If you’d asked me when I graduated where I thought I’d be in 10 years I’d have probably responded with the standard “Oh yo know, steady, well-paying job; married, kids.” That kind of thing. What I wouldn’t have said was that I expected to be lost in a desert, running for my life from a government death squad. Weighed down with nothing more than the clothes on my back. That and a rucksack filled with 4 kilos of black tar heroin and 3 cold war era fragmentation grenades. Life is, as they say, full of surprises.
Up until last week things had looked pretty much on target. I had the steady, well-paying job and I’d started seeing a nice young lady from the marketing department. Things had been looking “good.” But then the company decided that it wanted to expand out into the Africa, get a big old piece of that hot post colonial pie. So muggins here got shipped off and given the task of setting up the new local HQ. Someone in management and HR had rather neglected to consider the possibility of a violent and bloody coup in a notoriously unstable part of the world. I’d say heads would roll, but they already have.
When the shit hit the windmill the revolutionaries came for us in short order. What with us being part of the “corrupt, bourgeoisie oppressors.” This of course merely meant that their glorious leader thought that our money, nice cars and fancy computers should in fact be his money, his nice cars and his fancy computers. So I did what at the time I thought any sane person would do: hid in the stationery cupboard, cobbled together a pipe bomb and then legged it while my would be assassins were busy trying not to bleed to death and struggling manfully to push their intestines back in. I suspect that this small act of self-preservation may not have given them a favourable impression of me.
It’s been a busy week, being catapulted from the world of business to enemy of the state. And that’s before I had a further misunderstanding with a drug runner over the use of his light aircraft. A light aircraft that proved rather tricky to fly and in possession of a very small fuel tank. Ultimately that is why I am now somewhere in the middle of the Sahara and why I happen to have 4 kilos of black tar heroin. It’s been the sort of week where I think it might come in handy.
There’s not a great deal to do in a desert, other than perhaps sweating and dying. I was doing plenty of the former and desperately trying to put off the latter. I had spent the last few hours thinking exclusively about deserts. First about the heat, and then the sand, then the wild life, then the geography; I was now into the realm of tenuous and esoteric thought, thinking about the many myriad of ways deserts could be viewed as metaphors. Things had taken a bleak turn, I was now comparing my own life to a desert; a vast, unknowable expanse of nothingness, ripe with fickle uncertainty and grizzly demises, interspersed with rare, infrequent and ultimately transient oases of calm and meaning. It was at this point I looked up at the sky. At first I thought that night had snuck up on me, but night is generally a palette of the darkest blues, shot with threads of purples and violets. This sky was black. An angry, ominous black threaded with charcoal greys and the faintest hints of putrescent yellows. I turned to look behind me and saw a sky that was brilliant and flawless aquamarine. It seems my luck was souring even still further, as I was about to be swallowed up by a rare Saharan storm.
The full weight of the storm front hadn’t quite reached me yet, but a gale was howling straight out of its mouth and gaining force with every passing minute. Feathered fingers of sand rose from the crests of the dunes like steam before being caught in the wind and ripped and rent and scattered. Before their demise, each of these fingers was grasping and abrasive. I desperately needed shelter. If I stayed in the open much longer my skin would be flayed from my bones. And even if I survived that, I doubt I would survive the endless sands turning into a thick, sucking mire the moment the rain hit.
Then I crested a dune and thought that madness had finally taken a hold of me. For nestled in the cleft of two dunes, as if it were splitting a wave, was a ship. Fully rigged with sails the colour of bleached bone whipping and snapping in the wind. The ship was back-lit by silver streaks of lightning that flecked the darkened sky. It was the only sanctuary available to me. There was no more time and there were no more options.
I hunkered down below decks, in a hollow belly of petrified wood. Wind and rain howled around me, a tempest of all of nature’s rare and fickle fury arraying itself against me, while I sat within an impossible thing.
My mind swirled much like the wind, I found itself drifting back once again to metaphors, to deserts and the unending now. How I was lost. So very lost. And not just in the literal and geographic sense. I had no idea where I was heading; no idea what to do; no idea, notion or even the most base comprehension as to the fabric of my life. Everything I knew, the happy stability of the status-quo, was utterly and irrevocably shattered. Lost, you might say. And in a desert no less, an archetype of the empty, of nothingness, of the desolate and the barren. All there was now of my world was me, myself, and I. Like the ship, my presence and my existence was an incongruity in the world. My location and my situation inexplicable.
I slowly drifted into the embrace of sleep. The tired, dead sleep of a man who’d been running too long. I envisioned myself as a pirate on the mighty sand sea. I let out a quiet “Yarr!” And tried not to think about what the future had in store.
Worst case scenario, there was always the grenades…
Or the heroin…