by Darryl Yeo
Journal Entry 257
Today, Israel caught her first rabbit. I must say, I’ve never been more impressed with her. And as her prize, tonight’s dinner is going to be none other rabbit. Hah! We haven’t eaten like this in months. Absolute luxury.
I haven’t been able to keep track of the days out here in the desert. The days seem to have molded together. Everything feels continuous. I’ve collapsed a few times already, if not from heatstroke then from the lack of water. I think Israel has begun to feel it too. But we’re pressing on. We’ve managed to find a road, so we’ll follow that, and see what we find. Hopefully, there’s water at the end of it. If not for me then for Israel.
As he finishes that sentence, his chest lets out a sigh. The sun burns out of him, another bead of sweat from his back. His tanned skin stings against the fabric of his white, well-worn Jimmy Hendrix t-shirt. He shifts his position on the rock he has set himself on. The wind blows a long strand of brown hair into his face. A dog walks up to him slowly, panting. A border collie, she sets herself down between his outstretched legs, placing a worn out tennis ball on the ground and looking up at him with watery eyes.
”Hey girl,” he says, stroking her gently behind her ears, “Hey Israel. We’re nearly finished with this journal here. Look, only two pages left. Two pages and we can finally go home.”
She rested her head on his lap, looking up at him, and whimpered quietly, like a child begging for it’s fathers love.
”Don’t worry girl, I know. I know. We’ll find some soon. Come on,” He says. He grabs her head in his hands and shakes it playfully, before kissing her on the forehead and standing up.
After sliding his journal back inside it, he heaves his backpack back onto his shoulders. Everyday, it gets heavier. Everyday, it becomes more of a burden. It seems no longer to be a backpack but a rock, resting like the world upon his shoulders.
”Come on, Israel,” he says as he throws her ball into the mirages in the distance.
There is a garden. No, a field. Stretching off into the distance. The wind blows lightly here, like the breath of some faraway god. The aromas of jasmines and sandalwood fill this place. Long, green grass stretches itself into the distance, pockmarked with bright flowers, still wet from the mornings dew. The swish of the grass and the small whistle of the wind are the only sounds here.
He sits beneath a large oak tree, in the middle of this field. With him, is a beautiful woman, dressed in a simple polka-dot dress. He holds her close beneath the shadow of the tall oak, her head resting on his slowly rising and falling chest.
There is Israel, jumping through the grass, chasing butterflies. The both of them laugh as they watch. She turns up to him, her hazel eyes glowing. She kisses him on the cheek…on the cheek…a kiss…
He awakes, exclaiming an inhale, breathing heavy and drenched in sweat. He brings his arm up to his chest, where her head had rested. Israel nudges him lightly and gives his face another lick.
”She’s gone…She’s gone…” He whispers to himself. He shakes his head, trying to clear it. He’d collapsed again. How long has it been?
His throat feels as dry as the rocks and sand about him. He raises himself slowly, falls, and raises himself again. All the while, Israel stands close, barking quiet encouragement.
”It’s okay, girl. I’m alright. I’m alright. Come on, we have to keep moving. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.”
The sun still blisters the sand around them.
Israel’s breathing is harsh as she walks next to him. He mutters quietly to himself as he looks on the road ahead. By his reckoning it’s mid afternoon. There is a distorted image of a sign behind the mirages. He picks up his pace.
Upon reaching it, he reaches out his hand. He feels it. He feels the heat of the metal and the rust and the peeling paint. It’s real. This is real, he thinks.
He stands back to read it. “Rest Station 5 Miles” it reads.
”You see that girl?” he says, looking down at Israel, “Five miles.”
Israel keeps her head low, panting hard. They press on.
There it is, in the distance. Only about a mile from where he stands. Excited he begins to whoop and holler, crazed at the thought of water. Fresh, clean water. He begins to run. After a few moments, he stops. Where is Israel?
He turns around, and a feeling comes upon him.
”NO!” He screams. “Israel!”
She lies there, in the sand. He runs up to her, his breathing hoarse. She is limp, but breathing. Her tongue is lolling out of her mouth. Her eyes are glazed and looking up at him.
Picking up her thin frame in his hands, he cradles her. “No, Israel. No. We’re so close, girl. Come on Israel, my child. Stay awake girl. Stay awake. I won’t let this happen. No, I won’t. Not again. Not again.”
He turns towards the station. For now, it is hope. For now, it is salvation.
Israel’s breathing is slow as he walks up to the station. He passes the tall signs that read “24 HOUR SERVICE” in dirty, faded paint. The stench of petrol fumes burns his nostrils as he walks past the only two pumps.
He shoulders open the station door, causing a bell to ring. Upon his entrance he notices most of the shelves stand bare and empty, packets of food laying scattered around the ground. He turns towards the counter, ignoring the mess. A man, straw hat, a singlet and a beard looks up from the counter.
”Please, sir. Do you have any water? My dog, she needs water. Please, do you-“
He stops. In the hands of the man behind the counter is a shotgun, pointed casually at him.
”What money do you have, boy?” He says. A fan mutters loudly beside the man. His eyes dart back and forth from the dog, to the man in front of him, to the back of the shop. The man cocks the shotgun.
”I- I don’t have much, sir. Please, all I want is some water for my dog. Please. You can take my money, I just need some water.”
”Give me your money then, boy.” The man says, with a frown.
He sets Israel gently onto the ground. He quickly pulls around his backpack, pulls out his wallet and throws the measly amount of money he has onto the counter. Then he slings back his backpack and reaches down to pick up Israel again.
”There, you have my money. Now can we please have some water? Please, I beg of you. Ple-“
”Get out. Now.”
”Please sir. I only want some-“
”I said, get out”
At this the man raises the shotgun to his eye. “Don’t make me say it again, boy.”
He turns around, looking back, shaking his head. He only wanted some water.
He continues down the road. Listening in torture as Israel’s breathing grows fainter, like a shout in the mountains, reaching it’s last echo.He’s almost a mile from the station when she stops breathing.
Stopping, he collapses to his knees, setting her down.
”No, no, no! Israel! NO! Please, Israel! NO!”
The desert has strange ways with sound. From the sands, to the rocks, to the mesas and the dunes. It takes sounds into it’s rusty brown dirt. It takes it, and it doesn’t give it back. It took his mourning screams. It made them quiet.
Tears drip from his eyes into her matted fur. He lowers his head onto her body. Crying tears for the last thing in the world that loved him. He whispers his denial into her unmoving chest.
”NO!” he screams. He rips his backpack from his shoulders. Scrounging inside it for a moment, he finds it. He pulls out a pistol.
”I’m sorry, girl. This never had to happen,” He whispers. He closes her eyes before storming towards the station.
Only a few meters from the station, he cocks his gun. He explodes through the door, screaming. The man behind the counter only had a second to look up.
He shoots once. Twice. Three times. He kept pulling the trigger. Even when the gun clicked empty, did he still keep pulling it. He only stopped when he heard a sound from the back of the station.
A little girl stood behind the isles, a small straw doll in her hands. He looks from her to the bullet ridden man behind the counter and back.
The weight of the deed he had just committed finally sunk in. He feels nauseous. His world begins to swim. The gun falls from his hands as he stumbles towards the door. He watches as the little girl walks up to the body, in tears. Stumbling outside, he vomits onto the concrete of the station, falling to his knees. He heaved on all fours for a few minutes.
He gets up after finding his strength. Amber, the evening sun burns in the western sky. He stumbles into it, towards Israel. Into the setting sun, he steps. He walks into a place, where the sun no longer sets his shadow.
Today I have lost all. The desert has taken from me as I have taken from it. My Israel. My child. I now lie with her.