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The Desert

Updated: Jan 4

Chapter 1

The desert called to him in a dream one night. It whispered stories of discovery; stories of adventure; stories of heroic struggle.

He woke up covered in sweat and threw his covers off of him. Laying there in bed, he looked up to his ceiling and watched the ceiling fan spin around over and over again. He shifted his position and his hand felt something grainy in his bed. It was sand. He wiped the sand off of his sheets, but the more he kept wiping it away, the more sand would appear.

“What in the hell?” he asked himself.

The sand started to pile up on his floor next to his bed. He looked around his room for help and saw several strange sand-dials sitting on his bookshelf counting the seconds. He slapped his face, trying to wake himself up from what was clearly a dream.

‘Come find me,’ a voice whispered to him.

“Who’s there?!” he shouted, turning his head frantically to find the mouth behind the whisper. No one was there—just the usual shadows that danced on his walls.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes.

‘Come find me,’ the voice whispered again. ‘I’ll be waiting for you, Cliff.’

“Who are you?! Where will you be waiting??”

You already know where to go, my friend. It’s time to change.

“The desert?? But, there are so many deserts, and I don’t have a passport. Can I stay in America?”

The voice didn’t respond this time.

“Which desert??” he asked the shadows. “Shit. Really? You’re gone already?”

The silence sank him. He anxiously started to bite on his lower lip.

“Can’t I go to the beach instead? . . . There’s sand there! . . . And bikinis . . .”

The sand dials didn’t seem to run out of seconds, as the little grains kept rushing down like a waterfall does.

Unsure if he was still asleep or awake, he went to his bathroom and turned the cold water on. He let it flow. Making sure it was plenty cold, he cupped his hands and caught some of the water that he then splashed onto his face. The mirror held his reflection as he opened his eyes. An old man stared back at him. He had sad eyes and a salt and pepper beard.

Go,’ the old man said to him. ‘Go.’

He cupped his hands again under the water. The cold water hit his face, but this time when he opened his eyes and looked into the mirror, he wasn’t in there. Instead, miles of sand and sun stared back at him. It was moving like the sea would, waves and tides moving the sand. He was mesmerized. The old man was riding a long bike across the ocean of sand. There were no trees in the reflection; no water; no mountains; no women; no magic carpets; no life at all, except for the old man who was now waving to him as he glided across the sand on his bike.

“Who the hell would want to go there? It’s barren and looks boring. No food? No water? No T.V.? No women? No thanks.”

The lights in his bathroom flickered.

“I don’t need to change. I’m good like this.”

The lights flickered again and the toilet flushed on its own.

He stumbled backwards and on instinct he put his hand against the mirror to steady himself. The old man grabbed it and quickly pulled him inside of the mirror.

He woke up with his face in the warm sand. A puddle of drool lay next to his mouth. He shot up and took a big breath in. The air was warm as it filled his lungs. It was nothing like he had ever experienced in the mountains of Oregon—no, this air was the opposite of that; it stung his lungs and burnt his throat as it went down.

His eyes were held tight shut. The brightness from the sun made him recoil and shield his eyes with his hands.

His lips and mouth were already drying out.

The sand was hot and he had to stand up and get up off of it.

Sand was all over him; in his hair, in his ears, in his shoes, under his fingernails; and in his underwear.

He tried to let his eyes adjust to the brightness of the sun, but it was taking time and he was growing impatient. The sun seemed to reflect off of the sand to him.

A gust of wind came and almost blew him over. He stumbled forward, catching himself.

Come find me,’ the wind whispered to him. ‘Come find me.

With his hands still shielding his eyes from the sun, he walked forward.

His eyes stayed down at his feet as he walked. Not knowing where he was or where he was going, he slowly put one foot in front of the other.

The sand sank and his feet slid with each impact on it. It felt to him like he was walking up a slight incline, but he couldn’t be sure.

The wind seemed to be hitting him in short bursts, and it would rock him back and forth.

The incline flattened out and his eyes had adjusted enough that it did not hurt him to look out to the endless horizon of the desert.

“It doesn’t stop,” he said. “It just keeps going and going . . . Holy shit.”

He spun around as he looked for an ending for the desert anywhere near him, but there wasn’t one. It was sand for as far as he could see, in all directions.

“Alone. I am completely alone out here.”

The more the realization sank in, the more his stomach sank with it. He sat back down and plopped his head into his hands.

“Completely alone,” he said again.

He felt the hot sand with his hands. He grabbed a handful of it and squeezed, making a fist. And letting it slowly escape from his grasp, he watched it trickle out of the bottom of his hand, and fall back into the ocean from which it came from.

It reminded him of the sand dials that had popped up in his room.

He grabbed another fistful and did it again. Each grain he picked up he studied as it left his fist.

The third time he picked up a fistful of sand he decided to throw it out in front of him, but at that moment the desert greeted him with a gust of wind and the sand was blown back into his face.

“G-Gowd D-Damnithh!” he exclaimed, while spitting out sand.

He grabbed two fistfuls this time and threw them back at the wind. The wind responded by blowing the sand back into his face once again.

“Enough!” He spat out more sand.

Then, in frustration, he lay down onto the sand, staring up at the sky. There wasn’t a cloud up there for him to hold onto. There was just the unrelenting sun, and its constant sting. He rubbed his eyes again.

Something started to crawl up his arm, and he slowly and casually raised his head up to see what it was. A little black scorpion was the crawly culprit. He saw it right before its stinger found his flesh.

A deafening howl of pain echoed across the barren desert. No one heard it.

He was jumping up and down while holding the spot on his arm where the scorpion had been.

The pain was excruciating, as it traveled from the small point where the stinger had penetrated, up his arm and into his chest. He desperately tried to slow down his breathing. Tears rolled down from his eyes, as his face grimaced in pain.

The little black scorpion had been thrown from him and was crawling on top of the sea of sand again.

In a fit of rage, he went over to the little fella and tried to stomp the life out of it. He missed with one foot, and then tried to stomp it with his other one, but the little black scorpion zigged when he was expecting it to zag, and his foot found a rock that was hidden underneath the surface of the sand.

He was sure that he had broken a toe or two. He was hopping on one foot, while still clutching the spot on his arm where he had been stung. “Screw the damn desert!” he yelled to the sun and the wind and the sand.

He found a rock to sit down on and took off his shoe and sock. He ripped the sleeve from his green hoodie off and wrapped it around the foot. He had broken several bones in his life and knew that toes weren’t that bad. He could tolerate it.

What he was having a tougher time tolerating though, was the incredible pain that was pulsing through his right arm.

“I don’t think scorpions are lethal . . .” he took a couple of big breaths. “Right?”

He rubbed his arm, and could feel how hard and swollen it had gotten in a matter of minutes.

“That little prick really hurt, though. I’ll get him. I’ll stomp out that little prick.”

He scanned the sand for any sign of little black legs. The desert, which had just hit him with unexpected chaos, was now eerily still. It was like life and mother nature had popped up out of nowhere to remind him that he isn’t, in fact, completely alone, just to disappear as fast as it had surprised him.

“Guess that I ain’t that alone,” he said to himself, still rubbing his arm and looking for the scorpion.

He took off the rest of his torn up hoodie and tied it around his head. He looked for anything that he could use as a crutch but there was nothing but the sea of sand surrounding him.

He noticed something in his pocket, and reached down and pulled out a sand dial from it.

He looked at it in confusion as it lay sideways in his open hand. He clutched it and put it back in his pocket.

“Water,” he said. “I need water.”

Come find me,’ the mysterious voice whispered again.

“This chick better have some water,” he said, as he limped forward. “Alright, Ma’am, I’m coming. Wherever you are out here, I’ll find you.”

CH 1/3/24

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