In the Desert

Bob Heman

In the Desert

The magician drew from the sand an army a hundred thousand strong to drive from within the city wall the invading mongol horde. He was our saviour. Once again we were able to go on about our lives beneath the caliph's protective eye. The mongols fled across the sands and did not return. Weeks passed and we became more and more aware of the warriors who packed our streets and markets and alleys where before they had not walked. Somehow we had assumed they would be gone as quickly as they had appeared, once they were no longer needed, but still they moved within our midst. Whether the magician was unable to send them back or merely unwilling we could not tell. But it did not matter, they were still here, the city swollen to three times its normal size. The newcomers were just like us. They prayed and dined and smoked with us. They knew the same songs and tales our people always knew. In fact it became harder and harder to recognize them at all. The desert surrounding us seemed as impenetrable as before. Often we went back to wonder how the mongols ever were able to stage their strange invasion. Now we notice every week there seems to be less food and fewer goods. The market stalls grow emptier each day. Our poor methods of production just can't keep up with so many. The caliph has not been seen for weeks and no one seems to know where the magician has gone. There are those among us who think perhaps this all has been a dream, a vision conjured by the magician to explain why the caliph seems no longer able to provide us with our basic needs, that in reality we are the same number that we have always been, that we are just more aware of each other as the things that enable us to live seem increasingly to be in short supply.


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