Mirage by Anna Cubeddu

Bright, so very bright. All Jonathan can see is bright light each way he turns his sunburnt head. When he looks down at the white sand, his eyes crinkle as the glass-like grains reflect the sun, making them too intense to look at. He looks up at the sky and the sun beats down on his searing cheeks.

Jonathan lifts his dusty hand to his forehead and scans his surroundings. There is nothing but himself and the blazing sun. There must be miles of desert before there is any kind of building bigger than a wooden shed. He scrapes his fingers through his bleached hair, which is dry from lack of moisture, flakes of dandruff falling into his sandpaper lashes. He’s been out in the desert only three days but knows that this is already too long to go without water. His tongue is swollen, grey and cracking around the edges.

Desperate, Jonathan walks on, lifting heavy foot after heavy foot, treading carefully over the sand which feels at least a hundred degrees. He lost his shoes a while back, and fears that the soles of his feet may begin to melt into the ground if he does not find shelter soon. Of course, he wasn’t planning to venture out in the desert – he isn’t dressed for it either; dark, crinkled jeans and an oversized hoodie, a black t-shirt below that. He doesn’t want to take the hoodie off, despite how hot he might feel, because he fears the sun might burn through his skin. He can feel the sweat dripping down his back and into his trousers. This is good, he thinks, because at least it will cool him down a bit.

He takes a moment to think about his apartment back in London. He was always complaining about how the draught came in through the window at night, how it always kept him just a little bit cold. How he wished that cold breeze would present itself now, that fucking breeze he swore he would fix. He extends his bottom lip and blows air upwards onto his face. It doesn’t do more than move a few of his pathetic blonde whiskers. He wishes that he had shaved before he came on this excursion.

Despairing, Jonathan kneels and sinks his head in the sand. He keeps digging it in further and further until he starts to feel breathless. His head and shoulders are obscured under the sand, but he doesn’t bring them back up for air. He keeps pushing his body down, until his feet, now raw, are the last thing in sight. But when he is surrounded by sand, unexpectedly, he begins to breathe again. More and more, the air fills his lungs, and he feels moisture on his fingertips, and the colour of blue fills his eyes; he is still moving further into this place all the while. His limbs become free again, and he is standing somewhere quite different.

Astounded, Jonathan stands silent in a cavernous space, lit only by moonlight. The light is shining down on a great pool of water which takes up most of the space, its azure colour reflecting off the white, rippled walls. There is a hole in the top of the space, where he can see the moon and the stars clearly. At once, he makes his way to the pool, slowly, apprehensively placing his toes on the new terrain. The floor is cool now, wonderful, a salvation to his aching feet. At the water’s edge, he delicately dips one toe to test its temperature, and it feels remarkable. It is cool, but not freezing. He fully submerges himself, relishing the freshening effect the water has.

He sits in the shallow end for some time before it dawns on him how long he has been missing. His girlfriend, Sarah, will be going crazy wondering where he has got to. He tries to climb the walls to exit through the hole in the ceiling, but they are too slippery. Scrambling around in a panic, Jonathan tries to find the entrance that he arrived from, but it is gone, completely and utterly vanished. After some time of running around and failing to find anything, he re-enters the water in the hope that it might give him some inspiration. Submerging himself, he swims downwards, searching for a gap in the walls that might be an exit. He forgets that he is in water and opens his eyes, looking around with curiosity at this seemingly bottomless realm. He swims deeper and deeper until at last he sees the light in a tunnel of sorts, surrounded by water which whirls and coils like a tornado. He reaches the end where the colours begin to change from blue to white as he is pushed out. He lands on his back on the hot sand.

Jonathan clenches his eyes shut beneath the searing sun. He is dry. There is no water to be found. He opens his eyes and sees several figures above him, staring down.

“Jonathan!” his girlfriend, Sarah, shouts. “We thought we’d lost you. You passed out. God, it’s so hot out here.”

“You’ll never believe what I’ve seen, Sarah!” Jonathan exclaimed. “I was in the desert, way out there,” he points out. “Then suddenly I was in a cave, and there was water, and it was so good. I wish you could see it, if only I could –” he feels around him, searching for the place he had come from.

“What are you talking about, John? You’ve been out of it for hours.” Sarah said, laughing.

Jonathan lies still, confused. It felt so real. No, it was real. He had felt the water, could imagine the way it felt on his hot limbs.

He touches his sides to feel for traces of dampness, but there is none.

Anna Cubeddu is a current student at Falmouth University, due to graduate in 2019 with a BA in English with Creative Writing. During her degree, she has been working on the completion of her Dystopian novels Imbroglio and Disjoined Order, which she will submit for publication before her studies are complete.


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