Eternal dream (Part II)

II

The hours pass and Alfonso is left alone with the desert landscape and his thoughts. Lying down on the side of the car, he smokes one cigarette after another waiting for the announced rescue that still does not materialize. The sun is lost in the horizon, the flame of the lighter burns and lights the tip of the fourth cigarette, Alfonso takes a big puff and exhales the smoke into the wind in an attempt to stay calm. Looking inside the vehicle, Amelia continues to sleep. Then he looks to both sides of the road and manages only to measure the enormous space that separates him from civilization, a situation that reassures him. In a few words, Alfonso does not want to return to the everyday life he has built, he feels trapped in it, squeezed to the last drop of novelty that he could find in the same streets he has walked all his life, in the same living spaces, in the same people with whom he has shared his life. Put in this way, is it so bad to have been stranded in the middle of the road next to the only woman in his life for whom he has felt a true connection? Night finally falls on the desert and the cold forces Alfonso to return to the interior of the car. Amelia continues to sleep, surely she was very tired, after walking who knows for how long through the desert. Alfonso settles into his seat and closes his eyes. It takes him a long time to fall asleep, but he succeeds.

The next day, Alfonso wakes up with a sore neck, hanging from his seat for much of the night. He thinks he should have worn a sweatshirt as a pillow, but he has not wanted to copy Amelia. He prefers to open the door and stretch out, the morning wind receiving him fresh, enough to not make such a fuss about the fact that the people from the gas station haven’t shown up yet. Alfonso hoped they would show up during the night. Nothing to do and Amelia still sleeping in the co-pilot’s seat, will she have woken up? No, she is still in the same position she was sleeping the night before. At midday, Alfonso has made some laps around the car, he has walked to the limit of the road and the desert, he has taken the sand in his hands, it has slipped away completely, he has remembered the fox that influenced him the day before. And Amelia, continues sleeping in the same position. Alfonso despairs; at least eighteen hours have passed since she fell asleep. Has something happened to her? He doesn’t know and takes a long time before he dares to check. It occurs to him to move her from her position to try to wake her up. Perhaps she will be angry, but at least he will know that she is okay. He does it, he moves her from one side to another with delicacy, nothing. Then with strength, back and forth, he says her name, shouts her name and nothing, she does not open her eyes. Fear takes hold of Alfonso. Convinced that something bad is happening, he takes the bottle and pours what is left of the water over Amelia’s face, but she does not wake up. Without water and with his companion unconscious, Alfonso nervously meditates on the situation, which takes a dark turn when Alfonso notices that the phone has lost all of its battery life. Unable to ask for help, all lines of thought lead him to the same conclusion, the only solution is to venture into the desert in search of help. After more than a day of waiting, the arrival of external help seems to him to be an illusory idea. To remain waiting could mean not only his own death due to lack of water, but also the death of Amelia. A lot of questions impossible to answer keep him sitting in front of the wheel for a long time, it occurs to him to hit the handle to get even for the present situation. Already with sore arms, he decides to open the door to go out and start walking, and the desert receives him imposing and eternal.

III

One step after another, Alfonso advances through the empty road. His mind clings to the tireless gaze of the fox in the middle of the desert dunes, to the adventures of Amelia, who walked for so many hours in the desert. Can he do it too? He supposes that he has no other option, to walk until he finds help or perhaps to faint from the heat. Anyway, the situation amuses him, he feels alive, honest, whole, with a valid mission, with a different objective than the monotonous speech of simply staying alive. The sun crosses the horizon and in its movement it loses the incandescent pale tone that does not give truce, painting now the land of orange tones, then reddish, losing with it part of its intensity and making the trip more bearable. At sunset, Alfonso loses some of his initial impulse, it’s the tired legs, the feverish forehead, the dry throat that don’t allow him to move with the same ease. At the same time, he can’t stop walking, he doesn’t want to, he assumes that if he does, he won’t move again for a long time. The night almost falls completely when a new vision leaves him perplexed for the third time. Miracle, a gas can arranged on the berm. A mirage? No, it’s really there. Alfonso walks the stretch that separates him from this marvelous vision and finds the gas can, noting that it is almost completely full, enough to give new life to the car, to take Amelia to a hospital. However, as soon as Alfonso takes the can in his hands, a figure hidden among the dunes and the sand throws itself at it and knocks it down. It is an old man completely naked, with long filthy gray hair and a pronounced beard of the same color. From the ground, Alfonso notices that the eyes of the old man are shining as intensely as the stars that take possession of the sky; his vision leads him to discard assuming a hostile posture. And with those shining eyes, the old man does not stop observing, almost without blinking, Alfonso lying on the sand, while he picks up the gasoline can from the ground. Alfonso gets up from the floor and cleans his clothes with his hands. He tells the old man about the car stranded in the middle of the desert and the woman he had to leave behind to find a solution to the dilemma. However, after the story is over, the old man does not change his attitude; the gas can belongs to him and he has no intention of sharing it. Alfonso reluctantly accepts and sits down by the side of the road to rest, he has really been walking for more than four hours and night has fallen on the desert, to continue advancing in these conditions does not seem a good idea. While Alfonso is lost in thought, the old man gathers some branches and with some gasoline he prepares to light a fire, only to realize that he has no way to make a fire. Alfonso then approaches and lights the branches with the lighter, an object that causes the old man a lot of curiosity. The flames grow with the wind and the fire takes shape quickly. Alfonso and the old man sit by the fire and stare silently, both with the same lost gaze between the reddish crests and the small incandescent sparks that escape from the interior of the fire. Alfonso has not forgotten the gas can, he still has some hope of taking it away from the old man. He surprises himself by these Machiavellian thoughts, assuming they come from the desperate circumstances in which he finds himself. He decides to inquire about the old man’s motives, asks him what he is doing in the desert in the middle of the night, the old man scratches his chin and stays a while thinking, he seems not to remember what he is doing. After a long time he answers that he is looking for a woman who was lost a long time ago. Alfonso doesn’t know if the old man is pulling his leg, so he decides to ask for more details. The old man says that’s all he knows, that and that for no reason should he let go of the gas can he has with him, as it is necessary to rescue the woman. Alfonso responds, and assumes with insight, that the old man has released it when Alfonso has found it, at the side of the road. The old man goes off laughing for a long time. Irritated, Alfonso prefers to remain silent. Then, the old man gets up and from the side of the sand he takes a red robe, something is wrapped inside. The old man reveals the content hidden inside, it is a dead snake, which he presents to Alfonso, without hiding his pride as a hunter for having achieved it. Alfonso doesn’t hide his disgust for the discovery, the old man grabs the snake by its head, cuts it off with his teeth right there and buries it in a stick, which shows up towards the flames. The old man covers his body with the red robe and soon after, the snake is cooked, he takes it out of the fire and bites a piece, his face draws a wide smile. Could it be that he has not eaten in days? Alfonso wonders as he receives the piece of snake that the old man offers him. Both eat in silence, Alfonso says nothing, but the taste of the snake has seemed less terrible to him than he expected. It occurs to him to tell a joke.

  • It seems to lack a bit of salt.

The old man can’t understand. Doesn’t he know what salt is? A while later, the flames lose intensity, the old man’s eyes close and soon he falls asleep. Alfonso settles down on the sand to rest, but he cannot sleep. Another time passes, the flames burn agonizingly and Alfonso opens his eyes, in front of him, the can and the old man sleeping, a unique opportunity to get the gasoline and return to Amelia. He rises carefully from the floor and takes furtive, precise steps to avoid excessive noise. He manages to get so close to the old man that he can hear his breathing. Alfonso stretches out his hands to take the can and almost succeeds, but the old man wakes up excited, grabs the can with strength, pushing it towards his belly. Alfonso pulls once more but does not manage to take it away from him. The old man gets up and tries to run away, but Alfonso doesn’t let go and, without wanting to, ends up pushing the old man and the gas can towards the fire. The can falls first and then the old man, Alfonso cannot react, his intention is to help, but the explosion sends him flying through the air, along with a great flame that rises in the air, lighting up the night like the breath of a dragon, the column of fire rises in the middle of the darkness. The cries of the old man, wrapped in flames, keep Alfonso at the limit of consciousness, completely disoriented, he tries to stay awake, until the cries stop and only the flames remain. Confused, Alfonso tries to stand up a couple of times, but he doesn’t succeed, not until other hands pick him up and carry him to the back of a truck, where he is carefully placed. The doors of the truck close, Alfonso hears the voice of two people talking. These people, fuzzy silhouettes in the darkness of the cabin, ask him questions he can’t understand or answer. Tired, he lets himself go and falls completely asleep.

IV

The vaporous lines of the mirages, which meet on the horizon of the road at noon, form Alfonso’s body, which becomes flesh, comes alive and returns to the car in the middle of the desert. Walking he remembers the weight of noon and a bunch of foxes peep out among the dunes and receive him on his return. This fills him with joy, he takes the time to revere each one of them and wish them a prosperous journey. Smiling, he approaches the car and Amelia, soon he will see her again. A sudden impulse leads him to run the last stretch, and yet when he arrives he does not find her. Frightened, he looks out of the window to look at the inside of the car; what he finds there presses his heart and leads him to go back. There she is, but it is not her, but her body as if it were deflated, like her skin and clothes without muscles or skeleton to hold them, wrinkled and piled up on the seat. The vision is like a fabric that folds back but its tones still remember what she was. And then, from the inside, from the darkness that overflows in the tear in the middle of it, a red rose emerges that rises and the stems that accompany it take over the entire interior space of the car, until they break the windows and make Alfonso step back with blood on his hands.

Eternal Dream (Part I)

I

sands, once calm, rises in the midst of the turbulence, a cloud of dust that forms in the middle of the road and separates the desert into two large extensions of space, as wide as the eye can see. A translucent curtain that follows the movement of the car that’s speeding through the place. Through the open window, on the driver’s side, the thunders of rock music escape.

  • “Stay with me, stay with me”.

Is the chorus of the song that accompanies Alfonso’s journey and the reasons why he travels through the lonely desert are the same ones that imprint speed to his movement. Situations, decisions, reasons that have led him to dispense with memories as much as possible, in the manner of modern streams of thoughts that try to separate the person from timelines different from the present continuous.

  • “Stay with me, stay with me”.

The song ends and another one of less intensity begins. The stifling heat of midday merges with the heaviness of the new tune, too melancholic, too “trip back in time” to endure. Alfonso’s gaze escapes to the desert, to the dunes, all different from each other. There, he meets a curious figure that catches his attention, a small fox that stands in the sand and watches the passing of the car. Alfonso crosses glances with the animal and, in doing so, something awakens inside him, a diffuse idea, but one that will never leave him again.

  • How is it possible that such a small being can survive in an environment as dangerous as a desert?

The question leads him to bow to the fox as he passes by its side, before losing sight of it completely. Looking ahead, Alfonso is propelled forward with a new attitude, the lines on the road now appear as arrows indicating a different path, his hands cling to the wheel and hope fills his heart. And then, something else happens, the road reveals yet another curious figure. It’s a young woman carrying a backpack almost as big as herself. A backpacker who has ventured into the desert, perhaps from as far away as the city. The revelation leads him to experience a series of sensations that he had decided to escape from, when leaving the city. He wonders about the woman’s motives, about the purpose of her journey, he also wonders about the protocol to be followed in cases like these. Is it legal to continue advancing without assisting her? A quick review of the situation leads him to conclude that the woman will probably have to walk a long way before finding someone else who can help her, having travelled for more than four hours without having seen anyone else. But Alfonso doesn’t make any decisions, since she is the one who raises her hand and thumb, an international sign for help. Alfonso fixes his gaze on the raised finger and immediately feels tied to an unspoken contract between two people, the rational response leads him to ask.

  • How long have I been transformed into such a robot?

There is no answer. In the midst of the tribulation, Alfonso stops the car, practically automatically, by the side of the road. She approaches smiling, advancing at a slight trot until she reaches the co-pilot’s window and introduces herself, her name, Amelia. Alfonso introduces himself and the two look at each other for the first time. In her eyes, he finds traces of that same melancholy that has led him to travel alone through the desert, although he doesn’t dare say anything about it. He invites her into the car, however, Amelia asks to put the backpack in the trunk. An obvious one, Alfonso thinks to himself and gets out of the vehicle to help. Between the two of them, they manage to find the right way to put the backpack inside the trunk, smiling once more, in that awkward way that people who barely know each other usually behave. The car goes on the road once more and Alfonso asks Amelia why is she walking alone in the desert. Amelia laughs at the situation, calling it “an uncomfortable situation. She then explains her reasons with a series of evasions and generalizations that don’t provide much information. Alfonso prefers not to delve into the subject, surely it’s something difficult to talk about. Now it’s her turn to ask the same question and his turn to respond with the same generalizations and evasions. Even so, it has been about thirty minutes since they both met and neither of them knows anything about the other yet, except that they act in the same way when meeting new people. An uncomfortable silence separates them a little more and it’s then that Amelia makes the decision to make a confession, to exorcise the demons that are already taking over the minds of both of them. She says that she was part of a group of people with whom she has parted ways after an argument. She then says not being sure what has led her to travel with these people in the first place. Perhaps she has let herself be carried away, she reflects, by the intentions of others and, after waking up to reality, she has not been able to come to terms with her companions. A failure of her, she criticizes, for the lack of conviction in the democratic way and in the end this has been what has left her wandering alone in the desert.

  • Reality? – Alfonso asks.
  • Yes, reality is that all of this is just a dream. – She answers and goes off laughing.
    Alfonso remains silent; he really can’t process her last sentence.
  • It was a joke. – Amelia breaks the spell.

Alfonso remains thinking for a few seconds, did he really think that everything could be a dream? Shame leads him to move the focus of attention elsewhere.

  • What kind of argument leads a group of people to abandon another person in the middle of the desert?

Amelia quickly reaffirms the point, it was her decision. An impulse without thinking through, he assumes, glad on the fact that he is not an impulsive person. He assumes that this character trait puts him above her, for isn’t it he who is helping her and not the other way around? Amelia feels the fluctuation of power and decides to level things out, to recover that mystique that surrounded her when Alfonso knew nothing about her. She decides to reformulate the initial question, having answered her part previously, she assumes that Alfonso will have the moral obligation to return the gesture. It’s a question that Alfonso cannot avoid in any way

  • What is a young man doing traveling alone on the road?
  • I prefer to travel alone, I like solitude.

Lies, Alfonso is burdened with loneliness, but he has become accustomed to it, driven by distrust of other people, which forbids him to do things like travel with a group of strangers through the desert and then dare to leave them stranded, citing his own conviction of being right, imposing, perhaps, innocent tyranny before falling into just oppression. Could he have defended himself to them in the same way? An almost imperceptible movement of his right eye leads him to become obsessed with Amelia’s Machiavellian smile. Amelia feels at ease, she has achieved her goal. It is Alfonso who has problems now, an almost uncontrollable desire not to have picked her up, to turn back time and be alone again, seize him. Paradoxical, and he realizes, to desire loneliness, to obtain it and then to hate it. Isn’t that the story of his life? Tribulations that lead him to press the accelerator pedal more strongly and to take a deep breath next to the window opening, movements that Amelia perceives positively as irritation. She prefers to keep silent and look out the window to get lost in the strange shapes that the sand draws in the wind.

  • They are like emotions – she thinks. Drawings of a reality that does not usually last.

And then it happens, the car body starts to vibrate strongly and an agonizing screech announces the last breath of the engine. The red warning light comes on seconds before the disaster. The car slides lifelessly for a few more meters and ends up stopped at the side of the road. Can thoughts change the course of time? Amelia wonders and wishes she hadn’t thought the last thing she thought. The dial tone resonates intermittently, Alfonso assumes first that he will not be answered, in his mind exploring the worst possible situations he will have to face if the call does not come through. Amelia waits in silence, her firm belief is that this is not the time to further disrupt the cosmic energies that have decided to abandon both of them in the middle of the desert. The device seems to work, the call connects and Alfonso explains the present situation to the person on the other end of the line. A solution, there’s a gas station a few miles ahead, difficult to know how many, the person confesses, because of the lack of distinctive signs between the dunes, the lack of geographical reference points and the inexperience, both Alfonso and Amelia’s, to position themselves on the planet without the help of external agents such as a compass or good orientation. The next call seems more hopeful, Alfonso manages to communicate with the gas station, he repeats the misfortune once again, although this time the story is less dramatic. In any case, the message achieves the desired effect, the woman on the other end of the line indicates that they can approach the car. However, depending on the position they are in, the operation could take a few hours. Alfonso accepts the proposal and appreciates the concern of all involved, without hiding the disappointment of a city person, used to agile solutions and short waiting times. Amelia senses the bad news by looking at Alfonso’s facial expressions; she prefers not to ask about it. She concentrates on his dry lips and on the memory of the bottle of water she has kept in her backpack a few minutes before meeting him in the middle of the desert. She gets out of the vehicle and takes a deep breath, the fresh air leads her to accept what she has not wanted to ask about, the rescue will take time. Having tried the bottle, she returns to the interior of the car. A big sip of water is enough to bring back a smile and to infect Alfonso with it. Amelia offers him the bottle and they both laugh at the current situation, they feel freed from an invisible burden that they now understand has been largely caused by the reluctance of both to say anything. Alfonso admits that this whole trip through the desert could have been a mistake, that he is not an impulsive person, but that he really needed a break from everyday life. Amelia nods sympathetically as she receives the bottle of water back.

  • Isn’t that why people go on vacation?

She asks and Alfonso nods, both smiling again and exhaling deeply. The conversation flows uninterruptedly for a long time, during which time a fly begins to move around inside the car, almost unnoticed by any of them. The fly ends up resting on the edge of the bottle for so long that, when Amelia becomes aware of its presence, she cannot avoid, almost reflexively, moving it with her hand, hitting it so hard that she ends up knocking it down. A nervous laughter leads her to hide the guilt she feels for having ended a life, something that catches Alfonso’s attention. Amelia wipes the bottle and takes another sip of water, this time she doesn’t manage to calm down.

  • Live in such a way that your actions pay the debt.

Alfonso remembers the quote from some movie he has seen, Amelia picks up the body of the fly and keeps it on a piece of paper. Both remain silent out of respect for the deceased and then let it rest, burying it in the desert sands. Amelia asks Alfonso to say a few words

  • Fly, we didn’t know you and I want you to know that none of us wanted you to die. It’s just that life is so fragile. As someone once said, life is a blink and death is an eternity. I think you are in a better place.

The wind picks up a thin layer of sand and gains some intensity, Alfonso and Amelia decide to go back inside the car. A short time later, Amelia feels the first signs of fatigue, first a faint yawn, then a long one. The heaviness of the sunset settles on her eyelids that fall without control, Amelia says goodbye for the moment and settles down on the seat, using a sweatshirt as a pillow she manages to find a comfortable position and closes her eyes, soon after she falls asleep.