It would be sunrise in twenty minutes. It was time to set up my tent and prepare for another day of survival in a virtual oven. I dropped my backpack, pulled out my tiny tent, an a-frame tent, with lightweight aluminum poles, not fiberglass. The aluminum worked better for me. Made the tent easier to set up.
After my tent was ready, I grabbed my camera from the pack, then tossed the pack in the tent, sleeping bag and all. Soon, I’d have to hide inside for what would feel like endless hours. I adjusted the rain fly to block as much sand as possible. I knew it would be as much as twenty degrees cooler in the tent than outside.
It was day six of ten. I’d planned my trip for a year. A year of physical torture, walking miles in the heat of summer, learning to find water where I could, learning to set up water capture netting. Learning to eat what I could find. How to live off the desert. I’d even had to spend three days and nights in Death Valley solo to earn the right for my trip.
I walked along the netting. I’d set it up at the first sign of fog. You can taste the water in the air. I threw the netting up, and prayed I’d catch enough water to fill a glass or two. Enough to get through the next day.
I’d reversed the entire schedule. Walk at night, hide in the tent during the day. During the night I needed less water. At night it was cold as hell, but in a jacket, hauling 50 pounds of gear, I burned enough energy the cold didn’t bother me so much. And it certainly beat walking beneath a sun that could fry an egg in minutes on sand that could melt car tires.
Yeah. I know. “Why would anyone want to cross the desert?” You ask, ‘cause you ain’t me. You don’t know what I go through, working five days a week, in a job that’s trying to kill my soul. You don’t know what it’s like when you can’t say what you feel, what you think, because what you feel and think are wrong, and you’ll get told again, “You can’t be that way.” Or, “That’s wrong! You’re wrong!”
Daily life kills me. One bit at a time. One thread at a time, my rope frays away. Until I have no choice and have to escape. I have to escape everything. Phones. Radios. TV. News papers. The internet. The civilized world we’ve made. I have to escape it all.
This year, I escaped to the desert. Where no one could reach me. No one could tell me what to feel. What to think. How to live. In the desert, I was alone. All the voices that haunted me every day were gone. All the rights and wrongs were gone. All the good and evil, gone. All that mattered was survival. All that mattered was my next breath, my next heartbeat, my next swallow of water, my next meal. All the lies, the myths, the artificial things made by mortal men, fell away. The veil of civilization was cast aside.
And I was free.
And I was alive.
Once I knew the net was right, and was collecting what water it could from the ground fog, I turned Eastward, and waited. Soon, the sun would rise. And the colors of the world would come to life once more. The black sky, and black sand would light up with color. Golds, reds, oranges, pinks, yellows. High, thin, wispy, pink and orange cirrus clouds painted against a pale pink sky.
It was stunning. Just like life, without that veil we hide it behind.
This is my entry for Year 2, Week 42 (Week 2.42) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. This week the prompt is the song, “Ishq Love and the Veil” by Niyaz. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.