The Scarab Tree: Part One
Nefertari, a young and stubborn native to the town of Tungalle,
also a sand colored Desert Wocky, yawned and stretched on her brown silken pillow.
She looked at the tall, skinny Desert Kyrii that skidded into the room.
"Hello Sosta," Nefertari said lazily.
"The sandstorm's about to hit," Sosta said casually.
"Looks like it's gonna be a big one. You should gather your fruit soon."
"Already did." Nefertari stretched again.
"Looks like there's still a whole lot of fruit
on those trees of yours to me," Sosta said, glancing out the window at the fruited
Nefertari grunted. "I'll do it later."
For breakfast the next morning, Nefertari had
a mango. She glanced out the window for no particular reason, and ended up choking,
eyes popping at a bewildering sight.
There on the flat sandy plains was a great hazel
brown cloud, roaring, spinning, and spitting, heading right towards the small
town of Tungalle. It was the largest sandstorm Nefertari had seen by far. But
that was not the reason for her to choke up a perfectly good mango. It was the
fact that the storm, so big and so powerful, was traveling towards her at top
speed, and she had not even started to pick the fruits or gather water that
left her jaw hanging and her eyes rounder than before.
She quickly recovered from her shock and mentally
kicked herself for being so lazy. Hadn't Sosta warned her yesterday that the
sandstorm would strike soon?
Scrambling up, Nefertari drew the curtains across
the windows and tied them tightly together so the sand wouldn't come in. Next
she raced outside and vigorously started picking fruit of the trees, tossing
them into large baskets. Again she mentally kicked herself. When she was finished,
she carried the baskets into her kitchen and threw them down next to a cabinet.
As she grabbed two water pails and started racing
out the door, she stumbled into Sosta.
"Sosta!" Nefertari panted. "Help me with the
water! The sandstorm's only minutes away!"
"I know," Sosta replied, arms crossed. "I'm
your brother, remember?"
Nefertari snorted and rolled her eyes, then
sprinted off with the pails towards the town well, Sosta close behind her with
another pair of pails.
Nefertari and Sosta had just barely finished
carrying in two pairs of pails full of water and tied a thick cloth over the
doorway when the sandstorm hit. The sand tore at the brightly dyed curtains
like a mad beast, and wind whistled through the abandoned streets.
"It's a pretty big one," Sosta said, obviously
amused. "It should be over by tomorrow night. At the most."
The day wore on. Nefertari and Sosta read from
scrolls and munched on a fruit or two that they had brought in. Soon dark enveloped
the house and it was too gloomy to read. Nefertari and Sosta went into their
bedrooms; Nefertari curled up on a brown silk pillow, and Sosta lay down on
a straw mattress to go to sleep, both lulled by the sound of the raging winds
and the swirling sands outside.
When Nefertari woke, the wind and sand was still
batting at the linen curtains. She yawned and found her mouth parched, her tongue
shriveled like a prune.
Padding lightly over to a water pail, she lapped
up many mouthfuls of water. Her tongue instantly unshriveled, and her mouth
felt moist again.
Satisfied, she bit into a ripe tchea fruit.
Its rich fruity taste flowed into her mouth and into her stomach. She reached
into the basket to grab another one, but a soft paw stopped her. Alarmed, Nefertari
looked up to find Sosta's pointed face glaring down at her.
"Don't eat so much, pig."
"You're going to need those."
"Neff, the sandstorm's going to be longer than
Sosta sighed. "You're not that smart, you know?
Anyway, the sandstorm's not weakening, so it's going to last longer."
"So save the food and don't pig out. Only eat
when you're hungry, okay, Pig?"
Three mornings came and went, but still there
was no sign of the sandstorm weakening. Nefertari walked over to Sosta, who
was staring blankly at the linen-covered window, ears cocked forward, no doubt
listening to the wild wind that blew outside.
"Neff, I'm going to stop this storm," he said,
still staring at the curtain.
Sosta looked at Nefertari with eyes that clearly
said, You are sooooo stupid. "Three days ago I read about something called the
Scarab Tree. A long time ago, people prayed to it and did a whole bunch of sacrifices
for it. They said it kept the sandstorms away. But then the people began to
say that perhaps this Scarab Tree was just probably a myth, and so they stopped
praying and sacrificing things to it. So, I think the Scarab Tree got mad and
you know, made this sandstorm."
"Oh. But then, how can a tree get mad?" Nefertari
Sosta sighed. "That's not the point!"
"Oh, right. Sorry. So you're going to find this
Scarab Tree and like, chop it down or something?"
"Can I come?"
"No, you have to stay. If anything happens to
me, you have to come after me."
"How will I know if you're in trouble of not?"
"As for that," Sosta said, pulling out a white
string of pearls from his pocket. "I'll leave this here. If it breaks, it means
I'm in trouble."
Sosta placed the pearls on the kitchen table.
They were lined from biggest to smallest, gently glowing and reflecting what
little light there was with a milky gentleness.
Sosta started packing his provisions; dried
fruits and water, Nefertari busy shouting out comments at his side.
"You have too much fruit. Take some out and
put in a water canteen. Water's more important."
"Cover the top of the sack with another cloth
so the sand doesn't get in. You don't want to be eating sand pears now, do you?"
"Gosh, you're slow. How come you aren't snappy
like I am?"
"Neff," Sosta grumbled. "You're not snappy.
And don't talk too much. You're going to dehydrate yourself. Our water is limited,
Nefertari snapped her mouth shut.
Sosta finished packing and slung the bulging
sack over his back. He exchanged good byes with his sister, and then stepped
out into the roaring sandstorm.
The next day, Nefertari slept all day. With
nobody but herself to talk to, even reading seemed dull to her.
Nefertari woke again to the sounds of raging
sand and wind furiously batting at the linen curtains. She trotted to the kitchen
for a fruit to fill her stomach, her mind still have asleep. She ignored the
pearls that were scattered across the floor, or rather, she just thought, What
pretty pearls. What're they doing here? Remember, her mind was still half
asleep. It was when she started to select which kind of fruit to have for breakfast
this morning that her brain clicked into motion.
Nefertari whirled around and stared at the white
pearls glistening on the floor.
"Sosta…" she croaked, and fainted.
She woke a few minutes later, her head whirling.
She thought of Sosta, perhaps crumpled somewhere in the desert, little by little
being buried by sand. Then she thought of what Sosta said to her before he left.
If anything happens to me, you have to come
I have to, eh? she thought, and snorted
to herself. How brotherly like of him, ordering me around.
But she loved her brother very much, and in
the end she decided to set out into the sandstorm with a heavy sack over her
shoulders like her brother did two days ago.
Nefertari was going to die. She had no food,
no water. It wouldn't have made any difference if she did though, because her
mouth was so full of sand that every time she opened it, more sand went out
than in. Of course she made an attempt to prevent this by tying a shawl around
her nose and mouth, with a semi-transparent one over her eyes, but the sand
easily found the smallest space to squeeze through and stung her worse than
a colony of crazed wasps.
Besides food and water, Nefertari had no hope.
She had been wandering around this desert for goodness knows how long, and yet
there was no sign of her brother. And she had no clue where she was going; north,
south, east, west, or anything in between. She might have been going in circles
all this while for all we care.
Nefertari was going to die.
But this being a story, of course she doesn't
die. She is, after all, the main character. And the main character never dies
in a story, unless we're talking about Sherlock Holmes, which is quite a different
matter altogether that we won't worry about right now.
Nefertari stumbled on a rock. She had no strength
to prevent or break the fall, so she landed face first with full impact. She
would have cried then, if it weren't for the fact that she had no liquid inside
her. However, a large gash appeared on her face that ran from her forehead down
to her left cheek, and a thick, reddish-black substance came oozing out of it.
We shall call this "blood".
She weakly cried out and kicked the rock with
her hind leg in anger. But to her horror, the stone was soft and moving. She
kicked it again, just to be sure, and sure enough, it moved again. She slowly
turned herself around and examined the rock. It was brown and oval shaped, slightly
flattened, and had a striking resemblance to-
"A hand!" Nefertari cried.
And suddenly she was full of hope, because that
hand could've been Sosta's hand, and if not, it could belong to a traveler who
could have some food to spare. Now that she thought about it, how could a mere
stone be still visible in a sandstorm as great as this? It would've been covered
in sand in a matter of seconds, and this sandstorm had been blowing itself about
So Nefertari dug with renewed hope. It was hard,
as the sand that she dug up was swiftly replaced by more sand, but eventually
she managed to free an arm, the head, which was Sosta's, then his chest and
legs and feet.
"Sosta!" Nefertari cried.
"Hello, Neff," Sosta said hoarsely, for he had
recovered from his unconscious state quite rapidly.
"How long have you been buried?" Nefertari asked.
"Just a few minutes… I couldn't breathe down
there. Thanks," Sosta replied.
"So," Nefertari said, helping Sosta to his feet.
"Where do we go now?"
"I don't know," he said. "I suppose we just
wander around until we find the Scarab Tree."
"And chop it down?"
They walked for a long time in silence without
sleeping or resting, for they were afraid they would be buried the next time
they awoke, or perhaps not awaken at all. And so they were tired and hungry
and hopeless once again when they found something worth wondering about.
This "thing" that we speak of was a large and
lovely temple carved out of hard brown stone, with colossal pillars and Anubis
statues posed in front of it like unblinking sentries. Sosta and Nefertari walked
up to it very cautiously and curiously, for they had never before heard of such
a grand temple in the middle of the desert.
Suddenly Sosta stopped.
"See how this place is not buried in sand? It
should've been buried ages ago, yet not an inch of it is under the surface,"
he hissed. "Nefertari, this temple is guarded by a great wielder of magic. Beware,
something dwells secretly in there."
"Why the sudden noble talk?" Nefertari teased,
and continued. "Good or evil?"
"I don't know," he replied, and they both shivered.
To be continued...