Page 63 - November 2020
P. 63

November 2020           63

                                                 THE CHARCOAL GARDEN

             So here we have a huge trap (as just described), with a modern jeep specifically
             designed to cross desert terrain heading towards it a great speed.  His foot on the
             pedal, Sharif has no idea of what lies beneath the sands laid out in front of him.
              There’s nothing to show what lurks beneath the surface; that beneath the top layer
             there is a fault shaped like a gigantic mouth just waiting to swallow up whatever

             falls into it, with fetid water capable of engendering savage creatures and releasing
             them through various rock layers to devour everything they encounter.

             The jeep went over the concrete structure with us inside it.  Sharif tried as best he
             could  to  brake,  but  it  carried  on  under  its  own  momentum.    The  wheels  were
             directly over the top of the huge abyss; after shuddering a bit, they began slowly to
             sink.  The jeep fell into the hole like a stone falling into a vat full of gum, so the
             pores get blocked.  We both tried opening the doors, but failed.  The jeep sank to
             the bottom.  We were obviously in a state of complete panic, fully reflected in our
             expressions.    We  both  yelled  as  loud  as  we  could,  and  the  sound  came
             reverberating back to keep us apart.

             The  water  had  obviously  worked  away  at  the  rock  in  the  chasm;  it  looked  like
             limestone, so it had made cracks and patterns.  It had also worn passageways and
             crevices,  all  of  which  resembled  the  tracks  of  some  ancient  Arabian  city.    We
             smashed the windows of our jeep and got out.  I grabbed Sharif’s shoulder, leaned
             on him, and gave him my hand.  It was a major shock when he started acting like a
             blind man as he dragged me slipping and sliding over a huge fault-line in the rock

             that  divided  the  floor  into  two  halves.  We  started  tumbling  down  and  down,  our
             hands outstretched like parachutes.  Our nails kept clawing at the air.  So violent
             was our fall and so desperate our attempts to cling to each other that we felt as
             though  we  had  ripped  away  a  rock-crust  that  had  left  us  dangling  in  the  space
             between the two sides.  We had landed on some third area of rock, folded in on
             itself like a piece of skimmed fruit peel.  We walked over these projecting rocks and
             went through an opening that led further downhill.

             By this time we were concentrating anxiously on finding some escape route; our
             initial fear was no longer quite so palpable. Stopping for a few moments’ thought
             seemed like a better idea than indulging in sheer panic.  Looking up and down, we
             noticed  that  the  distance  to  cover  going  down  was  considerably  less  than  that
             going up, so we started descending, our hands feeling their way along walls we

             could  not  even  see.    From  time  to  time  we  noticed  gleams  and  flashes  from  a
             variety  of  metallic  deposits  still  surviving  in  their  enclosed  spaces  and  as  yet
             undiscovered.  I told Sharif that to the extent possible he should try to
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