« "Go." | Main | Space Invaders »

The Storyteller is Swallowed

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

Rajab stood still while the monster approached, despite the way its dun and ochre hide blocked the view of pastures and trees behind it, despite the size of its maw as it spread dark brown lips wide. That's larger than any of the arches in the palace, he thought. It must have come from far into the mountains. And he thought, also, about the pain in his legs from running so quickly from the palace and from the city. He couldn't go any further. The soldiers chasing him had stopped too, but did not stand still. Fearful gibbering filled the air in-between the monster's thudding steps; two of the men fled. Their captain didn't call them back. "It is right that you should die in such a filthy manner!" he called out to Rajab, his voice shaking. "And then the city guards will come to destroy the beast, and you will be twice-killed. Just as you twice broke into the harem, twice distracted the women with your presence. I am sure the Sultan will agree that this is more fitting than any death a lowly captain could have devised, and he will clap his hands in delight!" A moment later the monster was upon Rajab, its great lips around him, its tongue drawing him inside.

In the mouth of the monster, Rajab told the story of the first spice farmer to the broad, dark uvula. It quivered in delight and only let him pass to the oesophagus when he had told it another tale. On the way down that long passage to the stomach, he spoke of dark-eyed wizards who together raised the first city from the sand--a long, convoluted tale with monologues on the making of laws and the design of plumbing, and nested anecdotes about the people who came to live in the pale houses. And in the stomach, where he came to rest, he told many tales. He entertained the walls and the acid with stories about djinn, animated carpets, sand-beasts such as the creature in whose stomach he rested, palaces that teleported and palaces that were no larger than a peppercorn, and countless more.

The city guards never did destroy the beast. Instead they joined Rajab in the stomach, along with women and children and livestock. Though some passed through to the intestines, many remained with Rajab, and their numbers were replenished regularly. Rajab, who had won the favour of the stomach and was not digested, was content. He possessed what he had been seeking all along: greater audiences for his tales.

Post a comment