I am starting a Fiction Friday category where every Friday (surprise!) I will be posting excerpts from The Sands of Time and if I feel like it, other bits of writing.
This evening, the shop is quiet. An oud melody is escaping from the radio. He turns the volume down and silence settles in. He lights two small pieces of charcoal and places them on a ceramic bowl covered with pierced foil. As he inhales through the pipe for the first time, I watch the water in the narghile bubble away. The sweet aroma of cinnamon quickly spreads throughout the room and I sit with him behind the counter, ready to embark on a journey.
“Legends say that a long, long time ago, on a sweltering summer day, the sky cracked open. They say the fissure was so long that it stretched from horizon to horizon, like a gaping wound. No one recalls how it happened. Some say that a lightning bolt split through the sky like a crack runs through ice. Others claim it was the wrath of Allah, striking upon those who have sinned. Others yet are confident it was the deed of jinns living in the air. But as it is with many things, we will never know.
“And so, when the sun reached its zenith, a mass of sand poured out of the gash, like it was spilling through the broken neck of a giant hourglass. Heaps of sand pelted down unremittingly for two days and three nights! Before the deluge, the Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean were linked by a river as wide as the Nile and twice as deep as the Congo River. It was a long, fertile stretch of water, at the centre of which lay an inland sea, a luxuriant oasis bordered by tall palm trees and fragrant jasmine vines, a boon to agriculturists and fishermen. In the span of a night, the channel was swallowed and turned into an arid stretch of land. The vessels sailing down the river were never seen again. Whole cities were buried, reduced to ashes. Thousands of lives were destroyed and an entire generation wiped out!
“On the third day, after the last grain of sand fell on the ground, the sky wore an ominous scar that was feared for centuries. It slowly faded, blown away by strong winds and passing clouds. But it is said that on a clear night, one can discern a pale trace, reminiscent of the sky’s fury.”
He pauses and inhales through the pipe once again.
“This, my boy, is how the Sahara was born.”