A pillar of smoke fell from the blood red sky, puffing out and disintegrating like a dandelion in an evening breeze. The chalk faced boy watched it intently, studying the grey vapor with childlike wonder in his electric eyes. In his twelve years of existence, he had never seen anything like it before, this shining light with a smoking tail. In fact, he was pretty sure that no one had seen anything like it before.
The boy dropped his eyes and looked around the baron wasteland that was his home. He had to check if he was still here, and not in some otherworldly place where stars fell from the sky like the one in crimson clouds. As he suspected, a red wasteland of sand dunes and stone laid before him. He was relieved, yet also disappointed at the same time that that was all he saw. If he had been lucky, perhaps there would have been more falling stars, or better yet, green grass. He had never seen grass- or even the color green for that matter.
“You will know it when you see it,” his mother had said. “You’ll know it because when you touch it with your toes for the first time, it’ll be softer than anything you have ever walked on.”
“Softer than the red sands?” the chalk faced boy had asked his mother.
His mother kneeled down and looked at him. The boy had been confused then, because she smiled, yet water glistened on her eyes. He had not seen her do that before. She took her hand in his small hand and slowly rested it in the curls of her long brown hair. “Softer than this,” she smiled. “There is more to life than the red sands. You will know when you touch green grass for the first time, because it will be unlike anything you have ever seen. You will know because it will be softer than the hair on your head. You will know because it will stretch for miles and miles.”
“Just like the red sands!” the boy had smiled excitedly. He remembered the way his mother’s reassuring smile dropped from her face, and how she turned from him and her glistening eyes starting to pour water out of them. He began to be afraid then, because water was not to be wasted, not even if it came from your own body.
The boy looked up again at the trail of smoke. The light had gone now, disappearing over the horizon far beyond the red sands and the jagged mountains, yet, bits and pieces of the tail still remained lingering in the sky. The boy squinted, trying to make out the exact location of where it had landed. But, it was nowhere to be seen. Miles and miles, he remembered.
He knew now, that his life was forever changed because of that pillar of smoke. Whatever it was, a star- perhaps it was even grass- he had to reach it. It was his for the taking, and no one else’s. If it was grass, then it was surely meant from him.
The boy lifted himself from the ground, small streams of sand fell from his small body and onto the rippling red below. A lifetime of living in the sand had grown him accustomed to the dust on his face that would never leave, or the red sand that caked so deeply into his scalp that he scarcely remembered the last time he had actually felt the skin in top of his head. His feet had grown callouses that turned his heals into tough mangled skin.
What hardens the skin, hardens the mind, his mother has said to him once. A phrase that he would not soon forget. The boy had to have a hardened mind, or else it would drive him mad like most others in the red sands. Sometimes, he wished he could free himself from the prison of his growing thoughts, because it would be nice at times to forget the loneliness of his caged mind. Then again, the uncaged mind of others had caused destruction and pain in these red dunes, so perhaps it was better that he keep the beast imprisoned.
Brushing the dust off of his legs, he treaded to through the sand and onto a surface of large stone. This stone was his home, and it had served him well through-out the cycles of the faint sun. He bent down and touched the rough edges of the place he slept. He would miss it. Sometimes on clear nights when the dust settles and the winds quieted, he would watch the stars that hung in the sky, whistling tunes that his mother had taught him or ones that he made up in his head. Space, his mother had called the emptiness that surrounded the stars. He never fully grasped the concept of what space was- or what emptiness was for that matter.
Slowly, he lifted his hand from the stone, and then glanced upward toward the hazy sky. He hoped that the stars would follow him in his journey across the red desert, that at night he would still be able to see their twinkling whiteness in space.
The boy turned his head back to where the pillar of smoke was. It was almost gone now, only faint grey clouds rested where it had been before. He had to find the fallen light that had landed beyond the horizon. His mother would want him to, he had decided. The life of the red sand was over for him, and a knew journey had begun.
He followed the horizon, walking over the rough patches of stone and sand that berated his feet like knives. But, he didn’t care, his caged mind was entirely focused on crossing red sands and reaching green grass that awaited it. You will know it when you see it, he remembered.