Friday, June 1, 2012


The reader of this journal, who of course does not exist, neither now nor in any possible future, for I am to die here in this oasis and before these pages shall again be found they will have crumbled away in the same fashion as my body, may wonder why a span of months exists between entries in this journal, especially considering the punctuality of entry previously displayed. Well, when I tell of my predicament you shall cease to wonder.

The night after I first traced that bedazzling image in berries the spirit of the pool once again entered me and empowered me to create. Though all the experiences that night were the same, that is to say totally and utterly different, for each second's interaction with this power from on high brings manifold revelations into the heart of man, when I woke in the morning I was not merely shocked at what I had been purposed to draw, but dismayed to my fullest extent.

I had drawn not one, but two images of glory! And dark their meaning! I needed no spirit to help interpret these two images for me. Though still I could not read the authoritative script, the message was obvious.

The first depicts none other than the hard shelled tortoise, sitting smugly upon a high stool, proud and glaring. The second one shows, with such subtlety and elegance as to smite me down in shame at my imbecility, the relationship between the high powers of the universe and my humble position. There are two men on the left, and in due order they are passing a message, first from the messenger of the high courts of heaven to the messenger that sits in the pool of the oasis, and then finally to the lowly creature that sits on the right doggedly hiding its face.

These two images stared at me from my pages and I began to gasp as I grasped their meaning. They were the two choices of my life, the two choices that never should have been had it not been for my misdeeds already! They screamed, “Choose ye a way, child of dust and smoke! Choose ye which path to follow, for your ambivalence in duty has brought this doom upon yourself.”

The tortoise represented me as I had been thus far in the oasis, as hard of heart as the shell of the tortoise, believing that one day's penance could right such an act as I had committed when I engaged in that day of gluttony, and yet sitting down thinking my work was done, rather than being upon my knees in a posture of supplication.

This was my first choice, to remain the shelled reptile, useless in deed and allowing nothing to penetrate my hard exterior.

The second, let no man say the obvious, choice was presented thus: I could become that humiliated beast in the other image, fit to serve and understand the messages of heaven. But at what cost! The cup of woe I must drink sat there right beside! How full it was! The sorrows I would endure would be unrivaled in human experience, and my life would be work and untarried effort.

No man may judge me when I tell that I have sat here these months staring each day at these two images and making no decision.  Now the time has come, for I receive dreams in the night of a shrinking river, and this very night the river ran dry. I may no longer hold my decision any longer. Which shall it be? The morning will know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

After my experience yesternight I awoke with a keen sense of purpose. I would remain alert all the day, ready to answer the smallest call. Knowing that it was food in excess that had led me astray, I resolved that I should defeat this temptation fully. The first idea that arises in a man's mind when he is considering how to end his gluttony, or indeed any of the vices of intemperance, is to stay away from the evil item at all costs and at all times, forbearing, so far as he is able, even thinking of the thing. This, however powerful the inclination to act on this impulse, and however wise the path appears on the surface, is in reality the act of a consummate fool. The more one tries to remove the offending thought from the front of the mind, the more consistently and powerfully it resides in the back. It bides its time, growing and feeding off of a man's decaying patience until, in a burst of passion only possible due to the will being utterly exhausted, the vice leaps from the subconscious and into action.

I knew what to do. For the whole morning I painstakingly collected food, understanding that the way to victory lay in mastering this demon head on. After I had collected all of this food, I began to stare and contemplate it, fighting and battling the urges that rattled and raged in my loins. I sat there for no less than half the day, my ration being a single red berry each hour. I would take this berry and consume it, feeling the nourishment enter my bones and focusing on the hunger pangs in my stomach, seeing them each passing hour more and more clearly as the lies they were.

By sundown my spirit was at peace. I knew that I had conquered my vice, and I was settling down to sleep. It was then that I was rewarded for my faithfulness. The light entered the pool as before, but no images began to form upon its surface. Instead, the light collected into the center of the pool and then moved towards the edge where I sat. The light grew smaller and smaller, yet brighter and brighter as it concentrated itself into a fist size area, then shot up from the surface and into my chest! The spirit had entered its servant and would now use the vessel for its purposes.

Of course, there are no words to describe my inner experience, but I will attempt to relate those things which happened outside my body. I rose and went to my collection of vittles. Taking those same red berries which had been my meager but sufficient sustenance that day, I began to amass them into a pile and then smash them into a rich paste. My arms and legs were not my own as I walked to my pack and loosed my journal. Glory and praise, my hands were infused with the spirits of the highest, and they took that paste and began to create, just as had the night before been prophesied! Oh, Oh! Mine hands have drawn, they have drawn! Mine fingers have traced, they have traced! In this humble journal was put down the messages from the skies!

I blacked out. I found myself several hours later still next to my journal. As I woke, I glanced down into it, having forgotten what had transpired, and was met with a shock that took my breath away. There right below me was a message from the gods, the script the same as I have seen twice in the holy pool, yet in my own handwriting! And there too the images! What were they? The oval wheel of fate, the gathered sages, the ruling vizier, all sitting before my eyes and all having been depicted by my hand!

What is the meaning of too much blessing? Where is the limit of destiny? Can a mortal stand to be the pen of eternity and live?

It seems that I, poor I, chosen I, shall delve these cavernous secrets.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My shame overflows as I put this pen to paper, and I would wish upon myself a thousand lashings afore I admitted to those wrongdoings that I shall henceforth set down, but I write on still for it is the beginning of my penance.

Tonight I have been found out for that which I am: an ungrateful scoundrel more interested in my own pleasures and desires than in doing that which is right. One would imagine that after an experience with the Truth such as I have had, that no amount of time or hardship would prevent me from attending to my proper duties, let alone that I would allow myself to be distracted by mere base appetites. Well, I tell you it is not so. After awakening from a sleep filled with shaded wonders, I began to celebrate my fortune with my friend camel. All today I ate and drank, eating and drinking so till I could not bear to even think any longer about food or water. Ask a man who has thirsted in the dry desert for months how long it takes to lose the taste for that sweet nectar water after returning from a journey, and from his reply you shall understand the excesses that I engaged in which led me to destroy mine in a day. I had written yesterday that my greatest desire was to serve. I was correct; I keenly enjoyed serving myself.

Well, after such a gorging man sleeps. I woke in the middle of the night, tar black except for the glow of the pool. The shock I felt nearly knocked me senseless as I realized I was missing the vision the spirit was stirring in the water. I got up and ran to the edge in haste, but too late! As I was running towards the pool I could see its beams casting upwards towards the night sky and there illumining a scene upon the clouds that was unspeakable in its beauty. A woman, a mountain, an eagle eyed scepter… ah but it was gone! For but a half of a second I saw this fading glory of the heavens played out upon the earthly heavens we call sky, but then no more. I arrived at the edge of the pool but saw nothing but the luminescence leave. Immediately I began to wail and weep into the pool, when as of a sudden the light flashed back into it, not slowly as it did the night before, but all at once. That same force gripped me as I kneeled there, and my face was held still to be shown that which it was decreed I should see. I could sense in my soul that this force knew of my faithlessness, and I felt its anger and distress. This time I tried with all my will to break away from the pool, and I can attest that I would have run away to burn in the desert rather than stay and face my punishment. However, I could sooner have escaped from the jaws of the crocodile than free myself from the force's grip, and I resigned to sit myself there and accept fate.

The lines came and congealed once more. What was there, what was there? Oh but high things, grand things, great things! But upon those I willn't dwell, since this was a message sent to crush my pride and not to inflame it. Amidst a shining glory I could make out a heavenly litter making its way towards a humble abode. It was a litter not carried by men but rather by angelic power, for it moved of itself with none to draw it. At its long journey's end out stepped the esteemed messenger it carried. This messenger in haste made his way to the abode, his speed shaming me all the more as I saw what good service he gave to the Heavens, and I tried again to pull away from the pool. But I would have my reward in full, and so it went on as my face was pulled even closer in. The messenger stepped to the door and knocked, then waited. How my heart burned inside me as I saw this, knowing that this humble abode represented none other than me! The messenger was bringing the words of conviction to my very doorstep, and even now I was to receive them in their full weight. In fullness I did receive them, for next the light disappeared and again there was that unutterable script. I feared for my very life, bethinking that they were none other than the words of a death sentence, but, how gracious this spirit!, they were the words of my redemption! I had offended the gods surely, but here it was the way back to hope. The words I still could not read, but that force gave me understanding and taught me their meaning. Though I had sinned I could be redeemed, though I had erred I could again rise to stand. I would be filled with the very spirit that inhabited these waters, and when it came upon me in force I would create with that same power! I would become its conduit, and through obedience to its will I should slowly earn again my freedom. I bowed to this gracious opportunity, and my mind was swept by the winds into the stars. I was filled with the energy of the spirit of the oasis, and shown further terrors and mysteries, so unfathomable I cannot set them down.

So, I have admitted my wrongs, and still I keenly feel their guilt. But perhaps they were for the best, since now I am given a gift, though awful, yet still unlike any that has been known to any man. I sit now, alert and ready, for when I am called upon to serve. This time, however, I shall serve the worthy and not the unworthy.

August 16, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel

Monday, February 20, 2012

My thoughts crash down upon me in droves. I am in mania, and feel, quite unjustifiably so for now that I have arrived here I can never see leaving this oasis, that I have but limited time to set down my recollections on this page before they slide away into abyss. I am but a simple bedouin, and fit neither in mind nor spirit to consort with the high powers with which I have inextricably found myself in contact. Oh I am a poor messenger to reveal their thoughts to the world, as I now realize it is my purpose to do! How I see now!  All of it! The circling, the thirst, the scabbed feet, the ash tongue, the mind’s anguish, all for this! The spirit I find in this place is too grand to be without worshippers, to bounteous to be without subjects to bless, to worthy to be without a mouth to proclaim its honor! ME! How I came to be chosen I do not know, but chosen I have been! To see sights beyond man’s place in life, to drink in the mysteries of the gods! To be covered in foam from the froth of that Fountain Knowledge that man has searched for through countless generations yet never found! To dive into… but I ramble now, and must press on to record intelligibly those things which cause me to rave.

This dusk I woke to find my eyes and mouth swollen shut. The parched feeling in my throat was like unto flame, and my body felt as though I had been caned for my errors. I lay there, expecting the end to come by and by, praying it should arrive sooner rather than later, for the night was unusually hot and gave me no comfort in my pains. Well, I could hear my friend stirring beside me, engaging in his pre-walk stretching routine and whatnot. He completed his preparations for journeying and then stood still, waiting for me to saddle and ride. I tried my best to crawl to him, not to mount him, of course, for I knew that I had no strength to continue on, but rather to try and push him on. I hoped that at least he could continue the journey we had started together and perhaps reach that oasis that was so nearby, and maybe there remain in luxury for the rest of his days. He was the best of friends, and deserved no less. Well, as I said, I tried to crawl, but found no success and probably only propelled myself 3 feet. I was exhausted, and that little attempt at movement had drained all of me away. I swooned, though I know not how long, for the next thing I felt brought me back into my right mind. It was my friend’s strong neck reaching under my body and lifting me up out of the sand. I tried my best to whisper to him, “go, leave me, you may yet save yourself”, but mere unintelligible groans came instead. It is then that noble beast produced an act of heroism that, in all my extensive travels and all my interactions with the most experienced of camellers, I have never heard matched: Still with that strong neck under me, he tossed me into the air directly onto his back. I landed on him crossways and crumpled like a sack, but the impact, though forceful enough, could not add anymore to my pains. I had only enough strength to grip at his fur with my feeble hands, and then swooned again as I felt his rhythmic plod play out under me.

I woke up at a start. I knew that I had been dropped from my friend’s, nay my savior’s, back, for sand was once again underneath me. I could hear him again, this time engaging in his post-walk shakedown. It was then I heard a noise I never again thought I would hear this side of life and death, he began to drink! He had done it! My friend had carried me as a child, without guidance nor spur, and found his way to that oasis I had seen atop the mountain! This realization, oh it couldn’t be true!, caused me to lift my stone arms to my face and pry my eyes open. They came apart with a tear as if they had been sewn shut, but there it was right in front of me gleaming in the moonlight! A pool of lifesaving water surrounded by lush plants and trees! My friend saw me stir and rushed to assist me. He shoved me, faithful camel, down near the lip of the water, and I stuck my head in. 

The reader may imagine those thoughts I had at this moment, but I will not write of them. What more is there to say than that I had been saved from the grip of hateful death and cast again into the arms of blessed life, through no action of my own, but rather the courage of another, and he not even a man?

I now come to the part in this story that causes, great as those experiences were, what I have just recounted to fall out of my mind as being of no importance whatsoever. There will be some who think that I have gone insane due to my experiences in the desert. I myself have already written that I am in mania, but I know that it is not a mania leading me toward delusion, but rather one leading me away. I must now tell those events which happened to me tonight, and let the reader decide each one what he believes regarding my mental state.

So, I had drunk and drunk from that pool for hours. There was fruit on the trees within handpicking distance, and I had eaten my fill of those as well. My camel and I were in the highest of spirits, and had even broken into song, I singing the melody and drumming the beat on the coconut shells while he crooned the harmony and accentuated the lines with growls, when I saw the light around me glow suddenly brighter. At first I thought nothing of it, thinking that a cloud had passed from the front of the moon. On a chance, I glanced around at the oasis and my eyes fell on the pool in the middle. It had the whole night been reflecting the moonlight, but as I looked its luminescence became more intense. Not only that, though, but the circle shape of the moon began to grow, until, after a few minutes, the light filled the pool from edge to edge. It is then that the indescribable happened, that which has changed me forever. I saw the pool’s water began to move and swirl, and then dark lines begin to form. I crept closer and closer to the edge until I was seated on my heels right upon it, and the dark lines grew more and more distinct. The lines congealed in places and separated in others, eventually forming what I finally understood to be a message sent to me from the Heavenly Realms!  A passion overtook my soul as my face was gripped by an otherworldly force and held in front of the pool, my eyes being drawn deeper and deeper into the water as I was shown things too unspeakable to tell! There was a man to the right, but not a man, a king! He was clothed in dazzling white, and he waved his hands in circles as he cast spells into his magical basin. Then there was a message. I could not read the script for it is not for human eyes to understand the power of its beauty, but the force that held me there instructed me it was a mystery that the sages of a thousand thousand lands could not unravel in a thousand thousand lifetimes! In my spirit I was cowering as I looked upon these things, bethinking that a man could not look upon them and survive, but then came, how could it have been so?, something even more glorious. After the written mystery passed, out from the left came a Great Beast! On his body swirled the hurricane, and in his limbs were tyrannical power. He passed from the left to the right, and then, in defiance and hate, approached the second magical basin, towering over the king in sick rebellion! They stood there, lords of time, and glared, neither giving notice to the other, for to do so would be to give obeisance. As this vision faded from the pool, I was struck with the weight of the battle I had just seen, and humbled to dust that I had witnessed this vision from the Heavens and lived. 

So, I sit here now at this oasis and wait. My mind feels as if it has been opened to Life itself, and mysteries swim in my head. Already I am changed by what I have seen, and the spirit in this place bids me stay and witness further. I am now but a servant of this higher power, but to serve it is now my greatest desire and joy.

August 15, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

At first the sand beats but softly,
but... ah!, now it blows and tears my face.
I ride upon this camel loftily
marvelled, and grinning at this beast-born pace.
~ Trials of the Sah'arah

All my days I have been an easy mark for unscrupulous traders, being in nature trusting and not given to assume the worst in anyone, but here I set down that I know I have made one good transaction that pays for my scores of bad ones a dozen times over. At dusk’s beginning, I was left with only half a day’s provisions, having wasted (how many times I cursed myself for my stupidity as I rode this night, I cannot count) nearly all of it feasting those two days ago when I thought myself dead. This being so, I was left with no choice; I had to arrive at the oasis within one night’s ride.

And here I enter the story of that one deal which has now paid for all others: I bought my friend camel five years ago for fourteen sticks of butter and a jar of curdled milk from a swarthy drunk of a man who needed goods in order to pay off a gambling debt. Little did I know but, at the time, that scoundrel thought he had gotten the better of me, seeing as my friend camel was, as I learned only after I had paid the butter and milk, then terribly suffering from a bout of lungworms. My friend lay in and out of swoon for a month (how many times I cursed that cheat as I sat nursing my friend each night, I also cannot count), but, in a series of events taking the form of a miracle, eventually recovered.

Having once already seen death and lived, my camel no longer fears it, and as I have already said, my fear passed with the knowledge that I am living on borrowed time already. Atop that mountain, my friend had seen the oasis the same as I had, and could feel the weight, or lack of it, of the provisions upon his back. He knew the distance we must travel and in what time, and so as we set off towards that tiny point on the horizon, he clipped his ears back into place and bolted.

How he flew! The moon was overhead in full giving light to the path ahead, and his sure feet found a path through all the shiftiness of the sands below. It was a sprint for life with specter death chasing after, and no camel could have raced so rapidly as mine, him who knew that the man who had nursed him back to health like a little babe was on his back, and that now was the time to repay the debt!

On and on we went, dust trailing behind for hundreds of yards, that speck on the horizon coming closer and closer each time we peeked at it upon arriving at the top of a dune. The pace was incredible at first, but unsustainable, but still my friend settled into a trot one and a half times his normal. The hours continued to wear on, each with increasing hope as I saw how close we were coming to that oasis, and how it continued to be seen each time we crested a dune, not disappearing into nothingness and showing itself to be the mirage I undoubtedly thought it must be.  Each passing mile my body grew heavier and heavier until I thought that I must fall off out of sheer exhaustion, but my companion’s stone face never wavered.

It is now the nights end and we have traveled 25 miles, and though I myself think it best to press on and brave the horrors of the sunlight, for who knows if we go to sleep whether we shall ever wake again, I can see in my friend’s eyes that we must stop here. I have given him the remaining provisions, taking none for myself, for after that heroic ride he deserves nothing less. There are five miles to travel, no food or water, and little hope of making it to tomorrow’s night. Perhaps it is so that this oasis was but a sham set up to draw me into that stretched death that the desert desired for me, but now I think, being in such brave company as I am, I shall be able to die in peace knowing that we fought so hard for life.

August 14, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel

Thursday, January 26, 2012

omen of magic's lies and tricks,
on the horizon sits mirage.
dark, hateful snare of djinnis six
lain to short beggars' pilgrim haj.
~ Trials of the Sah'arah

I woke up today at ten p.m. I had not slept that far past dusk in four months. I had dreamed constantly about the dune I was to climb that night, and could not put the thought of it out of my mind for a second even after having wakened. It was to be a long climb, but as I wrote yesterday, I had the time, and so I began scaling it as soon as I could make myself ready and rouse my camel.

I crested its peak just as dawn was breaking. My climb did not disappoint. Two things were apparent from that vantage point that were completely unknowable otherwise. The first is the reason for my riding in circles. Just in front of the dune was a ridge that stretched for miles straight as a spear. I had been following the base of this ridge for the last three days, believing that it ran true for its entire course. As it is, this is completely false. It does run straight for miles, but then starts to curl, imperceptibly at first but more aggressively later, back left towards the mountain dune. It actually is the shape of an oval, but its size is so large that a lone rider at night already tired by desert travel could never notice its slight curvature. So, that is the mystery solved.

It is however the second sight that surprised me more. Thirty five degrees to the right of the ridge, just visible upon the horizon in that early dawn light, was a break in the interminable continuity of the desert. It appeared to be the very thing I could not believe it was, for things too good to be true always are. It looked like only thirty miles lay between me and a lush, lifesaving oasis. I blinked my eyes. It still stood.  Wiped my face. There, still, it was. Walked away then came back again. Nothing I did changed what it was I saw; there was an oasis sitting in a large depression in the land just two days’ ride from where I sat.

I sit here now atop this dune and deliberate. As I have said, things that are too good to be true always are.  I have never heard of any oases in this part of the desert, and I begin to suspect that there is an evil at work. Why was I drawn so strongly to summit this dune? And, once on top, to discover both the reason for my failure and a means of escape? With a clear mind I remember that just but a few hours ago I had defied giving the desert its full reward, and now my mind is being drawn to abandon its newfound peace and take up again hope of delivery. Surely this is the work of those vile spirits, the Djinnis, who embody the heartless malevolence of the desert. I had said that I would not bow my knee, and this offence has brought the ire of the desert upon me! This oasis is nothing but a mirage sent to draw me out of peace and dignity into a shameful death.

Such were my thoughts as I set them down at dawn. I have slept all the day, and have awakened to a changed heart. Before, believing I had no fate but death, my goal was to preserve as much dignity as a man in my position might be able. Now, slim chance as it is, I do not know that I am sentenced to expire here. I will go to this oasis, shaking off all fear of what dangers should come. If I am to die, then it would be good to die well. But refusing to take my chance at life because I refuse to risk a better death is folly in the highest degree.  I stand now, mount my ever faithful companion, and go. What befalls me befalls me, for I am a man living on borrowed time already, and I challenge these terrors of the desert to stay me.

August 13, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel

Thursday, January 19, 2012

his head in swoon, a footstrike slips and lo!
a smoking body falls on searing hills.
he struggles up then quits the deed. and so
the shifting sands have broken this man's will.
~ Trials of the Sah'arah

Tonight around one a.m. I passed by my dune for the third time. In the face of such evidence even a crazy man could not help but realize that he was continually retracing his own steps. I stopped myself, then and there deciding that I would quit my wandering. Though I knew the desert had killed me, in my spite I would not give it its final satisfaction. Doubtless, it wanted to see me lurch about as a madman till my final hour, wasting myself faster and faster as the craze set in, all until the point where I lay spent and dead on the burning sand, my body waiting the short time to be crumbled to dust and united with his desert brethren. Well, I would not do it. The desert was to be my hangman, indeed the noose was already set, but it would never be my master.

I stepped off of my friend camel and laid down. He was much surprised that at this point in the night, not having even been half of a normal night's march, he was being rested and pet. I do not think, though, that he was opposed to the idea. I myself was feeling better than I had in a month. The mental strain of pathfinding and rationing food and drink was off of me, and I allowed myself both to relax and eat my fill. I had accepted death.

I have now been sitting for around three hours, alternately dozing and enjoying the unusual coolness of this night's air. A thought has just entered my head as I put the finishing touches on this journal entry: until this point, I had never considered scaling the accursed mountain. My thought had always been that the effort and time to do so would not profit one who had so little energy and supplies. But what are those now? Nothing. I do not know what compels me, but I desire to summit this dune. Well, I have nothing if not a free day tomorrow's night, and I think that a tall dune will suit me as a grave much the same as a short one should.

12 August, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ten hundred days of wandering, yet my course remains unclear.
sun blacked skin, parched lips smoldering, in this desert drear.
~ Trials of the Sah'arah

In my most recent weeks the only solace from the oppressing dunes surrounding me, apart from the stoic nature of my ever trusty camel, has been found in commiserating with the author of this little book, Trials of the Sah'arah, that I elected to take with me as one of a very few workable luxuries. The rigors of desert travel afford little room for packing dainties. Each dawn, as I am settling down to bed, for in these latitudes only a fool would travel by day, I have been reading a couplet, or at the most two, for I must ration my entertainment the same as my supplies. Though I do not know if the verse be any good at all, it has given me incalculable comfort just to know that another, though himself long dead and now at peace, has experienced the thirst and burning that I now go through. My hold upon my sanity would long ago have passed without his words' tempering influence.

However, I suspect that hold to now be slipping. In this last week I have passed by a certain mountainous dune twice, and though I pray it was a different dune each time, I fear that I have finally entered into the last leg of so many foolish journeys: walking in circles. A man struck by this affliction has but little chance to recover, having lost precious days provisions as well as becoming a doubter rather than a follower of the dictates of his most precious resource, cool-headed reason. Having come to the realization that this enterprise, conceived out of sheer necessity but never blessed with any hope, is coming to this most unfortunate end, I have begun to set down my thoughts into writing in the vain fancy that some man may one day rescue my life out of obscurity by the discovery of the record of my death.

9 August, 1531
Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
A lowly bedouin and his friend camel