minute 09

Future in doubt

The desert. It was a deadly place to be in. It was probably the deadliest place to be in on the entire planet. He had realized that by now. The cruel, unrelenting heat in the daytime was wearing them out. The sun was burning down on them mercilessly. It felt as if the skin was smoldering off their bones – or at least he felt like this. He could not tell what his companions were thinking, for they were silent most of the time. Did they not speak to save their energies? He would not have blamed them. He did not know anything about surviving in a desert, and coming there had been a really bad idea. But, as usual, curiosity had won against reason.
This kind of ‘adventure’ was nothing new to him. Wearily he remembered that one time when he had taken up a similarly stupid endeavor: climbing Mount Everest with the help of some really experienced people. That had been thrilling, but not nearly thrilling enough, so this time he had decided upon something far more extreme. Eventually, however, it had turned out that going into the desert on his own was not extreme, nothing to be proud of, and definitely an idea born out of sheer stupidity. It was too late, however, to redeem his decision now, and so he could do nothing but trust these people around him, who had literally picked him up an indefinable time ago.
These strangers. Who were they anyway? What purpose had they? Had they picked him up for charity’s sake? Was charity even something they knew? What was he to them? He was nobody, an idiotic stranger having got lost in a desert whose name he could not even recall now. He remembered the people he had called his friends telling him not to go on this ‘crazy trip’, as they had called it. But where were they now, his ‘friends’? They were far away now, and so unreal, as if he was in another universe altogether. There were no friends out here. There was no civilization, or modern world. There was only the desert, and the struggle for survival which he had unconsciously burdened on these people.
How did they survive out there? How did anything survive, or come to life, in this hostile place? As he took a look around, his eyes burning from being strained to look into the distance, he only saw the heat glimmering above the sand.
Oh how he missed the cold of Mount Everest, that biting cold that had made his face freeze! Back then, he had thought it the worst thing to endure, but now there was nothing that seemed more desirable to him. Had there been an ocean laid bare right in front of him, he would have drunk it completely, so thirsty was he.
He shook involuntarily as his body seemed to remember that soon nighttime would come again, and then it would get unbearably cold, especially in contrast to daytime. How could anyone endure this?! How would he be able to endure this one more night? For an endless period of time, he had lost count of days and nights, he had been wondering if he would wake up the next day.
Was this how he was going to die? In a dire place like this, surrounded by strangers, either freezing to death at night or drying out in the relentless desert heat in the daytime? His plans had certainly been otherwise. Nature did not seem to care much about his plans though. To the desert he was only yet another organism trying to survive. It was useless to try and convince himself of something else.
And what if, by some miracle, he was going to survive? What if he could return to that other universe which mankind called civilization? Was he going to learn from this mistake? Take another path in life, settle down finally, or was he going to challenge his luck again, like he had after returning from the Himalaya? Back then he had been so sure that it had been enough, yet here he was in a desert, about to die. Was he ever going to learn, or was this his fate? To go on challenging nature in its various ways until it cut him down to size?
Was mankind, like him, destined to go on challenging whatever there was to challenge? He hoped not. If they did, they would, like him, realize that they had to stop their follies when it was already too late.
With his fainting consciousness he clung to his thoughts on the future, while his eyes clung to the horizon. Was that an oasis in the distance?

Claudia Elsdörfer