Part Eight - Food for Food
Nothing much was said during the remainder of the journey into Ciphrah. As they neared the outer structures, Tom noticed the reason for the colors he had seen from farther off. The buildings had a frame of redwood and mud-bricks as walls. The doors were also of redwood. “Okay Tom, if you don’t mind getting off my back, we’ll walk from here,” Chaphar said reaching the outskirts of the city.
Tom sighed and slipped down. They continued into the city, which got crowded very fast. Tom quickly noticed that most were human, extremely few animals. “I thought you said there were dinosaurs and other sentient creatures,” Tom said as he fought to stay at Chaphar’s side. He ended up holding his mane to stay close.
“I told you, we all work together, but seldom live together. Those creatures you see around you are either unusual, or are here on business.”
Minutes passed and they seemed to be getting nowhere. Sure, people parted to let a horse through, but the city was so big. “How are we going to find a food market in this mess?” Tom asked growing impatient.
“Simple,” Chaphar said looking at him. “We follow my nose!” Chaphar added raising his upper lip in a smile. Tom shot him a glare. Chaphar let out a small horse laugh and said, “This way.”
He led them down a smaller side street to the right. This street had a lot less people in it, but was still pretty cramped. When they reached the end, they were surrounded by food displays. “Okay, what do you like?” Chaphar asked.
“I would really like something with meat in it,” Tom said looking around.
“Okay, follow me,” Chaphar said turning left. Tom followed. Not long after, Tom began spotting meat products but none looked appealing. “Did you see anything you liked?”
“No,” Tom said looking down at the dirt street. Everyone stopped talking for a few seconds and the store keepers turned on their lanterns. No sooner than they did that it got dark. “What happened?” Tom asked looking up at the sky. It went from a setting sun to night in one second.
“The sun went down,” Chaphar answered.
“I see that,” Tom said angrily.
“We are almost at the bread section,” Chaphar commented slowing to a stop.
“Bread you say?” Tom looked up ahead. He spotted a stand selling slices of meat, a kind of cow by the looks of it, and bread. “I think I see something.”
“You do!” Chaphar said watching him barge away. “Hey, wait up.”
Tom pushed his way up to the stand. “Could I have a—” Someone gripped his shirt and yanked him away. Tom turned to his attacker and prepared to punch him, but it was Chaphar.
“No, no! I just needed to tell you something!” Chaphar said closing his eyes.
“Okay, what?” Tom said upset and lowering his fist.
Chaphar crept his eyes open. He released a held breath as he saw the fist unclamped. “The food isn’t free you know. You need to pay for it.”
“What?” Tom said spinning around. “How?”
“Well, I doubt you have any acceptable currency,” Chaphar said looking Tom from head to foot. “Oh, is that a book?”
“What? Oh this?” Tom said raising the Bible. “Yes, it’s a Bible.”
“Oh, so that’s a ‘Bible’!” Chaphar said under his breath. “Well, seeing as it’s a book and these two cities specialize in both writing and archiving books, maybe you could trade it for food.”
“Well, uh,” Tom said looking at it. “Um.”
Chaphar watched as Tom slid his right hand over the cover. “Or we could find another way to get you food.”
“No…no its okay. It’s just that this is the first thing I ever bought at the Mini Market,” Tom said slowly looking up at Chaphar.
“It sounds special, we don’t have to trade it,” Chaphar said shaking his head.
“I won’t trade the other things I have with me, this is it,” Tom said holding the Bible out.
Chaphar looked at him and said calmly, “Okay, if it’s okay with you, then let’s do it.”
Tom nodded and walked back up to the stand. “Would you trade a loaf of bread and a slice of meat for this book?”
“Well, that depends,” the lady behind the counter said taking the Bible out of his hands. “How valuable is it?” she added flipping pages.
“Ah,” Chaphar said trotting up. “I doubt you’ll find another like it anywhere.”
“Really?” she said looking up for a second. “That doesn’t mean it’s valuable. It could be so bad no one wants it. What’s it about?”
Chaphar looked to Tom. Tom got the hint. “It’s a religious book. Where I come from, many believe it.”
“Then why is there only one?” she said closing it.
“Because my friend here has traveled far,” Chaphar answered.
“Well, you’ve almost convinced me. What use would another people’s religious book be when it isn’t our religion?”
“Well,” Tom said scratching his head. “You could archive it as reference to what others believe.” Tom said raising a hand for emphasis. “You would then be ready to answer any questions they have about your religion and be able to counter their arguments.”
She thought about it a few seconds, “Alright.” She then collected a plate and filled it with the requested items. She handed it to Tom.
Tom took it and said, “Thanks, but do you have anything to put on the meat to add some flavor?” She nodded and collected a few bowls full of different stuff. One was yellow with blue flakes in it, another dirty green, and the last one red. In fact, it looked like ketchup.
Tom used the utensil provided and spread the red sauce onto the meat. He thanked her again and they walked away. Tom realized he forgot something but when he looked at the bread, he found the loaf already divided into slices. Only a little sliver connected the slices together.
Tom took two of the slices from the middle of the loaf and put them on each side of the meat. As he raised it to his mouth, he noticed Chaphar watching him. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. That’s just a…nothing,” Chaphar said looking away.
Tom didn’t bother asking anymore questions, his stomach was empty and now he had the food to fill it. He took a bite of his makeshift burger. He made a face as the stuff he had put on it wasn’t ketchup. It wasn’t bad, but it was certainly weird. He just shook it off. It was better than plain meat.