“What is in the box?” asked the Pilgrim.
“Something so dangerous that thousands of wars have been fought over it.” hissed the Bedouin, his foul breath reaching over the stench of the camels.
“Let me see!” the Pilgrim demanded, as he reached greedily for the very old box.
“Not so fast!” barked the Bedouin, snatching the box back and hiding it under his cloak.
The only livestock this Bedouin had were his camels and some very mean looking dogs. There were no sheep that these dogs had to herd. It was obvious that they were here as part of the Bedouin’s protection. He was clearly no shepherd. He was just another oily, dishonest merchant, looking for his fortune.
The box was aged beyond time. The brass and gold fittings looked new, though, in spite of being coated with the dust of time and burial. The richness of the olive wood container shined through the dust. Whoever made it had put real effort and care in constructing it. The corners were seamless, and the lid fit so well, it looked as if the box was a solid piece of wood. The only give away that it was a container was the hinges. Outside of the expensive metals that held this box together, it looked rather plain.
The Bedouin group had traveled from the wadi musa, at Petra, and he had traveled from Ethiopia. They had agreed to meet in the middle of the God forsaken Sahara. The only light was a yellow, June, Mid-Summer moon, and a dying campfire. This was the only oasis for three hundred miles. It was the only place the traveling salesman of the desert felt safe to meet this kafir, this “Pilgrim”. Mahmoud eyed the Pilgrim with contempt, but also saw the potential for a big pay day.
“This is the only remaining copy in existence. You had better have the gold I want, or you will die out here.” The Bedouin growled at the Pilgrim.
He gulped a little too loudly, this Pilgrim, and scanned the horizon. In spite of the chill of the desert night, a film of sweat covered his ebony forehead. He knew that Mahmoud’s forces were hiding just over the two dunes facing them. This oasis was hidden in a valley. He could only imagine how many bodies were already buried under the ageless sand.
Mahmoud laughed a low rumble in his chest. Relaxing, he took the box out from under his cloak and waved it under the Pilgrim’s nose.
“You want this pretty badly, do you, kafir?” Mahmoud asked, now with the assurance of a man who knows a good mark when he sees one.
“My price just doubled.”
“W-what??”, the Pilgrim shouted. He heard the sound of many rifles cambering their rounds. He knew he had better get a grip, or die trying.
“I only have the million in gold you asked for.”, pleaded the Pilgrim.
“That’s too bad.”, Mahmoud said in a condescending voice. I would loved to see the look on your face when you opened the box.
“You were going to kill me, anyway, weren’t you?” asked the Pilgrim, finally seeing that this was the plan all along.
“You have attained wisdom far too late, my friend. Make your peace.” Mahmoud aimed his .45 cal, Colt 1911, replica at the Pilgrim’s head, and pulled the hammer back with a click that made the Pilgrim jump.
“You are pathetic, Pilgrim.” Mahmoud slowly began to squeeze the trigger. He was taking his time, amazed that this weakling could stand bravely and stare down the barrel of his death.
The Pilgrim raised his hands and shouted, “WIND BLOW!”
This made Mahmoud hesitate. Before he could finish squeezing off a round, the entire desert exploded in a hurricane of sand. The mighty wind howled. Men screamed. Dogs howled. As the skin was being sandpapered off Mahmoud’s face, he looked at the Pilgrim and saw another being standing right next to him. He looked like a God. And the wind was calm where they stood.
The morning sun was just breaking the horizon by the time the wind died down, and the dust had settled. The Pilgrim was laying unconscious by the oasis. Date palms and coconut trees cast a very long shadow, as an underground stream bubbled into the water nearby.
The Pilgrim woke up as if from a profoundly deep dream. He didn’t feel like he had just traveled hundreds of miles on a camel to the middle of nowhere. He knew he had been sent here. He was visited in another dream, a lifetime ago, by one who said his name was “I AM”. In that dream, “Eh’ya”said to shout “WIND BLOW!” when the time is right. He recalled asking the visitor, “When will I know that the time is right?”
“When the tunnel you are staring down leads to your death”, He said. The Pilgrim woke up crying, laughing, afraid to open his eyes, wanting to dance on his bed. That dream seemed like it happened a thousand years ago. But here he was. Just like in the dream. And it had all happened as “Eh’ya”said it would.
The Pilgrim stood up and laughed as loud as he could. He saw it happen before his own eyes. Facing death, his mysterious visitor had given him the words of life. And here he was; At an oasis, with plenty of fresh water, and food, and shade. The Bedouin tents were still standing, so shelter will not be a problem.
He stood in total amazement as the camels slowly poked their heads out of one of the tents, as if they were making sure the terror was over. Assured it was safe, the camels followed each other to the fresh grasses and water by the oasis.
The Pilgrim looked around. Everything was still in place, as if nothing had happened. He looked all over the valley and the two facing dunes. He found no evidence that the men of the Bedouin caravan had ever existed.
He was alone.
As the rays of the sun slowly crossed the fresh water of the oasis, he caught the glimmer of shining bindings reflecting off the box. The ancient box was sitting on an outcropping of rock that jutted out over the oasis. It looked as if it had been placed there on purpose.
He walked to the oasis and sat by the water and just looked at the box. He was transfixed by how alive this ancient container looked. He could swear it gave off a subtle, but beautiful music. He was in awe. After years of searching, there it was. He felt excitement and fear just by looking at it. He knew the hard work of finding it was over, and the harder work of uncovering its secrets was only beginning.
He knew he was safe. He had a dream about this place. This very oasis. In that dream he met a strange, but fearfully powerful being called “Eh’ya”.
“Eh’ya” said he will have his sentries guard this place as long as he, the Pilgrim, chose to remain at the oasis. He saw no evidence there were any sentries, but he also remembered the amazing spectacle he saw when he shouted the words that , “Eh’ya” had given him, “WINDS BLOW!”.
The box was not going anywhere, soon. He was well rested, but hungry. The first thing he did was gather dead wood that was scattered all around the oasis. It looked as if a forest had been here not too long ago, but had run out of water to sustain itself.
Pushing the trees over was no difficult task. He had found tools in the Camel Riggers tent, and used them to break the wood up into usable chunks. He poured a little oil on the wood and started a fire. It was broad daylight, but it is never too soon to start a fire when you are alone in the desert.
After a pleasant breakfast, and after making sure all the camels were eating and drinking, he decided it was time. The box was as patient as eternity, but he was running out of patience with himself. He walked out to the ledge that overlooked the oasis, sat down next to the box, picked it up, and looked at it as if it might grow three heads and start singing to him. He was nervous.
The latch was made of the finest brass he had ever seen. The workmanship was something beyond any he had ever seen. Intricate scroll work covered the golden trim that adorned the box, front and back. And the box hummed. It felt alive.
He took a deep breath, not knowing what to expect, and set out trying to figure out how to unlock the latch. Hundreds of men had tried over hundreds of years to unlock this lock, but, for him, it opened as if there were no lock. It clicked open, smoothly, as if it had just been oiled.
He opened the lid slowly. He wasn’t sure what to expect, except he knew that this was the last one on earth. Legend has it that this book contained a powerful history, that the one who possess this book will have the keys of life. Nations and kingdoms had fought and died trying to obtain it for themselves. Every man that had held it, and tried to open it had died. At least that is how the story went.
Over a thousand years ago, wars were fought and men died over the secrets contained in this book. Two thirds of the humans on Earth had been destroyed. As far as he knew, His land was the only one still inhabited. He had heard rumors of humans being alive on the forbidden side of the Earth, but those were only rumors. Besides, as the stories go, only the crazies live on that half of the Earth. Most of them were supposed to be cannibals. That thought made him involuntarily shiver.
Nations and kingdoms began to believe that this book should be banned, since it caused so much trouble. Eventually, it became forbidden to have a copy. All copies had been rounded up burned, along with their owners. All except this one. And he held it in his hands.
He figured it would be an emerald book of mysteries, or, maybe a gilded book with a pearl cover. But it was just a plain, simple looking book, covered with lambs skin. It looked incredibly old. He wasn’t sure if opening it would hurt it, or not, but he had come all this way, and he was not about to stop now.
The book had writing in it. It was in a language he had never seen before. The shapes of the letters mystified him. Here he was, a scholar of the first order, and he couldn’t tell what the book said. As he was about to put the book back into the box in frustration, a light appeared standing on the water of the oasis.
When he came too, he saw a man in the clothes of another Bedouin. But this man’s robes were clean, white and bright. He could smell the fragrant and aromatic scent of exotic wood and flowers. His keffiyeh, head scarf, was pure white with streaks of scarlet running through it. He wore what looked like a spun and woven gold sash around his waste. The sword hanging from his sash looked like lightning dusted with gold flakes.
The visitor was smiling, and spoke to him.
“Don’t be afraid.”
But the Pilgrim couldn’t find his legs, and fell on his face in fear. He had never seen anyone that looked like this man, so ordinary, but so regal. He knew he was in the presence of tremendous power.
Shaking, he stayed bowed, but looked up. When he saw the man’s eyes, he felt completely at peace. He felt as if he was seeing the best friend he ever had known, but also felt such a power radiating off this man, that he knew that with a word, he could do more than make the wind blow.
“Get up.” said the visitor. It wasn’t an order, but it held all the authority of a command. And the Pilgrim stood.
The Visitor said, “We have a lot to talk about”.