“Make sure Delilah is taken care of.” Vivian pursed her lips and placed her suitcases on the conveyor belt. Her black thin bags soon wound out of sight into the baggage carrier. “Of course.” Brit answered and held the pet carrier within her hand carefully. A pair of green eyes appeared in the darkness, followed by a sniffle and a soft meow. Vivian smiled, she was leaving the last of her familiar life behind. . .Brit reached forwards to hug her as she approached the gate, it was clear that there were tears forming in her eyes.
Sam looked away from their embrace and smiled to cover his sadness. “Sam. .. “ Vivian spoke quietly and he met her gaze with a slight frown. “Why don’t you just. . .come back to Houston with us?” He questioned and reached out his hands for her to take as she always had done when they were little. Vivian giggled quietly at his suggestion. He knew it was impossible at this point to turn around; Oxford was waiting on her results.
He shrugged his shoulders faintly and leaned forwards. His breath was warm against her forehead. Vivian’s eyes widened but closed as his lips brushed against her skin; her heart lept in her chest at his good bye. Instantly tears formed in the corners of her eyes and she quickly engulfed Sam in a hug and soon after pulled Brit into the hug once more. She couldn’t stand the idea of leaving them behind.
“I’m so selfish.” She held back her tears as her voice caught and she lowered her sight away from the pair. Sam held her shoulder still within his hand and looked to Brit for help.
“You’re following your dreams, hun.” She whispered and reached out to brush her hair from her eyes. “If the Sahara doesn’t work out. ..we’re right here.” Sam mumbled, his cheeks flamed in embarrassment.
“Just be safe . .” Brit scolded her and backed away so that she could make her way into the line. Sam let go of her with a final squeeze of her shoulder. “We’ll see you soon Vivi.”
“Bye Vivi!” Brit choked out and raised her hand to wave her goodbye as Vivi disappeared through the loading dock. “Good bye!” She called out and held her breath as she entered the outdoors. The plane was gigantic and almost frightening. She would be up thousands of feet in the air within a few minutes.
She held her breath as her heart pounded against her rib cage. Her nerves were beginning to act up and she climbed the stairs to board. There were plenty of foreign looking people on the plane; but a few young women like her were scattered amongst the seats. She took her place in the middle of the plane and a few attendants went over plane safety.
Vivian quickly fastened her seatbelt to the tightest it could go as someone else sat beside her. An older man, who explained that he had been on numerous flights for business and she would be just fine. The plane began to accelerate and the cabin began to slightly shake. Vivian clung onto the chair armrests and squeezed her eyes tight.
The force pushed her back into her seat and when she glanced out the window all she could see was vast open skies. The clouds tiptoed through the sky and resembled what she thought angel wings should look like.
A tourbillion of air whirled past the airplane wings when Vivian stared toward the window; and thoughts of the plane crashing erupted into her mind. It was nearly thirty hours of constant flight that they would be midair. But it would be worth it. After a few hours of watching, wandering the cabins, and ordering meals, she settled into her chair next to the man who had fallen asleep reading Wuthering Heights. After a while of watching out the window at the clouds, Vivian’s eyes grew heavy and she slowly let herself fall asleep.
She drifted into an indistinguishable dream state where she encountered numerous people wandering about open streets. This place was foreign, and unlike her own home where trees blossomed on every corner. This place was littered in sugar sand, it swept up into the air in spirals, and palms danced within the breeze. She turned a full circle when she realized that all the people had begun to disappear into shops and builds that soon evaporated out of sight as well. And she was left in the open desert.
“Help?” Vivian shouted into the open air as her brown hair whipped about her face and the sky fell dark. Suddenly, the sand seemed to melt into gold. Golden rings bounced through the storm at her, pelting her skin and lips; she shielded her face and cried out in agony. A male’s scream brushed past her ears and she yelped in alarm as she felt herself getting swallowed up in the precious gold rings.
Then she opened her eyes and sat up quickly. A pair of bright blue eyes caught her attention and she jolted backwards into her seat in surprise.
“Hey, she’s awake.” The young boy tilted his head toward her curiously and lowered the pencil that he had been prodding her face with. She stared warily toward the eraser and felt her face to see if any marks had been left upon it. She looked both ways to see that the man she had been sitting next to had vanished; and two small children leaned over the edge of the plane seat toward her.
“Robby, get over here and leave that poor girl alone!” His mom called from the opposite side of the plane. The boy she assumed was Robby, shrugged his shoulders and disappeared from Vivian’s sight.
“We will touch down in less than five minutes, seat belts on please.” A gentle voice sounded over the loudspeaker and Vivian eagerly awaited the arrival; she hated planes it was official.
The touchdown was a little smoother than what Vivian had expected. And the unboarding was her favorite part. Along with North Africa came the most beautiful cultural traits she had ever seen.
Algeria held so many interesting sights that she had never had the chance to see in person. Vivian resisted the urge to pick up several brochures that were available to her on the way out of the plane. She moved quickly and nearly fell to the ground on her knees happily that she had made it alive.
But the city itself was a whole challenge yet to come. Her eyes skimmed the baggage wheel to find her luggage. The air smelt strong like sweat and scented candles and she squinted her eyes at the brightness of the airport. Amongst the crowd she looked for her name. Numerous people littered about the airport with signs that spelt names out in bold print. She pushed past a small family and was careful not to startle the mother too much. The crowd was noisy as people moved in all different directions at once. Vivian smiled in relief when she finally found the card held high in the air.
The driver was a thin woman and as Vivian approached, the more details she took in of her new companion. “You are Vivian Mae?” The woman pronounced, clear that her voice was thick with the rich culture of this new environment. Vivian held out her hand toward the woman who strongly shook it back. “I am, and you are?” She spoke slower just in case but she quickly grasped her words.
“Abril.” She nodded her head curtly and reached down to take one of Vivian’s bags for her. “Your university is much generous.” She hefted the bag over her shoulder and smiled. “They paid me well in tips.”
Vivian smiled as they maneuvered through the airport traffic and out onto an even busier street. She had read and watched documentaries on North Africa but had yet to experience the chaos of the city. Cars swerved carefully across the hot pavement to avoid people crossing and carts moving. Benches littered the sides of the streets as long as buses that frequently stopped for passengers. The noise was phenomenal. The sounds of horns and shouts boomed against her ears and she couldn’t help but stare curiously toward the people who held bags atop of their heads and gathered their skirts against the furious wind. Skyscrapers towered all around them but they did not stop the furious beating of the sun.
“Vivian Mae!” Abril called out to redirect her attention and she glanced back down toward Abril as another passerby nearly pushed her over. “Come now.”
Abril lowered herself into the minibus taxi. Abril opened the door and moved in next to her after depositing her bag into the back of the vehicle.
“We must not be on the street for long.” Abril said solemnly and started the minibus. The engine purred to life and they entered into the busy street quick to just barely skim through a yellow light. Traffic settled before them and they slowed to a gentle speed.
“Why is that, Abril?” Vivian questioned and glanced toward the mirror to stare toward the shabby car behind them. The city continued on in all it’s prominent buildings, but she could not help but notice they were hardly well kept.
Abril paused for a moment before glancing toward her. “Because of Taxi War.” She redirected her eyes back onto the road and cautiously kept glancing forward. She peered out the window to notice a man asleep upon the ground between construction cones. “They stole his shoes!” Vivian shook her head in distaste. Was the man actually asleep or had death tiptoed into his dreams?
“What are the taxi wars Abril?” Vivian questioned with a frown and kept her eyes on the road although she wished to glance toward the markets that now crowded the left side of the street. There were people everywhere.
“Crime high here. But worst is taxi association and minibus drivers.” She pressed her hand against the horn as a man dragging a bag thought it was funny to cross the road spontaneously. “Fala.” She snorted under her breath in Swahili and continued her current speed.
“Sometime corporations send out hitmen to kill off drivers.” She spoke slowly making sure to speak all the words clearly and then smiled. “I became surprised when your university hired me.”
Vivian looked startled at her response. “Hitmen?” She squeaked and immediately glanced to the right and left. They were on ramping the freeway thankfully; but it was terrifying to know there was such violence out there. “Yes, Abdi got shot three. . .four days ago?” She spoke quietly and increased her speed. The minibus puttered and she took an immediate right turn onto the ramp to turn away from the town. The more distant they drew from the city, the more deserted buildings began to appear. Less people crowded the streets and soon they were just left with the purr of the automobile.
“We should stop to get you supplies.” Abril offered over the twang of music on the radio. It appeared as though from here on out the scenery would turn into shelves of red and white gravel as town melted into the Sahara desert. Vivian took a moment to admire Abril. Her skin was a rich dark colour that complimented her chocolate eyes and hair nicely. But Vivian enjoyed Abril’s personality more than anything and soon spoke openly to her about her expedition.
“Do you know what you need?” Abril questioned loudly as another gust blew her way. Vivian slammed the bus door behind her and nodded her head. This was the last post before the end of civilization.
“ We have to get you to the point and then I leave.” She spoke swiftly and they approached the small building quickly. Inside, the wood was swept clean of sand until they arrived. And a middle aged man and a boy sat stationed behind the counter.
“A shayla.” Vivian mumbled and thought about the terrible weather that she would be heading into. Granted, the vehicle that she would be given for her expedition would have supplies and the proper clothes to wear. But she couldn’t help but want a souvenir as well. Perhaps a shayla would come into use out in the open Sahara.
She clutched at the soft cotton scarf. It was a beautiful blue. After a glance at the price tag she reached into the wallet that she was given before beginning her trip. She held several dinars within her fingertips and quickly gave them to the boy behind the counter. Abril came about with a medical kit and a few canned goods; there was not much to pick from.
“Pre-tay.” The boy behind the counter spoke up and Vivian smiled in response to his comment. She wrapped the Shayla about her neck and forehead to cover her face from the sand. With a “Asante!”
The pair left the shop and proceeded their drive to the end of town. Abril assisted Vivian with unloading her luggage into the next vehicle and she soon signed off a slip that she had made it safely. Abril shook Vivian’s hand happily. “Thank you miss Mae!” She nodded her head in respect to her and Vivian did the same. “I wish luck on your travel!”
Vivian watched the whole way until the white minibus drifted out of sight and left behind a hesitant dust cloud that soon vanished into the air as well. She turned about and approached the front of the building to sign the paperwork for the vehicle the university had supplied for her expedition.
“Are you not wanting rest?” The woman had asked her as she took the paperwork back in surprise. “I have space.” Vivian contemplated the offer and with reluctance she soon followed the woman inside. She tried to appear grateful but the stress and anxiety to complete the mission was upon her shoulders. She was so close to her dream she could almost taste it upon her tongue.
The woman introduced herself as Tuka and Vivian thanked her time and time again for her hospitality. The home was quaint and quiet spite the raging winds on the outside of the home. There were tan walls and wooden furniture and meek paintings that hung from crude nails on the wall. Vivian could have sworn she had seen a large bug on the ground out of the corner of her eyes; but perhaps it was just her imagination. She would be gone by the break of morning. Her track phone sat on the nearby table and released a simple soft light and she closed her eyes once more to slip into the darkness.
She dreamt of a bright light that pierced through the windows and a male’s voice sounded loudly in the emptiness of the house. “Hello?” She responded as the voice cried out again. She ran through the house and out the door to be blasted with a spray of golden sand and rings once more. She covered her eyes instinctively and attempted to see through the blinding sand. “Where are you!”
She hollered into the rushing noises of the wind and the voice came from the side of the house. The boy was basked in blood upon the ground and seemed to be sinking into the sand itself. “Miss Vivian you came for me!” He exclaimed and reached for her hands- only to wince in pain and collapse further into the sinkhole. He knew her name. “Hold on, I’m coming for you!” She grasped his hands and tugged with all her might. His brilliant green eyes faded as death grabbed hold of his body and he grew limp right before her. “No, no Alexander!”
She gasped and sat straight up as the sun caressed her face. She was warm, too warm, like the blood that had bathed that boy. She clutched her arms to check and make sure she was fine. After a few moments of silence she rose and collected her things. Tuka must have still been asleep, it was early. And so she jotted a brief note in Swahili for her upon the table top on old parchment and left through the door quietly.
She had taken a few classes on survival in the Sahara. Definitely would be interesting for a woman who grew up in a spacious green town to navigate the wild without any training. She started the vehicle quietly and pulled it out into the open sand. With a glance both ways Vivian recognized that she was finally upon her way. Her heart danced within her chest and she could barely contain her excitement.
She dug around in her open luggage sack to withdraw several heavily marked maps. Now that she was in Tunisia, she had finally reached the spot where her father had wanted to travel and see. She cruised slowly through the open sand. Several tanks of gas rattled in the back of the vehicle; enough calculated for her trip to her destination and back. Food lined her one luggage bag and a few gallon jars of water shook with each bump within the sand. It was an old red jeep wrangler but it held together nicely and she smiled at the age of the model.
She had many hours of driving before her to reach the destination on the edge of Tunisia. The spot her father had laid out for her to explore. And so she turned on the music and began to bob her head to the sound of eighties music as Elton John filled the car. But she could not help but wonder if she had seen the boy in her dream before; it was a little uncoincidental to see him in numerous dreams. She needed to pitch a base tent once she got there and she could finally begin her adventure.