Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHILL (10/29/15)
TITLE: Prayers In The Desert
By Leola Ogle
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“I’m telling you, the desert can be brutal. Ruts, gullies, rattlesnakes, and creatures a city boy isn’t used to. If you’re going, be careful, don’t go too far and stay on a trail.”
Andrew promised Mark he’d be careful. He loaded his backpack with bottled water, snacks and a map of the area. And his camera.
In early October, the daytime temperatures hovered around a hundred degrees. Andrew wore cargo short, sneakers, and a t-shirt. He hardly noticed the sweat trickling down his back as he captured the beauty of the desert with his camera.
It was afternoon when in the distance he saw what looked like the opening of an old mine shaft. Ignoring caution, he ventured off the dirt road and through the desert. Perhaps if he had been looking at the terrain and not the mine shaft, the accident wouldn’t have happened.
The front tire hit a hole, flipping the dune buggy and throwing Andrew out. The vehicle and Andrew slid down an incline into a dry wash. Andrew landed on his back, the overturned dune buggy on him. The roll bar crushed his right leg below the knee, pinning him. He blacked out from the pain.
Dusk was setting when he came to. A coyote howled in the distance. The encroaching darkness brought new fears. His assessment of his situation appeared hopeless. Andrew’s senses heightened. Thirst. Hunger. Pain. Cold that chilled to the marrow and caused his bones to ache. He wasn’t sure what was worse, the chill or the maddening thirst.
The effort to free his leg sent agonizing pain down his spine, and waves of nausea. Eventually, he couldn’t feel his leg anymore. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. A breeze kicked up, sending fresh chills over his body. His teeth rattled and his body jerked with shivers.
Sleep came in snatches. The chilling fear of the unknown, and rattlesnakes, kept him awake. A small desert creature burrowed next to his leg – drawn by the scent of blood, no doubt – and was pawing in the dirt. Andrew threw rocks, but the animal wouldn’t leave.
The morning brought no relief. His throat and lips were parched. His backpack was wedged under the seat, and the straps dangled teasingly out of reach. Thoughts of the water, apple, and granola bar the backpack held tormented him.
Someone had to be looking for him. He tried yelling. He threw rocks at his backpack hoping to free it. Midday he heard gunfire in the distance – people target practicing, he assumed. He yelled until his voice gave out.
He prayed. He hadn’t prayed in years. He quoted scriptures he had memorized as a child. And he prayed some more. He heard a helicopter in the afternoon. He shouted and waved his arms. As the helicopter noise faded away, Andrew realized he and the camouflage dune buggy weren’t visible.
He cried then as the chilling realization hit him that his back must be broken and he’d probably lose his leg. Then without warning, the sky darkened and a ten minute deluge happened. Andrew caught rain – which wasn’t much – in his cupped hands. He licked moisture from his palms and fingers. He slurped muddy water from a small hole next to his face.
That night the rain had chilled the ground and air more than the previous night. The small animal continued to paw the ground by his leg, but Andrew ignored it. He moaned, shivered, and tried to sleep.
In the morning light, he saw a desert squirrel gnawing at his backpack. “After my apple?” As Andrew spoke, the squirrel tugged on the backpack with his teeth. Andrew gasped when the backpack slid forward and dropped next to him.
He devoured the water and food, leaned back, and realized the other animal had pawed enough dirt loose to free his leg. He managed to crawl away enough to be seen from the air. He was able to signal the rescue helicopter later that day. His back wasn’t broken. His leg had a compound fracture.
And people just smiled politely when he told them two desert animals saved his life.
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