The Tracker And The Desert Wraiths

Flashing sparks from two clashing flintstones landed on a small mixture of powdered camel dung and dried Babul leaves to spot a steady ember in a ditch dug three feet below the ground level to hide it, for a single flash leave alone a steady fire could be spotted a mile away in such a bland and barren terrain especially in the darkest of twilights.

As the flicker turned into a flame, the man in an all-white attire of a loose-fitting long tunic, a sleeveless cloak and a distinctive headcloth kept in place by heavy woollen coils gently blew into the rising blaze adding pieces of a broken branch in it to create a little bit of light in the heart of a pitch-black and ghostly desert night.

Lighting a fire in the desert could mean life or death. On one hand, a fire meant warmth and the possibility of cooking a decent meal and on the other, it could attract robbers, bandits, and even the supernatural wandering spirits. Acrab Jabbah, however, knew what he was doing. His ditch concealed the fire pretty well.

His camel Alawaid sitting close to the ditch also created a considerably large shadow covering nearly a hundred eighty degree of any onlooking visual periphery and Acrab’s bags and gear provided the remaining cloaking coverage forming a perfect shell of impregnable darkness with a glowing fire in the middle.

The Great Indian Desert or the Thar was home to him. The man came from a lineage of highly skilled desert trackers originally from the Sinai Peninsula. Many generations ago his forefather Adib Jabbah had landed in the court of king Rawal Jaisal, the Yaduvanshi Bhati Rajput ruler who had built the fort of Jaisalmer in Anno Domini 1156.

Since then, the Jabbah’s had settled in the region and over the years their tracking services were used by the Rajputs, Moghuls and now the British who ruled this geographical domain.

The year was 1823, Lord Francis Rawdon-Hastings was the Governor-General of the British Empire in the subcontinent. Just five years back the Rajput chiefs of Rajasthan, central India, and Kathiawar finally accepted the British suzerainty. Thus, the year 1818 AD marked the watershed when the Empire of Great Britain seized total control of the Indian subcontinent.

Now the fort of Jaisalmer also known as the golden fort, a marvel of yellow sandstone, the second oldest in Rajasthan that stood at the intersection of important trade routes and the ancient silk road, irrespective of innumerable attacks and change of ownership over the centuries still was home to around a thousand households who had nowhere else to go and had seen many generations of bloodshed.

Acrab Jabbah had his ancestral home in one corner of the fort, however, the tracker spent most of his days deep in the sandy wilderness of the Thar. He would traverse the endless golden dunes on his trusted camel Alawaid, his only friend in this desolate landscape. He exactly knew where the hidden wells and the few solitary oases were. He exactly knew where and how to find food and how to survive.

The desert was unusually dark that night. There was a chilly eeriness in the air. An unearthly silence seemed to have engulfed the usual nightly noises. Only a shrill and ghostly whistling wind occasionally moved about in the atmosphere. Taking a sip of hot tea, Acrab shifted his gaze from the flickering flame and squinted his eye shut for a moment before scanning the darkness all around. For that night it was not bandits or any other earthly thing that he was afraid of, but the supernatural presence of terrorising desert wraiths.

The desert people were not afraid of men. They were warring tribes who had seen much death and bloodshed. Ghosts, ghouls, djinns, and wraiths were the only things that made them afraid. Lores of the netherworld were woven into the very fabric of the life and being of desert dwellers in this region. There were stories of innumerable unearthly incidences and supernatural occurrences that had claimed to have taken many lives since the very beginning of time in this inhospitable domain.

Now in the year 1823, the thousand families in and around the fort of Jaisalmer in the middle of the Thar desert faced an unearthly terror that was tearing up their world like nothing previously seen. It was not men, robbers, or bandits, but something unearthly which they were simply too terrorised to face.

The people said this was not the work of a single entity. It was not a solitary djinn, neither was it a singular ghost or a lonesome ghoul. They said the entities were organised, there were more than one unearthly being. The people came to call these spectral creatures – ‘Desert Wraiths,’ who had taken away fifteen children, one every night from the fort of Jaisalmer.

All the children were taken away in their sleep. In the morning other members of the house from where a child was taken, were found fast asleep beyond their usual hour of rising. They would wake up drowsy and heavy-headed not remembering much of the previous night, only to discover their child missing.

After the first few children went missing, the people got too frightened and started retreating into their houses early in the evening before the sunset and lock themselves in, praying for the wraiths to spare their house and waiting for the night of terror to finish. This did not help, and every morning one child was found missing while the family was discovered fast asleep. This went on for fifteen days and then it stopped bringing back a bit of normalcy and relief but hardly lessening the grief and pain.

Acrab was not in the fort area during the days when the children were taken. As soon as he had returned and heard about the ghostly happenings, he restocked his supplies and headed out into the desert on Alwaid’s back in search of the wraiths and possibly find the children or at least bring some closure in the minds of the suffering parents.

Everyone thought Acrab to be insane to go after the desert wraiths. Encountering them would mean sudden death. Acrab, however, had to do it, the man had a good heart and above all could never overlook an impossible tracking challenge, after all, tracking was his genetic trait. Only this time it was different, for tracking the supernatural was something he had never previously attempted.

For days Acrab travelled in every direction from the fort for miles into the deep interiors of the desert but could not spot a single sign of the missing children. Then finally one day when he had nearly given up all hope and was not very far from the fort towards the west, the tracker spotted a possible trail on which he had found two pieces of children’s clothing, a wooden toy, and few broken bangles.

Drawing an imaginary line between the spots where he found these things and then moving further towards the direction it pointed, just within two hours of tracking Acrab came to a place from where far at a distance he could see an opening on a sandy mound, like an entrance to a hidden cave. There was something so unearthly about the place, there were ruins all around and it reeked of supernatural presence.

He wondered how he had overlooked such a place, how come no one knew about it, how none of his forefathers ever spoke of it. They were trackers and were supposed to know about such places. Then he thought, well it was possible – the shifting sands of the desert had the ability to bury the present and unearth ancient places.

It was nearly night and Acrab decided not to make his move then, for the unearthly was always more powerful under the cloak of darkness. The tracker dug himself at a safe distance to light a hidden fire in a ditch to keep himself warm, eat and drink a little, sharpen his trusted rapier and make ready his flintlock musket.

For tomorrow early at the break of dawn, he would make his move and perhaps find the children in the cave and rescue them from the wraiths. He was not even certain whether they were there in the first place, and if they were there were they alive or dead. He wondered, was it even possible for him to fight the supernatural. He had to avoid a confrontation under any circumstances.

At the break of dawn as the first faint veil of light dimly lit up the sandy surface Acrab made his move. Close to the entrance of the cave, he saw human skeletons. With his rapier drawn out of the scabbard and his musket slung across his shoulder overcoming all his fear and mustering great courage the tracker stealthily entered the cave not knowing really what to expect.

After walking what seemed like a neverending path with fear and terror in the air, Acrab finally came to a spot from where he could see a glowing wood fire in the middle and all around the fire were the missing children.

Acrab was relieved that they were alive but was terrified thinking of encountering those that had brought them there. He clenched his rapier about to enter the circle, not startle the children in the best possible way and to help them escape the clutches of the evil that was perhaps lurking somewhere deeper in that very cave.

Just at that moment when Acrab was about to make his presence felt the eldest of the children spoke up saying, “friends, it seems that we have finally triumphed. It’s been a month, and no one has been able to find us to date.” Hearing these words Acrab froze in his place.

Gaining back his composure Acrab withdrew to further listen to the children’s conversation. He was stunned to learn that two kids had found this place a year back when it was revealed for the first time by a sandstorm. Over the months they had gradually shown it to the rest of their friends. After all, it was only at a distance of few hours from the fort.

Then they finally came up with an adventurous plan to leave their parents and start a life of their own in the wilderness. For months they slowly stocked the cave with their clothes, personal belongings, foods, and other things.

Then when the time came each child would drug his family the evening before the escape. One of them had stolen a special herb from his father who was a medicine man for this to happen. They knew their parents fear of wraiths would give them comfortable coverage. They had an elaborate plan to survive in the desert, get and hunt food over time. A hidden well inside the cave would provide water and they would start their own clan in this way.

Acrab came out of the cave, sheaved his rapier, and relaxed his muscles and walked back to where he had kept Alwaid. Covering up the fire pit with sand and mounting himself and his gear on his trusted camel the tracker rode away thinking what should he tell the parents.

The Tracker And The Desert Wraiths


Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA

This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at trishikh@gmail.com or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trishikh

Trishikh Dasgupta

Adventurer, philosopher, writer, painter, photographer, craftsman, innovator, or just a momentary speck in the universe flickering to leave behind a footprint on the sands of time..READ MORE

71 Comments Add yours

  1. oooh ! I love, love this one

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much. So happy that you like the story. Was not very sure what everyone’s response would be on this one.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you want, I’ll defend it with all the passion I can muster when I love a story – no, I’m kidding – your story is beautiful and needs no one to shine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Your words have greatly encouraged me again. I shall keep on writing these stories. Thank you dear friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. elvira797mx says:

    Trishikh, amazing, deep and beautiful story, like always, wonderful letters my friend.
    Thank you so much for share your art.
    Take care.
    Elvira

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Your words of appreciation are always so encouraging. Thank you so much for liking the story. Am so glad that I can share this gift with all of you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. elvira797mx says:

        Thank you so much for answer, it is a pleassure read your art.
        Take care a lot.
        Elvira

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        The pleasure is all mine Elvira. 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

      3. elvira797mx says:

        Thank you so much Trishikh

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love Alone says:

    Reblogged this on Love and Love Alone.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you for reblogging this story of mine.

      Like

  4. Ananda says:

    Your stories are outstandingly detailed, beautifully layered and have a powerful underlying quietness

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Dear Ananda, I treasure your comment and take it as one of my most prized compliments. I am so glad that you think that way about my stories. Thank you good old friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaya Avendel says:

    Next to your enchanting words, the featured artwork adds that extra layer of abstract searching and love that brings your narrative together for me! Something about the starkness of the desert in this story, and the haven of the cave is a juxtaposition I love.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are very kind with your appreciation Jaya, and I treasure it. Your comment has given me the confirmation that the story is good. Initially I was having doubts with it, but as you explain, I am too encouraged. Yes! Deserts have always attracted me and they hold a special place in my heart. My maternal grandfather crossed the Thar desert on foot from Pakistan to India, you can read his true short story written by me in September 2020: https://storynookonline.com/2020/09/19/the-crossing/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jaya Avendel says:

        The stories of our ancestors hold special place in our hearts and allow us to bring that humane element to all our writing. Always delighted to help the words flow too!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Yes you are very right Jaya. That which we have heard from our forefathers, we have a responsibility to pass on to the coming generations. That’s how stories transcend centuries. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. nedhamson says:

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News and commented:
    Delightful tale…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thanks a ton Ned, for always being supportive of my writing and always reblogging my stories. Really appreciate the support.

      Like

  7. KK says:

    A beautiful story once again. An interesting turn of events. I liked it. The way of storytelling is superb.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you KK, I was having doubts with this one. Did not knew how it would progress, how it would end. Found the twist just at the nick of time before ending the story. Am glad that it came out nice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. KK says:

        WIP looks like that, but the finished product came out nicely. Good one 👌

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Many many thanks KK 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The main part of the tale brought back fond memories about those times when we were told such stories as children in those long winter month. Huddling around the candlelight and expecting the ghost to appear out of the shadows any moment. Then to my surprise, you twisted the narrative suddenly into realism. Who of us had not played with those fantasies at one time or the other to run away at the beginning of teenage Dom? Proving, times have not changed in that regard! Thank you for the reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      It is I who must thank you for finding this story so appealing. Yes, your analysis of it is absolutely right. I was not sure how I would end it, and then walah! I had a thought and it worked out. Sometimes we miss those good old stories of our childhood, and tales such as these really bring back those memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Anamika says:

    Interesting one! Keep on writing and give us more such beautiful stories.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you Anamika. Yes, I keep on doing my best.

      Like

  10. tychy says:

    Hehe a fun and well-told story, kind of like an upside-down Lord of the Flies.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you! Glad that you liked it. Wow! An upside-down Lord of the Flies, that’s a good one. Do visit again, there are many more good stories here, some of which I am sure you would like. I try to write and release one short story every weekend.

      Like

      1. tychy says:

        Yes, I look forward to exploring further 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        It would be my pleasure.

        Like

  11. Diana says:

    Lovely story!! You are a great way with words. Stay blessed 💫🙏

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you for you kind words of appreciation Diana. So glad that you like my stories.

      Like

  12. Laleh Chini says:

    A beautiful read, thank you Trishikh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome Laleh. Always treasure your comment. I have started reading Saroosh, it is amazing must say. Will email you a review soon. Just that there is too much chaos and death all around in India due to the 2nd outbreak of COVID, have lost many known people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Laleh Chini says:

        It’s so unfortunate to hear that, all our hearts are with Indian people. It’s extremely sad.🥺 appreciate your time and effort for Soroosh, means a lot.🌷

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Thanks Laleh for your prayers and best wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. @Trishikh, Loved the way you described the whole tale. It was as if everything happened before my eyes. The illustration of “Acrab Jabbah” was impressive. This is the first story of yours I’ve gone through completely. Keep going!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Dear Abhi, thank you so much for your kind comment. Really appreciate you liking my story. There are many more stories in this blog of mine, some of which I am sure you would love to read. Do explore at ease when you have the time. I try to write and publish one story every weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah Trishikh definitely!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Klausbernd says:

    Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you all the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome Klaus. Always a pleasure. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Goff James says:

    Thanks for sharing another great tale.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome Goff and thank you for liking the story. Always appreciate an appreciation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Goff James says:

        Pleasure. Great read. Best Regards.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. ‘Building a fire 3 feet below ground level’ – interesting idea! Wonder how the children would live their lives away from their parents… Unique spin of story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Yes, I wonder that too and leave to the imagination of the reader. Maybe they would give up in a few more days and return to their homes. Maybe Acrab would tell their parents, and the elders would come to drag them back to their homes. Or maybe they would just be fine. They are desert children, they know how to survive. Lot of unanswered questions, which I leave to your imagination.

      Like

      1. 👏👏🙏🙏🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Nana Wathore says:

    You are really good story creator

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Your words of appreciation gives me a lot of encouragement. Thank you so much for liking my stories.

      Like

    1. Trishikh says:

      Oh yes! This is the right link. Will take my time and read through.

      Like

  18. LAMarcom says:

    Friend, I am an ‘Alcoholic’. Which is just a fancy word for ‘drunk’
    So if my comments make no sense, now you know why.
    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Many of the best comments we make are sometimes when we are intoxicated. All you comments till now have made complete sence. Look forward to hearing more from you.

      Like

  19. LAMarcom says:

    I am not ‘poetic’ like you. But I have spent a lot of my youth in the Arabian Deserts.. I have spilled a lot of ink on those days: https://texantales.com/2021/05/27/flame-wars-the-battle-is-joined/?fbclid=IwAR03r_qSD9yABe-ljm8DnbVKFjeNSMA0DOuJQmTmZ-Z6i47EwrtNLlo02Ec

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I have started to read your blog as well. Really liked what I have read till now. Will explore more. Do visit my blog again if you feel like reading a short story again. I am sure you are bound to like some of them.

      Like

  20. Halim says:

    That was such a funny twist. I totally didn’t see it coming. Suddenly the potential ghost story screeched to a halt and the hero could just pack his bags and go home because the situation has resolved itself. To me this is how a good twist is done, because I was totally surprised and I enjoyed the surprise haha! Cheers to you Trishikh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trishikh says:

      Thank you so much Halim for your lovely comment. It really makes writing this story worthwhile. I was thinking a lot about how to end the story, how to introduce the scary ghosts. Further introducing the ghosts would mean drastically increasing the size of the story, which I did not want to do. As I try to keep my stories around 2,000 words. Then this brilliant ideas of an ending came the evening before I finished the story, and I was happy. Releasing my 34th short story tomorrow, it’s a good one, do come and read. I look forward to your insightful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Halim says:

        Thanks Trishikh, I certainly look forward to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. maayaronweg says:

    Hello. Nice to meet you Trishikh! You know I am just amazed, it seems that I have never met a person with that talent to create new and new.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      Oh! You are too kind with your compliment. I am sure there are a lot of talented persons all around. I just try my best to present a good short story to anyone to like and relate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. maayaronweg says:

        I appreciate it pretty much. Sorry for it but Actually I am a beginner here so I wanted to follow you but don’t understand did I do? Can you tell please how do you follow people you like?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        You can do a google or youtube search. It will show you step by step very easily how to follow. If you are using a wordpress reader on top of the page there would be a follow button below my name and my website name – you can click that and start follow. If you are viewing my website or anyone’s site on a web browser, then at the bottom of the page there would be a follow button, you need to be signed in to wordpress to follow someone from that person’s website from the web browser though.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. maayaronweg says:

        Thanks for the big instructions! Could you check did I do it?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Trishikh says:

        Yes you are successfully following me now.

        Like

  22. maayaronweg says:

    Thank you to be 9th follower!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trishikh says:

      You are most welcome. I am sure in time you will have a lot of followers. Just concentrate on creating good content, that you love to write about.

      Like

      1. maayaronweg says:

        If you have time, could you please say what you liked and what you want to see other way?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trishikh says:

        Do not think about what people like. Think about what you like the most? What you want to write? Writing what gives you the most happiness? When you do this, followers will come automatically. There are always people out there for all sorts of content. Just write what you are most comfortable and interested to write about.

        Liked by 1 person

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