i wanna live in prehistoric africa. long before colonialism; not too long after the dawn of man. i wanna be lean and dark and sure of foot. i want to walk on two legs and know that my ancestors were the first ever to do so.

i'll live in a tribe, i think. hunter-gatherers. i'd like to know what it is to move among the savanna grasses in the light of the wavering red dawn's sun. i want to sharpen my spear while i watch the antelope leap in the mist over the many and myriad branches of the river they'll call the Nile one day. i want to watch the lions glide among the grass as golden as their pelt with the sort of wary respect one gives to the true king of beasts.

i don't think i'd want to be the chieftain, or anything like that. i'd like to be just a young hunter, in the first or second summer of my adulthood. i'll shout and yell to flush the prey from the rocks and brush, and then i'll run and leap with them, as swift as they are with my weapons of stone and wood. and when i've singled out the one i'll call mine, i'll fell it with one unerring, steady throw of my spear that'll spill hot blood on the hot earth and kill it before its head hits the ground.

later in the night i'll skin my kills beneath a boabob tree while the sun sinks into the flat horizon of the west. all around me there'll be nothing but Plains; nothing but a sea of grass as endless as the sky. i'll know no true sea, no body of water larger than the watering holes so precious in the dry season. the water i know will be rain from the heavens, blood from the kill and sweat from my body.

the tribe will be led by a man old enough to be my father, but still in his prime. his wife is the head gatherer; his daughters some of the finest weavers in the tribe. his sons are my brothers-in-arms, the hunters whom i trust to guard my back when we stray close to the lions and the leopards. i'll have a wife of my own, too, whose eyes are dark and whose hands are deft. i wear the skins she binds into clothes for me with pride. our daughter, if she lives long enough, will grow up to be much like her, but for now she is young, an infant, small enough for me to hold in one hand.

she was born in the late spring, in the wet season, which is when all the babies are born. that's when the herds return to the northern plains again, and we follow. it's when the thunderheads amass in the morning and darken the sky; when the thunder rustles the grass and the wind tiptoes along the dried river-banks. then in the afternoon the rain would come, veils trailing from the moving clouds, and the watering holes would fill and for just a while, the plains will be green.

the dry season is the harsh season. that's when most of our very old and very sick die. we'll miss their company, the laughter of the young ones and the tales of the old ones, but that's the way things are on the savanna. when they cannot rise to follow the herd in the morning, we leave them behind as we must, and the jackals and the hyenas will be the end of their lives as they were the end of so many antelopes'. someday, if i'm lucky to live so long, i'll die in the same way. or, perhaps a little more likely, i'll meet my fate on the claws of a lion whose path i've crossed one time too many, or a she-leopard whose cubs i've strayed too close to.

i think before then, though, there'll be a night when the wind is cool over the grass and i'll stand outside my tent, awake, while my wife and child and tribe sleep. the earth will be dark and so flat that i couldn't ever imagine a mountain the size of those rising far to the east, where the continent called India is smashing into the one called Asia. the stars and the milky way will be bright beyond what i can imagine here, today, living in the heart of civilization; they'll be bright as they'll never be again, setting the heavens ablaze with a blue-black light around each pinpoint of fire, and i'll look and look and look.

and maybe, just for a moment, i'll understand something. something will click in me, and just for one single instant the sky will wheel and unlock, crack open like an egg, and i'll know the reason for the seasons' turning; the integration of the area under the curve; the secrets of the human heart; the tracery of the body's blood and the distance of the stars. it'll be like hearing for the first time a line in a song that'll become your favorite line in your favorite song, only multiplied a thousand million times, and long after the instant has passed i'll stand rooted to my place, staring up at the moonless sky, transfixed. afterwards, i'll spend all my life trying to grasp it again and in the end, be unable to articulate it as anything but divine and thus - reaching for something i'll never again touch - give birth to the world's first religion.