By Abderrahmane Alamrani
By Abderrahmane Alamrani
Oujda – The ocean of blue sky extended as far as the eye could see, with an orange hue tinting the horizon. The wind did him no justice; it would erase his footsteps moments after leaving them behind. A heavy breeze touched his face, and desperation was setting in. The hope of a rescue mission was fading, yet he groped onto the empty bottle of water with the mantra, “the truck must be close” repeating on his lips.
It’s always hot in the desert, always filled with sweat and sand, he said to himself. But an empty stomach was that extra variable that didn’t fit. Careless where he was heading, it didn’t matter anymore what direction it was. It all looked the same. His weary legs would struggle to carry the weight of his body. Not much was left in him, except for a deep voice lurking behind.
“Leaving everything behind wasn’t your brightest idea,” the voice spoke.
“You came all the way here just to die!”
“Shut up!” he shouted
Before all of this, you would find him tucked in his small bed, covered with a soft blanket, when a dream came to him. The spotlight was on him, people next to him fading in the shadows behind him. The camera added the thirty pounds he lost in the wilderness of Africa. World’s distinguished explorer with a glass of warm milk at his nightstand, he would craft his 15 minutes of fame before slipping away into wonderland. He lived a happy life, adored by the world for his contributions, just before six thirty in the morning when the alarm would announce it was time to prepare for his cubicle.
The sun set at the corner of the horizon with the sky turning to reddish blue. The day had come to an end, darkness had faded in and he had slept off the desert, dreaming about his cozy home and the softness of his bed.
After getting the divorce, and the court splitting his life in half, he had a baby, and a baby-mama. His world was about changing diapers, cleaning the dishes, and watching football. At the office where he worked as an accountant, everyone’s memory of his birthday would slip away.
“This will be over soon,” he kept on repeating to himself. But deep within, a voice had a different idea.
A ray of light awoke him. He took his time before looking around and checked himself. Didn’t have much on him except for an expensive pocket knife, dirty and covered with sand, but titanium. The new day brought an idea—he walked in a straight line, leaving the sun behind him. The sand was his for the taking, all by himself, the voice kept him company. On occasions it would speak sense to him, and poke fun at him later.
“God damn it!” The voice didn’t answer back.
After hours of dragging his feet behind, his body, barely balancing, fell flat on the hot sand, and the world went dark. Moments later a repetitive sound grew closer: it was a helicopter, and he thought they must have spotted him. “Water! I need water!” he shouted with all the strength he had. But there was utter silence. He couldn’t hear himself; his lips moved but no words came out.
He pushed himself up. There was a strange yet somewhat familiar sound drawing nearby. He was sure of what it was; a helicopter was nowhere to be seen. He gazed at the horizon, looking for the source of the noise. Then it came from behind, a blurry vision of a long moving object aiming in his direction. By the time he realized what he was looking at, it was too late. The rattlesnake raised its head while twisting its body around, taking a hostile posture, ready to attack. He froze, petrified, a stand-off between the forces of man and the forces of nature.
It rattled and began to move; only this time, it was a slow pace. He made a decision, turned around leaving his back facing the snake and tried to run, pushing himself forward. His corps was heavier than his legs could carry, and the snake closed on him in a flash, thrusting its fangs into his flesh.
He swore and shouted at the snake, trying to rub out the excruciating pain, holding his bitten leg to his chest. Weak and weary from the loss of proper meals, the snake had better odds. The venom ran through his veins, even though he managed to suck some out.
It was not enough. He tried to sit still, tried to think straight. Snakes are as devious as they come; you should know what to expect, just not when to expect it, he thought. He grabbed his pocket knife, its blade sharp enough to cut through the swollen bite mark. He managed to remove the swollen bit off, thinking he could get the rest of the venom with that.
It tasted like ash, or rusty metal in his mouth. He sucked back again, but there was no pain when his teeth grabbed his flesh to the inside of his mouth. It went down his belly. He grabbed another piece; this time he chewed before swallowing.
His whole body was numb, the back of his leg bleeding and nausea taking over.
Slipping into the abyss, body laid flat, gazing at the blue sky, it was fading to a heavy orange. The long night was closing in. Weak and tired, covered with his blood, a taste of ash and iron in his mouth, he closed his eyes and drifted away.
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