The Cave-Dweller, Speluncanthropus, (also known as the travellers' attacker) is a hibernating, cave-inhabiting descendant of the temperate woodland-dweller, from 10,000 years (the 120th Century), that lives most of its life in subterranean caves, from Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future.
It has been, after all, just another temporary respite. The cold weather returns. Winter becomes long and bitter, while summer dwindles into the briefest of seasons, unable to melt the snows deposited the winter before. The southward movement of glaciers is again faster than the northward melting of their snouts, and the ice sheets spread into the plains and lowlands of much of the Northern Hemisphere.
He seems to retire into his hibernation earlier and earlier each year, and his sleep lasts longer and longer. At least the fish have still been coming to the stream outside his sleeping cave. There was always food available for him in the narrow valley.
This year, however, it is different. After he awakes, he can hardly approach the entrance of the cave, so bright is the glare of the snow outside. He waits for night to fall, so that the outside light will not hurt his eyes after his long slumber. In his hunger he chews the moss from the cave walls and the fungus from the floor. After a while the light fades, and he prepares to face the outer cold. Suddenly, there is a strange screeching noise from deep within the cave behind him. It becomes louder and, with a flurry of wings, a black flock of bats hurtles upwards from the depths and out through the cave mouth. In a reflex, stiff from long hibernation but still good enough for the purpose, he shoots out his arm and grabs one of the furry creatures from the air. It squeals once as it dies, and he eats it whole, chopping up the body with his sharp front teeth and grinding up the little bones with the massive molars at the back. The warm blood and juices warm his inside, and presently he begins to feel fully awake. The torrent of bats is still blasting out of the cave mouth, and he grabs another to eat.
There is now no need to go outside. The humble plants at the cave entrance and the unending supply of bats could keep him alive here forever. Then he remembers that there are birds that nest here, too, high up in the cracks and gullies of the cavern walls, and small shrimps and insects in the running waters deep down. These will be good for eating as well. He does not need to go outside in the cold, at least not tonight. He turns his back on the grey entrance and begins to grope his way back down the tunnels into the comfortable depths.
Dimly he wonders if any others of his kind realize how much food there is to be had down here. Sometime he will go out into the chill and find some of them and bring them down.
Another time. Tonight he has food to find.
By 2 million years (the 20020th Century)
A travelling party of 15 travellers contemplate as they sit in a cave mouth, watching the rain hurtling down, stirring up the smells of the nearby forest. This cave, in fact this whole hillside, is unfamiliar to the party. They have never passed it in previous years, so they must have gone well off course. It should not be too much of a problem: once the skies clear they can take their direction from the Sun and the stars.
If the skies clear.
Night is falling, and the wet greyness is becoming darker. They are going to have to spend the night here, but at least they have the shelter of the rocky overhang.
When morning comes there are only 12 of them. During the night something has come out of the cave and taken away the other three - something that their communal memory has not anticipated, something with small humanlike feet that have left damp prints on the rock.
The survivors move on. The skies are not clear, but they would rather make a guess about which way to go than stay in this place.
By 3 million years (the 30020th Century)
They die out.
- This is one species in the book that was never given an illustration.