Tanya is a little confused about her feral little sister, Tyger Linn. There are two sofas and a bed, it is night, why must we rush out into the yard when there is a noise, when that noise is clearly not a human intruder? But Tyger Linn has an ancient calling when it comes to her home; any trespasser is a bad trespasser. Lilith and Tanya want more clarification if it involves having to give up the spot next to me.
Tyger responds better to hand signals than the other two will. She understands that voices carry and that silence is a weapon that makes no sound when unsheathed. Give me six like this one and I will own the forest. I wonder what I would do with one hundred acres or unlimited space in the wild. Give me a pack of small and hard muscled canines who know my thoughts and know their jobs. Oh, yeah, we’re going to need a fire.
It had to be a fairly hard sell, at first, fire. It’s dangerous and unpredictable stuff. It requires maintenance. There had to be a group of cavemen who sat there and very pointedly observed that this new thing, this fire, destroyed night vision. It created deeper shadows in the night. Who knew where those sparks went as they danced in the sky and after all, just what in the hell was that stuff anyway? There had to be that debate. “Come on, man, you don’t even know what that stuff is and you want to bring it inside?” “What if the Spirits want it back?” “What if it attacks us in the middle of the night?” “What if it’s some sort of Demon?”
And the debate raged on.
At first it wasn’t much of a debate because fire was something that showed up after lightning strikes and no one knew how to draw it out of the sky without there being a cremation. But there were those early people who watched sparks fly from rocks and wondered…There were those who felt the heat of friction and had thoughts… Who knows how the first fire was started or who started it. The first Firesmith must have amused the hell out of his family, sitting there knocking rocks together or rubbing sticks furiously while everyone else hunted or gathered or watched out for predators.
Slowly, but surely, the technique tightened. This worked better than that, and this worked better with this material. The early humans were highly attuned to one another, had a heighten sense of smell, and they could tell by the excitement of the Firesmith and the smell of the smoke, hey, he’s making what seems to be a tiny fire out of those sticks and rocks! Look at this, hey, come over here, HOLY MOTHER OF FRED FLINTSTONE IT IS FIRE!
And there it was. A tiny fire made into a larger one which everyone sat there and stared at as if it had just appeared by magic. Was it magic? Was it of this world? But there the first Firesmith is, eyes gleaming, sweat pouring of his body, or her body, and there’s the fire, right there on the cave floor, and suddenly there’s the first need for firewood and the debate as to what the hell are we going to do now that we have it?
Suppose it was cold outside, very cold, and the Firesmith knew there were those in the tribe, very young and very old, who would not see another Spring or their first one. Yet the fire crackles and the cave is warmer and old hands, wrinkled with age and scarred by many years of hunting are held out to feel life again. The newborn suckles noisily as her mother feels the warmth envelope body and child. The doubters are still doubters but now they can clearly see that fire means their own children and their own parents will live longer. I still don’t trust this stuff but let’s go get some firewood.
Our first grandparents were created by fire, I believe. There were the first elderly human, pushing thirty, who has seen many other senior citizens buried and mourned, never to see another Spring but now there is this. The other members of the tribe desperately want to keep that wealth of information, the stories, the hunting techniques, and all that has been learned in a lifetime, and now this… The winter will not kill them.
A largish cat sits on her haunches and considers the activity in the cave. The devourer of forests has erupted in the den of humans and she awaits their screams of terror. She has hunted in front of fires before, it’s risky certainly, but it can be done, but after a while she realizes something is wrong. Two of the humans walk right out of the cave and they are carrying this thing with them, on a branch, and there is no fear. The feline slips further into the darkness and the humans collect wood. Wood? The cat feels confusion. Something is well amiss here but she knows that different is dangerous so she seeks safer prey. She will not kill an old human today.
There is a woman who remembers many summers and many winters and she sings songs about the plants she loves and how they heal the body and sooth the mind. The fire crackles and hisses while the tribe listens and remembers her words. The Firesmith feeds the fire, not too much, but just enough, and suddenly one of the young men stares at the walls, at the shadows thrown from the flames. With a bit of charcoal he draws lines and shapes and suddenly the tribe sees horses and deer and because of the shadows of the flickering fire, the herd beasts seem to be running, their legs moving, and even the singer must stop with wonder. The first artist was born out of fire, I believe, the first to use the dimension of moving light. Dreams, where everything is surreal, was mimicked by fire and ironically we could spend more time seeing at night in firelight.
There must have been a grandchild, tall and fell wed, the daughter perhaps of the same couple whose son was a Firesmith, and she was the first to gather the information from a Grandmother, and a mother, two generations of knowledge now, not just one, not just that of the parents but now she sees the world from further away. She will remember her Grandmother’s voice and the way her eyes started into the flames. She will pass this vision to another daughter and another granddaughter and they will become the first generations to have never lived without fire.
There’s something to be said for true darkness, I know that. Tyger Linn is somewhere out to my left, on the perimeter, her ears and nose silent radar. Tanya lumbers around in the brush and Lilith stays close by my side. This is primal and dark and it is good. This is the world before fire and before light. But I crave the heat and the flame. My mind yearns to bask in the glow of coals that seem deeper than any ocean and warmer than any sun. For as much as we humans might love the darkness we love more separating ourselves from it and bringing forth our sight. Somewhere, many thousands of years ago, a human being set forth to create fire from wood or rock, and in that, created me.
Behold! I have now created that person, the first Firesmith.