Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines

Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines

by Ray Bradbury, Chris Lake

In the stories of Ray Bradbury, readers have journeyed beyond the boundaries set by their imaginations, and have reveled in fantastic realms created by "one of the world's outstanding storytellers" (Toronto Globe & Mail). Now this prolific writer spins an enchanting fable about a lost boy who makes the acquaintance of a long-forgotten, though very powerful,

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In the stories of Ray Bradbury, readers have journeyed beyond the boundaries set by their imaginations, and have reveled in fantastic realms created by "one of the world's outstanding storytellers" (Toronto Globe & Mail). Now this prolific writer spins an enchanting fable about a lost boy who makes the acquaintance of a long-forgotten, though very powerful, ancient god.

When Ahmed, the twelve-year-old son of a caravan leader, falls from his camel, he is lost in a vast desert, and his situation looks ominous. Isolated and alone, the young boy begins to cry and his tears awaken the ancient god Gonn-Ben-Allah, Keeper of the Ghosts of the Lost Names, who lies beneath the sand.

Rising to full form for the first time in tens of thousands of years, the majestic Gonn tells his frightened savior that fate has brought them together. To comfort Ahmed, the god bestows the gift of flight upon the boy, and the pair sets off on an evening of spectacular adventures. Traveling through time and space, Gonn shows the fascinated Ahmed the wonders of the world-past and present-and its sorrows. Within each startling revelation, Ahmed finds wisdom-and learns to accept life for all it has to offer.

A wondrous fable for children of all ages, AHMED AND THE OBLIVION MACHINES is yet another glorious testament to the remarkable gifts of master storyteller Ray Bradbury.

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Editorial Reviews

Bradbury is an authentic original.
Library Journal
In this fable, a young Arab boy, lost in the desert, receives the gift of flight from the ancient god Gonn-Ben-Allah, Keeper of the Ghosts of Lost Names.
Time Magazine
An authentic original.
Asimov's Science Fiction
Raise the allowances of your sons and daughters so that they may rush out and purchase [this] imagination-stimulating [book].
Kirkus Reviews
From Bradbury (for adults, Quicker Than the Eye, 1996, etc.), a fantasy with moments of brilliance swamped by mystical befuddlement.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.43(w) x 9.64(h) x 0.49(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was the night following the day when the seagull was seen over the desert that Ahmed, the son of Ahmed, fell from his camel and was lost as the caravan moved on into the dusk.

The gull had flown over at noon, coming from somewhere, going nowhere, circling back toward some invisible land that, they said, was rich with grass and water and had known nothing but water and grass for nine thousand years.

Looking up, Ahmed said:

"What does that bird seek? Here is no water and no grass, so where does it go?"

His father had answered:

"It was lost but now found again, returns to the sea from whence it came."

The gull circled a final time, crying.

"Oh," whispered Ahmed. "Shall we fly one day?"

"In another year," said his father, "but no one knows its name. Come. You must walk before you ride and ride before you fly. In the night, will your camel grow wings?"

And it was during that night that Ahmed stared at the sky and counted the stars until be was dizzy with counting. Then, drunk with light, he swayed as he inhaled the night wind. Crazed with delight at all that he saw in the heavens, he toppled and fell and was buried in the cooling sands. So, unseen by his father or the caravan of marching beasts, he was left to die among the dunes in the hours after midnight.

When Ahmed swam up through the sands, there were only the hoofprints of the great camels sifting away down the wind, at last gone, whispering.

I die, thought Ahmed. For what am I punished? Being only twelve, I do not recall any terrible crimes I committed. In another life, was I evil, a devil unseen and now discovered?

Itwas then that his foot scraped something beneath the shifting sands.

He hesitated, then fell to his knees to plunge his hands deep, as if searching for hidden silver or buried gold.

Something more than treasure rose to view as he swept the sand to let the night wind blow it away.

A strange face stared up at him, a bas-relief in bronze, the face of a nameless man or a buried myth, immense, grimacing underfoot, magnificent and serene.

"Oh, ancient god, whatever your name," whispered Ahmed. "Help this lost son of a good father, this evil boy who meant no harm but slept in school, ran errands slowly, did not pray from his heart, ignored his mother, and did not hold his family in great esteem. For all this I know I must suffer. But here in the midst of silence, at the desert's heart, where even the wind knows not my name? Must I die so young? Am I to be forgotten without having been?"

The bronze bas-relief face of the old god glared up at him as the sand hissed over its empty mouth.

Ahmed said, "What prayers must I offer, what sacrifice must I give, so that you, old one, may warm your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your mouth to speak?"

The ancient god said only night and time and wind in syllables that Ahmed understood not.

And so he wept.

Just as all men do not laugh or all women move alike, so all boys do not weep alike. It is a language that the ancient gods know. For the tears that fall come from the soul out of the eyes unto the earth.

And the tears of Ahmed rained upon the bronze bas-relief face of the ancient spirit and rinsed its shut lids so they trembled.

Ahmed did not see, but continued weeping, and his small rain touched the half-seen ears of the buried god and they opened to hear the night and the wind and the weeping, and the ears-moved!

But Ahmed did not see and his last tears watered the mouth of the god, to anoint the bronze tongue.

So at last the entire face was washed and shook to let bark a laugh so sharp that Ahmed, shocked, flailed back and cried:


"Indeed, what?" said the gaped mouth of the god.

"Who are you?" cried Ahmed.

"Company in the desert night, friend to silence, companion to dusk, inheritor of the dawn," said the cold mouth. But the eyes were friendly, seeing Ahmed so young and afraid.

"Boy, your name?"

"Ahmed of the caravans."

"And I? Shall I tell you my life?" asked the bronze face gazing up from the moonlit sands.

"Oh, do!"

"I am Gonn-Ben-Allah. Conn the Magnificent. Keeper of the Ghosts of the lost names!"

"Can names be ghosts and lost?" Ahmed wiped his eyes to bend closer. "Great Conn, how long were you buried here?"

"Hark," whispered the bronze mouth. I have been to my own funeral ten thousand times your days."

I cannot count that far."

"Nor should you," answered Gonn-Ben-Allab. "For I am found. Your tears move my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mouth to speak long before the Sack of Rome or Caesar's death, back to the caves and the lions and the lack of fire. List! Would you save yet more of me and all of you?"

I would!"

"Then no more tears! No more cries! With your robes, sweep off the dunes from the pavements of my limbs. Rouse Conn the Great to the stars. My funeral bones bring forth, and clothe them with your breath so that long before dawn, great Gonn will be reborn from your sighs and shouts and prayers! Begin!"

And Ahmed rose and sighed and prayed and shouted with joy and used his robes as broom to sweep and quicken this newfound friend of such a size the stars, seeing him, danced in their pivots and shivered in their burning gyres.

And what Ahmed's breath did not move, then his bare feet kicked away in the wind until the great bronze torso burst free. And then the snaking arms, the blunt fists, legs, and incredible feet, so that the naked god was unclothed of ancient dunes and lay under the burning gazes of Aldebaran, Orion, and Alpha Centauri. Starlight finished the revelation, even as Ahmed's breath, a fount, went dry.

A am!" cried Gonn-Ben-Allah.

And he lay there, three men wide and two dozen tall, his torso a monument, his arms obelisks, his legs cenotaphs, his face a noble halfSphinx, part sun god Ra, Arabian wits in fiery...

Ahmed and The Oblivion Machine. Copyright © by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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