Arthur C. Clarke
The forest, which came almost to the edge of the beach, climbed away into
the distance up the flanks of the low, misty hills. Underfoot, the sand was
course and mixed with myriads of broken shells. Here and there the
retreating tide had left long streamers of weed trailed across the beach.
The rain, which seldom ceased, had for the moment passed inland, but ever
and again large, angry drops would beat tiny craters into the sand.
It was hot and sultry, for the war between sun and rain was never-ending.
Sometimes the mists would lift for a while and the hills would stand out
clearly above the land they guarded. The hills arced in a semicircle along
the bay, following the line of the beach, and beyond them could sometimes be
seen, at an immense distance, a wall of mountains lying beneath perpetual
clouds. The trees grew everywhere, softening the contours of the land so
that the hills blended smoothly into each other. Only in one place could the
bare, uncovered rock be seen, where long ago some fault had weakened the
foundations of the hills, so that for a mile or more the sky line fell
sharply away, drooping down to the sea like a broken wing.
Moving with the cautious alertness of a wild animal, the child came through
the stunted trees at the forest's edge. For a moment he hesitated
since there seemed to be no danger, walked slowly out onto the beach.
He was naked, heavily built, and had course black hair tangled over his
shoulders. His face, brutish though it was, might almost have passed in
human society, but the eyes would have betrayed him. They were not the eyes
of an animal, for there was something in their depths that no animal had
ever known. But it was no more than a promise. For this child, as for all
his race, the light of reason had yet to dawn. Only a hairsbreadth still
separated him from the beasts among whom he dwelt. The tribe had not long
since come into this tribe, and he was the first ever to set foot upon the
lonely beach. What had lured him from the known dangers of the forest into
the unknown and therefore more terrible dangers of this new element. he
could not have told even had he possessed the power of speech. Slowly he
walked out to the water's edge, always with backward glances at the forest
bore upon its face the footprints it would one day know so well.
He had met water before, but it had always been bounded and confined by
land. Now it stretched endlessly before him, and the sound of its labouring
beat ceaselessly upon his ears.
With the timeless patience of the savage, he stood on the moist sand that
the water had just relinquished, and as the tide line moved out he followed
it slowly, pace by pace. When the waves reached towards his feet with a
sudden access of energy, he would retreat a little way toward the land. But
something held him here at the water's edge, while his shadow lengthened
along the sands and the cold evening wind began to rise around him.
Perhaps into his mind had come something of the wonder of the sea, and a