Rupeo Desert Wonder
Part 1 – Legend (posted 3/27/2009)
Two young fennec foxes nestled down for the night beside their mother, tired from their hectic travel experiences. They lay in the corner of their crate as the train traveled on through the night. “Mama, what is going to happen to us?” the smallest fox asked. The mother fennec fox glanced around for a few seconds at her surroundings before responding. “I don’t know,” she answered. “All we can do is sit here and be good. Maybe if we’re good, the humans will be kind to us in return.” “Will we ever go home?” the bigger fox questioned. “I miss our den by the rocks already.” “I don’t think so,” his mother answered. “I don’t think the humans will take us home.” “Oh.” the little foxes lowered their heads and stared out of the cage through the rusted wire sides. “I want to go home,” the littlest fox stated. “Why did the humans take us from the desert?”
Mother did not answer her baby’s question this time. “You were kidnapped,” said a voice coming from the cage beside the foxes. “Just like the rest of us.” The mother fox stood up and turned to the side of the crate facing the speaker of the voice. “Who are you?” she asked while straining to see who she was conversing with. “Do you know what is happening to us?” As she spoke a large animal came into view. It was an animal strange to her and her children. The animal was large and had a body build consisting of a long neck and head, four legs, and a large body. Its coat was a very strange color pattern of black and white stripes. “My name is Dismay,” the stranger introduced. “What ARE you?” the youngest fennec fox questioned. “I am a zebra,” Dismay answered. “I come from a different region from you, so I am not surprised you have never seen anyone like me.” “Ze-bra,” the little foxes repeated until they became fluent at pronouncing the new word. “What were you saying,” the mother fox continued, “About the kidnappers?” “These particular kidnappers have been capturing animals from all regions of Africa. One day they were stalking behind my herd and then I was caught. My herd has told stories of these humans. They take us from our homes to be sold for either pets, entertainment, or fur.” The fox babies’ eyes widened with fear. “Of course,” Dismay continued, “The tales we pass along are coming from only one source. A few moons ago one zebra returned to our herd. He disappeared from our herd but came home about three moons later. His name was Rupeo and spoke of large oceans and a vast world of sand called “desert.” It is because of him I recognize you as fennec foxes. As a result of his wondrous journey, we call him Rupeo Desert Wonder.” “How will we escape?” the smallest fox asked. “Did Rupeo teach this to you, also.” Dismay remained silent for a minute before giving an answer. “Unfortunately, no. He said that he was able to escape from his captors and found his way home.” “So….you are saying it is possible for us to escape?” the foxes eagerly questioned. “Don’t expect to,” Dismay replied. “Rupeo is the only animal to escape. He is as his name describes -a true wonder. Rupeo has done many incredible feats, but this particular one is his most remarkable.”
The conversation abruptly ended as the train swerved to the right and increased in speed. The cage was jostled around before being flipped on its side. “AAH!” the foxes screamed as the cage slid across the car and slammed into the side of the car. Dismay, who was tied inside a box stall, nearly lost his balance and slipped. Several more animals including a camel and a meerkat, cried out as they were bounced around. “Are you alright?” Dismay asked. The foxes rolled over and stood back up. “What just happened?” asked the camel standing at the opposite end of the train car. None of the animals including Dismay knew that answer to that question. The only sure fact was that the train was traveling through some strange place with plenty of noise. From inside the train the animals could hear all sorts of unfamiliar sounds and shouts. Most of the animals tried to see their surroundings from cracks in the sides of the train. Finally, the train’s speed started to decrease. The train then started to journey down into a dark tunnel. The noises started to become fainter as the train’s descent into the tunnel continued. When the train reached the bottom of the slope it continued to travel on through the tunnel. Dismay, the foxes, and the rest of the animals were surrounded in darkness. “What is happening?!” the two small foxes panicked. Ultimately the train came to a halt inside the tunnel. The animals had nothing to do but be silent and wait for the humans to return to retrieve them.
Part 2 – Invasion on the Savannah (posted 7/10/2009)
A zebra colt squinted out to the endless savannah horizon watching the sun set. The zebra herd gathered around the water hole to drink. The zebra had other things on his mind than a few sips of water. He had already quenched his thirst. He was about to turn away and go to sleep until he noticed a peculiar sight rising on the horizon. What first appeared to be a tiny black speck was now moving closer and closer. It could be a predator, such as a lion. However, there was no need to alert the herd just yet. The speck could be anything from a lion to a ostrich. After observing it for another minute Rupeo ruled out both possibilities. The speck, moving too fast to be either, grew from a small speck to a large object. Most of the zebras noticed the object and joined in on watching the peculiar sight. As the object moved closer it was identified to be a motor vehicle. This was grave news.
Motor vehicles were not very common but they were not entirely rare on the savannah. The zebra herd had seen the vehicles come to the savannah numerous times. Humans arrive with the vehicles and waste no time in capturing animals. The animals are loaded into the back of the vehicles and taken away into the unknown and dangerous territory of humans. Being captured was a nightmare for any savannah animal. They never returned to their homeland. Rupeo desperately hoped the vehicle would leave the zebra herd in peace. Whispers arose amongst the herd. “What should we do? Should we run?” The zebras could stand the suspense no longer.
“Run!” warned one of the zebras. The zebras urgently took off running away from the water hole.
“Stay together!” another zebra warned.
Rupeo, running to the right edge of the herd, turned his head around. The vehicle was increasing in speed and continuing to pursue the herd. Zebras were swift runners, but it was almost impossible to outrun a motor vehicle. Already he was feeling a bit short of breath. The vehicle would not leave until it caught an animal. One of the zebras was the vehicle’s target, but Rupeo was unsure of the exact zebra. He kept running. Galloping as a herd was difficult during the night. It was simple and easy to become separated from the herd. Once separation occurred he could either be attacked by another savannah animal or captured by the humans inside the vehicle.
Towards the back of the herd a zebra mare and foal struggled to keep up. The foal was tired and could not run much longer. The mare, who had to supervise her foal in addition to keeping a watchful eye out for predators, was at risk for being captured. A few lengths ahead of the mare was a ditch. If she did not quickly spot the ditch she could fall in, along with her foal. Rupeo could not let the mare fall. Already the vehicle spotted the struggling duo and drove closer to them. Rupeo stopped running. “Look out!” he called to the mare, who was busy nudging her foal to run faster. The mare paid no attention. Time was running out. Rupeo turned and ran towards the pair. “Look out!” he called again -and just in time. The mare and foal dodged the ditch and galloped deeper into the fleeing herd.
Rupeo succeeded in saving the mare and foal, but escape was too late for himself. The vehicle had suddenly appeared beside Rupeo, cutting him away from his beloved herd. Rupeo frantically called out to the herd as the distance between him and his herd increased. Not a single zebra responded to him. Weary and frightened, he had no choice but to slow down.
A human reached out from one of the vehicle’s openings and threw a rope. It landed around Rupeo’s neck. Rupeo struggled to pull himself free while the human quickly tied the rope’s other end to the vehicle. No matter how bravely Rupeo attempted he was still trapped. The human dragged the exhausted zebra to the side of the vehicle. Another human who sat behind the vehicle’s steering wheel stopped the vehicle. Rupeo kicked and reared while three humans rushed from the vehicle with more ropes. One of the humans attached a rope to his face and head, which he especially detested. A rope was tied to each of his front hoofs. Rupeo could no longer rear and fight without becoming tangled by the ropes. The three humans quickly led Rupeo to the back of the vehicle. Another human exited the vehicle and ran around to the back. The human unbolted and swung open a door. Another human handed his rope to another human to assist the fourth human. Rupeo, seeing the dark space inside of the vehicle, turned around and tried to gallop away. Unfortunately, the rope around his neck was still tied to the vehicle. The humans clinging to Rupeo’s head and hoof ropes were knocked away as Rupeo broke free of their control. Rupeo thought freedom was within reach until he felt the tug from the rope around his neck. He was still trapped. The humans also knew this and wasted no time in gathering back the ropes. The two humans working on the vehicle leaned a wooden ramp against the back of the vehicle. They joined their colleagues in pulling Rupeo up to the ramp. Rupeo forced to give in to their struggle, was shoved up the ramp and into the back of the vehicle. The humans tied the ropes to the inside of the vehicle and slammed the vehicle doors shut. Through a small window Rupeo watched as two humans untied the last rope from the side of the vehicle while two others loaded the ramp back inside. The humans with the rope reproached the back of the vehicle. They opened the doors a tiny crack and tossed the rope inside before slamming them shut again. Rupeo strained to escape but the three other ropes held him back. The humans reentered the vehicle. The vehicle started moving forward and them turned in the opposite direction. Rupeo strained his neck to catch one last glimpse of the savannah through the vehicle window.
The inside of the vehicle was very unappealing to Rupeo. There was no food, water, or adequate lighting. The space was too small to move around comfortably. Petrified with fear, Rupeo could do nothing but to cooperate with his captors during his depressing journey away from his homeland. It wasn’t very long until the hot sun rose up to the sky in the morning.
Part 3 – Trapped (posted 11/4/2009)
Rupeo did not know exactly how long he had been riding in the vehicle. All he knew was that the vehicle had stopped inside a large, dimly lit building. The door to the back of the vehicle slid open and revealed the rest of his surroundings. The building was filled with all sorts of exotic animals -including a few other zebras similar to himself. Rupeo saw gazelles, giraffes, foxes, hippos, tigers and many more species of animals.
One of the captors slipped a rope halter over Rupeo’s head. He clipped a lead to it. The remaining captors undid Rupeo’s other ropes. They led him out of the vehicle over to a large, wooden vehicle which sat on a set of long, silver tracks. Many more wooden vehicles were connected to each other. Rupeo had arrived at a train station. “Behave yourself,” one of the captors warned. “The smuggling business is a dangerous one. We can’t afford to lose another animal or get caught. Get into the car!” Rupeo did not want to enter the dark wooden vehicle. He was hungry, thirsty, and tired of being in cramped quarters.
“Get in!” another captor said and slapped Rupeo with a rope. Rupeo trotted into the car. The captors tied Rupeo’s rope to the side of the wooden vehicle car and slid the door shut behind him. Rupeo looked around at his new surroundings. Inside the car with him were about twelve or so other zebras. None were familiar to him. He called out to them but none responded. They were preoccupied be kicking, snorting, rearing, and exhibiting other types of angry behaviors in protest to their confinement. Suddenly, the wooden car began to lurch forward. A good number of the zebras ceased their protesting. Rupeo’s legs nearly slipped out from under him. The car lurched forward a few more times before it began moving down a set of shiny parallel tracks. Through a crack in the corner of the car Rupeo could see the building disappear out of sight. He estimated that he was now at the outer edge of the savannah -a place neither he nor any other zebra from his herd had visited. When the car hit a bump on the tracks Rupeo jerked away from the window, as if he was reminding himself that escape was no longer possible. The other zebras in the car with him eventually settled down and pawed at the floor, attempting to pry a few blades of grass out from in between the wooden boards for food.
Rupeo rode inside the procession of wooden cars for a few more hours before the cars finally began to decrease in speed. Rupeo peered out of the window again and saw an astonishing and foreign sight. There were no trees as far as his sight could see. No savannah grasses grew from the sandy, barren ground. Plants were rare. Only a few strange plants covered in sharp needles grew in clusters. Rupeo witnessed the cars enter yet another wooden building. This building, however, was very large and was much more elaborate than the building in which Rupeo first boarded the wooden vehicle car. The cars entered the building and came to a screeching halt. Shuffling around in the car, the animals started pawing anxiously and straining at their ropes and chains. The car doors slid open and many humans entered. They began untying the animals. Rupeo watched his traveling companions being unloaded until a human approached and untied him.
Unlike the humans Rupeo had previously experienced back in the savannah, these humans displayed a different sort of behavior. These humans did not carry emotions of hate or anger. After being unloaded Rupeo was greeted by a huge crowd of humans waving around small devices called cameras. Rupeo and the other zebras were led through the building in a large line behind a fence keeping the crowd of humans at bay. Throughout the sea of humans Rupeo could hear various comments.
“We can’t believe they’re still alive,” said a human speaking in front of a video camera. “In most cases, sadly, it is too late and the animals’ fur is the only part recovered. This discovery proves once more that something must be done to stop the capture of Africa‘s beloved wildlife.”
The reporter’s words confused Rupeo. Only the fur? What happened to the animals who had been captured before him? He decided to ask one of the other zebras if he ever caught the chance.
The animals, Rupeo among them, were placed in a large pen in another room of the building. Standing around the pen were numerous humans. After all of the animals were safely released into the pen a gate was locked behind them. Rupeo turned to the zebra standing beside him. “What happens to us?” he asked. “Do you know what happens to zebras after they’ve been caught?”
“I have been told from those before me,” the zebra answered. “That those zebras were killed and their fur taken from them.”
“But,” she continued, “I do not believe we will be subject to that same fate. Like the humans stated out there, we were saved.”
Rupeo relaxed just a little bit. “Do you know much about the ways of humans?”
“Our herd was one of the herds closest to the human village,” she explained. “While growing up I was taught by the elders to listen to the humans, to learn about their ways. By understanding what they do and how they live we can better understand how to stay out of their way and to live beside them in harmony. The elders believed that this would resolve conflict between humans and wildlife.
“Fascinating! But does anything you have learned give any hint as to what will happen to us now?”
“Oh. Well, thank you anyways.”
Ropes and fences divided the pen of zebras into many different sections. Humans entered the pen and clipped ropes to the zebras. Group by group the zebras were led out of the pen and inside large automobiles, somewhat similar to both the train cars and the vehicle Rupeo’s captors drove. Finally Rupeo was led away, soon to find out that a young man named Todd Telaire was now the key to his future.
Part 4 – Another Land (7/20/2011)
Todd Telaire led Rupeo away from the other zebras and pens. Rupeo, afraid of leaving the mass of zebras for the unknown, frantically turned and called out in distress. One or two zebras vocalized back to him but there was nothing any of them could do to help him. Rupeo felt an ominous feeling that the hot desert, like his savannah home, would not be in his presence for a long time. He continued to follow Todd until they came to a metal trailer. Upon loading Rupeo into the trailer and tying him securely, Todd spoke the first words to his new zebra.
“Don’t fret, new creature,” Todd said. “You will be cared for as long as I am around.” Rupeo, startled and thankful, turned his head to watch Todd bolt the trailer door shut behind him. Promptly after that the trailer began to move with Rupeo traveling inside. “Here I go again,” Rupeo thought as he observed the passing landscape through the shoebox sized window on the trailer’s side. “Off to another bizarre land of uncertainly.” Feeling tired from his hectic travels, he closed his eyes and strived to catch any amount of sleep possible.
Rupeo awoke in the morning to the feeling of the trailer sawying beneath his legs.