About an hour into the morning search, one of the men discovered a small pool of water. At first it seemed promising but our hopes were quickly dashed. We realized it was too small to rescue our village and It exuded a rancid stench of stagnation and death. A small animal’s bones at the edge of the pool told us the rest of the story. Our dire quest continued on.
Before the burning sun had a chance to rise to its highest point, the three of us separated to cover more area. We agreed to meet later at a pre-arranged camp site around nightfall. My solo exploration of the desert took me into a hidden valley, obscured by sheer cliffs and narrow crags. As I scaled the highest pinnacle of a massive sand dune, it stood there menacing me; in all of its dark splendor. The pale words used by others to describe its appearance failed to adequately convey its macabre magnificance.
My whole body shook in fear and convulsions from apprehension. Its architecture was like nothing I had ever seen. It had perfectly smooth, rounded walls; and a jagged rim like frozen tongues of fire. It’s massive scale and scope seem impossible to have been manufactured by human hands. The sand around its base was tempered into a crystal-like matrix. The smooth walls were burnt to ice-like glazed cinders; as if from Gehenna’s eternal flame. Outside the canyon, the sand wasn’t blackened but it was just as barren. Something far more intense than an ordinary fire had ruined the desolate ground beneath my feet.
I didn’t dare get any closer to it. I could feel the enveloping evil suck life from my crumbling body. My stomach convulsed involuntarily and I vomited up its contents with a weak lunge. Instead of it soaking into the sand, it flowed away, like water pouring off a solid rock. I sipped a little water to remove the bile from my throat and then turned and walked away. I only looked back at Pandemonium one last time before it was out of my sight forever. I didn’t need to. I will never forget it.
I met back up with the others at the campsite, just as dusk approached. I wasn’t surprised to find out they were also unsuccessful. There was only death to find there in Pandemonium’s desert. They listened with fascination as I told them what I witnessed. After a small supper we retired to our tents. We were dehydrated, dangerously weak, and looked 30 years older from blistered skin and missing hair.
Even though the expedition had proven fruitless, our deaths were not completely in vain. We had eliminated the barren zone as a potential source for our water needs. Salvation would have to come from another source and from other ‘saviors’. Our days were numbered and If we didn’t leave soon, none of us would live long enough to inform them of the failure. We agreed on returning at first light.
That night my dreams centered around the same mystifying vision. All variants of the symbolic metaphor revolved around an object falling and destroying what was beneath it. There was always a cataclysmic explosion and then a great, barren crater. I began to wonder if my visions were less about the water quest, and more about the devastating forces that forged the barren zone.