Shenni had been walking for over two miles without any sign of life. The humidity was unbearable. His water bottle was boiling and the huge rucksack that slung over his back did not help matters. His mother’s words kept ringing through his skull “Shenni you won’t need all that junk, please leave them behind”. “No ma, I need my stuff. I need to keep it going. I need to be busy.”
When the huge van pulled over at the gate of Dhafra Correctional Facility(DCF), and all the formalities were completed at the gate, the driver and the accompanying officer bade Shenni goodbye and the van made a u-turn from inside of the facility and out of the gate it disappeared. There was no sign of life. There was no sign of civilization.
“Walk straight down till you meet life” the officer snarled at Shenni.
As soon as Shenii stepped out of the air-conditioned reception office, he knew that this was real. They had driven over three hours to get to the facility. There was no sign of life whatsoever. It was bare and pure desert. The only place that had a sign of life was the air force base where air force maneuvers took place. Noises of bomber jet fighters could be heard overhead as they whooshed past. Intermittently they heard loud bang sounds as new missiles were being tested.
“This is so cool” Shenni said as he burped loudly.
Shenni was guzzling his soda as if a soda dispenser machine was right in the van.
“Hey kid take it easy with that soda. You will need it much later” the guard warned him.
“It’s okay. I am cool.”
The gravity of where he was heading hadn’t sunk in yet to his thick skull. He acted as if he was going to the camp site for camping.
After thirty minutes of walking and perspiring in the heat and humidity of the desert, he sighted some birds in a distance. They were vultures eating on a dead carcass. He felt like throwing up. The vultures did not move an inch as he walked nearer. The road was dusty. Whirlwinds erupted every now and then and he had to shut his eyes tightly as the whirl winds gushed towards him.
As he approached the vultures, the vultures started advancing towards Shenni. Shenni turned back. He had no radio, he had no phone. There was nobody and no help in sight. He began to run towards the gate, and the vultures went back to continue with their business. He must have ran for about five minutes when he saw from the direction of the gate, a truck racing towards him, raising dust and adding to the already humid conditions. The truck flew past him despite all his attempts to flag the truck down. He thought “darn, this is cruel.”
He removed his shirt and began to head back in the direction of life. “Walk straight down till you meet life” reverberated to him. He had lost about ten valuable minutes of walking time. He had lost energy. He had lost more fluid. There was no supply in sight. He was parched. He felt like he was going to collapse and but he didn’t want to be meat for those vultures. He thought about how mean, the folks here were. No one cared, even the truck that drove past in such a hurried insanity.
He was totally drenched in perspiration. He thought that the truck would have driven the vultures away. That idea propelled him to trot on. When he arrived the scene, the vultures were off the carcass though nearby in a tree, perching on top and watching over the debris of the meal. He decided to walk as far away as possible from the meal before the vultures would misinterpret his moves and come for him. As soon as he walked past, he made a sign of the cross and moved on.
He stopped and calculated his breathing. There was no life in sight. There was no sound in sight. Even an animal at this stage would be a welcomed development. Some life, some form. He could not handle the level of desertion he was facing. He panted and bent forward and dropped his rucksack on the dusty road. He looked down on the red soil and saw what seemed like a bug. What a relief he thought, some friendly life.
“Come here little buddy. You and I are going to be buds. My name is Shenni, what’s yours?”
The little creature scurried away and hid its head in a little burrow in the sand.
“No man, you ain’t going nowhere. I need a bud with me on this journey. You know this terrain more than I do, so I need some company.”
He dug his fingers into the red soil and brought the bug out. He cleaned it and put it on his palm and allowed it to familiarize itself with its new habitat. Just as the creature was about to reach the cliff of his outstretched palm, he clutched it, picked up his bag and continued walking.
“Hey Mr. B, we are going to find some life. I was told to walk straight on till I meet life. I don’t know how long I have been walking for, but I am happy I have you as a bud.”
That whirlwind came again and he needed to protect his face from the dust. He lost Mr. B in the process and he felt so sad. Mr. B perhaps was happy to escape his jail house and to be free from his captor.
From a distance that same truck seemed to be returning. Shenni made up his mind that he would stand in the middle of the road and stop the truck. If the truck hit him, it would be for a noble cause, fighting for survival.
He stood in the middle of the road and raised his two hands. The driver was gassing down as if he did not exist. His heart was pounding now. Of what use was he anyways. If he got knocked down, then, at least the torture would be over. Then the guy screeched to a halt just five inches short of him. As soon as he went out of the way to walk to the driver’s seat, the car screeched off and left him in a frustrated state.
He couldn’t imagine what he had just witnessed. He sat down on the road side. He was lost in time. He didn’t have a phone, or watch, nothing at all to show time or direction. Would his friend, Mr. Google, have been of any assistance here? He now looked at the sun as it began its final descent for the night. He stood up, gathered his rucksack and started the upward trek to meet life.
He must have walked for about seven kilometres when he met a herd of camel crossing the road. There was no shepherd in sight and the camels seemed to know where they were going. One particular camel stopped and looked at him. It did not move with the rest of the crowd.
The camel kept staring at him.
“I lost my buddy about three hours ago. It wasn’t as big as you but was a companion nonetheless. I am tired. I have to keep walking till I meet life. This is the second life I have met that is friendly.”
The camel snorted and kicked the sand raising some dust, then it settled down on the floor.
“Hey buddy thanks for stopping for me.”
The camel nuzzled.
Shenni held the neck of Mettuh and gave it some embrace. The camel groaned and kept still. Shenni climbed on the camel’s back and Mettuh stood up and began to walk in the direction where Shenni was going. First it took Shenii to a well where Shenni was able to drink some water. He drank like he had never drank water before. Mettuh growled and Shenni was worried. “Don’t drink in such a haste and hurry. There is plenty water in the well”, the camel said to him.
He slowed down and drank some more. He felt bloated, he was hungry and starving.
Mettuh laid down again on the floor and Shenni climbed on top of Mettuh. They began to walk in the direction of life. The instruction he was given at the gate came back “walk straight down until you meet life.”
Uwem Mbot Umana©2019