Hope of the Lost
As Arthur retraced his steps, he argued with himself. It was just a spider. What am I afraid of? But I hate spiders. No, I’m terrified. What a goose! What’s a spider doing there anyway? Probably guarding the water-supply. But I’m committed. Where’s the settlement anyway? Perhaps I should get high enough to see where it is. Oh, gawd, I’m lost! Go back, kill the spider. How? I’m so stupid. They’re probably all dead by now. Gotta keep going. High point—that’s the best course of action. See where the settlement and the road is.
But I’m tired. How am I going to climb? I don’t want to climb. I need water.
Arthur plodded up the gully. He laboured with each breath, gulping down air like a dying goldfish. Each step up was agony. He climbed the slope and staggered up the ridge.
The range’s formations swam in a soup of golds, reds and oranges. The sun was fast sinking into the horizon. Arthur’s heart sank into hopelessness. But he forced his legs to tramp higher up the slope. Perhaps…just perhaps he’ll see some semblance of civilisation.
Something shimmered in the dying rays of the sun. Was that a land rover? Nah, he must be seeing things—his vision fazed in and out. He rubbed his eyes. Is it? Or is it my imagination? It appeared white and looked like a tiny oblong piece of Leggo set on top of a sand hill—a sand ridge on the edge of a dry river-bed. The same river-bed that came out of the canyon he had been hiking down until the spider.
‘Oh, what the heck. It must be a car. What have I got to lose?’
So, with the little white Leggo-looking truck his goal, Arthur raced down the slopes and scaled the rises. With each hill, the object grew larger and more detailed. Until black with specks appeared around its base. Tyres. Then the shape became more defined. A four-wheel drive Toyota, he assumed. And then he could see the logo, some community art Land Cruiser, and he detected dark figures drifting around a campfire.
Arthur scampered down the last hill like a crazy man. He waved his arms and hollered. ‘Help! Please help us—’
On the plain near the creek, he lost view of the camp and the Toyota Land Cruiser. But he kept on running. He was so close. He could see the smoke. And he could smell it too.
He burst through a clutch of shrubs and entered the clearing.
‘Help!’ he rasped. ‘I need help. I need water.’
Arthur slowed down. ‘Hey, where is everybody?’
He staggered around the campsite. ‘Where did they go?’
The small fire crackled, the few sticks disintegrating into coals. Bottles of cola lay scattered in the sand.
Arthur picked up a bottle and sculled the last few drops. They didn’t even wet his throat. ‘At least that’s something, I suppose.’
Arthur stood over the fire, mesmerized. He absorbed the faint roar of an engine. The sky flared in shades of crimson and pink as the dying rays touched the cumulus clouds.
Tyre tracks digging into the sand caught Fleischer’s attention. He decided to follow the tracks. At least they’ll lead to a road.
Arthur knelt and traced the hollows of sand. Then he prayed, ‘Please God, may these tracks lead to a road.’ He lurched to standing. Then dragging one foot in front of the other, followed the tracks.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature photo © Desert Mountain sunset © C.D. Trudinger 1981