The Cave - part 1
The desert was dry and unforgiving during this time of the year. The temperature would reach up to 50 degrees at the cusp of sun's movement, changing straight out into freezing stillness at nightfall. Very few dared to stray in these extreme conditions outside. So, seldom were humans or animals seen outside and crawlers like snakes & spiders were only drawn out by their need of food. Nomads lived in small scattered tribes or clans around the desert. They made their living by trading, and transporting goods in the trade route that passed from there. Mostly, they kept goats and camels, for dairy purposes.
|Taken from Google|
The crawlers normally lived away from human populace, in the hills and other parts of the desert. One such crawler, a camel spider lived inside a crack in one of the large rocks some 100 miles off the famous city. It lived alone there. On one full-moon, the spider came out of its crack and without a pause, started moving eastward in a steady, purposeful but not too brisk a crawl. It was a Tuesday night and the sky was clear. The desert was cold but there wasn't any wind so the spider kept its pace. Though, its destination by the famous city was quite far, but the spider would be completing its journey in time, no matter how.
Away, some 70 miles north-east of the famous city, was another clan. A smaller one, with an oasis. The water and the luscious trees made the place look like a heaven to the caravans passing through and which made it a halting point and a way of income for the inhabitants. Many parrots, pigeons and hawks had the oasis as their home. Of which was a particularly adorable pair of pigeons. And that pair was about to grow as well, as was evident to some by the swollen form of the hen(1).
Incidentally, on Wednesday, a little before dawn, the hen too left its home and took to air with the same resolute look which a spider somewhere far off displayed last night. Pigeons are not accustomed to flying long or in a single direction for that matter. Perhaps that was the reason why, although it never put a beak outside the oasis in its life, it knew what lay ahead for it. And there wasn't a sign of anxiety visible on its face.
Although the moonlight was abundant, but the spider would still stop at odd intervals, and wait for something, then start moving again. The spider knew there was a higher danger of enemies at night, but since it was easier to move and hide at night, it was a better course of action. More than once, it encountered other spiders or scorpions ahead and had to change it's route to move forward. This kept the spider on a schedule.
During its first flight the hen tried to make as much as it could. Because, the heat would soar to unimaginable levels within hours of daybreak and the coldness of the night would disappear so fast that it would be hard to tell whether it was even there a few hours ago, and the noon and afternoon were going to be just unbearable.
After 10am, the sun turned so hard that the light was blinding and coupled with the shimmer created on the sand by last traces of water being vaporised, it was very difficult for the hen to see ahead and stay up. With thirst and hunger taking over desire completely and fatigue multiplying the effort it needed to stay up. The hen had some water before leaving the oasis but that water was long gone now. The hen decided to make a stop and after another 30 minutes of searching, it found a big rock with some shade on one side and landed there, to rest for a while. It soon fell asleep.
By the morning, the spider had covered almost half the distance towards its destination. It was a little tired, walking almost the whole night, but it didn't need any food or water since it had a large meal just last week. The spider found a somewhat safe place to camp, made a makeshift home by removing some sand below a rock and crawled under it. It wouldn't need to do anything for the rest of the day.
The sun had already started to move down when the hen woke up. It was hard to tell whether it dreamt or what it dreamt of. Food? Oasis? or maybe something entirely different, like a spider spinning a complex web, very fast. All that was visible on its face, was a tired yet determined expression. The sleep hadn't comforted the mounting thirst or growling stomach a bit. But since it had very little time left before sunset and flying at night was out of option, it tried to keep that out of mind so after some good effort, rose in the air.
The air was a bit cooler than when the hen had stopped. Weakness was still there and somehow enhanced by the pregnancy, it was all the more visible. More than once, it almost fell to the ground due to the drowsiness. But the hen kept flying till it was nightfall and visibility was considerably reduced.
|Taken from Google|
The spider came out of its hibernation after dark and resumed its crawl with a new vigor. In just a couple of hours it had already covered a pretty good distance when it came around about four or five scorpion holes and some of its inhabitants outside, hunting. Normally, it would have altered its line but here, there were hills on both sides and there was no other passage for it to take.
The spider wasn't a prey to the scorpions, but once in their territory, a fight was guaranteed, which given the situation was pretty impossible for it to win. Realizing that there is no other way out, the spider retreated a few yards, found a place safe enough to hide for the night and crawled in the sand. It stayed awake the whole night, on guard, watching the scorpions.
Early next morning, the hen woke up silently. Its beak and throat had dried up completely. Even its eyes had lost water and were colourless and dull now. The feathers in its wings had reduced to thin strips burned by the fierce hot winds. Patches of featherless skin were visible on its body. The effort to even stand properly made every muscle in its body scream. But when it stood up, it kept there with eyes closed for a long time.
Flying seemed quite out of question after the enormous effort it had to put just to stand up but what happened next was nothing short of a miracle. In one swift movement, the hen pushed the ground and rose in the air, flapping and spreading wings, as flawlessly as a hawk out to hunt. The distance to cover was still large and it had till dawn next day to cover the rest of the journey. The sun had just shone on the horizon.
The spider came out of the sand in the morning, the sun was shining and it was hot. The scorpions had discharged to their homes for the day and as the spider thought, it was safe to cross the place now. Still, it made a slow cautious progress through the holes. But just as it cleared the scorpion dens something slammed right next to it with a huge thud. The spider went into a frenzy and it had only a fraction of a second to look for the source before it darted towards it's right and quickly hid into the sand, its mind furiously thinking on what to do next.
The thing which slammed on its side was a wooden stick held by a shepherd boy. He must have seen the spider come out from above and decided to kill the eight legged monster. The boy was now hammering away fervently on the sand blabbering some curses alongside. It was just a matter of time before the stick would land on the spider's head and end its journey midway. Hidden in the sand, the spider was really running out of time and options.
The sun was growing high and very intense. The magical power which launched the hen in the air was now ebbing off. The hen had lost sense of direction already and every so often would close its eyes, due to the searing heat. It knew well, that if it went down now, there would be no getting up. Mind can play unreal games with eyes at such moments. Every few minutes, the hen would change its course hallucinated by mirages. On one such moment, the bird saw some date trees standing on its left. It immediately turned towards the scene and began flapping its wings frantically with whatever energy there was left.
A breeze moved through and its muscles became still for a second, taking in the wet air, loosing height. Then it regained its senses and doubled its effort, without much progress. The hen could now see the reflection of the trees on the ground and knew that this time, it was for real. But the sudden burst of energy had drained it completely and its eyes has turned into slits. Within minutes, the hen's eyes went shut, it started loosing height and fell on the ground rolling into a mangled heap. Its mind turned off.
P.S: 1. The hen in this story means a female pigeon.
I'll post part-2 of this story tomorrow at noon. Find part-2 here.