The Sahara’s Secret

Image Credit: Hamdanmourad

The water rushed over his forehead, but seemed powerless against the fever, being soaked up by the sand below. This costly act began to weigh upon the people, for water was scarce, but they knew it must continue. It’s better to die of thirst than to let him die because of their stinginess. They had already proven their generosity, but now they were proving faith. His sickness already cost them everything, and yet no glimmer of healing had shown itself. The last of their water, poured onto his head. Why would they do this for a complete stranger?

This was the way of the Winaruz people. Deep in the lost recesses of the Sahara Desert, they had lost all connection with the outside world. They were nomads of the extreme, settlers of the sand. Even the groups surrounding them only knew them through legend, for people rarely ventured into their barren land, and fewer still returned. Their isolation had built their faith, and their culture formed around one value: Life is the most sacred. In a sea of death, they worshiped the source of life.

But this moment was the testing of their faith. A lost man, wandering, staggering through the their land, on the verge of death, collapsed in the wind. The family whose camp was nearest, rushed to help. They carried him quickly to their tent and began all their remedies learned from countless desert dwelling generations. The community came as well to help this visitor, as they would for their chief. After three weeks though, the supplies had run low, and the water dry. They were two weeks walk from the nearest oasis, and there wasn’t time for travel.

As the water disappeared, the community began to fear that all was wasted on a dying stranger, but the family in whose tent he stayed, refused to stop, for their honour and faith were at stake. No one could question the means, for it was written. Soon even the camels began to falter in the heat, then the old. The rationing became too small for the community to continue, yet they did. They were a resilient people, but when there wasn’t even enough water for tea, they quickly deteriorated.

With parched tongues and endless headaches, they community continued. Many grew weak, and couldn’t rise from their beds, but the young men kept delivering the water to this stranger. Nothing would stop them now. After a few more days, even the young men couldn’t raise themselves, and there was only one left. His name was Tzeddig and he found himself carrying the final skin of water, feebly through the tents of dying Winaruz people, to serve their one guest. He shook with each step, keeping the path, and keeping the tradition, but longing to drink and save his own life.

With all of his faith and community bound to this one act, he poured. As the final drop hit the man’s brow, Tzeddig collapsed as well into a delirious joy along with all of his people. They had been tested, and they had stayed true. No better death could await them.

Moments later the man awoke with absolute health. He found the people within the tent near death, and unconscious. With squinting eyes, he searched the other tents, but all were the same. He saw the dying camels, and the dying children, and knew that his wet head was the last water they had.

He dropped to his knees in despair and prayed. When nothing happened he remained on his knees and dug through the burning sand. He was digging his own grave. He dug and dug until nightfall, then he continued through the night, waiting to die, but as the sun rose, his hands felt the cool touch of fluid, a bubbling spring. It was the water they had poured on him, kept safe deep beneath the sand.

The people were revived that day by the waters, and eventually asked who this man was.

He stood before them and said, “Who I was has no importance anymore, for I am now someone new. I was born by your death, and am now your slave.”

“We have no slaves, we are all family.” Tzeddig replied with the communities approval.

“…well, can I be a part of your family?”

“You always were.”

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