Bolsón de Mapimí, Chihuahuan Desert, Old Mexico
The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. – Eden Phillpotts
The desert wind blew warm and dry across his face layering grit on his chapped lips. He dropped the square bottle to his mouth and let the agave drip down his chin. The cold air bit into his bones. He wrenched the long robe tighter around him.
“What’s that?” he shouted out as he spun into the wind. He cocked his head to the left listening for a voice. The bottle sloshed at his side.
He laughed a high cackle and spun around with his arms outstretched as if to collect all the stars in the sky. The bottle swung up in the air and a stream of Mescal sprayed out into the wind raining down on him. The drops bounced off his nose and forehead. He looked up and watched a drop grow larger and land in his eye. He wiped his face and shook his hair. He shouted at the stars.
“There are no visitors here. Nobody dares come into this hell-forsaken sand trap.”
He laughed before listening again. There was nothing but the wind blowing past the field of creosote and ocotillo. The wind rubbed the plants together forming a low hum.
“No me diga?”
The man cocked a confused look toward the sky. He took a step and stumbled forward to his knees. The bottle dug into the sand. He listened to the wind.
“You don’t say.”
To his right a coyote barked into the wind and he turned in the dog’s direction.
He stumbled to stand up.
“Yip, Yip, Yip,” he echoed into the night.
He stretched to the sky and let out a howl, high pitched and mournful, as if to punctuate the sentence. He stumbled forward dragging his robe through the campfire.
He rose like a puppet and stood with both arms bent. His fat shadow betrayed his wiry frame.
An arm went up and then another. He lifted his right leg and stumbled forward dropping the Mescal next to a crumpled creosote bush. He fell to the level of the bush and it became the shape of a fat man with short, stubby arms. He stood at attention, then swung out his right arm in a grand arch and bowed.
“I will treat him like a royal guest.”
He swooped down and completed his formal salute to the bushman. Unsteady, he stumbled forward tripping over a large brown rock.
The shape of the fat messenger dipped back down to the desert floor and became creosote again. The Mescal spilled out onto the sand. The man steadied himself. His arms hung low and touched ground as he swung backward towards the bottle lying next to the bush. He grabbed the bottle by the neck and touched mouth to mouth drinking deep until it was dry.
He paused, furrowed his brow into a pained grimace and stared out across the desert.
Straggly hair hung in long clumps of stringy curls on his head. The creosote waved in the wind like rolling green surf and buffeted his face. He closed his eyes and let the wind blow into him. He leaned forward with his long arms outstretched and flying.
He smiled as the wind stalled and he steadied himself upright. From a squint, he made out the star field blanketing the far mountains. The stars merged into a wide arrow pointing at the end of the range. He considered the direction of the arrow and laughed at some private joke.
He tossed the empty bottle of Mescal up and caught it by the base. His hands tried to juggle the bottle. It went off into the desert where it landed with a crash. A coyote dashed from the spot, then stopped to look back at the man. Its bright eyes flashed in the night. They expanded into large bowls of yellow light brighter than the noonday sun. He dropped to his knees shielding his eyes from the blinding light, took a deep breath, and fell. He smacked his head on a rock and dug his hands into the dirt. He let out a snort blowing sand out of his nose. Teddy DuPont passed out asleep.
On the far side of the valley, a sentry peered down on the landscape with an infrared spotting scope. His green and black uniform covered his compact frame. He held the small glass to his eye and surveyed the desert.
He spied a campfire and a small light in a tent. A dark flash of a night hawk drew his attention. He followed its flight across the valley floor as it surveyed the ground below. The hawk sat in the air until it performed a dive downward. The bird swooped down on an unsuspecting pocket mouse.
The sentry turned his observation back to Teddy lying in the dirt. A bark from behind the tent attracted his eye. A coyote scrambled up a well-worn path and turned back. He saw the flash of its eyes. It seemed to peer into his soul.
The valley was wide and empty except at the base of the mountains. Far to the north he could see the sparkling lights of the Mormon community. An equal distance to the south he saw the town of no-names near the Gulf of Mexico. The valley stretched for hundreds of miles. It was so desolate the army and the drug cartels avoided its dry, parched waste. Nobody wanted to die in the Zone of Silence. The lost discovered no one heard their cries.
Across from the valley, the army maintained a post. He pointed his light to it in a rhythmic message. He wondered if the Mexican sentries were looking back at him. No message came back. Just as well. His secrets demanded no prying eyes.
His hiding spot buzzed with energy from a massive generator buried in he hills of iron and magnetic rock. The smell of kerosene and exhaust wafted over him until the breeze shifted and took it away. No one moved behind him.
The valley remained empty. Yet, desperate people found the secret of Bolsón de Mapimí inviting. He didn’t like it. Every visitor demanded spying from the cliff.
“I think our friend has called it a night,” he whispered. He wrote down the time and location in a small leather notebook.
He focused on Teddy lying in the sand. He saw a small cut on his forehead where blood was beginning to cake.
“That’s going to leave a scar.”