They say that drowning is a terrible way to go, except that it’s over
relatively quickly. Once the water rushes in, everything goes fuzzy, the panic
subsides, and darkness overtakes.
I beg to differ.
I’ve been drowning, slowly, bit by
bit, my whole life.
The desert will do that to a soul.
With every damnable step the sand inevitably shifts and covers your feet,
wiping out your footsteps and leaving no trace of a man’s existence. It doesn’t
matter if I run, walk, or stand still, the sand is always creeping, always
covering, always devouring. I’m told those used to the desert, like the
Stygians, don’t mind the sand. Perhaps it’s my Cimmerian blood that rages
against the idea. My feet yearn for rock and stone underneath, not the
shifting, ever-changing, ever-flowing sand. Even though I was born to this dire
land, it’s the only explanation I can think of.
Then again, it’s all I’ve ever
known. All we’ve ever known. And if it wasn’t the sand creeping up, it was
fighting to keep our heads above the high tide marker, spiritually speaking.
That would be all her fault. Witch,
sorceress, demigoddess – whatever she is,
our lives have been a living hell in a scorching land because of it. Sometimes
I’m not sure if our…existence in the desert is part of us escaping her curse,
or part of it, in and of itself. Oft times I’d drift off and ponder it, only to
be reminded of where we were by the brutal heat, the knife-edged winds, or the
teasing of the occasional mirage.
Or perhaps it’s the ocean of guilt
that threatens to foam up around me every so often. We of the Black Roses have
oft done things out there to survive. To carry on. To one day get out of there
and get revenge, some kind of peace of mind. Ha. Unlikely chance of that. Try
being with a group of people where the water’ll only last for some, and its you
and your lads that hold the blades. I still see their faces sometimes as we
left them stranded, a thousand miles and more from the closest watering hole.
Damn the witch! What did *I* do to
deserve any of it? What did any of us do? Did we ask for it? Or were we simply
at the wrong place at the wrong time? The captain always had his ideas, and
occasionally we’d talk, but he figures only the Old Man really knows, and he
sure as hell stones doesn’t confide in me.
How’d I escape the desert? I don’t
really remember. I’m told some of us were taken as slaves by a galley, but I
don’t recall ever even seeing the ocean before. All I remember from that is
damn near drowning again.
Ha! And we come full circle, back
to drowning. Figures.
What? My name? I doubt it matters.
Call me ”˜Moch. Although, a tiny voice tells me that one day soon my name might