Coffee Break Read – Desert

Desert

“The hell is your problem?” A snarl leaves Jacob’s lips as he takes a sharp step forward. The searing heat of the day washes over him in waves. His shirt clings to his sweat-soaked skin. It begins to dry almost immediately and the man flexes his hands, feeling his palms both cracked and slick all at once.

The other man does not back down, however. He merely raises his head, pale grey eyes narrowed in protest. He refuses to speak, though, intent on keeping his eyes locked on the other man. Jacob can see the sweat that trails down his temples, sticking his hair damply to his dirty face and neck.

“Oh, so you’re giving me the silent treatment now, man? How fucking mature of you.” It is at this point that Jacob shoves his friend. His hands collide with hard, toned muscle and the smaller man stumbles back a step. The sun’s reflection on the sand makes it hard to focus on his face.

Still, he can make out the way the grey eyes light up at the suggestion of taking their rather one-sided argument to the physical level. His friend runs a hand through his short locks so that they no longer cling to his face and coughs into a clenched fist.

Jacob takes another step forward but, before he can raise his hand again, the other man slams a fist into his gut. Hard.

Refusing to be so easily toppled, he swings another punch at his friend’s jaw.

The fight begins.

It is a rough, unconventional tussle marbled with the skilled strikes of soldiers. The desert air is oppressive around them as the sun sears the skin beneath their clothes. In their messy scrabble of cloth on flesh, sheer strength is the victor. Sand rains down upon them as the grey-eyed soldier is pinned against the wall of a tent, the smallest sliver of shade. He watches Jacob shake the grit from his sweat-soaked hair, teeth bared all the while. Sand covers the side of pinned man’s face, lines of sweat breaking through as they trail down over cracked lips, mingling with blood. Sand everywhere, as if it will forever be a part of them.

In the shadows, Jacob’s violence melts into something else as he catches a strange emotion in the grey eyes that steadily avoid his gaze. He releases his hard grip on the other man’s shoulders, though he refuses to reduce their proximity. Gazing steadily, searchingly, at his friend’s expressive features – he frowns.

When he finally speaks, his voice is a low husk. “What are you so scared of?” he asks, watching blood drip slowly from the pinned man’s lips. A drop falls from his chin and soaks into the ground below, becoming part of the desert.

For a moment, the grey eyes flicker and the man’s mouth opens. He stops himself quickly, seeing no point in answering with the generic ‘nothing’. He glances at the ground for a few moments before raising his head suddenly to meet Jacob’s gaze.

Then, he looks behind the man. Jacob can hear it, too: the low drone of something mechanical clogged with dust and grit. Something to take them deeper into the heat and the suffocating dryness.

When finally he answers, his friend’s voice is barely a whisper, carried off by the thick desert air. “Everything…”

Brhi Stokes.  From Out of the Darkness & Into the Night.  Sign up to her newsletter to receive a free copy.

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