Eternal dream (Part II)

II

Hours pass and Alfonso wanders alone with the desert landscape and between thoughts. Lying down outside on the side of the car, he waits for the announced rescue that still does not materialize. The sun is lost in the horizon, and the lighter’s flame burns the tip of the fourth cigarette, Alfonso takes a big puff and exhales the smoke into the wind to stay calm, as Amelia continues to sleep. He looks to both sides of the road and measures the space separating 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 it this way, it’s not so bad to be stranded in the middle of the road next to this woman he knows nothing about. Night finally falls in the desert and the cold forces Alfonso to return to the interior of the car, where Amelia sleeps still, surely she was 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, he wakes up with a sore neck, probably because of hanging from the seat for most of the night. He thinks he should have worn a sweatshirt as a pillow, but he didn’t dare to copy Amelia. He prefers to open the door and stretch out outside, letting the annoyance dry out in the sun. The morning wind receives 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 ever wake up?

At midday, Alfonso has already made more than a few laps around the car, he has walked to the limit of the road and the desert, he has taken the sand in his hands, which has slipped away from his fingers 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 it 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 so, he moves her from one side to another with delicacy, nothing. Then with strength, back and forth, he says her name, shouts her name.

  • Nothing.

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 still does not wake up. No more water and his companion unconscious, Alfonso nervously meditates on the situation, which takes an even darker turn when he 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 continuously evolving horrifying situation keeps him sited in front of the steering wheel, and it occurs to him to hit the handle to get even with destiny for his present predicament. Already with sore arms, he decides to open the door and walk away.

  • The desert receives him imposing and eternal.

III

One step after another, Alfonso walks through the empty road. His mind clings to the previous vision of the tireless gaze of that little fox in the desert dunes, to the misadventures of Amelia, who walked for God knows how many hours through the same desert.

  • Can he make it too? Can he survive this?

He supposes that there’s no other option than to walk until finding civilization or until fainting from the heat. Yet the situation presents itself as strangely amusing. He feels alive, honest, whole, with a valid mission, with a different objective than the monotonous necessity of simply remaining alive. The sun crosses the horizon with the passing of the hours, the motion tampers the incandescent pale tone that does not give truce to the traveler, light paints now the land with orange tones, then reddish, then shades of purple that make the trip more bearable. At sunset, Alfonso gets out of juice, it’s the tired legs, the feverish forehead, and the dry throat that doesn’t allow him to breathe with the same ease. At the same time, he can’t stop walking, he doesn’t want to, and he assumes that if he stops he won’t move again for a long time, so it’s better to keep going.

The night almost falls completely over him when a new vision appears in his path, this is the third one. It’s kinda a Miracle, there’s a gas can left alone on the side of the road. A mirage? No, it’s really there. Alfonso presses on and walks the stretch to this marvelous vision and finds the gas can, he notices that it is almost completely full of gasoline, enough to give new life to the car, to take Amelia to a hospital even. However, as soon as Alfonso takes the can in his hands, a hidden figure emerges from the shadows of the almost night and throws itself at Alfonso, knocking him down. It’s an old man completely naked, with long filthy gray hair and a pronounced beard of the same color. Alfonso turns and raises from the sands to face this old man, in doing so he notices that the eyes of the stranger shine in pale bright, as intensely as the stars in the sky; this vision amazes him enough to discard any hostile posture. And with those shining eyes, the old man does not stop observing Alfonso, almost without blinking, while picking up the gas can from the sand. Alfonso cleans his clothes fast and goes to the old man at once, seeing he’s about to leave. He tells him about the car stranded in the middle of the desert and the woman he had to leave behind to find a solution. 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, while the old man ventures a little further into the desert. It really has been a long day walking and the 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 a bit of gasoline, he prepares to light a fire, his hands descend towards the place where his pockets use to be.

  • Where are my pants?

The old man realizes he has no pants and no way to make a fire. Alfonso notices this, he 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 fire. Alfonso has not forgotten the gas can, he still has some hope of taking it away from the old man. He surprises himself with these conspirative thoughts, assuming they come from the desperate circumstances in which he finds himself. He decides to inquire about the old man’s motives and asks him what he is doing naked 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 someone he 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, but he says that’s all he knows.

  • But I do remember I must not let go of this can of gasoline.

Alfonso responds fast to that one, noting that the old man did release the can when he found it at the side of the road. The old man goes off laughing for a long time, a long long time. Irritated, Alfonso prefers to remain silent. Then, the old man gets up and digs a hole in the sand, takes a red robe from underneath, something is wrapped inside. The old man reveals the content hidden, it is a dead snake, which he presents to Alfonso, without hiding the pride of a hunter. Alfonso doesn’t hide his disgust either, getting to watch the old man grabbing the snake by its head, cutting it off with his teeth right there, and impaling it in a stick, which then puts near 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 been way less terrible 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 that one. Doesn’t he know what salt is? A while later, the flames lose their intensity, the old man’s eyes close and soon he falls asleep. Alfonso settles down on the sand to rest, but he cannot sleep. More 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 to take the can with both hands, almost succeeding.

– But the old man wakes up suddenly.

Frightened, the old man grabs the can with strength, pushing it toward 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 toward the agonizing fire.

  • It was just a matter of seconds for it to burn out.

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 huge flame that rises in the sky, lighting up the night like the breath of a dragon. The cries of the old man wrapped in flames keep Alfonso at the limit of what he can process as reality in the making. Completely disoriented, he can only stay there by the flames until the cries stop and only the flames remain. Confused, Alfonso tries to stand up a couple of times, but he doesn’t make it, time keeps falling out of his fingers and it doesn’t stop until other hands pick him up from the floor and carry him to the back of a truck, where he is carefully laid. The doors of the truck close, and 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 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. The vision fills him with joy, he takes the time to revere each one of the foxes and wishes them a prosperous journey, wherever they must go. 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 inside through the window; what he finds there presses his heart and leads him to step back. There she is, but it is not her, not the Amelia he remembers 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 coming through the tear in the middle of the body, a red rose emerges and rises, and the stems filled with thorns 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.

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