Banished (Forbidden)(6)By: Kimberley Griffiths Little
I lifted my head with a jolt, reality shattering the dream. The roaring had died to small gusts of whimpering wind. I didn’t know what time of day it was.
Slowly, I crawled out of the hollow and stared in horror at a world that had drastically changed overnight. Sand dunes had sprung up where there used to be flat ground. Two enormous boulders were nearly buried. Cracks in the rocks dripped fine white sand in a slow trickle like an hourglass.
My camel towered over me, sand clinging to her eyelashes like dull jewels. The fine silt drenched me in white, clinging like lice to my skin, and making my teeth crunch. I was jangling with tension and exhaustion, but I was alive.
Moments later, panic clawed at my chest. If the desert had changed, I didn’t know how I was supposed to find my way.
Three weeks had now gone by, with no sign of the Edomite land.
No sign of another living person since that first day.
I tried to calculate my distance, the number of hours I’d walked or galloped my camel to estimate if I’d gone too far, was drifting aimlessly, or still a hundred miles away. The changes brought about by the sandstorm delayed my journey, and I wondered if I was walking in circles.
If only I could conjure my father out of the sands and let him lead me to safety. Let me cry all the tears in the bottomless well of my soul.
Finally, one evening, I peered into the dusk of the endless desert surrounding me, unable to tamp down the screaming anxiety that was turning me mad.
Scanning the mountains up ahead, I felt a small measure of hope. Wasn’t this the same plateau my family had crossed after coming out of the canyon lands so many months ago? The setting sun splashed red against the rocks, deep as the stain of Gad’s blood. “Please, let this be the land of the Edomites,” I prayed.
The trail ended on the raw edge of a mountain that tumbled downward in sharply woven boulders and deflated caves and hollows. From the top of the ridge, the sight conjured up a magical, sunken world.
This was the same plateau, but I’d arrived at it from a different direction.
Slipping my hand along my leg, I caressed the dagger strapped to my thigh and hidden by my dress. This time the Edomites would know I was a woman, easily kidnapped for slavery. Not a young girl to be left alone by the death threat of a protective father.
I made camp on the ravine’s far ridge. Relief stung my sunburned eyes when I added a few drops of water to the last of my flour and baked it. I ate a date in Kadesh’s honor, and then saved the last handful to eat with him. It was my first meal in two days and it was all I could do not to devour it all. I tightened my sash against my hollow belly and tried not to think about food.
I’d been traveling for more than twenty days, not counting the days I’d spent in the hills of Mari. I’d given no thought to provisions for my return trip.
If Kadesh was truly dead, I couldn’t make the trip to the southern lands to find his family and beg protection for myself. My only choice would be to return to the Temple of Ashtoreth and my sister, Leila, to avoid marrying Horeb. But in reality, that was no choice at all.
Unable to sleep more than a few hours, I was back on Shay at first light.
The path dipped, lowering me into ravines as rugged as an old man’s face.
The canyon walls tightened around me, growing tall as imposing giants, the colors an exquisite array of reds and pinks. I reached out to touch the soft sandstone to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. What memories these canyon walls held—sweet memories of Kadesh touching my hand for the first time, gazing into my eyes with secret passion.
My camel strained forward, sensing the water up ahead. At midafternoon I spotted the wooden well rising from the ground. Not a mirage or hallucination any longer.
I slid off Shay’s back and ran. Falling to my knees, I shoved the wooden covering off and thrust my hands into the dirt. With frantic fingers, I scooped out rocks and sand until I hit water.
Taking one of the empty water skins, I forced it down, my shoulder disappearing into the earth. A moment later, I pulled up the leather pouch, heavy with fresh water. I drank, giddy with the sweetness. There was a reason the Edomites guarded this precious water. I continued drinking until my stomach bloated, then I filled the leather bucket and Shay gulped it down within seconds. Watering the camel would take at least an hour so I sat back on my heels to rest and stare up at the red walls. Vivid and beautiful, they were like a painted mural on a phantom temple.