I cradled the young child in my arms, fearing the moment his cries would cease. I shielded him from the beating sun with my shawl. His reddened cheeks were blistering. I tried brushing away the sand from his curls. His brown eyes held a soft innocent expression, unaware of the grim end waiting for the both of us to be consumed by ravaging thirst and hunger.
We were surrounded by barren land. The desert was relentless and infinite.
The hot grains of sand swallowed my feet under our weight as I trudged along. I followed the path of determination that strung a tie to the slowing beats of my heart.
I let the boy wander. His walking was uneven, and he often fell to the ground. He barely flinched when the scorching sand burned the palms of his hands. The boy was born in the desert, destined to be its leader.
I tried playing with him to distract him from the heat, the thirst and the great unknown that lay ahead of us. I opened my mouth to speak, but quickly resigned. The dryness and burning were itching at the back of my throat.
I stopped calling after him, and soon he grew weary, insisting that I carry him again. I shook the canister before leaning the spout to the boy’s parched lips. I was the child’s only refuge, sheltering him from the wantonness.
The feeling of abandonment was replaced with thoughts of hope and purpose. The quiet and vastness of the desert gave me a comforting peace. I could not give up on the thin tether of hope that we would survive our peril. It was my duty to keep the legacy alive. I looked down at the child in my arms, his eyes were closed, and his breathing was shallow.
As I resumed our trek, he lifted his chubby hand to touch my cheek.
I looked at the child’s blinking eyes; streams of tears stained his face. He kept rubbing his eyes with the thin fabric of his sleeve. I could offer no words of comfort.
Why was I forsaken?
The camel tracks have long disappeared in the sand. No signs of any caravan camps remained. There will be no rescue, no one will come to our aid. Our rations were sparse. The thirst was unbearable. Dehydration hadn’t spared us from delusion. Several times I had witnessed the child chase after a creature lurking amongst the dunes vivid in his imagination. I became wearier as the sun approached the horizon, foreseeing a night vulnerable to the nocturnal critters native to the Sahara Desert.
In the distance, I spotted an assembly of rocks erected from the sand that would provide sufficient shelter until dawn when temperatures were expected to drop. A decent place to rest, perhaps permanently if we couldn’t manage to survive the aching void churning our stomachs.
We had to go on. We climbed the dunes, the sand slipping through our feet.
A small hand patted my face once again.
An odd reflection of light flickered against the sand. The mirage was unyielding, unfaltering. A flicker of hope washed over me like a gush of fresh cool water.
We had to go on. We climbed the dunes, the warm sand shifting beneath my feet. His small head bounced against my shoulder as I carried him, the weight of my people’s legacy. I was unafraid, determined to find an escape from this exile. I paced back and forth, searching the infinite sand for a sign, yearning for an end.
Engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.