deserting the desert

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve actually got some time to be creative. Maybe it’s the fresh country air that’s inspiring me. Here’s a short story written in a workshop for the ABC Open Endings Project that was first published here.


And half way through, he asked me if I ever wondered if this was real. What, I asked, what are you asking is real? He said, sometimes I wonder if any of this is real, sometimes I have to pinch myself, sometimes I think I’m going to wake up any minute and realise it was all just a dreaming.

I looked at him for a while, thinking about where we were, where we’d come from, where we were hopefully going. Then we both looked out the window, out through the double-glazed glass of the serviced hotel apartment, down onto the fluorescent green manicured lawns in the middle of the creamy and undulating desert.

We watched a gaggle of women in head-to-toe black watching their half-naked children splash hedonistically in the chlorinated pool, with a row of multinational mercenary contract workers sitting limply nearby at the outdoor bar on their only day off.

As we watched, the hot dust in the air started to gently swirl into eddies, heralding the birth of a sandstorm that would soon choke the green lawn and blue sky for days – a sign that a long, hot summer was about to break over the dunes and blow into the city. For two days the city would be shrouded in skyscraper-high sand, and it would fall eerily silent as the last small brown birds that braved this place hurriedly departed.

Let’s get out of here, he said and I agreed. And just like a mouse must feel if it’s lucky enough to squirm itself out of the steel jaw of a trap, ignoring the cheese that initially enticed it there, we haphazardly packed our few suitcases and fled.

On the other side of the world it was raining – a constant grey deluge of humidity, rain and mould. This isn’t what I expected, he said. Me neither, I replied. Should we really have come here, we wondered.

The sound of this place was rain on rooftops and doors being slammed in our faces. Looking out over the smug little city – its rat-infested corners, spiders hanging from ceilings, cockroach infested cupboards, its glistening white sails and murky waters, the inane chatter of its streets – we kind of breathed and sighed, sighed and breathed.

We developed simultaneous addictions to gelato and walking in the rain. Attended festivals and protests, standing under a shared umbrella, waiting for the next episode to start the next chapter. I can’t take this place seriously, I said, it just doesn’t seem real. He just nodded.

Then suddenly it was as if the cage doors opened and we were finally swept out with the rain. We’d never unpacked, so we were ready to evacuate from the city that was perched precariously on the edge of the world, on the edge of reality. We ran over the eucalyptus-drenched mountains, carrying nothing with us but a little flicker of hope, some dreams, a couple of suitcases and each other.

We have nothing and everything, he said. If nothing else is real, at least we are. Surrounded by big sky and soaked in oxygen, we breathed in the freedom. And after the rain, came the green.


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