Desert Trek

A sense of expansive solitude struck the girl when she raised her left hand and shielded her eyes from the harsh sunlight. She had always thought of the desert as a desolate place replete with sand dunes and little else. Her mental picture wasn’t wrong; her mind just had a hard time adjusting to the reality of such vast desolation staring back at her. The heavy silence was pervasively deafening. The arid air static with the smell of dust and her sweat was horribly discomforting. The torrid heat had long soaked her body with her own sweat. She opened her water canister and with her cracked lips took a swig of water, tinged by the taste of coppery dust.

The forbidding atmosphere left her to briefly ponder on the tenacious stupidity of those who chose to live in such a barren wasteland. She took a look at her compass and noted that she was still in the right orientation. The way to the oasis was not far and she needed to be on her way. Shrugging off the last vestige of contemplation, she trudged onward.

Three steps in and her right foot had once again sunk into a foot of sand again. With a grudging sigh, she shook her boots and waited as a fine stream of gravel and sand poured out leaving behind traces of sand that had long formed a solid congregation next to her toes. At the pace she’s going, reaching the oasis before sunset will be a miracle. The more likely scenario is making do with another campfire and a restless sleep chilled by the wind that swept across the dunes.

Reality as always resulted in the likely scenario. Darkness found her still at least half a day’s journey from the oasis. She was making better progress than most travelers though her speed was not nearly as fast as she would have liked. This was clearly not her natural habitat. As she grasped her cloak and covered her face as the dusty wind blew by, she thought of her homeland, a temperate land of wooded forests encapsulated on all sides by the emerald sea. The elements here seem to be wholly against her. Upon reaching a clearing with just a modicum of rocks, her aching legs informed her that she must stop. Gingerly, she set up camp and managed to make a small camp fire sheltered from the wind. Roasted lizards never really appealed to her before but somehow her stomach appreciated the generous offer now.

Sated and tired, she laid back on the sleeping pad and pulled her blankets close. Tomorrow was another day but for now there was just now. The desert was harsh but it offered a timeless view of the heavens. She could see the evening star barely peeking its head from the horizon to the west and the North Star standing like a glowing sentinel overhead. Scattered between the two, half a dozen constellations with names that she barely remembered named by the ancient astronomers.

Maybe at the end of the day that’s all that matters. We ask ourselves why anyone will live here but the answer is marked in the heavens and earth. This timeless place is impossible to replace. Maybe we are the ones who became lost when we turned our backs on our past. Grains of thoughts piled upon each other until they collapsed with the avalanche of sleep that struck her without warning.

The sunlight which collided with her eyes and the faintly melodic sound of the wind passing through the crevices in the sand awoke her. The morning sun was well over the edge of the horizon and she cursed as she hurriedly arose, inadvertently kicking up sand into her face. As she shook her head vigorously to shake off the sand, she thought to herself that this was not turning out to be a good start.

A moment of flashback brought her back to the sweet taste of coconut meat and milk from her village. The succulent white flesh was a favorite of hers. Her mouth started watering. A rustling close to her caused her to look down. The sight of a fat black scorpion with its poisonous stinger raised next to her boot dissipated her daydream. A year ago when she was still tender on her journey, she would have yelped and jumped. Now, she just raised her foot and stomped down on the creature without another thought. This was worrisome for if such a creature came to her when she was asleep, she would have no defense ready.

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