people entirely different, and explain why they'd mimic OUR historical patterns!"

She tackles my challenge--instantly. For keeps. Suddenly I feel an Ice Age chill. My classmates are gone; I'm squatting on a rectangular terrace with low earthen banks, looking in a cave-mouth. Inside, our teacher. But she's transformed: younger, athletic, indeed disturbingly sexy... and in rough furs. She's a cavewoman! But definitely Homo sapiens still. Easy to be sure; in front of her's a Neanderthal--a short, stocky, barrel-bellied, chinless, big-nosed, gorilla-brow guy.

She holds an obsidian knife to his throat! And rather than extract some promise from him or from me, as I expect, she looks me in the eye, laughs, and just... cuts his throat. Blood pours out.

She's personally extincting the Neanderthals!

Or maybe not. He's bloody, but still alive. Tough guy. Despite her new cave-woman body, she's still an academic not an assassin; she cut the front of his massive throat. He may not talk or sing now (if he could before, which of course is the big Neanderthal question now made moot, or rather, mute...) but she missed his carotid arteries. He's bleeding, but not bleeding out.

Even wounded he's much stronger than her; I'm not sure who'll win their fight. Professor versus Neanderthal...

And there I wake.


LISTS AND LINKS: university - gender - time-travel - primates (other than Homo sap) - population & extinction - caves - knives - violence - blood - allergies - health advice in dreams - same dreamer years ago: a paradoxically lifesaving Knife at his Throat

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