Entry 39 – Forsaken Land
Today was... rough. But I suppose I should start from the beginning. The nights in the desert are cold and we were all grateful for the equipment we took with us, including tents, portable heaters and most importantly, blankets.
I was woken by the smell of steak, of all things. Funny, I thought, as I had a dream just like that – of home, of happy life, of beer with a massive Porterhouse somewhere on a farm. No nightmares this time, nothing like that. Just a pleasant dream and an equally pleasant morning. Gail brought me a cup of coffee. I asked about the steak.
She just shrugged and told me one of the sentries ran into an old tribesman, who brought some camel steaks as a peace offering of sorts. Nobody from our team could of course speak his language and the man, having left his leather-bound bundle behind, disappeared into the desert shortly thereafter, never to be seen again.
The meat was fresh and the sentry thought nothing of it, leaving it at the kitchen for Jorge to prepare. An hour later, we realized that another sentry, a tough, stocky Iowan by the name of Wolfowitz was missing. Upon hearing the news, the time somehow... slowed down. You could see the exact moment the realization dawned upon everyone. We ran as one man to inspect the ‘steaks.’
Most of the afternoon was spent by our teams combing the desert and sending drones but no traces of the man or his ‘gift’ could be found. Several people fell sick, some likely with guilt more than anything else. Jorge wouldn’t touch the kitchen ever again and we didn’t even bother packing the stoves, pots, utensils – we just left everything as it was, booby-trapped to oblivion. If some nomads ever came to claim the equipment, the vultures would be picking up their pieces miles away.
The worst feeling is the powerlessness and the what-ifs. The bone-chilling scream in the night you thought was a hyena – could you have done something? Despite all the equipment, all the advanced tech, the desert claimed a life, perhaps as a tribute for letting us pass. But if it indeed was one, it wasn’t enough.