As the white-hot desert sun shot furiously down from the sky, draining the little remaining moisture from the air, most people would be squinting in discomfort. Bill Risley, however, merely looked around happily, enjoying the beauty of the Sahara Desert and the exhilaration of being there.
Ever since he was a child, young and energetic, Bill had dreamed of becoming an adventurer, exploring fascinating lands. With that goal in mind, he worked hard at school, and excelled at geography. He continued his interest in exploration all the way through university, and graduated from the University of Kandric, famous for its incredibly extensive geography program. He started his career very determined and energetically, and landed himself a spot with New Lands Magazine. After a few months of waiting, he finally began travelling to exotic places, studying breathtaking landscapes.
He was a bespectacled, brown-haired man, with a medium build and height, and gentle green eyes that made anyone he looked at smile at him. One of the first people captured by this mysterious ability was his lifelong best friend, Jim Keagon. Jim was the same age as Bill, but was much taller and somewhat thin. He had brown eyes and short brown hair. The two had been close friends for 20 years, since nursery school, and had done just about everything together through their youth; they even ended up working together in the same company.
Bill had just set out on his first journey: an expedition to capture the Sahara Desert on film and to write about its vast stretches of rocky wasteland and endless sand dunes when disaster struck. His GPS, or Global Positioning System, had malfunctioned, displaying his location somewhere near Copenhagen, which was obviously nowhere near his actual location. Jim, his usual travelling companion, was attending to family matters and was not with him on this adventure. His manager was a little worried that Bill would travel alone, but Bill assured him that he would be fine.
However, as luck would have it, Bill’s GPS breakdown was just the beginning of his troubles. Soon afterward, his cellular phone ran out of power and his jeep’s engine broke down. As Bill climbed out of his vehicle, he got up and took a deep breath. The air was very dry, and Bill nearly choked. Reaching back into the trunk of his jeep, he took out a water bottle and drank a refreshing mouthful of water. Cleaning out his dusty, circular glasses, he surveyed the land around him. What he saw came as no surprise, but after a good long gaze at the barren, red sand dunes all around him shifting ominously in the wind, he felt a violent chill surge down his spine.
Trying not to panic, Bill crawled under his vehicle for shade, and after serious thought and judgment, he decided to retrace the path sculpted by his tire tracks. Resting under the shade of his jeep, he waited for the sun’s heat to diminish, and when he saw the dunes around him redden, he looked up into the sky. The sun was low in the sky now, and he knew it was time. He took a canvas camera bag and emptied it, and then filled it with all the water and food he had with him. He put his cap on his head and a light jacket in his bag for protection from the cold of the night, which was slowly drawing near.
Bill began walking, calmly at first, but speeding up gradually, as panic overwhelmed him. After a few hours, his feet began to hurt, so Bill stopped and took a look around him. He spotted a group of cacti, and decided to set up camp. He approached the plants and draped his camera bag over them, forming a makeshift roof, and blanketed himself with his jacket. He downed the last of his first water bottle and took a bite of his sandwich, surprised at how hungry he was. He finished the rest of his sandwich, and settled down. Bill sighed miserably, and thought of the day’s events. He had driven out from his research station to find a good spot to photograph, and things fell apart just as he settled down: his vehicle, cell phone and GPS broke down, leaving him to walk back with no technology to support him. He closed his eyes, and even though he was tremendously exhausted, he took a long time to fall asleep.
Bill woke up in the morning feeling refreshed, and took a sip of water. He replaced his water bottles and jacket in his bag and decided to eat some cactus. He took out his pocket-knife and began chipping away at the juiciest one. After half an hour, he had uncovered about half of the plant, and mouth watering slightly, took a large bite out of the plant. Surprisingly, it tasted fine, and Bill greedily chomped down on as much as he could.
Bill set out following the tracks his vehicle had made, and soon noticed that the path was fading. Indeed, after he had walked for roughly an hour, he observed the path deteriorating in clarity with every gust of wind until it was barely visible. A great wave of panic swept over him, and he began to jog. As the breeze picked up, he ran faster and faster. However, it didn’t matter. A dark thunderhead passed overhead, and within minutes, it began to rain. Bill knew what this meant: a rare flash flood was pouring down, and the faint lines of the path he had taken just yesterday were instantly removed. Bill stood there for a brief moment, aghast, but knew he had to move for cover. Spotting some shrubs in the distance, he approached them and put his camera bag over the plants’ tops, and ducked under.
Bill was heartbroken. His only lifeline at this point was cut off; he did not know how he could possibly survive now. Crouching down, he waited out the storm, shaking his head sadly as thunder crashed violently above, and lightning flared in the sky.
When the storm ended, he could not help but worry about his dreadful condition, but brightened slightly at the fact that the rain had cooled the sizzling desert heat. However, Bill was lost now, and as he looked around, all he could see were miles and miles of wet dunes. He was doomed.
Bill seized his camera bag and emptied the rainwater from within before replacing his water bottles. Frustrated and miserable, he began wandering, hoping to find his station. However, he accomplished nothing, and as night came, he lay down, covered himself, and went to sleep.
He awoke just hours later, cold and frightened. He looked around him. The cold night air and his drenched clothes had combined to chill him severely, and he shivered violently, goose bumps pricking up on his arms. Suddenly, his ears twitched, and he thought he heard a familiar sound in the distance. Alert and awake now, he strained his ears, trying to hear the sound again and recognised it immediately.
The soft, rapid clicking of the helicopter’s rotors had grown louder, and he could hear the drone of its engine as well. Bill jumped up and threw off his covers. “HELP ME!” he began yelling, but it was no use. He knew that whoever was inside could not hear his raspy voice over the droning buzz of the helicopter. He needed something they could see, and in desperation began throwing water bottles up in the air. The pilot was oblivious to Bill’s desperate attempt to draw attention, and flew steadily to his right. The helicopter would pass him in a few seconds! Knowing this was his last hope of survival, he panicked and threw his camera bag. Out popped a black device, a rectangular prism with a cylinder protruding from it, a camera and it had one exposure left. Without thinking, he picked up the camera and clicked furiously, pointing it at the helicopter. The first few times he clicked, the button was stuck, and just as the helicopter passed behind him and to the right, the button loosened and a flash of white light emitted from the camera. For a prolonged second, it seemed as if the pilot of the helicopter did not notice this flare, but as Bill groaned with despair, the helicopter turned around and sent its headlights at Bill.
Bill squinted in the blinding glare of the lights, but, for the first time in days, smiled, and then began laughing with joy. He was saved! As he stood there, gazing at the helicopter, his brown hair, now incredibly messy and dirty, flew about his face in the storm of the helicopter’s propellers. As the helicopter slowly ground to a halt, a tall, young man stepped out and smiled at Bill, who smiled back. It was Jim who spoke first, “Thought you would have an adventure without me?”
© 2004 The Richmond Hill Public Library Board