by: Cameron Kirk
Two disparate lives, that of a pilot and a nomad, intersect under the vast, glimmering skies of the desert….
The night sky resembled dusted diamonds twinkling in eternity. They shone and sparkled, some near and some unimaginably distant, creating a god-like depth to the heavens.
Through the thickset was a star blazing brighter than any, moving across their glowing background, leaving them stationary in its wake. With screaming engines aflame, twisted metal cooling even as it melted, a machine made Earthfall in a slow, arching plummet.
When the smoking machine had fully embraced the desert sand, and the twisting, uncomfortable union was complete, silence once again echoed across the desert landscape. There had been no one to witness the end of the machine, no one to see it spiral through the night sky to its cold, undulating grave.
No one except a nomad draped in white robes.
Of what people or tribe the nomad belonged to, none could say. The man had watched and understood what it was that fell from the sky. It had fallen over the horizon, somewhere in the blackness beyond his campfire. His camel had not noticed, or had not cared, and simply moved closer to the fire at the thundering sound of its impact. The man’s wrinkled brown hands moved in what may have been a religious or otherwise spiritual gesture, a prayer for the lost souls aboard the destroyed machine, or he may have simply been swatting aside a bothersome insect attracted by the fire. It was hard to tell.
The nomad turned his attention to his disinterested camel chewing seeds. He stared at his camel, watching its large, black eyes, for some time. He was broken from his reverie by the sound of soft, sinking footsteps. A man appeared on the ridge of a frozen wave of sand and stopped.
The nomad recognized him as the pilot of the crashed machine, for he had seen a pilot once before. The oxygen mask still hung from the man’s neck, and his flight goggles were pulled back on the top of his head.
The pilot resumed his slow trudge towards the fire. He approached and stopped just outside the oasis of light. The nomad watched him, and gestured for the man to sit by the fire. The pilot nodded, moved closer, and sat.
“My plane has crashed,” he said
The nomad nodded. He offered the pilot some of the food he had been roasting.
“Thank you,” the pilot said. As the man slowly ate his eyes stared at the fire. He said nothing for some time and the nomad watched him in silence.
“Jerry shot me down,” said the pilot finally. The nomad did not seem to understand. “The Germans. Nazis.” explained the pilot. The nomad nodded.
“I have to get back to base. Do you have a radio?” The nomad shook his head.
The pilot took out a compass and a map and studied it expertly for a few moments.
“Twenty miles,” he said. “I can make that. I have to.”
The camel started suddenly and the desert winds raised their voices.
The nomad watched as the pilot stood. Their eyes met for a moment and the nomad offered the pilot a bladder of water. The pilot took it.
“Thank you again, friend,” he said
The nomad nodded once, deeply. He followed the young pilot’s progress as he walked off into the desert night. When the young man had disappeared over the opposite horizon from which he had come, the nomad turned once again to the fire and became lost in thought.
After some time he spoke to the camel in his own language, his eyes still on the fire. Translated, it went something like this: In this place, it is difficult to remember what we were. It is even more difficult to understand what we are.
The camel chewed on, quite disinterested in the old man’s soliloquy, but its eyes were fixed on the man all the same.
“He does not know what he is,” the nomad said as he gazed at the horizon. ‘’But I know what I am. It took some time, but I finally understand. And you my friend?” he said to the camel. “I am as yet undecided on you.”
The camel chewed on, unperturbed.
The nomad looked at the stars in the desert sky. They burned brightly, and the light of each had travelled immeasurable distances though the universe.
The stars still shone in the desert night, only a few aware that they were long, long dead.
Cameron Kirk is a Major in Literature from Otago University in New Zealand. He believes if one person enjoys his writing, he is a success. He writes for his wife. She is, thus far, unimpressed.