Raf's Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Another part of a larger work that is in the same series of sorties as 'A Slight Mistake in the Code'

Submitted: August 17, 2014

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Submitted: August 17, 2014

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The tribe was a clockwise tribe, they travelled round the great desert in a clockwise direction. They travelled down the east coast of the Great Ocean, along the southern coast, then up to the north coast and final after several years of travel, reached their starting point again. The point at which they stopped heading east and started south again was considered the starting point and another great circuit would be added to the tribe’s oral history of 136 or 138 circuits depending on which version of the oral history you considered correct.

There were other clockwise tribes, though Raf’s tribe never had much dealings with them. And then there were the anticlockwise tribes, those travelling in the opposite direction. The tribe remained on friendly terms with most of them, there were a few tribes that they tried to avoid twice in each circuit due to some ancient feuds, but then those tribes tended to avoid Raf’s tribe as well.

Most of the terrain they travelled through was desert, there were areas of grassland close to the Great Ocean, where onshore winds laden with moisture, dumped their load. It was in these areas, that the tribes tended to remain the longest, grazing their camels, trading goods and stories. Further inland, after a few hundred kilometres the clouds that drifted into the Great Desert had dropped all of their rain and the winds that blew in the endless, searing nightless desert were dry as a camel that had died of thirst’s bone.

And then there were the towns. A series of towns circled the Great Ocean, trading with the tribes, each other and with the ships belonging to the nations of the continents within The Great Ocean.

It was close to the town of Nith at the edge of the desert that Raf met the camel.

The camel was obviously not a wild one. It must have belonged to some tribe before, in some respects it was the most docile camel Raf had ever seen. It knelt for someone to climb onto its back. It would wait patiently while its rope was staked out at night and it did not flinch when it was branded with the tribe’s sigil. The strangest thing though was the other camels ignored it, normally there is some form of interaction between the camels, males interested in females, males fighting with each other but this camel, the others all ignored it. It was as if it wasn’t there.

The strange camel stayed with them for three weeks, then it left.

Raf had been given the job of watching the camels on the night the camel disappeared. He was practising his aptitude of the game pebbles when he heard a noise from where the camels were pegged out. He abandoned his game and ran over to where the camels were kneeling down, their mouths moving incessantly. Raf looked round and counted the camels. Then when he came up one short, he counted them again coming to the same number.

He looked around and noticed a peg with a piece of rope. He rushed over and examined it. The rope looked like it had been burnt through, not cut or ripped out of the ground, as would happen if a rival tribe were trying to steal the camel, but burnt.

Raf ran back to his parents’ tent. “A camel has escaped,” he shouted.

“Well you’d better bring it back. I don’t want to see you again until you’re back with it,” his father shouted.

Raf grabbed his water canteen, checked it was full and ran off into the short desert night. The tracks were easy to follow. He ran and after a few minutes, he could see the dark shape move against the light of faint and distant days.

“Come back,” he shouted out in desperation as he started to catch up. He could make out the shape of the camel turn and stare at him and then trot off at a faster speed.

As Raf ran faster, the camel did likewise then it turned its head and looked at him, and then looked at the distant camp. Then slowly it turned round and walked back to Raf.

“You’re coming back with me,” Raf said grabbing hold of the bit of rope remaining round the camel’s neck.

“Listen little boy,” the camel said. “If you don’t go back to your tents now, you’ll get lost. Now I have things to do and I can run faster than you can.”

“Ayeee,” Raf screamed but he still held onto the rope. A talking camel!

“Look, I’m serious,” the camel said. “Let go of the bloody rope.” It then looked at the rope and it began to smoke. Then Raf smelt it. At that point, he let go of the rope and the camel began to walk back in the direction it had originally been going.

“Wise decision,” the camel shouted back.

“How did you do that?” Raf asked.

“Lasers built into the eyes,” the camel replied.

Raf didn’t know what a laser was but it sounded like the sort of thing he wanted. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“My job here is done, I have your language files.”

Raf didn’t understand the reply. “You’re going into the desert. You’ll die.”

“I won’t die.”

“There’s nothing there.”

The camel looked at him. “Think about it. How many talking camels do you know, so obviously I know what I’m doing.”

Raf just stared at the camel.

“I’ve got somewhere to go,” the camel continued. “Things to do.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m not going to tell you that. Oh bugger there’s more people coming. Fare-thee-well.” And then the camel ran off faster than it should have been able to. As it disappeared, Raf noticed the tribe’s brand had disappeared from the camel’s rump.

Raf looked behind him to see several men from the tribe riding camels towards him. They ran past him. His father dismounted. “Don’t worry, “ he said. “We’ll catch it.”

“Won’t matter,” Raf replied. “It can run fast and it’s got lasers in its eyes.” The foreign word was difficult to pronounce. “That’s how it burnt through the ropes.”

His father stared at him.

“I know you’ll think I’m lying or that I’m mad, but the camel spoke. It spoke to me.”

His father continued to stare at him. “What did it say?” he eventually asked.

“I didn’t really understand, something about it had done its job and something about languages. It’s the camel we found a few weeks ago. I think we were meant to find it.”

“What do you mean, we were meant to find it?”

“Not us, I suppose but anyone,” Raf said. He paused. “If you think about it, we’ve not lost anything.”

Raf’s father thought for a few moments then said, “This is true, we had use of a camel for a short while.” He turned towards Raf and continued, “Then speak no more of it. Do you want to be ridiculed?”

Raf had expected a beating and was surprised by his father’s reaction but his father spoke sense. If the other boys in the tribe thought he had had a camel speak to him then …

Then his life would not be worth living.

*

The camel had outdistanced the tribesmen as Raf knew it would, but he resolved to himself he would find out about the strange camel. It might take weeks or it might take years, after the next circuit of the desert he would be old enough to find out, and then he would find out what the camel was, why it had stayed with the tribe and what the hell it was doing.

 


© Copyright 2020 Tom Greenwood. All rights reserved.

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