Beyond the Dreamtime
Chapter Seven - The Old Way
Yat quickly developed a fascination with the sea.
He was often found at dawn or sunset, staring out over the rolling waves as if
in a trance.
He liked it best when he was alone at those times, but he even enjoyed the
company of the smaller children during the days.
The Tribe demanded almost nothing of him because of his singular and
unpredictable nature and because of his certain, in their minds, ability to
alter from the placid, shy youth into the other Yat. The Yat that disturbed and
fired them, filled them with energy kindled through smoke and flame and the
horns that he sometimes carried across his bent shoulders.
In the stirring's of their thoughts, those horns and the fires that gave them
warmth and protection, and his own hair-raising grey-smeared dancing through
rippling heat haze and smoke, set that Yat completely apart.
They lived in the presence of a chameleon.
And so awesome, so prized to them had he become, that none would openly defy
In any event, The Tribe were much occupied with their immediate conversion from
hunter-gatherers of the forests and plains to hunter-gatherers of the sea-shore.
Winter ran through spring, summer, autumn and winter again whilst they adjusted
their hunting habits, their diet and their pattern of living.
Fish and molluscs were new to them in such quantity, and often sickened the clan
Yat himself was not immune from such over-indulgence, and after falling ill;
heaving out what he thought might be everything inside his body and head,
recovered in time to counsel temperance and indeed led expeditions back into the
lands beyond for supplement's to their food supply from the ocean.
Cros and the menfolk willingly followed him on these journeys and though Yat
took little part in the actual hunt, he made it his business to scout the lands
At times he drew the hunter's attention toward game, at others he ranged afar;
seeking sign of hostile occupation or any indication of change in the pattern of
He also sought and found trees suitable to his gradually evolving plan.
Eventually, he convinced the clan of the need to cut down such trees as he
indicated, and after trimming the trunks, to drag them back to the shore camp.
The camp itself had become fairly well established by then; shelters of hide
stretched over branches packed down by sand and stones borne from inland gave
enough protection from wind and the cold nights, cooking fires similarly
encircled, dung holes dug and re-dug at a distance away from the main area,
growing middens of refuse containing the remains of shell-fish, fish bones,
discarded articles of their simple existence and the ashes of many fires, and
where the wilds of jungle met the margins of the sea-shore, barriers of thorny
undergrowth were erected against any who might come against them.
And into that primitive stockade were hauled Yat's trees.
At first he spent his energies on a single log, rolling it into the ocean to
drift there, captured by wiry lengths of vine designed for such purpose and
after satisfying himself of the tree's ability to float he tested it with his
own body weight.
The gathered children laughed at his exertions to stay upright in the churning
ocean, and after sucking down too much water Yat laughed also, coughing up the
But he discovered during those drenchings that which he needed to know. The log
of his choosing did not sink, not even after many days.
With that knowledge, he set about the lashing together of several logs.
This was achieved again utilising vine and stringy creeper, so that eventually
he had a raft of sorts that did not roll like the single log, even in a rising
Once more he tested it alone, observed from the shore by the initially casual
gaze of the clan.
In this way however, he eventually stirred their interest, if somewhat detached;
for to them the invention held as much purpose as might the invention of the
wheel without a beast of burden.
This thing, washing at its fragile mooring, was meaningless without a way to
guide it, some amongst them thought: merely a plaything for Yat's own amusement,
yet there were others who watched and wondered what might come of it.
Yat, for his part, had not ceased his experimentation.
He, like they, realised that the craft would be swept away as a single log taken
on a river current. But he began to see also that a fallen tree, complete with
foliage was less liable to roll, stabilised by the outrigging branches; just as
his raft not only supported itself, yet remained upright.
True, he had little conception of steering, except through the knowledge
acquired in his younger days of paddling with hands and feet, and this method he
found impossible on a wider raft for obvious reasons.
Of course the concept of sail and rudder was still well beyond his vision, but
paddle, pushing through the water, grew in his mind as an answer.
Branches, fresh cut, with leaves intact, were tried, propelled by his arms alone
with circular results and a good deal of mirth at his efforts. And it was not
until he convinced one of the older boys to dare the placid ocean on a sunny,
windless morning, that progress was made.
That day Yat and the boy Nin, kneeling side by side upon the sea washed logs,
splashed their branches into the water; at first unheeding of each other, but
finally striking a uniform rhythm that sent the raft slowly forward whilst the
ocean paused between high and low tide.
From this initial, basic beginning, Yat began to realise his unspoken dream: the
crossing of wide water, that before was a gulf impossible to bridge.
Not too long after, the men of the clan began to follow Yat's lead, constructing
similar clumsy craft and employing them as fishing platforms close in to shore.
From these they were able to spear a daily catch without waiting to gather what
the sea left behind in rock pools or threw up into the shallows where they waded
with stabbing spear. However, they did no more than keep their rafts tethered by
lines of twisted vine and never ventured out too far; afraid of the sea's power
and of the hidden things beneath its surface. When the tide ran in, they learned
to hold their position using branches that later became flattish paddle-like
pieces of solid timber, hewn from dead wood.
At tide-turn, as they felt the first pull of it, they hauled themselves landward
for fear of being swept away.
In this fashion, these hunter-gatherers of the inlands began the slow lessons of
open-water steerage, and the handling of ungainly tree-platforms in water.
It would be long before that first, hesitant start could transform Man into the
master of the sea, and many lives would be forfeit by such pursuit.
Yat however satisfied himself with the fruit of his planting: here was a
beginning that others of his people had turned to a practical advantage.
Food, and the easy supply of it, was worth the danger encountered. Once more,
the people of his clan were amazed at his magic.
Magic itself was not an actual reality in their conscious minds; it was too
abstract, too tenuous, to be given some definite form.
It was, perhaps, akin to the vague insinuations of religion; but farther removed
than the concrete observances of the world; the sky, the sun and moon, and the
things that grew and moved. Such phenomena had already become implanted in the
psyche of Man after generation upon generation, though Yat's people did not pay
homage nor set aside time for the veneration of these worldly wonders.
Instead, their worship lay in the very act of living: to be. And to be aware of
the constancy within which they dwelt, was to them a continual celebration of
the mystical in all that abounded. Day and night, fire and water, family, food
and sex; even the terrible clawed and fanged wild creatures that were an
ever-present threat to their existence.
The latter, they feared and respected, and too, deified.
Later, some would be selected as totems: their virtues of cunning, stealth,
strength and ruthlessness to be prized and emulated.
And, to them, Yat himself began to be a part of that adoption, although his
considered attributes were so singular, and so removed from past experience as
to elevate him into a category all of his own.
The Tribe knew he was not a creature, but of themselves, a man.
But what kind of Man?
'Superman' would have been impossible as an embracing term for many obvious
'New Man', physically different by slight degrees, yet possessing some
awareness, some gift not perceivable to the eye, or indeed any of the senses,
and therefore hardly understandable to The Tribe, might have been the closest
they could come to an evaluation of him.
This, perhaps, was to be the foundation of reverence laid upon one, found
especial amongst any number; and the early beginnings of the lines of
sorcerer-wizards, witch-doctors and magi, as distinct from those who later were
to proclaim and usher in the great religions of the world to come.
In whatever way they regarded Yat, he was not viewed as a herald, nor as a
prophet of some doctrine or faith, but more so as a single being unto himself;
one who had a life and moved amongst them, moving them by his thoughts and
Thus the idea of 'New Man' began to seed so deeply as to be virtually
unconscious: a thought, a concept, that would take countless years to germinate.
Possibly it would be nearer the mark to venture their growing perception of Yat
as an embodiment of both the animal and the elemental forces; Man mixed together
with fire and water.
Man able to see further than they, able to polarise between the elements: and in
this complicated, indefinable synthesis, lay the subconscious materialism of the
The plain consideration that Yat was no more or less than an individual of
cunning and intelligence struggling in his own way to overcome a physical
difference, was simply overwhelmed by what appeared to them as incredible.
Again and again, Yat had performed, or at least been at the centre of wondrous
feats and happenings. The discovery of the great cave, the coming together of
his folk and those of Cros, the paintings created by unknown hands and those of
Yat himself. His arising from the dead, the spiritual leadership that had
brought them to the ends of land, and finally, the daring ingenuity that had
enabled the clan to ride upon waters where food abounded in plenty, they could
see no further than such truths.
Surely there walked amongst them a being with gifted powers beyond theirs.
And if that was so, such powers were to be respected, even carefully avoided
where possible, for none amongst them dared ponder too much what might occur if
Yat's anger were to be provoked.
He had become to them like some ambivalent vessel of fire and water, layered
deep beneath the skin of a human being; and in their dreams, the horns he
carried began to graft onto his skull.
A precursor of the Minotaur?
He was not a creature, but of themselves: this they knew.
And yet, their primeval suspicions fermented.
And never once did his clan clearly see him for what he actually was.
Industriously, ambitiously, Yat carefully nurtured their beliefs: mostly in a
passive, enigmatic fashion that always left those he touched uncertain,
bewildered; stained by his passing.
On planned occasions, he appeared at their night fires, bedecked in feathers and
shells and gaudy colours; the horns raised above his head.
And at such contrived appearances his people began to equate Yat not only with
fire and water, but with the evolvement of the creatures of the sea, the air and
the animal realm. Yat seemed to be continuously emerging, shedding and growing;
dying like the flame, and renewing in changed and changing forms.
Sometimes, when he danced, he moved as a fish in the sea, swimming before their
eyes on the waves of shimmering flame.
At other moments he soared in the air between. The wings of his arms carrying
him up amongst the swirling eddies of smoke, so that the watchers were moved to
stand and join in the dance; to lift their voices in wordless, tuneless chant
that rose and lowered, dipping and following as he moved.
And when he grappled with the banteng horns, clutching, whirling, tumbling in
death-struggle, they were reminded of the deaths that had befallen his father
and those others, and they were humbled by the awesome powers of nature; of the
unpredictable forces in the world about them.
Finally, they were elevated in triumph at Yat's enactment, as he subdued the
imaginary beast, forcing it sideways to the earth so that the horns lay still in
the greyness of ashes.
And thus, at the end of those nights before the engrossed onlookers, Yat knelt
motionless, flames hissing along the boiling sap oozing forth from the green
wood of the fires. His head bowed, his six-fingered hands hovering, before
plunging down to grasp the banteng horns and lift them high as he stood, all in
one fluid action.
The ritual, for that is what it had become, ended as he stepped backward out of
the light and departed into the depths of night.
On the following morning after each varied, yet always elated conclusion, he
could be found at dawn, crouched amongst the dunes, watching the last shadows
receding across the grey mists to where rolled the sea.
Sometimes, however, Yat would vanish for several days; and on his sheepish
return, bearing food or information of worth, the younger children crowded abut
him, whilst the elders of The Tribe viewed his reappearance with relief, tinged
They had him, and it was good to have him.
But might it not be better if he never returned?
There were still those amongst the clan who distrusted, and even hated Yat, and
others so afraid of what he represented as to wish he might go forever: Tharta
One-eye and his followers, all of them seasons older than Yat, in particular.
But it was The Elders, or those most threatened of them, who concerned
them-selves most of all.
This group now consisted of those surviving from Banji's cave tribe, together
with the merged wise of the people of Cros, and they included Yat's mother Tahi.
Unified, The Elders overruled even the Leader and the men of the clan; but here
The Elders were not unified, and this, was a source of constant aggravation.
For amongst their number were those who disputed Yat's dual position and
These Elders demanded a return to the ways they had known in their youth, and
they set themselves stolidly against Yat to achieve that path.
They argued long and tediously in opposition to the life at the end of land,
summoning memories of the old roaming ways amongst the jungles and open plains
of the past.
They were hunters and gatherers, they said, but of what? Fish, shells, seaweed?
Their father's fathers had hunted animals, birds, lizards and snakes; their
women had gathered roots and plants.
That was as it always had been.
That was how it should continue: for these few old, though no less oppressive,
individuals, it was time to turn about from the new, back to the old dark haunts
they remembered and welcomed as home.
So, by the campfires at night, the divided groups debated, often heatedly,
especially when Yat was not there, and the bone was tugged and fought over
Tahi witnessed the struggle in silence, her eyes glazed over with the image of
Cros, even though he was not present during such meetings.
Or so, she thought of him.
And often so, she thought of him.
He was there, when he was not.
He went away to hunt, and he was still there.
She saw him on the rafts fishing, and he was still there.
But so was Yat.
She felt Yat in her belly, like a growing lump.
She could not expel the lump, and wondered later if that was good or not good.
She began to wonder about Cros: if that was good or not good: of Cros in her
Finally, Tahi was told by the other Elders to make a choice: Old Way, or New.