Narrative / by Brian Bowman

High Desert
He carefully put one foot after the other on the dirt road. Shuffling as he went, head too heavy to look forward except on occasion when he had to observe the horizon and see what was there. A plateau emerging from the land as if the moon’s gravity pulled a single needle through the Earth’s crust and froze it in sunbaked rock. A stone tower, made out of abhorrently timeless means, punctuated the sun as it sank into the long horizon. 

Along the way he passed a few, the soothsayer at the abandoned gas station. The starving child offering used bandages for a nickel. A charlatan with a stovepipe hat, the top frayed and undone, its flapping silently answering wild proclamations. One night, he guessed he met the devil wearing a stark white suit in this dusty place. The devil said to him, “He who refuses to stop will perish while facing unknown misery and turmoil. Rest for a while, rest here with me.” He refused this offer without words, and with steps he shuffled on. And there were other things in the night, tiny white flags dancing away from him into the darkness, the hightails of antelope or deer perhaps. All visions observed in the periphery and with sounds so soft they could barely be heard under the wind.

In the morning, the sun was on his back instantly evaporating the cold drops of sweat there. And his head would rise and look at what was before him. The tower, the plateau of the High Desert. He had no idea what was on the other side. He knew the path behind him didn’t matter anymore. Uncertain treasure is more valuable than a life in dust.


High Desert Prompts

Entrance Into The Town of New Hope

“There’s no hope for New Hope!” the old woman cackles as she limps across the street. A lonely dog looks on, paying attention briefly before scampering into a shady corner.  This is the last town before the needle, the thin stone tower looming in the horizon.

He counts the buildings. The sky is a hot blue marble. It fully contains this place, suffocating it with heat. The tired storefronts lining the street are weary and abandoned, too thirsty to moan. 


The Charlatan

The Charlatan sits at the bar, his thumb caresses the edge of his tumbler. The bar is empty. The tender is bored and is playing solitaire in a dim corner. His cards flicking quietly on the table as they find their place in suited, ordered columns. Sunlight illuminates the floating dust motes as it shines into the doorway. Outside, the Charlatan’s broken down carriage sits hitched to a jackass. The carriage is gold painted in both block letter and flowing script, the words cracked and faded by endless days of heat and dust. The rig jingles as the docile beast shifts his weight.


The White Church

There is a small white church under a blue sky. A gentle respite in this empty dusty place named New Hope. Next to the church is a small cemetery, long desert grasses unfurl around the wood crosses. The front door swings open and freely in the wind. Inside, silent pews collect the wind’s offering of sand on their benches. For some reason, perhaps because of the ancient words in Exodus, the door is painted red. 


Leviathan Father

There are adults with shaved heads and white robes who have taken over the oasis. Their singing is incessant; at first beautiful but then maddening. One of the songs goes like this…

Children roll off Father's back into the sea. 
Where they explore chasms of the deep, 
and become creatures of the night. 
Coming up for air on occasion, 
coming up for light.

Good Father
Selfish Father
Angry Father
Jealous Father

Father of Monsters


Elk in the Night

In the night the air was cold and the sky dark. The road remained clear. Unfurling six feet before him endlessly, like a giant conveyor moving the earth underneath him. His feet merely shuffled. And there were other things in the night, tiny white flags dancing away from him into the darkness, the hightails of antelope or deer perhaps. All visions observed in the periphery and with sounds so soft they could barely be heard under the wind.


Hallucination

With the sun high in the sky it was easy to see many things. The ghost of the child behind him, the sun’s blistering portal to a multicolored universe, swarms of buzzards changing in the sky to black insects, and rattlesnakes. When this happened, he accepted everything was true and also nothing was true.


The Ship 

The hallucinations had gotten stronger. Robbed of water, he was strangely bitter that the child with the rotten bandages had continued to follow him. It wasn’t the child’s fault he was thirsty. He was beginning to think the child wasn’t even real. 

Ahead he could see a ship wrecked on a dune. Why was it there? Had the ocean suddenly turned to sand a long time ago? Before his doubt fully blinded his eyes, his hands reached out to touch the vessel. The wood was smooth to his hand as it glided along the sandblasted hull. This ancient carcass from the sea was real.