A cloud, thrown at us, blotted the sun from the sky. Darkness and buzzing all around. Clink, clink a thousand times as an endless barrage of sand ate away at the truck. Mike and I hadn’t been paying attention; we didn’t notice when the driver stopped on the side of the road, or when he began to wrap his face in a scarf. We only noticed when he rolled up the windows.
The sweltering summer sun beat down through the fogy glass. Heat flowed like a river, flooding the truck cabin; our eyes searched the driver for sanity. No air con, no fan, no windows, in the baking summer heat, was he suicidal? We had had a few odd drivers while hitchhiking, but nothing this strange. The driver ducked his head into his arms, sleeping in a hard beam of burning sunlight.
Tick tick tick, the sand sung as it smashed into the glass, little particles grew, sand and soon pebbles slammed into the truck. The sun faded, the roadside, the brick houses, the dry rice fields and the few wary trees faded, replaced as an endless amber blanked wrapped around the truck.
The sand song changed, the ticking gone, as fists of wind and sand smashed into the thin metal frame of the truck. The windows and vents howled as a thin mist of dust pushed its way through them. Little earthen files ran across my skin, sand scurrying up our arms and settling down in our hair. I wrenched the sand from my ears and coughed it from my mouth.
The amber sand hit out skin like darts of broken glass. We dove into our bags and threw shirts over arms and scarves over our heads, the pain stopped but we could still feel sand pelting us as we sat in the brutal dimness of the sand storm. Time passed slowly as I shook sand from my hair. It fell in great waves, crashing onto the seats below.
“Eric”, Mike called. “Are we in the desert.”
I wished we were, at least in the desert I could expect this, and I could only blame nature. But this area wasn’t a desert, before modernization, before the trees had been uprooted to make room for rice farms and before highways had cut through the land on uplifted dunes of sand, this land has been a jungle.
As the sand slowed, the afternoon sunlight trickled in, outside the world was the uniform color of sand, the buildings, the road, the truck, the tree and its leaves, all amber. The truck started up and we continued on our way.