The shaman is not at all what I expected. In fact, I am starting to wonder if “shaman” is even the right translation of the word Songbird used.

It occurred to me after Songbird had left on her errand that she’d told me her people were in the habit of giving gifts of food to visitors. One thing I was sure they would treasure was salt – easy enough for me to get, simply by teleporting seawater to my shelter and boiling it down. I’d replenished my stock a fiveday ago, so it was simple to fill one of my smaller gourds with the precious substance.

What else? A sweet, sticky fruit from the jungle to the north, as far away as I have memorized teleport coordinates, was at first as strange to Songbird as it was to me, but after one cautious trial it became a favorite for both of us. It was easy enough to teleport to a memorized part of the jungle, and probe mentally for the right kind of tree with a feel of ripeness. I plucked a huge leaf, teleported the fruit onto it from one of the branches too slender for the small primates gorging on the tree’s bounty, and then teleported it and myself back to the shelter. Wild melons were ripening, too, and I plucked one to temper the sweetness of the jungle fruit.

Salt as a gift, fruit for refreshment. I placed both the salt and the leaf holding the fruit on a shelf out of Patches’ reach and looked downstream.

Four tiny figures were just visible. I thought the smallest was Songbird from the way she was dancing around the others. Two taller figures appeared to be assisting a third over the boulders lining the stream at that point. The shaman? It had never occurred to me that the shaman might have difficulty covering what Songbird had said was an hour’s walk.

As they came closer I recognized Songbird, and I thought the two taller figures must be her parents. Both wore tunics that appeared more decoration – or perhaps a way of carrying things while leaving their hands free — than clothing. The third figure was bent and smaller, and as they made their final approach I saw that the face was wrinkled and the mouth drawn in.

My people shed and grow teeth as they age, as often as needed. I lost one tooth when I first arrived, but by the time I found Songbird it was growing back. Do these people age, like animals? Is their life span so limited that they quit growing new teeth when they themselves quit growing? Did I misinterpret the awe and respect that colored Songbird’s emotions when she spoke the word I have been translating as “shaman?”

Jarn’s Journal is the fictitious journal of an alien stranded on Earth, in Africa, 125,000 years ago. His story is the remote backstory of the Confederation in which my published novels, Homecoming and Tourist Trap, are set. Jarn’s Journal from the time he crashed on Earth is being put on my author website as I write it.

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