barefoot over the hot desert sand. Stretching far and wide was just sand drifting
into constantly changing sand dunes. Above her, the sun hung like a flaming
ball, emitting a heat testing her every breath. Even the wind, continually
blowing in the desert, simply acted as a hair dryer on its highest power
setting exacerbating her discomfort rather than providing any relief.
lost the feeling in her feet a long time ago. Almost at the beginning of her
journey she had lost her shoes, and the shreds that she had wrapped around
her feet had fallen off some time ago. As numb as her feet were, so was the
rest of her body and her mind. But this was not important, not really.
she had ceased to complain, to lament, even to ask. The ability to care had
been lost like her shoes. The only thing of importance remaining was the certainty
that she had to continue her trek with a little grain of hope that .... She
even had forgotten this.
had asked her for how long she had been walking, she would just have shrugged
her shoulders. A few months? Maybe, but possibly a longer time or maybe less.
She just did not know. Time had lost any meaning for her, without points of
she had been counting the days, but as time progressed it became too much.
She just labouriously placed one foot in front of the other.
all, was the complete lack of noise apart from her gasps for air. Although,
sometimes, it seemed as if there was music. She savoured it, it made her feel
less lonely. She could cope with being alone, she had got used to it, but
not with the loneliness: it was enticing her mind into an empty void. But,
during the course of time, this would probably would become routine as everything
else. Like so many other things.
while she thought there might be some thing, straight ahead, but too far away
to be sure yet. It interrupted the monotony of the landscape. She did not
stop walking to make sure, too often she had believed she had seen something
which, in fact, was just a mirage, or even worse than that. But she removed
the dusty and sweaty hair away from her eyes to see better.
to stop, her movement had pushed one of the straps of her rucksack onto an
already sore patch. Although it didnt contain more then a little water
and a dusty, dry piece of bread, it still scratched and rubbed her emaciated
shoulders and ribs.
her best intentions not to put any hopes into the unknown object, she could
not help herself but to be curious: It was darker and its form was slightly
more angular compared to the sandlewood coloured dunes surrounding her; and
unlike the mirages it did not vanish under her scrutiny. Not that this meant
a lot. She had got used to her mind and eyes playing tricks on her. Something
that was becoming far too common.
herself sternly that she would see what it was, if and when she got there.
She had discovered a long time ago that it was better not to fully occupy
her thoughts with hopes and expectations. She had no wish to build sandcastles
closer and closer to the object and neither did it dissolve, melting into
thin air, nor change into a sand dune. Her mind began, reluctantly, to imagine,
to worry and to hope. She could not help it, so she just accepted it.
again, it was nothing except a dead camel, or a tent whose inhabitants were
little more than a pile of dust, just like in all of the tents she had seen
at the beginning of this harebrained trip into the desert, before forbidding
herself to think, she had begun to talk to herself. There was nobody else.
At first she had real discussions with herself, to remind her why she was
on this trek, and because she hoped it would prevent her drifting into a state
of madness. But it was not very helpful and, she had lost the knowledge, who
was she, where she was going? Nothing reminded of before; the
incessant heat during the day, the bone deep cold at night, the dust, the
loneliness and all the corpses, had eaten her up bit by bit, unti there was
nothing left of the person she once had been. That person had lived, laughed
and dreamt. Now, there was only a skeleton left, which marched through the
desert. Like a soldier who had not heard the order to retreat.
past the state of rebellion. There was nothing of importance left - apart
from one: walking, step by step. Where to...? She did not know. It was all
of dwindling relevance, something she had to do, nothing more. Just further.
She had ceased to wonder what the unknown object was, entwined in her thoughts
as she was. When she looked up again, it was closer, and looked similar to
all the tents she had seen before, although smaller. Anyway, she would see
it soon. Maybe.
descended slowly behind her. She had begun her walk at first daylight. Suddenly,
she came to a standstill, almost tripping over her feet. The act of volition,
which she now had to perform, at the end of the day, just to put one foot
in front of the other, had finally made her forget the object completely.
Now she had almost unseeingly stumbled over it.
In the uncertain
light she could hardly be sure as to what it was. Its height was approximately
the height of her hips and almost conical in shape. She touched it. Sand,
lots of sand - and underneath cloth, or maybe leather? She did not know. She
walked round the object - it really was a tent, as she had supposed earlier.
But it was tiny - maybe twice as big as a hut suited for a German shepherd.
In her mind's
eye all of sudden another, similar tent appeared. She had played in it with
her friends as a child. If it was really a tent, then it should have an aperture
somewhere, she thought aloud and searched for it with her hands. There it
was! With stiff fingers - even these were burned by the sun and sore like
everything else - she opened the strings which held the tents opening
through the narrow slit and in the last light of day tried to see inside.
It took awhile for her to become accustomed to darkness and stifling heat,
and before the dust, she had whirled up, settled once more. She could hear
gasps for breath, not her own. Somebody was lying in this tent, and still
alive! Just, by the sound of those gasps.
something alive..., she murmured incessantly. With both hands she ripped
the opening further and she saw something dark, wrapped in fur lying on the
floor. She went nearer the person or animal - whatever it was - carefully,
always prepared to flee. The almost lifeless person or whatever it was, did
not move. She went even closer and noticed that the fur wasnt just a
coat. A dog, a bear... or maybe a wolf! What on earth is a wolf doing
in the middle of the desert - in a tent?, she asked herself. But then
the memory triggered and a name came back:Brownie? Brownie! [...]
Sybille Sterk 2002, 2003
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