From “The Rule of Claw”

Laura and Ash stood on the sand as the new tribe rallied round and round, growing in fury and sound. The drums started up again, but wildly, with far more purpose. One of the twins pulled a weapon from the sand before both dashed to grab handfuls of berry blacking to scar their arms and cheeks.
Suddenly Ash and Laura were surrounded by a crying, crowing mass of painted faces bristling with weapons and fear turned into aggression. Ash felt Laura step closer to her as, to the rhythm of the madly excited drumbeats a little sand lizard was impaled on the end of one of the new spears. The savagery of the act made them gasp as the little creature struggled with the wooden stake that had gone into its back and come out of its belly. Its tiny mouth opened and closed. Ash and Laura were astonished at how funny and exciting it was. It was scary, but the more the lizard thrashed in agony, the more the ASP dwellers celebrated their brand new savagery. Hysteria swept over them all, until what they were doing seemed natural and fair.
When Jon took the dead lizard from the end of the stick, everyone cheered. Ash stayed with Laura at the back as the cheering thrashing crowd armed themselves until they were bristling with sticks, running round the huts and streaming out back onto the beach. Birds shrieked from the forest but were shouted down.
‘This is it!’ Jon crowed. ‘This is it!’ as they ran to the far end of the beach where the dunes were, screaming along the sands, streaming over the little hills, through the dune valleys. Creatures that weren’t usually afraid quickly scuttled away. Spears were thrust at them.
As they ran whooping between the hills, a giant seagle tried to take off, leaving its lizard-kill belly-up on the sand between coarse grasses. The seagle, especially one of that size was fast, clattering out of the sky with such falling force not much could escape its attack. But it was cumbersome on take-off, too huge to get away from the ground without a long run at it. As the braying mob rounded one of the biggest dunes, the seagle panicked and ran for the air but towards them, as if propelling itself forward for an attack.
Jon and Will were at their head, hurtling forward face-first. Jon screamed like a real warrior, ‘Look it, Ash!’ as if this might have been the same one that attacked her earlier. ‘With me! With me!’
But most of the others had stalled at the sheer size of the creature, the massive hooked raptor-knuckles of its talons. Jon ran on to meet the exposed breast of the bird, running into it with the pointed end of a flagpole. It swooped to one side and crashed a wing into the grasses of the dune with a screeching sound none of them had ever heard.
The air tasted of the hysteria of the crowd. They were going to kill this huge creature, regardless of its life, its hungers and thirsts, its own anguish and pain. All that was beneath them in their frenzy.
Ash still stood just outside as they tried to surround the flapping bird. One if its wings hung down to the ground, but beak and brute talon lashed out, forcing them back.
They stalled. Ash grabbed Laura and held onto her. Up close, the seagle had them in its sight, bringing them down to earth with its accusatory eye. Jon grabbed Laura’s spear from her. She was never going to use it. Will tried a lunge at the bird, but was pushed back by a dangerously serrated beak that took the end off his stick in a bite.
‘Don’t let it!’ Jon shouted above the caw-cries of the seagle. ‘We’re stronger! It’s what we are! This! We can beat this. Then we can beat anything! Come on! Come on!’ He was screaming at everyone.
Ash felt Laura shaking, trembling. She looked into her face to give her some assurance, but saw only excitement and anticipation there.
‘This,’ Jon crowed, ‘is nothing. These things think they can beat us! Can they? Why’re we so scared? Is this it? Is it? – No, it isn’t! I tell you, nothing can beat us! All the things we’re ‘fraid of! What are they? What are they to us? They’re no different from this!’ he screamed, turning and running in one smooth moment into the bite radius of the maddened bird.
Everybody thought he was going to be killed. But he drove Laura’s spear deep into the proud breast of the seagle, far into its hidden heart.
A gasp went up. No sooner had it, then Will was in and lunging into the dying flesh of their prey. Another after another of them ran into it until the bird was still and bristling with brightly decorated flagpole spears, as if their first real kill had been dressed up and adorned.
Jon had to put an end to it. He stopped them. They stood in a crowd around the huge dead body. Jon looked around. ‘Ash,’ he said, picking up a fallen stick from the sand. He pushed Laura aside using the wooden shaft of the spear.
The crowd stepped away from the kill, leaving Ash standing on her own with a clear path leading to the dead bird.
‘Ash,’ Jon said again. He held out the spear.
Everyone else was empty handed now. Everyone but Ash and Laura had done the deed, but nobody would bother counting little weak Laura in something like this, so there was only Ash, alone. Being offered the sharpened stick.
She looked around at the camouflaged faces like tiger sharks snapping all round her, before taking the spear, before glancing to Laura for approval, before taking a deep breath and lunging forward, last to penetrate the broad breast of the dead seagle.
Ash expected a huge cheer. Instead, silence fell, like regret. Heads were bowed. Nothing else stirred. It could have been that there were no other birds and no adults left now. Everything had changed. “You shall commit no Murder”, the command signs said. No ASP dweller made a sound. Not a single frightened sand lizard broke cover. A saddening breeze blew through hair, through feathers, flicking the fallen flags before dying.
Jon gazed around the ring of blackened brown faces as if seeing everyone for the first time. He was small, but he drew a mighty breath.
He exhaled luxuriously. He looked at Ash before looking away at the so dead seagle once again. Then he went to it, drawing his heart-piercing spear from its deep breast. The shaft at the tip end was bright red. Jon held the spear high in the sunshine.
He opened his mouth, exposing his clean white teeth. ‘Party Time!’ he screamed out.
A cheer went up at last, echoing from the blanket of trees that covered the far green hill.

Writing “The Rule of Claw”

In writing “The Rule of Claw” I wanted to do two things. First to tell a gripping adventure story that was exciting, involving and emotional. Second, I wanted to explore the Evolution versus Faith debate that is even more relevant now than it was in Darwin’s time over a century and a half ago. My intention was that “The Rule of Claw” could be read on very different levels by different people.

Ever since I was a boy and I came across a simple explanation of Einstein’s view of space and time, especially the fact that time can go by at different rates according to the position of the observer, I have been overawed and fascinated by science. Physics and Cosmology and Evolution and Genetics are all, for me, the one enthralling subject. I wanted to bring some of my fascination into my writing.I have also long been interested in the world’s religions, especially in the way religious faith has shaped our own and other societies – faith is so often a political issue.

The world as it stands is under threat from Global Warming. Too often the issue is reduced to clichés like “Save the Planet.” Well the planet itself is not under threat – it is present-day species, including ourselves, that face the greatest danger. The world has made us what we are – it can change us again whenever it feels like it, I just think, one day, it will feel like it.

“The Rule of Claw”, although not set in this world as it stands, is about this world. I have done everything I can to make it an enjoyable read while, at the same time, discussing many of the issues that inspire me as well as those that should frighten us all.