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By Guthrie Linder All Rights Reserved ©


The War and the Desert

Everyone knows the story of the desert. We all learned how Maha created the stars from his own flesh, how his wife, Hyra, bore the first humans, and how Kah sculpted the earth for the humans to inhabit. They told us how Rak, out of jealousy, cursed the land on which we live, turning the once fertile soil into the harsh, dry desert. We've all heard the stories, and we know them to be true.

But with everything that's happened, it's hard not to wonder. If they're out there, our beautiful gods, then why do we suffer? How can the gods, who created everything we know, allow the Mami to disbelieve? To kill our men? Every day we fight and die, and for what?

I can still remember the day we left home. I remember the look in my little sister's eyes as we marched slowly away. I remember the tears my mother shed, distant memories of my father plaguing her fragile mind. To me, though it was just a game. I was heading off to play some wonderful game, which I would surely have won in time for supper.

It's not like that now. It's been nearly three years, and of my five-hundred man regiment, I may be the only original member left alive. I've killed more men than I can count, and seen deaths more gruesome than I could ever have imagined.

I can't take anymore. I have to get away.

It is morning. I don't know the date, but the short rainy season has passed, and the hottest part of the year is just beginning. I sit in the dark of my tent, watching Akim and Keshka snore blissfully, not yet plagued by the nightmares I've come to know. This may be the last time I see them, or anyone, but I don't have a choice. I can't bear to stay here another day, to feel another fresh corpse beneath my tired feet.

I stand, silently, and make my way past my sleeping companions. As I slip through the tent's open door, I hear a voice from behind.

"Jarosh?" whispers Akim, "What're you doing?" Cringing, I quickly think of a response.

"I couldn't sleep." I reply. It's so often a reality, there's no reason to question it, though leaving the tent at night is prohibitted.

"Alright," says Akim, and mumbles to himself as he drifts back into sleep. I hurry off, past several other tents,  sneaking quietly past the night watchman and down the face of the dune in my sandy-coloured robes. I walk east, as the sun rises straight ahead.

For the first time in years, I feel free; the weight a soldier's life lifted from my weary soul. But I also know the cost of my actions. The penalty for desertion is exile. I can never return to my home.

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