Christ in the Desert
Robert Paul Blumenstein | Terri Kelleher
— For Dr. Andrew Parker, evolutionary biologist.
Not a creature on Earth can imagine the environment I inhabit. It is unlikely that any of you could survive the daily rigors of my existence: Temperatures reach three digits on the thermometer every day, a cloudless sky filled with scorching sunlight, grains of sand seem to glow like a bed of coals. Yet, as I crawl on my belly, I perform no ritual of the firewalker to traverse the terrain, there’s nothing religious about it, no feats of unwavering faith or bravery, no acts of mind over matter— it is merely day to day routine that drives me. Pure instinct.
My fondest desire is that I may stumble upon a fat scorpion that I can devour on the spot, a damp patch of sand to quench my parched lips, a never-ending desire to sate myself upon water. Yes, my hope is anchored in water. My dream of paradise includes a cornucopia of water. For here, in this desert, I drink sand. Yes, a cup of sand to slake my thirst.
Yet, one day a wondrous thing happened to me, an act so filled with grace that all my being has now been given over to this one hope of a more glorious life beyond my short days upon this fiery dune.
When the cooling shadow fell over me, I thought surely I was to become the meal of a passing desert raptor who had by happenstance found a four-legged morsel caught without cover. Yet now I know that it was a great hand that reached from the heavens to grasp me about my belly, and ever-so gently at that. I knew then when I saw his silhouette against the blazing sky that it was what the desert dwellers call the Man. But it is of his kindness that I must speak. He gripped me firmly in one hand and in his other held a dish of sorts; I could see clear through it, yet I knew that it contained water, pure water, clear and clean, not one molecule latched onto a single grain of sand, only abundantly refreshing water. He then thrust my hind leg into this divine water. Only seconds passed as the water coursed through the capillaries under the scales of my thorny body until it reached my desiccated tongue. Oh, Savior, Savior! Why have you chosen me out of all the lowly creatures in this arid ‘scape? What have I done to deserve your favor? I who bear the reptilian curse from the Creator!
If it were not enough that I enjoyed this respite from my indomitable thirst, the hand took hold of a strange tube-like instrument, drew water from the dish, filled the vessel, and then bathed my body in the holy life-giving liquid. Never in my entire life would I have dreamt that such a miracle would be bestowed upon me who exists for nothing more than to devour scorpions and the like so that I might be fatted for a raptor or snake’s next meal, me the lowly Thorny Devil Lizard.
No sooner than my elation had reached its absolute climax and all the joy in me had peaked did the hand set me down upon the searing desert floor and withdraw. The sacred chalice filled with the water of life was taken up into the air. I watched the shadow move away from me leaving me once again to crawl upon the granules of burning sand. I could do nothing more than cry out as loud as my lungs could shoot air through my gullet, “Come back! Come back! Oh Savior, come back!”