Time: 15 minutes
Prompt: "Anything that can be bought can be sold down the road for more..."
Source: The Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie
The sign hanging over the entrance to the Traveler's Market proclaimed "Anything that can be bought can be sold down the road for more." It's a common assumption. Evidence of its truth is scarce.
The Traveler's Market was not the largest market that Belen had visited on her long journey to the edge of the world. It was the most important one though. It was the last market. Beyond it was just the road, and where the road might lead was anyone's guess.
Belen's brother, Octo, had taken the road, carrying a telescope and a set of throwing knives and ten vacuum-sealed packets of smoked sockeye salmon. Six years later, he had not returned.
Belen's father, Folost, was one of the first to travel the road. Folost had carried a sack of potatoes, an old ukelele, and a paperback novel from which the front cover had been torn. He had been a boy when he left, but when he returned, a week later, he was a full-grown man. He returned pushing a wheelbarrow full of platinum ingots and carrying the weapons to protect his loot. He could not speak of his adventures though. Like all who returned, Folost remembered not a thing that had occurred since his departure. The disparity between his thirteen-year-old pauper's memories and his thirty-something strongman's body, equipped like a soldier and possessed of immense material wealth, seemed to be too much for Folost. He devolved into a morally bereft glutton for pleasure, power, and praise. Or maybe that's who he would have become anyway.
Octo was born a year after Folost's return, to the first of a string of wives. Belen was the daughter of one of her father's pubescent serving girls.
Now, Belen stood poised to follow in his steps—his physical steps, not, she hoped, his path in life. She was not seeking adventure and wealth, as he had been, nor escape from expectations, as Octo had. She was looking for something else—and she hoped to find Octo along the way.
First, though provisions for the journey and goods for bartering with whoever—or whatever— she met. Those who actually returned bearing evidence of success in their travels (none had returned with any memories intact) were often the ones who had carried with them unusual items—things of little apparent worth. Those who carried many tools and technologies or obviously valuable raw materials, however, seemed more likely to come back ruined, or never to return at all.
When Belen left the market, when she set her face towards the road and her feet met the first stones of its dusty gravel, she carried a salami sandwich and a thermos of coffee and a box of one hundred individually-wrapped packets of facial tissues. She also carried a crowbar.
[about my timed writing exercises]