Sometimes ideas for my flash fiction stories come from all sorts of different sources. I went to the desert when I was 14 for a month. I had quite the experience. I’m also influenced by Castaneda’s work, as well as my desire to incorporate a bit of mysticism.
The result? The story you have below. It’s 960 words, just under the 1,000 that make up a flash fiction story.
I hope you all have an inspired week!
Destiny In the Desert – Flash Fiction
Lawrence decided to do some solo traveling before he’d go to college and study business. He had to make his parents proud. He was motivated to provide for his parents as they got older as a way to give back.
That and a shiny new car with all the bells and whistles sounded appealing: bluetooth, satellite radio, moonroof, remote start buttons…he could see a cinnamon red car sitting in his future driveway at the foot of his condo.
Despite his desire to get a taste of a more fast-paced life, he had an itch to travel before hunkering down for classes. He still wasn’t sure if he wanted to study business along with something else, like marketing, or even graphic design. There was still the question of whether he really wanted to do “business” in the first place. A part of him loved the idea of indulging in some kind of creative pursuit – but it didn’t pay. For now, perhaps a solo trip on a skinny budget would offer some perspective.
Having grown up in Missouri, he decided to travel south. It would be much warmer down there. He’d never been to Big Bend National Park and never hiked much in his life before. Something about it seemed exhilarating. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt some sort of pull to that area.
After graduation, he set to working odd jobs tutoring, mowing lawns, and bagging groceries. He finally saved several thousand dollars toward the end of the summer. In the meantime, he studied up on hiking and went with some buddies from high school on short excursions. He bought himself a used backpack at the thrift store and a one-way bus ticket. He wasn’t sure when he’d be back exactly.
The bus got him as far as the town just before the entrance to the national park, and he relied on folks’ kindness to get him the rest of the way. A sweet family in an old Vanagon pulled up and took him all the way to the visitor’s center where he could get his camping permit.
The rangers gave him a topographical map, and he was on his way. A long hiking trail that ultimately led to the Rio Grande started just south of the parking lot. It would take several days to get to the riverbank.
The first night, Lawrence opened a packet of refried beans, boiled some water on a lightweight portable camp stove and poured some into a bowl. Dehydrated camp food was not nearly as good as his mother’s cooking. As he ate in silence, he noted the profound absence of sound, save for the crickets. He’d been in the city all his life. He watched the sun set to the west, falling behind the desert mountains. The first stars came out and he could see them with a clarity he never knew they could have in a sky with little light pollution.
As the sky turned to midnight blue, he drank some water and retreated to his small tent. He thought about why he’d wanted to come here. One of his first excursions, armed with tips from friends and family, and against their advice, he embarked on this solo journey. His only way of communicating with the outside world was a rickety pay-as-you-go phone that his mother insisted he bring. It had long since lost its signal.
That night, his dreams were vivid. He was hiking and met a man with long silvery hair. His skin was bronzed from the sun, and his face bore the wrinkles of years of working outside. The man kept telling him to keep going, to come on, that he needed to press on. As soon as Lawrence asked, “where do I go?” he woke up.
Lawrence packed up his little campsite and ate a breakfast of cereal bars, nuts, and a hard-boiled egg he’d prepared before his trip. The second through fourth days of hiking were more intense than the first. The weather was drier and hotter than he anticipated and by day five, he barreled through most of his supply of water. He wasn’t worried: he had a water purifier. But he hadn’t counted on not being able to find any water.
He relied on the pouches of pudding to help supply him with some hydration, but by the sixth night, he couldn’t go on. He fell into a deep sleep. “You must gather your strength,” the man with the silver hair urged.
The next day, Lawrence got up again, but cleaned up his camping area much more slowly. He trudged on, desperately holding onto an image of successfully finding water. Not long after, he came to a rock outcropping. There were small craters in the surface of the rock, and one had a bit of water in it.
Lawrence fell toward the little crater and slurped the water loudly. The cool, refreshing taste was magical on his tongue. A few minutes after he drank the water, however, he began to feel profoundly dizzy. He couldn’t move and as he laid there, he could feel the sun beating on his face. Though he tried to resist, he felt himself falling into a deep sleep and darkness crept in at the edges of his closed eyelids….
When Lawrence next opened his eyes, he was staring at the silver-haired man, who was seated next to him. Lawrence tried to speak, but the man gently put up his hand. “Do not speak. Save your strength,” he said.
Lawrence relaxed back into his pillow and felt sleep coming on again. He glanced back over at the silver-haired man once again who smiled back at him. “I knew you would come,” he said. “This was your destiny. Welcome to your future.”