The International Writers Magazine
: Book Extract

The Desert of Death on Three wheels
Antonio Graceffo

The fantasy: On the fifth day, the water ran out. Thousands of kilometers of parched earth lay between me and the next Uyghur village, where I hoped to trade my father’s watch for food and water. Having no other choice, I hacked open the camel’s hump with a machete, and drank the water stored in the spongy white flesh. It smelled of rotten fish, but, slowly, I felt it bringing me back to live. The sand, which blew at fifty miles an hour, drew blood on my exposed skin. I collapsed beside the carcass of the suffering camel, and snuggled tight against its lifeless belly, hoping the sandstorm wouldn’t burry me alive.

The reality: Actually, that was how I pictured a sandstorm in the desert would be. But when I was provisioning up back in Aksu, I found out that camels were out of my price range. Instead, I was feeling extremely un-macho, pushing a silly looking three-wheeled bicycle. The flower covered basket and the bell had already broken off, but a few of the brightly colored streamers still dangled from the handlebars.
And as for my father’s watch, it was plastic.

In the rainforest of central and South America, there is a species of frog, which comes in a variety of fluorescent colors - orange, yellow, red, and bright green. They are shinny and enticing, like living candy. The first thing you want to do when you see one is touch it. If you are a predator, the first thing you want to do is pop this exotic creature in your mouth.
This species of frog bears the name Poison Arrow Frog, because its skin secrets a chemical so toxic that the natives rub the edges of their weapons on it before setting out on the hunt. Touching this frog would be the last thing you would ever do. And yet, the desire is there.
A deadly thing can be compelling.

The Taklamakan Desert, also called The Desert of Death, is located in China’s Xinjiang Province, formerly East Turkistan. It is the second largest desert on Earth. Scientists consider it to be the most dangerous desert in the world. But I am not sure how they measure these things. All deserts look pretty dangerous to me.

I met my first sand storm early in the morning. After hours of traveling at a snail’s pace, I had given up on riding. The wind was too fierce. Even standing up on the pedals I could make no headway. So, I limped along, dragging the useless hunk of metal behind me, like Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s old partner, damned to dragging the weight of his sins chained to his body. I would have liked nothing better than to have just thrown the bike away. But that would have left me with no wheels. And, I would surely have died of thirst before I could make it to the next oasis. The other thought which crossed my mind was to find shelter and wait out the storm. But this was out because even sitting still I would need to drink ten to fourteen liters of water a day. The storm could last indefinitely. Glancing at my reserve, I counted only five liters. I had no choice but to press on.

The book, The Desert of Death on Three Wheels, by Antonio Graceffo is available at
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