www.whyville.net Sep 9, 2012 Weekly Issue

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Ralph: The Long Journey

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Author's Note: This story tells of a young man named Ralph, and the hardships he faced on his trip to Africa for a research project. Unfortunately, his plane was damaged, and they were forced to make an emergency landing. Now in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Ralph needs to find a way out, or perish on the way.

Ralph gritted his teeth. The sun burned into his skin, and there was no way he could sleep. At home, if he had gone a day without water, he'd feel dehydrated, but that was nothing compared to this. He longed for water, and hallucinated often, seeing imaginary pools on the horizon, only then to be later disappointed when he realized it was just a pile of rocks.

He was miserable, there was no other word for it. There was sand in his eyes, he had severe sunburn, and his clothes were ragged and torn. The other plane passengers weren't faring very well either, some had already died. Ralph feared he was not far beyond them. He called for the remaining survivors to group up.

"Listen, there's no way we're going to be able to sleep in the heat," Ralph continued, "We need to find a way to sleep in cooler conditions." There was a moment of panting before a middle aged man responded.

"I think I have an idea . . . doesn't the sand get cooler the further down it is?" This also got Ralph's attention. Sand does get cooler the deeper down you go, because the moisture is preserved below the surface. But how deep would they have to dig to have access to that sand? Ralph was the first to respond.

"I think so, but there's no telling how deep we'd have to go to get to the cooler, damp sand." The group looked as if they were going to pass out. I mean, really, you're in the middle of crossing a desert, when suddenly a sixteen year old and someone in their forties suggest that you dig a hole! I mean, could you imagine that? After thinking for a while, another person, a young woman replied.

"We shouldn't have to dig that deep should we? Would it even be worth it?" She looked at the ground, as if her hope for surviving died with the idea. Ralph replied, just to save her the misery of another, more skeptical person replying instead.

"I wouldn't risk it, besides, we're not familiar with the terrain here, we should just try to sleep during the day, and we will move tonight, we have been going South, according to the North star at least. Seeing how we've been traveling for days, we cannot be far away from the border of the desert, maybe we'll get our hands on a map!" Unfortunately, Ralph's positive attitude didn't have much effect on the other group members. Most had already lost hope of surviving, but were still delaying what they referred to as 'the inevitable'. Ralph looked down at the sandy ground. He prayed that he and the others would make it out of the desert. He hoped for a sign, anything to prove that they were close, as he thought they were.

That night, Ralph noticed something interesting. He could see a small strip of greenish-yellow on the horizon. The pale white sand made it easy to compare the two slivers of color, even in the dark. Ralph got excited, what if it was the desert border? What if on the other side was fresh water, food, and shelter? What if there was relief from the sun under trees? Just thinking about the possibilities made him jittery. He called for the others to hurry, and just as he could clearly see what was on the horizon, he gasped.

What was there beyond the desert, was something nobody expected to see . . .


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