Tags: fiction short-story

Chesh pushed forward through the desert. Another day. One of infinity.

Her stomach bulged and swayed heavily, full of acid and bile and what felt like food but wasn’t wholesome. She felt sick and spat and vomited and wordlessly cursed and hoped that she’d be fine now that the gunk was out of her. Maybe it’d be okay, at least for a day?

Never such luck.

She found food out here in the desert. Things that promised life and sustenance but always turned sickly inside of her. Where the food came from was a mystery, but not one she had the energy or ability to explore. She’d just find it. Maybe it was from God, or chance, or possibly in this endless desert, physics just worked in a way to allow food to spontaneously appear. That made as much sense as anything else in this desert.

She didn’t deserve the food and felt dirty eating it. Sometimes she’d spend weeks walking by the food, refusing to eat it, out of a sort of spite and strange hope that depriving herself of it would somehow get her out of the desert. She knew it was ridiculous but after so many years alone, you’re willing to try anything and everything. Besides, again, she didn’t deserve the food.

She wrote stories in her mind about her salvation, oftentimes hallucinating it in the distance, but seeing only more endless sand upon closer approach. This rescue would take many forms. An oasis, a motorbike or car, a massive fifteen story 5-star hotel, or even just a small town. It was always sand in the end.

Even her being in the desert was a mystery. She remembered leaving home a long time ago, to meet a friend. She walked and walked looking for her friend, but she never showed up. She walked for days, which became weeks. Civilization and all signs of life gradually dropped away from around her and by the time she noticed her environment had changed, she was hopelessly lost. At some point she questioned whether her friend had been just another mirage of the desert. Maybe she’d always been in the desert and her past life had been a hallucination. At this point in her life, she’d known more mirages than real things. Mirages were the norm, not tangible objects.

After many years, a change happened within her. Slowly, she began to give up entirely. Every bit of her that wanted to leave the desert fell away. Every nerve in her that had screamed for salvation and escape became silent, and yet her mind persisted. She continued walking, driven for once by a new force.

She saw a mirage in the distance. An oasis; typical of these visions.

Though this time she didn’t hope for the mirage to be anything. She didn’t imagine the clean water or the people waiting to greet her. The potential piña coladas and 10-meter high diving board were not on her mind.

In her newfound complete loss of will, a new, astonishingly unprovoked feeling grew in her. She was, maybe for once in her life, grateful. She was happy to be lost in the desert. She was thankful to be able to experience the food she’d found out here. She looked at herself and saw how she’d grown in the desert. It had challenged her to change that she might survive it. Tears welled up in her eyes. She let the mirage come to her as it would.

She entered the oasis.

Her friend was there waiting, and greeted her.

They sat down together at a table, under a palmetto tree, along the sparkling water, and discussed their individual journeys to the oasis.

They were both thankful to share the mirage together. It wasn’t real, but that was their favorite part.

They fell in love there, and built a fifteen story 5-star hotel out of sand.