Cursed Oasis

by Tina Cole © 2002

On vacation with his parents in the Sahara desert, somewhere between Sudan and Algeria, Blake sat quietly listening as Hakkiya, the eldest son of their caravan guide, Hamed Hatib, recited a frightening tale about a legend that happened over a hundred years ago in these deserts. With his voice just above a whisper, he carried them through the events of that long past evening.

"Malik Khan, crown prince of El Bahar, was crossing the desert headed for his homeland when a band of Tuareg desert thieves ambushed his caravan. The robbers took the rich cargo along with the camels and began slaying every member of the caravan. All but one lay dead in the scorching desert sand. Malik had survived due to his brave and loyal servant who had thrown his body over his knocking him to the ground. His servant's body had protected him from a sure death, as one of the thieves swung his sword to strike him and killed the servant instantly. This section of the desert is known as the Erg, the Desert of Thirst and Death. It's a horrid place, with fine shifting sands, tall dunes, and a total absence of water and plant life. The story goes on to tell of Malik's endless journey across the barren land under the fiercely boiling sun in search of water, only to come upon a mirage one evening and drowned. His body was found days later by a search party that had been sent out to find the missing prince. It is said, that he choked to death on sand as if he had tried to drink it." Hakkiya paused long enough to let the boys contemplate a moment.

"So this prince, he thought he was drinking water but it was sand?" Blake inquired.

"Precisely. His feverish brain made him believe that he was kneeling before a pond of water. Malik's father, King Khan of El Bahar, spared no expense and built a beautiful oasis on the exact spot of his son's death, along with a monument in memory of him." Hakkiya sat silent once again as he stirred the glowing cinders in the fire with his stick. "What is so scary about that?" Jared asked while rolling his eyes. Hakkiya shot him a scowl. He disliked Jared because of his obvious lack of respect for the dead.

"The story doesn't end there, Jared. It is said still to this day, that with every third setting sun, you can see the skeletal remains of the prince, as he circles the oasis until nightfall. A few months after the oasis was completed, a sheik had been traveling alone on his camel across this part of the desert and, like Malik, had also become lost and dying of thirst when he came upon Malik's oasis. Days later when Malik's father came to mourn his son at the monument, he found the sheik lying just in the edge of the water. He too had drowned with his throat full of sand. The king knew he had ridden there by way of camel due to the remaining hoof-prints embedded in the edge of the pond. But the camel was nowhere to be found. It is said, after finding the sheik, and the setting of the third sun, Malik could be seen riding atop a camel around his oasis until nightfall.

"Eighty years later, a group of teenagers had been camping almost in the same exact spot as we are now. They went joyriding in their dune buggies and came upon Malik's oasis. The next day all four of them were found lying at the edge of the pond. Once again, their throats were filled with sand just as the sheiks before them and the prince before him. Their dune buggies were nowhere to be found. It is said, that on the third evening of the setting sun, you could see Malik riding in circles around his oasis in a dune buggy."

As they sat around the campfire that night, Hakkiya finished by pointing the smoking stick in the direction of the oasis where these events supposedly occurred. No one was more absorbed in the legend than Blake. Jared, Blake's cousin, scoffed at the story with a sneer of disbelief. Angry, Hakkiya rose in a sudden huff, bidding the boy's a goodnight as he turned and went to bed-down with his father.

Sleep evaded Blake that night as he lay tossing and turning until his cover was twisted into knots. His mind raced with thoughts of the lost soul of prince Malik. He wanted to believe the legend. Exhausted and needing sleep, he decided to ride his bike into the desert the following evening to see for himself if in fact this oasis Hakkiya spoke of actually existed.

The night sped by, as did the following day. After another day of travel and play they set up camp for the cold night ahead. As everyone began to settle in, Blake searched for Hakkiya. The adults were preparing dinner as the children encircled the fires that the guides had built. Blake found Hakkiya some distance away from the camp helping his father gather extra kindling.

Worn-down by Blake's relentless pleading, Hakkiya gave in and told him the directions to the oasis. He begged him not to venture out alone because of the many dangers of the desert. Seeing that Blake was adamant in his pursuit for the truth, he urged him not to drink from the pond no matter how thirsty he thought he was. He warned him of imminent doom if he did.

The following day Blake couldn't be found. A massive search was launched. Hakkiya reluctantly informed them of Blake's desire to find the oasis the night before. Blake's body was found at the edge of a pond that lay in the midst of a manmade oasis. Authorities and family members were left baffled by his strange death. Blake's bicycle was nowhere to be found. It is said.....

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