Lberd, lberd, he says as the carpet is dragged through the desert. He complains of the cold in Arabic, trying to remember what she said to him the last time he saw her in Cairo. The camel’s hooves thump upon the tightly packed sand, mere inches from his head.
Being dragged across the desert on a carpet pulled by a camel is not a bad way to see the end of the world, he thinks. This camel has unctuous eyes, but a bellow that shakes the distant mountains (or perhaps it is just his head that is shaking). He cranes his neck to look above him to see who is riding atop the camel, but all he sees is an amorphous pile of dark clothing bobbing gracefully with each step. There are crimson ropes wrapped around this carpet, holding him so he does not slide off. He thinks he has fallen off a few times, but can’t correctly recall; sometimes he feels he is floating several feet off the ground, after all.
This ship guides his bound form past brambles and pitted pumice, their shape becoming clearer as the first streaks of dawn begin to race past the horizon. In that last moment in Cairo, the anise liqueur spilling from the cup onto his hand, he watched her walk out through the beaded curtain and into the sultry night. Her eternal absence grows and grows with every second ticking past on his battered wristwatch.
Now, about three months after that moment, something made of gold peeks over the pipe organ rock formations, wyverns of shadow banished by the lion’s eye sun. He shades his eyes from the sun, feels the warmth begin to rise in his forehead. I am running out of knives, Mavis, he mumbles. He recalls her feet dangling in the creek, back in green Kandiyohi, the catspaw breeze lapping the hair off of her ivory shoulders. She turns and smiles at him, and thus the memory abruptly dissolves into mist.
As the sun begins its ascent to the pinnacle of the sky, the camel stops, and its rider dismounts. The Rider constructs shelter and shade, holds herbs and water to his burned lips. The Rider’s face is obscured by a tagelmust, but he can make out a compass hanging from the Rider’s neck. That’s my compass, he gasps, before he chokes and coughs to the point where he is no longer able to speak.
Jeremiah wept for his people in exile, yet there is no weeping here where these three beings make their way through the desert, one walking, one riding, and one being dragged along on a Fehruz carpet, bound in scarlet rope.