The Wasteland people didn’t talk much. What language they had was limited sounds from the back of the throat, and we didn’t know or understood what they meant.
Their homesteads, if they could be called that were sparse and ramshackle. Makeshift shelters surrounding a central fire, but to them, it was home. The concept of farming had passed them by, they were a hunter-gatherer people.
It had long been believed that nothing lived in the Wastelands of Friadan, least of all a people. We had spotted their settlements while flying over the Wastelands. Thinking it was hikers who had wandered off route we had landed to offer help. Instead, we were greeted with curious eyes staring into us from heads tilted to one side.
They didn’t understand us, and we didn’t understand them. In their nakedness, they stared at our clothing, no doubt the fact we were clothed was alien to them. One female stroked the sleeve of my shirt as if it was my skin. I rolled up my sleeve revealing my bare arm and could see the pure confusion in her eyes.
The adults were about the same height and build as Cy and me, but their heads were dramatically smaller with foreheads that sunk inwards. Later Cy made an educated guess that this would mean their mental capacity was not like ours.
We stayed with them for a while, trying to interact with them using body and hand gestures. They seemed a peaceful people even offering food – raw meat. They had the fire but not the knowledge on how to cook food with it.
As we set up camp some way from them, they watched us with curious interest. Our canvas tents and camping equipment were completely new to them. Cy set up a bivvy burner to make tea. Heating water confused them even more and they backed away when we offered our cups to them.
The next day we followed the menfolk as they went hunting. They knew what they were doing and despite only having primitively made spears before we returned with the carcass of a small deer. We watched as one of the women deftly skinned the animal using nothing more than a shard of rock. She made sounds at us as if explaining what she was doing.
As this was happening it became apparent one of the children was sick. Cy went to investigate, gently coaxing the mother to let him examine the child. He returned quickly, ‘the child has a fever’ he said, ‘how do we convince them to let us provide medication?’
It wasn’t easy, but with a lot of gesturing, they seemed to agree. Cy poured some of the liquid medicine into a small cup. As he fed it to the child I could see his eyes were startled but he remained calm. However, when we were walking back to our camp he said ‘Gav they have no tongues just a shrunken stub’
‘You mean they cut their tongues out?’
‘No, I don’t think so, I think it’s genetic as it looks like a shrunken tongue’
‘That would explain their inability to communicate in anything but sounds then’
‘I think these people have evolved differently to other humans. Given their isolation, it would make sense. ‘
©JG Farmer 2018