The Tale of Sandy
Silence. Ice-cold darkness was lying over the endless dunes, which even the pale light of the stars was unable to break. In the small tent camp on the edge of the desert, even the camels were still in deep sleep. Only one soul was wide awake.
Noriah was staring at the tent ceiling. "Just don't fall asleep", she thought over, and over again. She had been waiting for this night for weeks. Her eyelids grew heavier and for a brief moment she could no longer keep her eyes open. But then – suddenly - a saving rattle! Noriah startled. For a moment she thought it was morning. "Oh, it's still night.", she murmured in relief. When she heard soft footsteps not too far away, she realized she had to be quick now. . Silently, she grabbed her belongings wrapped in linen cloths and snuck out of the tent with the utmost caution. Under no circumstances did she want to wake her parents in the next tent. Her father was snoring loudly – he would have probably drowned any other noise with his snoring anyways.
Tiptoeing, she scurried after the officer. "Dabit! Dabit!", she whispered. Astonished, the officer turned around and, visibly tired, said: "Nori, what are you doing here?" Noriah explained that she absolutely needed to come with the Royal Special Expedition. She had seen in a dream that she would play an important part in it. What role exactly, however, she couldn't reveal - and if she was honest, she didn't really know herself anymore. However, since dreams had a high significance in the village and Noriah, as a certified mirage interpreter, fulfilled all the professional requirements, the officer responded with a sleepy, shoulder-shrugging "Okay".
The expedition in question had a clear goal: The discovery of a new oasis. No one knew how long they would be on their adventure or what dangers to expect. That's why each of the twelve expedition members was given the finest equipment. A camel saddle made of fivefold combed leather for special riding comfort, a transparent but indestructible cloth made of silk from the desert spider to protect against sandstorms, sun cream made from cow milk to prevent sunburn, a blanket and the finest socks made of the exotic fibre of the alpaca for freezing nights.
By dawn, the camels were saddled. No one was tired anymore. Excitement was lying in the air. The group started moving as the first rays of sunlight crossed the horizon. Noriah sat on her camel as the third to last in the caravan. First rays of sunlight were touching her face. She looked at the scenery in front of her. The night was still not fully over and she could still clearly see some of the stars above her. Dunes cast long shadows, creating a marbled desert landscape – a view that could usually only be admired for some moments after sunrise. Camels trotted slowly along the sand dunes, with beige and white dressed figures in their saddles. Noriah knew, this was a moment to remember for a lifetime.
At the beginning, the expeditors were still chatting excitedly. There were many things to discuss and speculate about, but after a few days silence fell. The caravan was heading further and further eastwards, looking for life in the seemingly endless wasteland. However, it did not take long until the energy of the group was dwindling and the supplies were almost exhausted. The sun was becoming more and more piercing, the nights were getting colder and colder. Only the alpaca socks prevented frostbites to appear on their feet. Nevertheless, there was still no destination in sight. They were walking along at their usual pace in breathtaking heat, when suddenly Noriah was startled: "There!" she cried. "What's that?" In the distance, camels with riders on their back could be seen queuing up in front of a house. On closer inspection, it was noticeable that some riders were eating food on their camels. Today, of course, we know that this was a mirage of the first fast-food restaurant and what they saw was the first ‘ride-in’. But our expeditors could not possibly have known this. The caravan galloped off in astonishment, but with verve and joy. They were even more disappointed when they realised that they were not getting any closer to the scene. Only Noriah, as a certified mirage interpreter, knew exactly that this was a good omen and that their goal was almost within reach.
However, nobody of the disappointed and exhausted caravan colleagues believed her and - to make matters even worse - a sandstorm was approaching. The caravan could hardly see anything, but the officer still commanded to move on. But when the wind gradually became too strong, he ordered to dug pits in which the people and camels could hide. By now it was already night, storming and bitterly cold. Eleven out of twelve panicked at that point, not thinking they would make it through the night. Noriah was nervous, she was afraid. But she trusted her interpretation and faced the situation with courage and confidence. She kept a cool head, wrapped herself in her blanket, put on her alpaca socks and tied the silk scarf around her face. She shouted to the others, "Calm down! Put on your socks and everything will be fine. We can do this!" And indeed, the fluffy warm socks were able to calm the others down and give them comfort so that they could even sleep for some hours.
The morning dawned and Noriah opened her eyes. Silence. The storm had passed and judging by the snoring, all the expeditioners were well. "Thank goodness," she thought, even before she sat up to remove the silk scarf from her head. The officer woke up as Noriah tripped over her camel and everyone else as the officer did one of his shattering, morning stretching sighs. Noriah, who was brushing the sand off her clothes and still hadn't looked around, noticed that suddenly an increasingly excited murmur went through the group until one man shouted, "We're here! This is real, it’s not an illusion!"
And so it was. A lush green forest with palm trees, coconuts, birds and a bubbling spring. Exactly what the expeditioners had dreamed of. They spent the whole day bathing and eating coconuts in the oasis. Only Noriah took some distance and reflected on the events of the previous night. "Why..." she wondered, "Why did the desert give us such a hard time so close to our destination?" The officer noticed Noriah's pensive mood and also knew an answer to her question immediately, "The desert knew who was entering it. The desert knew it had to teach and also test us. And you, Nori, you passed that test best of all of us." It was at that moment, listening to the wise officer's words, that Noriah understood, it was actually not so much about finding an oasis after all. It was about something else entirely.
With great joy, the group had a party that evening and celebrated the journey, Noriah's interpretations and her alpaca socks, which gave them so much strength, confidence and calmness during the last, hard night.