Opened the cupboard door and discovered it led to a desert this time. Hot sand spilled onto the carpet at my feet, and an equally bone-drying wind lapped at my face, roasting my eyes. I held up my arm to shield my face from the dazzling sunlight beyond the doorframe, and all I saw was miles and miles of sand dunes, their lazy curves moving slowly over what seemed to be an endless plain of unforgiving solid sea.
I gathered up my things into a bag and I set off, leaving my Thursday evening television show on at half-volume.
I suppose most wouldn’t be uninclined to tie a rope to themselves and some solid object back home to prevent a possible misfortune from passing unknown, but I gave up the habit after spending a year or two in space, beyond my bedroom, my bedroom door orbiting one of Jupiter’s moons five hundred years in the future. I’d returned from that adventure unharmed, although I now have the innate ability to fool X-ray machines with my healthy dose of peripheral space radiation.
The worlds I explore beyond my bedroom are frequently uninhabited and this adventure seemed little more than a quick stroll on a fairly enormous beach, until I heard a familiar voice.
“I recognise that side-pack anywhere!”
I spun around to find a shady figure stooped over on a dune behind me.
“John!” The shadow threw his arms up, casting his heavy rifle into the sand.
He and I ran towards each other. Thinking back now, I might’ve ran, and he stumbled - Hakim was an old man now.
“What’s happened to you, Hakim!” He and I embraced, it had been years, more or less, but not decades.
“It’s been thirty years, John, you left thirty years ago, I’m a poor, weak old man now, my friend!”
“That’s incredible… My recollection of our last visit was little over three years ago, this is the only thing I hate about this business.”
“I was very disappointed, all those years I could’ve used your help - but I’m so pleased you’ve finally returned, John!”
“I am too, I am too.”
He and I just stood there, taking the moment in, before I asked,
“Why is there a desert here, Hakim? What happened to the mountains and the valleys? This is almost absurd!”
The old man, clothed from head to toe in a sand-coloured robe, stared off into the distance, “Everyone asks that upon returning. I suppose I understand, but the thought bitters me - come, I’ll take you to my home, I’ll explain on the way.”
The wind picked up, and I stopped sweating for a while whilst Hakim explained everything to me.
“The sand poured from the tops of the mountains, John.”
“Poured from the t-”
“For months it poured and poured, flowed like water down the slopes of the great peaks, until they were completely submerged. It moved from the tops of the mountains slowly, so we were able to discover new sources of food, and gradually come to accept our goats would all die when all the grass was covered.
Eventually, the clouds disappeared too, and we had to cover ourselves to prevent the awful burns we sustained from lack of shade. I suppose its as simple as that, John - the sands came, along with the camels and the flies and the storms, and everything changed.”
We walked in relative silence for a few moments, before I asked,
“How long has it been this way?”
“The moment you left, John.”
My stomach clenched.
“You don’t think I caused this, do you?”
“You would never do something like this on purpose, John,” Hakim shuffled onwards beside me, face held firmly forward, eyes set square onto the horizon. “But I swear it had something to do with your movements in the past.”
“Sand out of mountains…you have to be right, it makes so little sense.”