I fell asleep again, after a heavy dinner of spiced lentils and rice. I dreamed.
Again I was in Isht Drowl.
The desert was not so arid anymore. Sparse patches of grass had popped up in random places. The tumbleweed tumbled now, kicking up dust as they went. It was still a desert, but not such an unbearable one as it had been before.
I wandered. The dunes became smaller as the hours drained by. The loose sand gave way to hard-packed dirt. Sparse patches of grass and tumbleweed were replaced by harsh-looking thorny bushes and small trees. A bird sounded.
I turned to the right to see the bird, sitting on the lower of a young neem tree. An ugly, ragged thing with a longer tail than most. It looked at me with dark, dead-looking eyes. It opened its mouth sang to me; the most beautiful bird call I had ever heard. For a full five minutes I stared at it while it sang, an ugly creature with the voice of an angel.
Abruptly it stopped. It cocked its head to the side and took off in the direction I had been headed. Following it with my eyes, I suddenly saw a village where, I was sure, there had not been one before. Thoughts of the bird vanished. I needed water.
The village was large, but primitive. Its bramble walls were high. The wooden gate was ancient, but secure. And open. I walked in.
The paved street was the first thing to catch my attention. It seemed out of place, what with the peasants walking down it, struggling under bundles of laundry, wood and water pots. High-rise apartments (that I hadn’t noticed before) stood guard beside the street, every window bare. Every light off.
Traffic began to pick up. Donkey and ox carts lumbered up and down the street. They stopped at driveways, dropping things off. Picking things up. Junk, mostly. Insipid food. Bad art. Shaky furniture. Children ran in the street, dressed in heavy outfits, despite the hot sun.
I walked south down the street. Listened to the sounds. Screams. Action.
The high-rise on the right looked old. The owner sat outside the lobby, on the floor with her many daughters. She looked familiar.
“Marasia?” I called.
She jumped to her feet, showing herself to be almost naked, her oily body glistening in the sun. “Oi! Yes! Is that you, lover?”
I took a step toward her, noticing splotches of white on her dark skin. Vitiligo? Something else?. “Um, no. I think you are confusing me with someone else.”
She laughed. A single, moist chuckle. “I don’t think so.” She took two lazy steps forward. “I know a lover when I see one.” She bent down to brush a piece of straw off her bare foot, tilting her head back at the same time so as to give me a full view of what, I realized by now, she was offering. “Won’t you come in?” She said when she had straightened.
“Ah, well. Um, no. I don’t think so,” I stammered.
“Come, come,” she approached closer. “My rates are fair. Better than what you’d get with either of my sisters.”
I took a step back. “Honestly, I’m not in the market for…er…what you’re selling. Sorry.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Renting, honey,” she said, her voice sizzling. “Never for sale, only for rent.” She turned and walked away, her swaying hips calling out her offer one last time.
I continued south, leaving Marasia sitting with her scantily-clad children.
The next building on the right was dilapidated. I think I saw a homeless girl sitting in the lobby. Young. Alone. Clean, though. I past it by.
The third building was massive and more gaudy than any I had seen before. Golden flamingos stood still over the lawn, so many that the grass suffered for want of sunlight. The building was painted in rainbows, with gold and silver added to the mix of colours. A crowd huddled just off the property limits, kept back by a fence of razor-wire.
I could see a girl sitting in the lobby at a massive oak table, ruined by the gold paint splattered over it. The table was weighed down with every kind of food I could imagine.
A large bowl of saffron sat, turned over, at the corner of the table. Half of its contents were scattered on the filthy floor. Beside it a pile of Macadamia nuts was dispersed all over the table. The chubby girl would sometimes pick one up, suck on it for a moment, and then spit it out on the floor. A plate piled high with an odd mixture of almas caviar and white truffle sat close to her right hand. Her large arm would occasionally bump it and send some of the rich food flying. Piles and piles of wealthy food covered the table. Some I couldn’t identify. Some beginning to rot. None of them getting the attention they seemed to deserve.
The fat child wiped her chin with a dirty forearm and dug her teeth into some KFC.
“Who is this?” I asked out-loud.
“Domos,” a voice to my right said. “Youngest of the three sisters.”
“Is this her building?” I turned to the man who was speaking to me, a scruffy fellow with ragged clothes.
“Aye,” he said, “It’s all hers. Her rent is high and she cares little for the tenants.”
“Are you a tenant?”
He laughed, a wheezing dry laugh without mirth. “No, no. I could never afford it. No I live on these fair streets. I come by her doors only to wait for when she puts her garbage out.” He patted his belly, small as it was.
As if she had heard, Domos suddenly looked up. A malicious sneer twisted her pudgy mouth. After giving the hungry crowd an obscene gesture she stood, put her fingers down her throat, and force vomited over the entire table.
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