It was noon, and the heat was stifling. As I pulled my kaffiyeh around my head to shield myself from the sun’s rays, I glanced over my shoulder. My people were with me. They were following me to Petra, and they trusted me as their leader. I felt a sense of pride, as if I was needed, as I rode on in the lead. My father rode alongside me with his chin held high. I was bringing great honor to the family.
The desert heat bore down on my people as we traveled slowly. I constantly wiped the moistness from my forehead that ceased to withdraw, and my mouth was parched with dehydration. I knew that we must save our water supply as we had left the oasis at Ibleen, and were unsure of when we would overcome another. A quaint sense of fear arose within me as I led my village blindly.
Boredom quickly found me while my eyes longed for something other than the dull desert sand. My body felt weak under the oppressing temperature and I slowly began to lose sight of the world. My eyelids grew heavy as they closed and fluttered. “Wake up, boy!” commanded my father as he shook my arm. He turned and looked behind him. “Lead your people with strength!” I shook myself awake as I glanced around me. It was at this moment that my pride fell and questions began to come to me. Was I able to do this? Could I be a leader? As I contemplated, my back began to ache. My ride was uncomfortable as my camel swayed and rocked with each step.
Just then, the silence of the desert was broken as a loud roar echoed over the empty land. The animals stopped with their eyes wide and nostrils flaring. I turned my camel to overlook my people. My eyes met panicked expressions scanning the skies and horizon.
“The Qurks must be coming!” yelled out a woman.
“That is not the sound of the Qurks,” muttered an older man.
The woman leered at him as I watched the argument begin. Children began to cry and whimper as their parents fought amongst themselves.
“We will easily be found out here!”
“We should return to Ibleen!”
“No, we have to keep moving forward.”
“We should send scouts!”
“Staying together is our only chance!”
Despair washed the dignity from my face as our controlled group quarreled. I quickly pulled on the reins of my camel to pull its head high and called out. “Stop! Stop this now!” The words were forced from my dry mouth without much thought. The village people quieted and focused their attention on me. I suddenly felt nervous as I continued. “We can not argue. We cannot fight. We must work together…as one group. We will continue on to Petra. It will be safe there. Do not worry,” I ended my short speech, only half believing it myself.
I was unsure if we would be safe in Petra. I was unsure if Petra even existed. After all, it was but a dream in which I saw it. Perhaps…I shook the thoughts from my mind. I couldn’t let my mind stray from my goal. I would stay focused and determined. They were counting on me; trusting me with their safety and protection and I could not let my people down.
The argument seemed to end as my neighbors resumed their walking in silence. Suddenly, I spotted one man sneer at me as he crossed his arms over his chest. He turned his head and did not continue with the rest of the group. I watched him intently as we carried on. “How much farther will we walk, boy?” he sneered at me. Heads turned as feet came to a stop. All eyes rested upon the middle-aged man. His face bore arrogance and stubbornness as he continued. “How far is this place?” I spotted a wicked smile that crawled up the side of his countenance.
I returned the man’s glance with a childish look of anxiety. I honestly did not know. How was I to answer?
The man laughed aloud at my uncertainty. “You do not know, do you, Namir?” He questioned me as he turned to stare deeply into my dark eyes. Then, he spread his arms out as he yelled out with great volume, “How are we to trust this boy?” The crowd seemed interested as I heard whispers amongst them. “How can we trust a leader with no sight of where he is headed?” he asked. “A leader with no plans!” I witnessed heads turn and looks of bewilderment and confusion cross the gathering. “I will tell you,” continued the boisterous man. “We cannot!”
There was a loud roar now as my people began to turn on me. I was given angry flashes as a few people walked up beside the man. “He is right!” called out another man, this one much older. “We cannot stay here in the open. We cannot give ourselves away!”
“Come! Come with me! We shall return to Ibleen where it is really safe.” The man turned and mounted his horse. “Come with me…and leave this child to die in the open!”
I watched helplessly as a small amount of people turned away from me to their new leader. My eyes displayed worry as I frantically thought of what to do. What was I to do?
“Stop!” There was a voice from behind me. A voice that sounded old and weakened. I knew this voice well; it was my father. He drove his camel beside the traitor and gave a stern look to our village people. “What are you doing?” he asked, rubbing the short, gray beard that covered his chin. “Where are you going?” He paused to allow a change of thought to sweep over the confused crowd. “Are you going to return to Ibleen and have this trip come to waste? Are you going to return to Ibleen and wait for your date with the Qurks? You know they will come! You know they will take you away! Can you return to that life?”
I listened to my father with deep emotion in my heart. I knew what he spoke was true and I believed it with everything in me. He quickly persuaded our people as some of them returned to my side. About ten or fifteen remained with the man on horseback.
“Listen to my son. He knows what he is doing. He has faith, and he has a plan. We will make it to Petra.” My father smiled at me with as much warmth as the sun. “We will,” he said with a soft, wispy tone.
“Baugh!” The yell sounded as if it had been forced from the pit of the man’s throat. “Go, if you please. It’s your death that you are choosing!” With his last remark, he kicked his horse with the heel of his foot and turned eastward back to Ibleen. We had lost a few gullible men with him, yet we had to continue on.
I felt saddened with the loss as I imagined what was to come of the men. My father returned to my side as he nodded to me. “We will make it to Petra!” I said aloud. “We will!” I repeated with great confidence. Our two groups parted and traveled their separate ways. “Thank you, Papa,” I whispered to my father. “Thank you.”