Tuesday, January 15, 2013
He looks out into the dust of the world, scorching fallen bones to white stones. Water is perhaps days away and he does not expect to find it. The desert floor is scattered with the fallen, both man and beast have succumbed to their thirst in this vast yellow wasteland, all of them left there uncovered as food for the scavengers.
He expects nothing and gives nothing.
He takes what he finds, what he needs. Men have died beside him and he has stepped sideways as they fell. It is by chance that bullets and arrows have all but missed the target.
He continues on, his face cracked and blistered and burning, an unrelenting sun high above that has no mercy for the weak. Sucking on stones as he stumbles over the few patches of withered grass, he has not lost the desire to live, just the expectation that life somehow belongs to him.
There is no god above to save his soul, to pluck him from this dry bed of dust and wind. There is nothing, no one beyond his own skin, nothing but the determination to keep moving and follow the stars. Perhaps he will stumble upon a watering hole.
He does not pray for rescue or grace, does not hope to find some other man along the path with a full canteen and dried meat. There are no friends in this place, not in this desert or in any town he has ever been. There is no sweet smelling woman that does not hold her hand out for coin or gift, no act of mercy ever granted without expectation of consequence.
The men out here come as vultures and thieves and even those he has ridden side by side with watch him with suspicion, as he does with them.
He expects nothing of them and he gives them nothing. Each man rides until he is unable to do so any longer. Then he is left and forgotten, stripped and left to the sun and rain, to the vultures and time.
Scanning the ridges of far away mountains for signs of smoke and silhouette, for enemies and arrows and bullets aimed at his chest, he walks on, his mouth dry as the desert sand and cracked earth.
The wasteland is for the solitary drifter, each man experiencing the earth with eyes colored by his path and choice.