The sunlight seemed to be crushing me, as if each ray had a life in itself, so hot it burned. The sky was an intricate blue that seemed to go on forever. Every intake of the dry, humid air brought searing pain into my lungs, and every step rubbed against the grains of sand that lie beneath my barefeet. Though, I staggered onwards, to an unknown destination.
I’ve seen no sign of life in this godforsaken place, and not one drop of - Wait! Is that water? As I near I realize I was hallucinating. It doesn’t surprise me though, I’ve been hallucinating a lot lately. As each day passes, they seem to be getting worse. I can’t tell what’s real anymore. I need to find water.
I continued on. As night approached I attempted to blink away the sweat running from my brow to my sleepless eyes. But each time new drops of sweat replaced the old ones.
My eyes are so dry, too dry. I know I should be crying now but I can’t seem to produce one single tear. Instead, I tell myself it is time to sleep. Sleeping is my escape out here, it is the only thing that feels right.
My breath is ragged. A new day awaits tomorrow and all I can do is continue, one step at a time, seeking something…anything.
I wake just as the sun reaches the horizon. It’s beautiful, this sunrise. I’ve never seen anything like it. In that moment, I hear the gentle trickling of a stream. I run toward it, fast and furious, only to find nothing. Just the dry stretch of sand. I stop, shaking as dry sobs come from my throat. Then I crumple to the ground, curled in the fetal position. There I remain for an unknown amount of time. It could be minutes, hours, or days, but it feels like years.
As time progresses, I become aware of the gradually changing temperature. It’s getting cooler. With caution, I open my eyes and gasp. There, just ahead of you is a cave opening. How had I not seen it earlier?
I walk toward it slowly, each step a fluid movement. As I reach the mouth of the cave, crouching down low, all I can think is, Is this real? I squeeze through the hole, barely fitting. When inside, I see a set of stone steps, descending downward. I step cautiously at first and then my steps become fluid, the soles of my feeling the coolness of the stone.
As I reach the bottom I notice that the rays of the sunlight through the cave opening shine patterns across the water. It’s a small stream. Delight engulfs me as I rush forward to take a sip of the angelic water, lying there, just waiting to be tasted.
I take some in my palms and watch it shudder and sway there, savouring this perfect moment. To me this is the most magnificent moment in my life. The water is perfectly clear but as I raise it to my lips, it turns to oil. I just want to cry out in fury, but not a single sound escapes me.
I stay there for a moment, not sure how long, just staring at the black liquid in my hands. I don’t understand. How could it change from water to oil? Then I realize something: to drink the water I crave, I must prove that I am worthy of it. I have to prove I deserve it.
I look to my right, seeing a small wooden boat that wasn’t there before. Should I go in? If I do maybe I could get water, but if I don’t then I know I don’t have a chance of surviving. With that thought, I hop in the boat and grab the oars. They look as if they have never been touched. Each had some etchings that seemed to be an ancient language.
As I start down the stream, I feel scared. I don’t know where I’m going. All I know is that this is my only chance of survival. I sweep the oars through the tunnel, heading into the tunnel that awaits.
The sunlight glints on the water, making familiar etchings visible. I realize then that these are the same etchings on the oars. For some reason seeing them gives me a reason to keep going, to an unknown destination.
Before long I am enveloped in darkness, fearful of what lies ahead. Yet, I keep rowing, determined to reach the end.