Mushtak, an old and intelligent camel with human like hands, handled trinkets, ornaments, and antique pieces of human and alien descent whilst sipping on his Assam tea. Our group arrived at his desk of curiosities and began to fondle the dusty one off pieces. He frowned as he always did at this stage, watching with suspicion. I picked up a silver bowl that rested atop a taxidermy eagle claw. It was half full with rose water, and a tiny thumb sized silver ship sailing on the surface with the assistance of a red helium ballon attached to the ringlet of the boat’s mast. The balloon was filled with just the right amount of helium to allow this solid silver ornament to appear to be foating on the water.
“That’s one of yours I think.”, said the camel.
“Mine?” I said.
“Human.” He replied.
“Yes, we have the sea. and I’ve seen these boats before. but much bigger.” I said.
The camel looked unimpressed. “You’re not the only ones with sea. Though certainly the only ones as ignorant to call your mostly sea covered planet, Earth.”
And with this, he showed me the most magnificent piece of craftsmanship I had ever set eyes upon. It looked as if it was a living thing. Made from what I can only describe as precious metal, the camel wound it up and released the handle. Extremely tiny engraved balls, the size of caviar, attached to even smaller incredibly thin wire, created the illusion of a moving wave. They moved together in layers, the first one slowing and giving way for the second to rise up over it, and so on, and so on. The engraving on the balls was patterned so that when placed under a light, the rotation of the balls that occured when reaching the wave peak, created a shimmering reflection and the sense of movement.
“It’s from Ascian, of Messier 83. A planet completely covered in water. They live below, inside the core.”
“It’s beautiful.” I told him.
He didn’t look up at me and carried on admiring the exquisite object.
“Unlike anything I’ve ever seen on Earth. Your works seem to be mostly shallow in beauty, and when clever they rely on some form of humour. It all comes across as rather cheap. In amongst pieces from other planets and civilisations, they simply wither away into what look like accidents or half hearted ideas.”
I pulled out an ornament from my bag. “I brought you this. I wondered if you might like to buy it.”
I handed him a very old china camel ornament. Its hump was retractable and allowed for milk to be poured into it. The ornamental camel then became a milk jug, with the liquid pouring out of its eyes.
“Tacky. What is it with you people.” The camel snorted.
“My father gave it to me, and I’m trying to sell everything before we move to the Colisium Galaxy. They told me we can only take a small shoebox full of personal belongings”
The camel inspected it some more, begrudgingly.
“I suppose I can shift it before the last of you are moved on. I’m surprised any of you are still coming to my shop to buy if you’ve been given such a small baggage allowance. You don’t plan ahead at all well. You must be one of the first to go?”
“Yes. My family were in the first randomly selected groups.” I told him. Though this wasn’t true. My father had a connection to the government and managed to pay a bribe. They say the last half are not being flown anywhere at all. My father calls it the placebo ship.
“And how long till you are all gone?” The camel asked.
“Well we are on the first ship.. They will take a total of around 2 million at a time. One ship per month. So, quite a while.”
“Ok. I’ll take it, let’s hope the shoebox allowance increases and I’ll shift it to someone else for a profit. I’ll give you 5 pounds.”
“Thank you.” I smiled. He looked down at the china camel and ignored me.
As I took the money and left the shop of curiosities, I turned to see him pop open the hump and pour some milk in. He smiled sweetly as he topped up his cup of tea, laughing to himself. Other items in his shop were mostly from other galaxies and planets. Ancient creatures cast in strange mineral rocks, many times older than earth itself. Bizarre utensils for alien alchemy. Jewellery made from the blood of Xintoan warriors, denoting hierarchy within their warrior society. Then there was my china camel milk jug, the balloon assisted floating silver boat, and a mug shaped like some long dead politician’s caricature, allowing you to drink tea out of his empty skull, I supposed. There was no question as to the existence of alien life outside of our planet, of course, but I was yet to find much humour out there.