Rikon > Short Stories > Bringer of Deserts

Bringer of Deserts

The lone figure crawled slowly across the desert floor, the grit-like sand and gravel making every movement of his blistered and raw knees and hands a life-time of torture, every inch gained an eternity of agony.

Behind him the dry desert stretched into the shimmering distance. He had come to know deserts in his journey, and he knew this was the ancient bed of some sea that had dried up. He knew from hard experience that when it rained here, which it rarely did, the slight water would gather in small pools of poisonous mud, the annual rains doing nothing more than leaching more chemicals from the land and making the place even more inhospitable.

But knew he would never see that first hand. Though he had been crossing this desert for more than ten years, he knew he would never see the rains, and would never again see anything beyond this bitter and lifeless place.

Unlike most who had died in this desert, his mind and sight was still clear, and he remembered his years in this place as clearly as if he were still living each minute.

Ahead of him, on the rise, he could faintly make out the tall temple of an Incan village, and so he resolutely made his way painful way in that direction.

That evening, the people of the village found him. They had come to the edge of the desert which in their memory was new and unaccountable, to debate what it might mean and from whence it had come.

There, at the mysterious line between rich fields of maze and melons and the newly appeared hard gravel and sand, they found the man. Unconscious and unmoving but breathing still.

Some whispered that he was the cause of the blight and should be left, but kinder hearts won and a few brave souls crossed the line between crop and desert and lifted up the man and bore him into the village.

They brought him through the fields of maze and past the orchards. Across the small spring-fed stream that sustained their village and through the rich market until they came to the temple and so to the priests.

Unable to revive him, they could not ask why his mouth had been sewn shut, nor could they ask with what material, for the cords that made his lips a permanent barrier were uncuttable.

As more people saw him, word spread that he was a cursed man, damned by some other village or even the gods for an unspeakable crime. But being good people they felt pity for him and did what they could.

They soaked him in water and let as much seep past his sealed lips as they could, and rubbed oils into his skin that would repair the damage of the sun.

Then they retired and left him to sleep.

His sleep was disturbed, as it always was, by the same dream he had dreamt every night on his journey.

A rich man, highly respected and richest among the merchants in his village, he walks the streets scorning the poor. There, before him, a beggar dares ask for a bowl of water.

'Enough' he bellows in his dream, turning to the crowd around him and making a grand spectacle 'Must we men of hard labors be plagued by these beggars and farmers and commoners? What crime have I committed that I should be confronted by such impertinence? By such outrageousness? Let the gods of our ancestors hear me now and know that I am done with this rabble. I say to you all that I will be done with you, once and for all.'

Turning, he thought to return to the highest temple and complain there to the governors of the town and have the farmers and lowly merchants and beggars put out or sold as slaves, but from the sky came a great crack of thunder and lightening that struck the thirsty beggar and blinded the crowd around him.

The haughty merchant, his heart pounding in his ears, turned and beheld a sight to freeze men's hearts.

'At last!' the smoldering body of the beggar cackles, and twisting and writhing, the body rises before him. Throwing off the rags and face of a beggar, legs become serpents and skin becomes scales, and the arms of the transforming beggar tower over the merchant in shimmering gold.

With a voice crafted from the gentle sky and nurturing earth, both heard and felt at once yet comforting and peaceful, the creature spoke to the fearful crowd. 'Be not afraid, for I am the end which was foretold. All that shall be is as it has already been written, and so know no fear but leave your cities now. Return to the ways of your ancestors and cast off your oppressions.'

Turning then, his face shown down upon the bitter merchant. 'You, alone among all your people, are most like the cities that die. You shall survive these simple stones, and will see the end of all things wonderful to you. You alone shall be the bringer of deserts, showing me where I should do my work.'

Awaking the next morning, the merchant found himself refreshed and wearing fine cloths, just as he had every morning for the last ten years. Walking through the deserted town he found no signs of people, and no evidence of life. Gone were the fields and orchards, and the small spring was dry as if it had been claimed by desert years ago.

But there, just on the edge of the desert perhaps a day's journey away, he could see the outline of a temple rising against the sky.

There, he thought as he began walking toward the distant village, that's where I will sleep tonight.


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