24 August 2005

The Heart of Dorkness, Part 2.

We bounced around a hair pin bend and were suddenly surrounded by a group of hard looking men. Luckily, they were not Duks. Tonight, our blood would not thicken the dust.

As it turned out, they were Turkmeni carpet merchants. Their leader, a magnificently mustachioed gentleman named Mustapha, wanted to know where we were bound.

“We are headed to the Ben-Dah oasis in the high desert.” I said.

“We are bound for the shores of mighty Aral to join the great Khan as he rides the mud flats in search of sea cucumbers.” Mustapha returned.

“Ah... I believe you may be a bit off track” I said as diplomatically as possible. “The Aral sea is one or two continents, that way.”

“I told you to ask for directions at that petrol station in Bhukara, didn’t I?” Scolded a woman that could only be Mustapha’s wife. “Men!”

Bemused, we followed them towards the camp site, where we met the rest of the Turkmen. Accompanying them were two natives; a Duk named Evan, and a shifty looking Yewdub, who remained mute.

“Come, sleep by our fire. We have mutton and Arrak. We have made fine plov.” Mustapha beckoned us into the circle of wagons.

“It is customary for guests to contribute to the meal.” Evan announced, with frosty eyes set upon Bob. “I have given ‘shrooms.”

“Then I too, shall add a gift of ‘shrooms!” Replied Bob, proffering a large baggie. He glared at Evan who returned hatred hot enough to burn through the walls of reality. The Yewdub merely smirked.

“There shall be no blood shed in our camp” Announced Mustapha firmly. “You may settle your differences by peaceful means, or leave.”

“Hakkii Sak?” Said Bob through clenched teeth. “Yes” Replied Evan. The rest of us settled down to the plov and jugs of Arrak.

It soon became apparent that these Aureeguni mushrooms bore very different chemical properties from those available at your average local grocers. Stars became meteors, the rain a thousand tiny masseuses and the very darkness breathed. I ate more of the tasty mushroom flavoured Plov.

The night flowed past us on greased rails. The firewood popped and groaned, sending fountains of sparks spiraling into the heavens, cloaking Bob and Evan in smoke and cinders as they leapt through the flames in ever more intricate Hakkii Sak dances, set to the throbbing Turkmeni drums. Ancestral and other ancient spirits prowled the darkness just outside of the firelight’s reach. I drank more Arrak; ate more plov.

Sometime, late into the night, I consumed a sheep’s eyeball, to the roaring delight of the assembled Turkmen. Apparently, this meant that I was betrothed to Mustapha’s daughter, Fatima. Bob and Evan, blackened by soot, gleaming with sweat and mellow from the cathartic release of their ritual, congratulated us, and announced that they would put their tribal differences aside and make common cause for the rest of the journey to Ben-Dah.

This unexpected alliance thrilled me, as it would make the rest of the journey vastly easier. However, the Yewdub, seeing the united Aureegunis, sprinted for our Land Rover, pausing only to plaster a “My other car is also stolen” sticker on the rear bumper. Bob and I watched dumbly as our transport vanished down the rutted path.

“So, my husband of my daughter.” Said Mustapha. “You are now without provisions and conveyance to the Waddi Ben-Dah?”

I could only nod.

“Then we shall see that you get there. “ More Arrak flowed, and we consumed the last of the plov.

The caravan pulsed with the preparations of the Turkmen; their smoky predawn silhouettes vexed to nightmare by the last wave of mushroom insanity. Thus composed of the tattered shreds of reality, the caravan bore us over the mountains, towards the crystal desert dawn.

End of part two.

To come….
When Grannies attack! (Night of the boutonnière pins).
The caterer, although reborn in the crucible of pain, makes one final, stupid mistake.
The Wedding and General Matumbo.
The horror. The horror!.

And that's the way I likes it.