Those Beautiful Damn Clouds…

Karen Eastland

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink…

Deep clouds heave under such a weight and yet not a drop do they offer. For days I’ve wandered amongst the dry red sands of the Australian outback. My meager bottled water supply abandoned me within hours of becoming stranded. All alone I’ve trekked in search for a sign of another human being, or at the very least, a few drops of dew at dawn light in this arid land. Yet morning dew evades my parched soul, and I am alone.

Yesterday I caught sight of a family of Kangaroos. They were seated beneath the only tree as far as my eye could see. Sitting my weary carcass on the hot sand, I leaned my back against a large rock. It probably burned its mark into my skin, but I wouldn’t know. I’d already burned, blistered and burned again. Pain was the only thing keeping me going.

I drifted in an out of consciousness throughout the day as I waited for those Kangaroos to lead me water supply. I knew I was dehydrated, that I was suffering the effects of heat stroke, but I had to wait, they were my only salvation. Suddenly, the rock leaning against my back began to shake. A slight tremble alerted me to the movement, and at first I thought I’d imagined it. Then it happened again. It was so slight, if I wasn’t resting against it, I wouldn’t have known it was happening at all.

How many rocks like this had I passed already, I thought.

I stood fast, too fast, and almost fell over, and my sudden movement alerted the Kangaroos to my presence. I watched helplessly as they hopped away. I’d become mesmerized by the rock.

Water? I thought, pure, wet, cool desert water. Gonna be a geiser.

My mind was racing with thoughts about how I’d found the only geiser in the outback. I was so ecstatic, I was dancing a jig. The importance of following the Kangaroos was a distant memory as I watched the rock rumble with excitement.

‘This is my rock, that’s right, my rock,’ I sand, ‘mine, do you hear me?’

I danced around some more, watching, waiting for the inevitable explosion, to be drench with it’s cool, life giving goodness.

‘Here it comes’ I screamed into the hot dry air with a new found exhilaration, and laughed maniacally at those torturous black clouds hovering above me, hiding their bounty for days.

The shaking reached a crescendo, then spewed forth its treasure like a kettle finally coming to the boil, and without a thought, I reached for its bounty with cupped hands, and felt an odd sensation as it trickle into them.

It’s overflowing, I thought as a tickling sensation began to run up along my arms. I pulled back sharply, and at first I thought I was seeing things.

It’s the heat stroke, I thought and took another look, but the only treasure my rock held within its confines were ants. Huge black, hungry army ants.

There were thousands of them, and before I knew what I was doing, I realised I was running, shaking, stripping my clothes off trying to thrash and thresh each and every crawling, infesting ant from my body. The further I ran, the more I lost sight of my tracks in the sand that had assured me I remained on track and wasn’t walking around in circles, and those Kangaroos, my last hope, I’d lost track of their trail in the hot desert too. I had no idea where I was running too.

That was yesterday. Today I’m lying beneath a solitary tree I ran into late last eve, in the cold dark of the desert night. It barely shades me from the burning rays of a noon day sun filtered through those damnable clouds.

If the storm don;t break soon… I’m dead, I thought.

I was transfixed by those clouds. Could almost taste the cool, quenching water held within them.

I will die today, I thought and it brought me no sorry, only relief.

The dappled sunlight filtered through the thin leaves of my tombstone. I saw the cacophony of faces the clouds waiting for me. Calling to me.

Maybe they’re taunting you? I thought, no, can smell the rain in the air. Won’t be long now.

It was funny, I felt rested, hydrated and yet those damn clouds refused to become my saviour. They looked down on me with an uninterested malice.

‘I’ll just lay here and sleep now a while now,’ I said to those faces looking down, and as I closed my weary eyes, I felt the world slip from my consciousness and let go.

As I took my final breath, those beautiful damn clouds let go, and rained down on my dry dusty, corpse partially buried beneath the hot red sands of the Australian outback.