I’m looking at rows and rows of people streaming in with all kinds of facial expressions and physical injuries. My brother is not one of them.
The sand is everywhere, rising up like a gigantic maze of the desert, its huge walls pushing people down. Suddenly I see my little cousin reaching the finish line and I’m glad, but not surprised. After all, he’s the sporty one.
“Have you seen Adam anywhere?” I bombard him.
“No!” he pants, greedily accepting a bottle of water from some sponsor of the event, “but don’t worry, there’s not a set time frame or anything. He’s just slower.”
Adam is slower. He is a tall, average looking boy, always nice to everyone. I am not sure if these are the traits that will get someone through this maze.
The race is scaring the hell out of me and I must stay at this finish line forever, scan every individual, looking for familiarity. I am not sure why people would enter this contest and why they still do. Half a day of stumbling through rough-looking sandy paths, for what? A bit of masculine honour.
There’s some African kids falling out of the maze now, a mix of sand and slime covering their mouths. They look like they might not make it any further. However, even the supporters are standing on a steep hill of sand, so no one is willing to go down into that pit to help the little boys. The sand might swallow you. You might never get out again.
I look for my brother again but instead a tall, sweaty man comes up to me and asks for a kiss on the cheek. I do it, quite dumbfounded, and he yells out like I’m his personal cheerleader.
Suddenly there’s a bit of an uproar when a man enters the sand pit, carrying another man. The carried man is dead. I gasp.
“Ah, an army victim,” commentary babbles through the speakers, “couldn’t prevent that from happening!”
The man carefully drops the body – which looks like it’s entirely made out of sand – onto the finish line and walks away. Just another day in the prestigious dunes of the East.
It’s hard to think that this morning we were still having breakfast with the whole class, passing each other buns and bananas, having a laugh chatting about how dumb the games were we had to do on our little school trip. Or how dumb the teachers were. Or how dumb anyone looked.
As we had all packed up our stuff I was supposed to ‘go get the boys from the 4th year’ and we would leave the site. Only they, they had entered this.
I feel physically sick and have to try not vomit as people lowest in charge have to drag away the body of the sandy man. Apparently this is completely normal, as other supporters don’t look shocked.
This year, as a big group project, our school went to Africa to help build a school. It was as cliché as it sounds, but apparently still necessary. My friends and I are in the final year so we were really glad to still be a part of a cool, foreign holiday. And it really was: yes, we worked relatively hard for a vacation, but I had never seen people reacting so happy to a bunch of school kids. We had big barbecues every night and all the African children sang to us and we danced around the fire till one of the 5th graders got her skirt all flamed up.
My brother is two years younger than me. We didn’t like being put on the same school trip together but coped. Adam had a big group of friends, says he, that weren’t all particularly friendly to him, say I. He didn’t like me lingering around to “control him”, while all I was doing was making sure no one was a bully.
Well, I don’t see his so-called friends entering this sand castle, nor even being there at the side line.