She clambered up onto the ledge, the pots carefully nestled into the crook of her arm. There was just enough light to see in this part of the cave but she took her time, feeling her way with her toes in the gloom.
In the darkest park of this cavern, the furthest she could be from the light from the fire of the others, she knelt down with one hand outstretched. Her fingers found the pile of twigs and leaves she left there yesterday. Gingerly she lent forward and tipped the embers from the pots she had been cradling onto the pile of tinder. Her breath brought the fire to life. Its heat and light making her feel much safer.
Facing back the way she had come she whistled.
Seconds later he was there. His eyes shone with pride at the stick that he had found and held in his jaws. He pit-pattered towards her and lent against her knee. She rubbed the top of his head with her palm and he dropped the stick at her feet. With a grunt of effort she broke it into as many small pieces as she could and added them to her growing fire. Not too many at a time. Letting the flames build.
It was time to get to work. She placed the ember pots closer to the fire. A chunk of fat had been in one of them. It had started to release its oil and smell on the way into the cave and now there was a large enough puddle of wet grease for what she needed. She took a length of stick from the fire and popped its glowing end into the greasy pot. It smoked and made the cave stink.
Crouching by the cave wall she started to draw. She worked quickly. The fire, though bright now, would not give her much time. Dragging the stick along the rough cave wall a figure started to appear. She returned the end of the stick to the fire then back to the grease. More dragging of the stick on the wall, a bit of smearing with heel of her hand, a quick look at her friend by her side. His gaze drawn to what she was doing, his mind full of the scent of the roasted and burnt fat. With a quick flourish of her drawing tool she added the nose to the finish off her work.
She took a scraping of the black and foul mixture from the pot and worked it all over her hand then pressed it against the wall. Holding her hand out and he let her do the same thing to his paw, gently pressing it against the wall next to her own handprint. She kissed him on the top of his head, gathered up the warm pots and started to walk towards the others. She left the fire to burn out on its own.
Mary looked at the results from the latest exploration of the cavern system. Huge rainfall over the millennia had caused damage to much of the cave paintings or artwork. Lots had been lost forever. Some remained, leaving a tantalising glimpse of who had been there and how they had lived.
In a connected branch of the main cavern of the system there was one piece that was undamaged by time. The blackness of the mark making as clear as could be. The photographs that she had taken whilst she was there told the story. The entrance to this part of the network was slightly harder to traverse. Mary felt that a youngster must have been down here, maybe why there was only one image drawn?
Clicking through the stream of photos one made her stop. She lingered.
Mary took a slurp of her tea and ran a hand over Rosco’s head. He pressed his cold wet nose into her palm. ‘C’mon, boy.’ It was time for a quick trot around the garden to stretch both their legs.
On her screen, the image that had cause her to linger, a small human handprint and next to it a slightly smeared dog’s paw print.