The scorpions here were small enough to get inside of your ear. He had
not known of this ever to happen, but he was very sure that if he kept
thinking about it it would happen to him, purely through will of this
He sat with some others around a fire in a scoop of dirt off the brush,
where they cooked scorpions that were not small enough to get inside of
your ear. One of them cracked in half a waste cricket that he had found
almost dead in the grasses, and made a mess of it with his mouth before
passing bits to another and throwing unchewable carapace on the fire to
The night was not warm and it was not cold. It was one of many. They did
not much speak but to say that it did not seem the dreams had started
yet. They had not started for them anyway. A large group was farther
ahead than they were. They could see the fires away on some fallen hill.
Maybe they had started to have the dreams.
In the morning a floor of dust had risen and clung above the sands and
dry scrub. They did not start walking early but when the sun was at the
immediate spire. The sound of the crickets clung above the scrub.
Some of the men he had eaten with fell behind and others had longer legs
or a quicker stride or were built more sturdily and made it ahead. They
became unseen behind the bumps of the cracked pan where crags rose or a
flower tried not to die.
The cracked pan was packed and well trodden. The miles of it were run
almost smooth by the thousands of feet that had tread it on the past
walks and on this one, and heated it lay expectant of more. He smacked
away brush. A man came and walked beside him for a short time for the
sake of not being alone. They did not speak to one another.
Up on the hills and back off and sweating and sitting and always, always
moving were the others. There were many hundreds and thousands of them.
You would not see them all at once but there were.
He tried not to think of getting a bite or a bad sting because then it
would happen. He had seen a man get a bad bite two days ago and the man
had sat and cried silently under the care of a crispy willow. The man
had washed out the wound. The man had not cried because of the bite.
He did not know what progress in the walk he had made. He drank at a
brook where others were drinking. As the sun curled down behind a
gathering of willows he snuck up by the brook’s continued length and
slept alone. He did not eat.
Two things happened the day following and it seemed one reasoned the
other. In the late morning a word got about that the dreams had started.
In fact he had heard a shout in the night that might have intimated
They wanted to know what the dreams were like. They wanted to know what
the men were like who had dreamt them.
The dream was very startling they were told, but very beautiful and
exciting. The men who had had the dream were not around to tell it
because they had marched on before dawn with a newly spirited purpose.
The second thing that happened was atop a rise in the pan. It was
impossible to avoid knowledge of its coming. The others that got to the
rise first shouted and sat and called back down and ran.
At the top of the rise the desert broke and beyond it a belly of meadows
were flattened by the sky. Many miles off beyond the meadows and part
muted by the screen of sky was the bawe. The limbs of the
bawe could just be seen. Some of the men who could see it
were sitting down and looking at it. They picked grass and thought about
the dreams they had not dreamt. Some of the others had broken out
running and were already failing under the heat.
That night they slept in the grass. He ate by himself and thought about
dreaming. Then when he did sleep and dream with his belly flush against
the belly of the meadows, his head on his arms, he dreamt of the
bawe, but he knew it was not truly the bawe,
just his own manifestation of it, because it looked like the vague titan
he had seen in the distance and not more, and he did not feel excited or
In the morning he walked. Lying in the grass were men who had
overreached and would not wake till evening. There were no scorpions
here. There were also men who had expired from the heat. He stepped over
them. A man was walking and being asked by two others about the dream he
had had. More had dreamt it last night. The dreams got stronger the
closer you were. The man had no interest in the others and walked
He sat for some hours. He was thin and weary and wanting. Men passed him
in large groups and by themselves. They could be seen staining the
horizons. They tried to walk faster and in doing so went slower and
When he stood he made it to the place where the grass browned again and
the meadows faded. The desert was rougher here and more beaten, but by
other things than men. He did not notice how his tongue lolled. He
ascended a large hill of rock, on top of which he managed to make a
small fire by a shallow cave, and from which he looked down on the other
dozens as they faded into difficult rest or were dominated by it, or
went like corpses still walking into the cool. He watched the night
spill like mountain water and the glint of fishes inside it.
He was deflated and doubting.
The dreams came out but not to him.
He woke in the night.
The wails had started.
There were not many that first night of wails but once here, once there,
once broken by the fuzz of distance.
In the morning two ribbons of cloud only rode over the dust. Under these
scant pinions down across the desert could be seen the men who had
wailed. As he woke he stretched and walked and passed the closest of
them to him. The man’s hand was outstretched towards the
bawe and his face bore an expression of hunger. In the
man’s hand was his heart which was still corded to the hole he had made
in his ribs. A thin film of dust had set upon its top. Each beat sent
out a throb of loose dust.
His feet had caught something off the others and they itched. He stopped
at times to dig his heels into the crux of the itches.
The other men who had wailed were along the stretch of browning desert.
They were the men who had not dreamt. They sought another way. They
knelt and held out their hearts or they lay down with them exposed to
the beat of the sun. One man farther along had become entwined within a
tangle of cactus and mesquite. His heart had fallen into the sand and
was torn. It was not beating.
The bawe grew in size but the red winds came across the
sands and it did not grow more visible. Columns of darkened wind
indicated its legs and one of its arms. The tilt of sight now brought it
in a sightly tower above them.
He walked still and his feet got wetter and full of welts. There was
another night still of men who dreamt and men who did not. They filled
the night with their ravings in the face of either of these. Some of
them did not wake up in the morning.
He held himself up on rocks and peeled off the folds that the sun had
shorn off his back and arms. He saw three and then ten men raving in the
day. They did nothing with their hearts but they put on great displays.
One of them beat the ground. A font of sand raised up from each clap of
his despairing hands. They all pleaded to the bawe.
He did not have the dreams. He lay pained on his front and pressed into
the ground. He could not roll over because of the press of the ground
into his skinned back and the discomfort it brought him. The patches
were already full of grains of sand that had blown in balled handfuls
off the twists of rock. He chewed mesquite and pressed himself into the
They went down and went up a rolled bunch in the land where a river had
run a forgotten time ago. Most of them slid on the way down into the
depression. On the climb up the other side many of them rolled and slid
back down. They did more injuries to their bones in this climb.
Up out of it they came to the point of the eclipse. The
wind was loud but only underneath the other sounds. The ground ran out
of blackened flowers and the sky ran out of sun. Black dust became red
dust and became black dust. Coats of it tore across the desert hills.
They slammed against the bawe. The bawe was
full and tall and just under the joint of its arms the blare of a runout
sun was gutted by a bump and the dust.
There were less of them now. He tripped and sat. Some looked as though
they dreamt as they walked. The skin flaked off of their faces. They
moaned. His heart twisted. He looked at the bawe and felt
empty and regretful. They were close and it hurt very much.
The rock roughed into a narrow open passage. They thronged through it.
Their blood and skin and hair was left upon the walls and rocks.
He was washed through on the current. At the other end there stood the
bawe above them at a direct height. They forced and
pushed. Some wept and sat. They shoved and beat each other. He saw a man
strike another and strike again until the man was limp. Then the man who
had been the striker held the other up towards the bawe
and raised his arm in a pleading crook. His trembling face was not arid
but an oasis.
They shoved each other and beat each other but did not stop. One man
beat another in the head but kept walking. They must walk. Unclear
through the crumples of blowing sand and dust that beat against the
bawe he could see them climbing up its legs. They climbed.
They fell. Lots of them did not fall.
He looked up into the sky. It was gone. He looked up into what the
bawe’s face must be.
His heart beat very fast. He was bumped by the crowd. They almost
knocked him over.
He felt very empty and hurting.
This hurt must hurt forever.
He shook and turned away. He turned away from the bawe. He
shook as he walked off away from it. The others came scrambling through.
Eventually he stopped shaking and just felt empty and hurting.
Many came past him.
There was too much sky going back the other way. He did not believe he
could live under it.
Going back he was stung by a scorpion on the foot and the sting went
bad, and he sat by an old brook and washed it out. He would have cried
if he had been able. He would not have been crying because of the sting.