Ahmad and His Magic Carpet
by William Szczepanek
Chapter Four: The Race
The family made the journey to the city which took about a day along the main roads. Ahmad carried the carpet across his shoulder, rolled up in burlap material to keep it clean. They stopped frequently to eat and drink. As they crossed over the top of a large hill, the city, in all its splendor, came into view with towers and domes, apartment complexes with stylish facades all packed into a few square miles. The hustle and bustle of the city was evident everywhere. They walked through streets crammed with people. Ahmad had only been to the city a few times and each time he was amazed by the architecture and excitement. They walked briskly to the coliseum where the race was to take place and arrived with time to spare. They sat on stone seats and waited for instructions.
The racers arrived one by one, many dressed in exquisite garb. Some were in flowing robes, others dressed more simply. Ahmad wore his everyday loose white shirt and pants. Ahmad spotted Kahil waddling through the crowd looking somewhat lost in the new surroundings, like a fat, little fish in a big pond.
A trumpeter sounded the beginning of the race. All of the contestants assembled behind the starting line. Blue flags on the left and red flags on right, waving from very tall poles, indicated the path of the course. The course included a couple of wooden barriers that rose to around 20 feet in height. An announcer stood on a platform inside the track and shouted instructions. The racers were told to assemble according to size. Any disputes were settled by using a scale with counterweights to determine which person weighed more. Based on weight, Kahil was positioned in the first row. Ahmad was placed in the center of the pack. The race was to be 10 laps. If any competitor was lapped by another, then the slower competitor was eliminated and had to drop out of the race. The path for the start of the race was wide enough for 10 carpets. There were about 10 rows of racers all hovering in place.
A loud gong signaled the start of the race. All carpets moved forward in one large undulating mass. As the path of the course narrowed Kahil moved to the front of the pack with two other racers positioned on either side of him. The majority of the racers were kneeling on their carpets, but there were a handful of racers that were standing as Ahmad’s father had instructed. Ahmad settled into his position in the middle of the pack just getting a feel for the forces at work. He could feel a difference in the carpet’s responsiveness in the pack compared to when he flew alone. It was as if there were other forces on the carpet that tugged in each direction.
The racers slid into the first left turn with a few bumps here and there but no problems. That turn was followed quickly by a sharp right turn and the group looked like a long multicolored scarf swirling in the wind. The crowd cheered the racers at every turn. The group approached the first barrier. The pace was slow, as if the forces of the entire pack were pulling it together. Kahil pulled further ahead, approached the barrier and pulled up on the front of his carpet to make it go skyward, however, his excessive weight caused the carpet to stall at the apex of his lift and he crashed into the barrier about 5 feet from the top. The other frontrunners barely cleared the top, but all others cleared the barrier flowing over Kahil.
Ahmad easily coaxed his carpet over the barrier and down the other side. Kahil and his carpet were sprawled on the ground in front of the barrier. The entire pack passed him up. He got up with a scowl and got back on his carpet. He flew back down the track about 100 feet to gain some momentum and turned back toward the barrier. He flew up in front of the barrier and just barely cleared it and then settled into his position about a half lap behind the pack. The rest of the pack jockeyed for position with some of the racers moving up in the pack. The pack approached the second barrier and cleared it effortlessly as if the forces in the pack were working to keep them all together. Ahmad continued to move along at his pace continuing to learn from the forces at work, but also slowly falling behind as he did so. The glow from his carpet stood out from the rest and the crowd could not help but watch him as he rippled through the course.
The pack continued to stretch out, getting narrower and longer as the race continued. Kahil was getting closer and closer to being lapped. As the pack stretched out, the speed of the racers increased and the flow of the race was accelerating. At times Ahmad felt like he was being pulled through the course and his key thought was to maintain control in the turns.
Kahil approached a barrier as the front of the pack closed in on him. He pushed as hard as he could to prevent being passed. Four racers were on his tail as he approached the barrier. He lifted again, but the forces behind him prevented him clearing the barrier. His carpet caught the top of the barrier and he tumbled head over heels in his carpet and fell to the ground beyond the barrier. The racers flew over him one after another until all has passed him. He sat dejected. He was eliminated and heard a loud voice telling him to clear the track and move to the inside.
The racers now entered the fifth lap with the pack again getting longer and longer and the racers speeding faster and faster. Now, from time to time a racer would bump another off the track and out of the race. Ahmad could see racers leaving the track both behind him and in front of him. He became leery and watchful of those around him and as he did so, he fell further and further behind. He noticed that the other racers that were standing on their carpets had moved toward the front of the pack and were flying higher than the rest. Just as he looked to the side he saw a racer bumped into his path. He flew below the bumped racer to avoid being taken out of the race. Two more racers collided above him and were taken out of the race.
He was now flying at about three feet off the ground with the pack flying at ten feet above him. He saw his father in the stands as he passed. His father was pointing upward. He looked forward and saw the barrier looming in front of him. He glanced skyward, saw daylight amidst the racers and soared upward with tremendous power. He cleared the barrier, but was now flying at about fifty feet above the pack. The crowd gasped at the maneuver. They had never seen anyone fly that high. The crowd cheered him on. In the distance in front of him he saw a small pack forming with about five other racers standing on their carpets. He dove downward along the path of the course and accelerated more in doing so. He approached the pack of standing racers from the rear. The pack of six was now speeding at their own pace and at their own level. Faster and faster they sped hitting the turns like a violent whip. In a matter of a few seconds they approached the second pack and one after another they passed overhead, eliminating the slower racers as they continued to bump each other. The entire field of racers, except for these six, were now standing on the inside of the track as spectators.
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