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  1. #11
    Oberon
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    This has been posted here before, but it's been a long time ago now. I'll post it again for a new audience.

    The suk always made me nervous. Glancing over at Naji, I saw that he liked it no better than I did. Moving through the crush of people, the sights, the sounds, the endless distractions... there was no more likely place for things to go amiss. But Haroun did business in the suk, and if I was to meet him, it would have to be there.

    I felt something slap at my arm. "Sayid, Sayid!" said a voice. "Sir, sir! Purchase my fine pottery, there is no better in all of Arabia! You will not be disappointed!" My right hand immediately went into my sash, gripped the hilt of my kindjal. I didn't look toward the voice. It was normal for the hawkers to be pushy, but with twenty stone of British silver packed on the donkey Naji led, I was taking no chances. I would not be distracted.

    My nose brought me up short. "Naji," I grunted in Farsi, "What in God's name is that stench?"

    "The slave market, Sayid," he murmured back. "It only operates on certain days."

    When we got to Haroun's offices, the doors were closed, the shades drawn. Nobody answered the knock.

    "He is probably on an errand," said Naji serenely. I frowned. It wasn't like Haroun to miss an appointment. In any event, if something had gone wrong, I wasn't willing to wait around.

    "Lead us to the slave market, Naji."

    "Sayid... it is not a good place to go... it is a foul place..."

    "We have to go somewhere for an hour," I muttered. "Get moving and look like you mean it." There was so much of my career that Sandhurst hadn't prepared me for, but at least I knew how to give an order. Naji inclined his head to me and led the way.

    The slave market was at least as foul as Naji had said. Beaten Nubians stood with downcast faces, each awaiting his turn on the block. Where the irons had chafed their ankles they were rubbed with oil and ashes to patch the holes. Most had had the dung indifferently washed off the backs of their legs with a bucket of seawater; some had not. All stank to high heaven. It was heartbreaking to watch. Naji, dark, lean, unflappable, kept his eyes on the donkey, and I did the same. Time ticked by too slowly.

    Presently a call went up from the auctioneer. A new lot was trotted out, not Nubians this time, but several small, tough-looking brown men with Asian faces. "Sailors taken from a ship in the Indian sea," the auctioneer called, "Brought here by special request."

    What did anyone in Riyadh want with sailors? I just had time to formulate the question when a commotion caught my eye. A shriek, a shout, scuffling... suddenly an Arab screamed and jumped back, a finger dangling from a badly bitten hand.

    "What is it?" I asked.

    "A crazy white woman," said Naji. Sure enough, three handlers with ropes dragged a furious bundle of rags to the block; one seized her by the hair and turned her raging face to the crowd.

    "Let go of me, you filthy animal!" she shrieked, and tried to kick him.

    My mouth dropped open in shock. It was Jenny.

    Her father managed the Tripoli office of the Dutch East India Company, making a fortune in resins for the perfume trade, and exporting amber. The last time I had seen Genevieve Praetoonja-Stillwell, she had been holding a glass of punch at a dinner party on an estate in Suffolk, politely laughing at some stuffed shirt. What she was doing on the auction block in the slave market in Riyadh, God only knew... but it was her, I was sure of it.

    The bidding opened at twenty silver dirhams, twice the price of a Nubian, and went up rapidly.

    "Naji," I asked, "...how much will that one go for?"

    "Four hundred, maybe more," Naji said. "She is a very valuable slave."

    My mind was racing. Bidding had just passed 100 dirhams. Would doubling it quash the bidding, or drive the price up out of my reach? I had the equivalent of not quite six hundred dirhams on the donkey.

    One hundred fifty dirhams. Could I possibly do this without blowing my cover? I could only hope that she herself wouldn't recognize me.

    I decided. I raised a hand, and spoke in my very best Medina Farsi:

    "Three hundred."

    Heads turned, the auctioneer nodded. "Three hundred," he echoed, and the bidding resumed.

    Damn.

    In the end it took five hundred and seventy-five dirhams of the Queen's silver and the donkey to buy Jenny Stilwell, and I didn't know what I was going to tell Haroun, or my Colonel for that matter. But in the end, the slavers handed the end of her rope to me. I'm a big man, especially in Riyadh, but it was all that Naji and I both could do to get her back to the flat.

  2. #12
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    This has been posted here before, but it's been a long time ago now. I'll post it again for a new audience.
    For some reason, I like this
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

  3. #13
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vieamemusique View Post
    You mean...like, short stories or poetry?
    Why not break the mould? All the old categories are mouldy. Even categories themselves are passe.

    Genres are now ingenuous. Being told to write in a category is putting you in a straight jacket when they are afraid you will be gay.

    Haven't you heard? Information wants to be free.

  4. #14
    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haphazard View Post
    For some reason, I like this
    Well, I'm kind of hoping that the reason is that it's pretty good, but I'll accept the kudos regardless.

  5. #15
    morose bourgeoisie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    Why not break the mould? All the old categories are mouldy. Even categories themselves are passe.

    Genres are now ingenuous. Being told to write in a category is putting you in a straight jacket when they are afraid you will be gay.

    Haven't you heard? Information wants to be free.
    Behold: The Über-Artist.

  6. #16
    Don't Judge Me! Haphazard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oberon View Post
    Well, I'm kind of hoping that the reason is that it's pretty good, but I'll accept the kudos regardless.
    Forgive me, I'm used to critiquing writer's stuff and being forced to give VERY SPECIFIC REASONS FOR EBERYTHAAAANG.

    They're like that.
    -Carefully taking sips from the Fire Hose of Knowledge

  7. #17

  8. #18
    Oberon
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haphazard View Post
    Forgive me, I'm used to critiquing writer's stuff and being forced to give VERY SPECIFIC REASONS FOR EBERYTHAAAANG.

    They're like that.

    <-------- [resisting urge to ask "So what did you like about it?"]

  9. #19
    Senior Member Accept's Avatar
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    I wasn't sure what to expect here, and I confess to underestimating what might be posted, but if everything's as good as it has been so far, then I'm looking forward to checking in each day. I think I've found a favorite thread.

    I don't have anything short enough to post, so maybe my signature line will do. It's part of a story within a story.
    Naked to unknown forces, fortune evades mere understanding. The trial of effort.
    The dream of change. Such a place might Hell be to thought and action.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  10. #20
    Senior Member Noon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ubee0173 View Post
    i wrote this one some years back when i was a gonzo-journalist extrordinairre when i got stuck on a central kansan highway because of some random wildfire in the median.driving and daily news

    Kids set fire to southern churches
    and god turned a blind eye
    to this spectacle
    when he sent flames to ravage
    the flatlands.
    the dirge of a dying Democrat's
    diseased voice strains
    through the blown out
    crackling speakers in my
    car that was shaking apart
    as we drove further West
    towards the smoke and sirens,
    the highway coddling it's median,
    black with charred grass.
    Sun shone through a cracked window,
    while outside, the shimmering
    wheatfields and acres of sunflowers
    were pushing us farther
    into unknown territories,
    the many fenceposts passing like hours,
    we want them to go quickly...
    something better must be hiding
    behind the next plateau.
    We clung religiously
    to our notebooks
    and copies of "Being and Nothingness ",
    a pen in one hand,
    a lighter in the other,
    discussing ways to twist the words of others
    into our own truths.
    The butane flames dance,
    igniting the scorched images
    of smoldering plains and wooden beams,
    angels crucified with the
    damning politics of hope.
    I love this

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