• Dzama


Marty crawled out of the torn fuselage and across the desert, leaving a meandering trail behind him. He crawled for miles, the sun beating down, his clothes torn and shredded. He crawled and crawled, losing track of time as days passed without food or water. By end of the first week, his skin had burned and blistered until he was nothing more than a crispy skeleton jerking mechanically across the sand. He found a sand-blasted old Coke can and mechanically brought it to his mouth, sand pouring out, falling through his skeletal jawbone where his throat had blistered away. He threw it down and went on crawling, the wind blasting him with sand as he trekked onward.

After hours of crawling, he came to the top of a rise overlooking a valley of wind-sculpted dunes, the sun directly overhead. On the opposite rise there stood what appeared to be a small forest of palm trees with other green plants, and a collection of tents bustling with activity. From his distance he barely made out several tan, long-legged women in colorful swimsuits carrying what looked like coconuts with straws sticking out.

Marty crawled like never before, tearing down the slope like a lizard, bits of burnt skin falling off as he went. The incline was tough and his strength was waning, but he forced himself to keep going. After several hours he arrived at the edge of the oasis, his bony hand scratching the trunk of a palm-tree before he collapsed motionless in the sand.

He was unconscious when two of the girls carried him, one holding his arms and the other his feet, into one of the tents. They left him lying on a grass mat, burnt and crispy like something that had been on the grill too long. Soon they returned with a white-haired old man dressed in a multi-colored robe. “Yeah, I can do something for him,” he said. “But it won’t be easy.”

Soon Marty was hanging upside-down in the old man’s tent, strange incense burning, the old man marching circles around him and chanting “Rhamikubakeepomelletekki” over and over. Slowly his consciousness returned and he became aware that new skin was regrowing on his body. Instead of regaining his pasty, human flesh, he had become green and covered with hardened lizard-scales. When the old man untied his feet and he tumbled down the floor, he had become a scaly monster, a forked tongue darting in and out of his mouth. He tried to speak to the old man but instead of words, a terrible roar issued from his mouth. The old man snapped out of his trance and took off running.

Marty lumbered down the path toward a palm-shaded lagoon and came upon a bather in swimming trunks. He reached out, inadvertently ripped the man’s flesh with his newly formed claws, and the man shrieked, flailing and spattering blood everywhere. Other bathers panicked and scrambled out of the lagoon, screaming.

Marty trudged onward. One of the girls who had saved him blocked his path, holding a pistol. As he came closer she unloaded the chambers, but the bullets weren’t enough to penetrate Marty’s newly toughened hide. He knocked her out of the way and dove into the lagoon, disappearing into the dark water. The girl struggled to lift herself, holding her side, which had been torn open by Marty’s claws. “Dad!” she shouted down the path toward the old man’s tent. Then her eyes closed and she slumped down again, her blood seeping across the path and into the lagoon where Marty waited, paddling his webbed claws silently in the cool water.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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