Raef ....................................Elder priestess of the tribe
Nam ...................................The tribe’s chieftain
Oge .....................................The tribe’s top hunter, advisor to Nam
The Time: 1,001,494 BCE
The Place: 50 kilometers northwest of modern Johannesburg, South Africa
(RAEF runs up to NAM and OGE, who are both leaning against the entrance to a limestone cave)
RAEF: (out of breath from a long sprint) Nam, I demand that we stop using fire immediately.
NAM: (sigh) What is it now?
RAEF: Another hut burned to the ground today. That’s seven this season. Four people have died.
OGE: Did any die this time?
RAEF: No, but three are homeless!
NAM: I’ll consider your proposal, Raef.
RAEF: You don’t have time; the gods are punishing us already.
OGE: There are no gods.
NAM: (to OGE) Please, let me handle this.
RAEF: Blasphemy! Throw him into the river!
NAM: No one’s being thrown in the river.
RAEF: Look, fire is unnatural. It spits in the eye of the Sun God.
OGE: And yet the sun still rises.
RAEF: (annoyed) It is the responsibility of the Sun to provide light and warmth. Fire is beyond the control of man. Look at all the trouble it brings.
NAM: I’m aware there are dangers. I trust the tribe to practice responsible use.
RAEF: The tribe is too stupid! They can’t be trusted with anything! Even the eldest cooks in the tribe still burn themselves occasionally. And need I mention what might happen if we start a fire so big it burns the entire world?
NAM: I am concerned, I assure you. I want the best for the tribe.
RAEF: The gods command it, Nam. It’s not what I want. You know I enjoy my meat cooked, but the gods are very clear. The weather has been worsening and –
OGE: Of course it’s worsening, winter is almost here.
RAEF: This has been a particularly harsh fall, even you know that.
OGE: The leaves changed and the birds flew off. It seems like a perfectly normal autumn to me.
RAEF: Nam, surely you won’t sit idly by as the tribe descends from the grace of the gods?
NAM: What if fire is a gift from the gods?
RAEF: Outrageous! The gods provide, and they need no help from human tampering.
OGE: They just need our offerings in front of the prayer cave?
RAEF: Those are sacrifices to honor gods. They are a sign of respect, something you wouldn’t know anything about.
OGE: How do the gods enjoy our choicest meats, grains, berries and nuts?
NAM: Enough. We will continue to use fire.
RAEF: You have placed a death sentence on the tribe!
NAM: Maybe, but I believe the gods gave us the ability to make fire, and we honor the gods by making the most of what we have been given.
RAEF: And what would you say to countless hundreds who will be injured by fire?
OGE: Be more careful.
RAEF: But we can’t expect the tribe to be responsible; we should at least restrict the use of fire.
NAM: I’ll think about it.
RAEF: (walks away) What next? The wheel?