Many years ago, about ten thousand years ago, on a dewy morning, a Neolith man came out of his mountain cave. In front of him, beyond some small green trees, far below, a valley has laid itself down under a cover of red, yellow and brown trees. A transparent river was flowing through the valley. Across the river, there was a field of wild green grass in which blue-violet flowers were blooming. At the far end of the field, by the horizon, layers of blue mountains stood above the fog.
The sun was rising behind this mountain. Overhead was the blue sky, and the Neolith man raised his eyes toward it. In his primal eyes, two white parallel lines that cut through the air were captured. Slowly, very slowly, in the infinite blue, a metallic object that sat at the head of the lines and reflected the sunlight was spreading smoke like cotton balls. High above the ground it floated. In the fluid air, an airplane flew like a giant catfish.
What kind of animal is this, thought the Neolith man, which moves touching the sky? Slowly, a subdued sound rolled over the valley. The metallic bird filled the desolate basin with high-pitched sharpness. The smoke that came out of its engine condensed in the high-altitude crystal coldness.
The Neolith man did not know anything in this world beyond his mountain and the valley below. He had been lost from his tribe many years ago. Today he contemplated what mystery was reserved for him on the other side of the mountain across the forest. Does this fire bird, that flies touching the ends of the sky, live over there? Or maybe this bird has come down from those twinkling points of light in the night sky. Could this bird see him—a lowly human—below, much below from the sky? Could it know of his existence?
The high-altitude air slowly made the condensed trail curvy like a snake’s, and the metallic bird started to disappear at the horizon. The Neolith man kneeled down. A great loneliness filled his heart. Had the bird seen him? Had it learned about his existence? Did it come to know about his dreams? Would it tell someone that it had seen a lonely man on a primal wild mountain? Under a vast sky, the lost Neolith man prayed to be acknowledged by a heavenly bird.
Then he returned to his cave. A fire was burning in the corner. There was a big stone on one side of the cave with a depression on top. Pigments were kept there. The Neolith man combined red-brown earth, pulverized green stone and tree bark with oil and heated the mixture to make color. He took a small twig, dipped it in the liquid color and started to draw on the cave wall an image of the bird flying in the sky. The bird was glowing in the sunshine. He drew two lines of cloud behind the bird. The plane of the sky flew in a Neolith cave.
After ten thousand years, the Neolith cave was covered by vegetation. There was no sign of that ancient man’s habitat on the stony floor, but there on the wall remained his artwork. A small village existed in the valley below. One day, the children of the village, roaming through the mountain, found the cave. Then, people from faraway places started to come to the cave to see the images created by the Neolith man. One day, a pilot came with a tour group. He stared incredulously at the metallic bird on the wall. There was a symbol drawn with some lines on the belly of the bird. The symbol was known to him. The same symbol was drawn on the belly of his airplane.
The pilot came out of the cave.
Had the pilot seen the Neolith man? Had he seen the primitive man praying for recognition by the metallic bird, far below, in a faraway corner of the Earth? After ten thousand years, the pilot stood where the Neolith man had once stood. The pilot looked up at the sky. He was now the Neolith man. Would a metallic bird fly for him in the sky? Looking at the sky, the pilot dreamed a Neolith dream.
(Translated from Bangla by the author, and edited by Lisa Conyers)
Dipen Bhattacharya is an astrophysicist and a professor of physics at Moreno Valley College, California, USA. He has written fiction in various genres and forms and his books include Ditar Ghori, Avijit Nokkhotrer Alo, Burt Commener Daan Haat, Nistar Mollar Mahabharat and Aditar Adhar.