The Ultimate Trail of Trust

Kristina HurrellBy Kristina Hurrell11 Minutes

Excerpt from Captivated: An Adventure in Faith by Kristina Hurrell

Chapter 22

The Ultimate Trail of Trust

I took off while visualizing God monitoring the point of my course from the beginning to the end of our journey.

Within a few hours—as challenges began revealing themselves—my premonition of an easy movement back to the hotel was fading. There were no stars to give any indication of a northerly route, so I had no sense or certainty that we were traveling in the right direction.

Saluk began associating my stomach rumbles with my bouts of diarrhea. She instantly knelt to let me get off so I could slither from the saddle and crouch near her. After umpteen efforts, I was so limp and exhausted that I could not get back on.

I signaled to Baddu that we should stop for the night. And for the moment, without a care of desert creatures, I pulled out my sleeping sack.

Attempting to avert his eyes, Baddu busied himself with saddle and halter adjustments. Then he walked Zamer towards me and looked down with a frown. “You want stay here, Memsahib? We need go in night, sleep in day.”

“I need to rest awhile. I feel a little feverish and I didn’t sleep well last night.”

He stood off to the side, looking anxious. Then he grabbed the rickety little stool and adjusted its wobbly legs. Placing it at Zamer’s side, he tentatively balanced on his stronger foot and gingerly untied my reef knots.

Closing my eyes, I lay waiting for him to put up our tent.

The bag containing cooking pots, food, and gear dropped down with a thumping metal crash. Then louder thumps as he untied and slid off both our saddles.

I heard him scurry away, presumably for a bodily function.

A few minutes later, I glanced back to check on the gear and—with a panic-stricken jolt—caught sight of our previously swollen waterskins percolating out on large patches of wet sand.

I struggled up and shouted, “Baddu, come back, quickly!”

A rusty reply came from the bushes: “What, Memsahib?”

“You dropped our waterskins on the sand and our water is leaking out. Help me pick them up! Tighten their tops. We need to tie them up onto something. They can’t be left lying on the ground.”

“I do it, Memsahib.” Shuffling over with his pants askew, he reattached their tops and we hung them on a dry acacia tree.

“This is disastrous, Baddue. Half our precious water has leaked out.”

He fidgeted nervously and ambled of again.

I attempted to control my anxiety, frustration, and fear. “What on earth do I do now, God?”

Saluk, my comfort and warmth, lay snoring beside me, her neck and shoulder pressed companionably against mine. I was dizzy, my head pounding, but I had to know how far Nefta was. I had to make decision, to believe in my own reconnaissance. More like it, I had to maintain my faith and trust in God’s guidance.

I called out, hoping Baddu could hear me, “Do you have an intuitive idea of the time it will take for us to get back?”

He shuffled back with the comment “Memsahib, I think Nefta is a long weeks’ time from here.”

I tried to sound positive. “Our water supply has sorely depleted, but we won’t accept it’s a catastrophe. Our main objective is to stay together and pay great attention in all directions. We must find a well or a spring, so we can get ourselves back safely. I’m not feeling very well, and my thirst is insatiable; but if we pushed it, we might make it back in one week.”

I would do my best, but I was so sick and vulnerable—in the grip of whatever microbe was ravaging my system—that I wasn’t sure I could survive even a few sun-scorched days in the excruciatingly harsh desert, with barely a shadow to rest beneath. The desolate landscape was even more frightening now I knew the dangers that lurked around every rock. And most of the voracious creatures were the hardest to see.

Thankfully we had the tent. It would be our only refuge.

I couldn’t help wondering if this fever was the reaction to a bite. I had fastidiously checked everywhere these poisonous creatures could be lurking, chiefly the dark crevices of my blanket. But a scorpion or spider might have bitten me in my sleep, and an itchy patch on my side could be the dreaded lice.

I rejected those thoughts, as my discomfort was definitely more internal. But what else could it be? I tried to recall if I had eaten something that might have given me food poisoning.

A few minutes later I jolted with horror as a sudden realization slapped me in the gut. The celebration couscous had been made with the Sheikh’s dead creatures!

Vomit filled my throat. I retched, heaved, and gushed odorous bile; then curled into a tight ball to alleviate the chest congestion. I wiped saliva from my cheek onto the blanket. The sand hurt my face. Everything hurt.

“I must have more water. Baddu, please pour one of the water-skins into my empty canteen.”

He did so, then went off with his little axe to collect wood for a fire. Zamer, unseen in the darkness, made shuffling sounds as he hunted for grasses. Saluk gurgled and got up to join him.

Memsahib, I make rice and goat meat for you, and tea.”

“I’d prefer zrig, and tea, and a few dates please, Baddue.”

He gave me what I wanted, then focused on his rice dish with whatever he had added in. As he sat down with his bowl, I watched him squeeze goat jerky and rice balls between his fingers, then pop them in his mouth with his thumb. When finished, he wiped his beard and smiled that it had been tasty. I wished he’d saved me some, but scarab beetles were scurrying away with the remains that he’d scattered along the sand.

Hours later came the morning light. My temples felt hammer strokes as the sun unsheathed its full brilliance. I was still trying to assess if I had something worse than food poisoning. Was it a malady that travelers might catch, such as malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever, or typhoid? I tried to think through each of the symptoms, but they lay beyond the reach of my thoughts.

Baddu got up to look at me. ­“Memsahib, what is matter with you?”

My head hurt to speak, so I waved him away.

He scratched his beard and walked off. Then he stopped, knelt, and prayed with lingering contemplation.

“Allah willing, Memsahib, we go. Not stay here!”

With my arms tightly clutched about my knees, I looked down from outside of myself and whispered, “This illness will not determine my destiny.”

After attempting to uncoil and flex my legs, I reacted with a piercing scream. My head pounded. My temperature soared higher. I felt irregular heartbeats and pains in my chest. Bubbling colors and black spots danced behind my closed eyelids.

“I can’t go yet, Baddu. We’ll wait here until the heat is less intense.”

The day passed. I sensed if I stayed there much longer, I might slip away.

“My salvation is in Your hands, God. Please help me get up and carry on.”

I lay waiting. As if in response, Saluk couched back beside me with her shoulder pressed against mine. Her touch gave me a pinch of hope to exert myself onward.

I pulled a small pomegranate from my bag (saved from the hotel), and bit into the succulent fruit. The juice momentarily helped put a little energy in my words. “My self-reliance is not in the pit of despair. I have faith You are my strength, God.”

As I lay there, taking short and rapid shallow breaths, a strong wind blew dust up my nostrils, setting them aflame. I managed a whisper between uncontrollable bouts of coughing. “I’m crying out from the ends of the earth, waiting for Your help, God.”

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