Gao sat under the brush, constantly peeking through leaves to search for any movement in the distance. He had been there for most of the day and his muscles were starting to ache from having to sit still. He leaned to one side to stretch a growing muscle ache in his leg.

“No movement!” Bo hissed at him from beside him. The lithe woman had been sitting silently as long as Gao had, but she was still as stone except to point out every single thing Gao had done wrong. “Movement scares them.”

Gao was irritated about getting scolded again. He had not seen any animals all day, and only had sore muscles to show for his time spent. They hadn’t even taken time to eat anything, either. He didn’t think just waiting would be quite so painful.

Bo moved her head close to his in a deft, fluid motion that didn’t disturb a single leaf. “How many animals you seen today?” she asked, her voice barely a breath on his ear.

“None!” he said a bit too loudly showing his irritation.

“Quiet!” Bo hissed. “You don’t see. Look right, twenty strides away.”

Gao strained his eyes to count out the strides in his mind and finally saw it: a light green lizard about the same color as the grass. It was a common animal brought back by the hunters, providing both meat and tough skin. He would have missed the slinking lizard without Bo pointing it out, and he felt ashamed.

“Wait,” she breathed into his ear. “Wait until I move.”

Gao gripped the spear laying on the ground, ready to spring into action. He felt Bo move to sit up straight and grip her spear. A small, involuntary shiver went down Gao’s spine as he prepared for the sudden speed that would be required very soon.

The lizard moved slowly in the low grass, occasionally swinging its head around to look for any danger. After a bit, it found a slab of rock it climbed upon to enjoy the rest of the sun. When it finally put its head down, Bo gave a sharp exhale, leaped from the bushes, and ran toward the lizard.

Gao was stunned, unable to move. He had been concentrating so hard on the lizard that he didn’t realize it was time to move. He stood up quickly but forgot to grab his spear. Bending down to grope for it, he finally grabbed it but snagged it on the underbrush as he tried to pick it up. After a few angry yanks, he freed it from the brush and ran after Bo.

At rock, Bo was staring down the lizard. She was waving her spear around, swiping its dark point at the lizard’s head. The lizard was taking angry bites at the air around her spear. Gao held his spear at the ready, but didn’t know what to do.

“Strike, Gao!” Bo yelled, as if reading his mind. He moved to what he thought was a better angle, took a deep breath, and struck at the lizard’s side.

The world seemed to slow down during the next few moments. First came the sharp shout from Bo an instant before his spear struck. The spear hit the lizard’s side, but the point bounced off the thicker hide to no effect. Gao had gotten the lizard’s attention, however, and it turned toward him faster than he imagined possible. Its head snapped back and forward as Gao stared at it, dumbfounded.

The spittle hit him in the neck. He fell backward with the surprise of the blow and dropped his spear. As his senses came back to him, the burning sensation made him scream and start clawing at his neck.

Bo gave a sharp shout and a quick thrust of her spear and the lizard slumped down. She ran to Gao and sat on top of him, grabbing at his hands. When she caught them, she pinned him to the ground.

“Stop! Stop!” she shouted. “You spread it!”

Gao struggled and screamed, the burning sensation had spread to his chest. Bo kept yelling until he finally calmed down; all he could do is breathe heavily and stare up at her.

“No touch. Stay!” she barked as she leaped up and went to the bush they had been hiding in. She grabbed the pouch of water they had brought and ran back. Pouring a bit of water on his neck and a bit of leather, she started wiping away the spittle and easing his pain. He laid there, whimpering softly to himself.

“Sit up. No bleeding. You good,” Bo said gently. Gao sat up with her help and grimaced with the pain.

He looked over at the lizard and saw Bo’s spear pierced through its neck, blood seeping out of the wounds. Gao got to his feet and went over to look at the dead animal.

“Always hit neck,” Bo pointed. “Sides hard, but neck soft.”

He looked down at the animal, then at his ineffective spear off to the side. He slumped down on the ground as tears welled up in his eyes. Emotions flooded his mind, emphasizing his uselessness and physical pain.

Bo went over to him, squatted next to him, and put her hand on his shoulder. “Be calm,” she said.

He looked at her through his watery eyes and took a deep breath. “So useless,” he said between sobs.

“No, just learning,” she said. “Takes time to learn. I took long time.”

He looked at her and swallowed his sobs. He wiped his eyes as Bo nodded and showed him her hand. Small puncture wounds could be seen along the part near the thumb.

“When I was learning, animal leaped at me and bit hard. It hurt!” she said. “But, I learned animals move fast, and better if they watch spear not me.”

Gao swallowed, enduring the pain, and nodded.

“Now, you learn,” Bo said. “Next time you see this lizard, remember pain in neck.” She pointed at his neck. “Then, give him pain in neck!”

Gao gave a small laugh through the tears. It hurt, but it was not a lesson he was likely to forget soon.


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