3/24/2003

Dying in the desert sand

Usman turned green about 12 hours ago. His cut arm swoll up, and watery red pus oozed out of the wound, dripping on the floor of the Jeep. It dried in the desert air, but still managed to infect the air with a sickly sweet smell.

I held a small desert flower in my hands, and it appeared so small and fragile in my large hands. Then I crushed it, and it stained my palms red. Red with blood. Hands that had killed, that had crushed a life, and which would forever be stained in the terrible colour of murder.

Usman sank into the corner of the car and start to cry. We could not hear him crying through the roar of the car, but we could see the tears run down his cheeks. A strong man, a man that was sent to fight and bring destruction on the heads of invaders was crying because of a cut arm.

We looked away, because we were also strong men. We would all cry like he was crying when our times came. When we lay by the roadside in a time to come, our life flowing our of our bodies, our eyes and minds open and willing, but having lost control over our bodies, we would cry like he was crying.

The jeep was throwing up huge clouds of dust and dirt and small objects that were landing at our feet, hitting our faces, and infecting our wounds. I idly wondered if it could have been a relative or friend of that small flower that I crushed that might be attacking the man with its poison.

Usman vomited, and the juice flowed between our legs, mixing with the dust on our boots, and forming small clumps of sand. Lines of blood streaked through the vomit, and I saw a half digested bean dance to the rhythm created by our car bouncing on the desert road.

We stopped, and doused the jeep floor with sand. It absorbed the liquid that was Usmans life, but would not gain any life of its own by doing that. The desert thirsted for liquid, and maybe that was why it beckoned to us, invited us to come and die in it, so that it would drink our blood. And we came, and we died, but it always seemed to want more.

We carried Usman out, and made him a bed in the desert. He vomited again, and the vomit disappeared into the dry desert sand. We gave him our water to drink, so he would not dehydrate, but his stomach rejected it, and the desert lapped it up.

We did not have much more water, and we were 100 kilometers from the next town. Usman started coughing, trying to get the sand out of his dry lungs. The sand was entering his lungs with each breath. The sand had come to claim him, to attack and ravage him, consume and absorb him, and finally, turn him into just more sand. It gleefully wrapped itself around him, sticking to the water dropplets on his face, and painting his face gray.

And with that grey face, sand clinging to his beard, him gasping for air, yet breathing sand, the desert absorbed his life.

In that moment, I saw years pass, and saw as he decayed in that spot, slowly collapsing into rotting flesh, and then into clumps of dirt, and finally became part of the desert. The desert that is growing larger by the minute, and which will eat us all, one day or the day after.