I dreamt about the old woman and the fire. She was eating something, something black, chewing on it while clear juice ran down her chin. She didn't look at me; she concentrated on her food. When she finished, she coughed wetly and spat into the fire. She told me her people lived here, on the tundra. When she said 'here', I knew that wasn't quite what she meant. Her people lived poorly, and often went hungry, or died in the winter cold. Her grandfather had told her that once, they'd lived on green fields, but they'd been driven away by a stronger people. Now they lived here. Before he died, her grandfather had been the oldest man of her people. She was much, much older than he had been. She'd seen the grandchildren of babies she'd delivered die toothless and frail. Life was hard for her people, but harder for her, because she was their eldest elder, and because she would not die.
And harder still, she said, because the land itself despised them.
I jerked awake when I heard those words. She said them venomously, with a bitterness so raw it woke me, exhausted and sick. I put the prehistoric tool back into the tub. I'd promised Val and Mo we'd go out into The Sick Land tomorrow, so I need all the sleep I can get.