Sunday, 27 February 2011

X is for No

He begs the clouds to rain. Really begs them. Pleads with them, as though each gathering of vapour is a newfound god.
The air is so thick and dry it's almost like glass being made. A thin glass mold, settling around him. Trying to set, but cracking minutely and quietly as he twists and wriggles in the dust.
He is trying to coat himself with that soil-powder, those flecked flakes of earth-flesh. To keep back the mosquitoes, the other bugs. To try and dull the burning of the sun. But there is no moisture there, and it does not seem to want to cling. It runs between the hairs that line his forearms in mussed-up waves, and then trickles out. He does not seem to have any liquid left inside to pass out as perspiration and make it stick.
He searched for saliva with his blistered tongue, but finds none. He has heard that sucking on pebbles can help draw it out, but the only stones around here are too large to fit in his mouth. Far too large. Like fingertips shorn off of giants and planted, petrified, in the overbaked clay.
He looks up again, through heat-wrinkled eyes, but the clouds have not and do not answer. He didn't listen and that's why he's here. They, the clouds, don't listen and that's why he'll die.
There are no diamonds, they said, and he hasn't seen anything glimmer.
There is no gold, they said, and he hasn't seen anything glow.
There are no animals, not fresh ones with meat on the bones. They said that, and he has sure enough not seen any, not roasted their remains over fire.
There are birds, of course, that he spies as thin streaks against the canvas of his smoky-hued deities. He knows they will be watching him back, and bite harder than the bugs the soil will not keep from off his skin.
But he won't feel them. And they will find him stringy, lacking in flavour. He will just rot away, inch by inch, and those who know his name and what he went here for will forget it soon and not come looking. They do not care for the men who come here looking for treasures they themselves will never find, not greed for, nor profit from. They do not care for the men who come here and do not listen when they tell them there is nothing in the wider desert but loneliness and heat.

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