Dry and calloused, old, thin spindly fingers clenched at the sand in front of him. Golden bracelets clattered against one another – the sound infuriating. He watched grains fall through the cracks of the stranger’s hand to drift away into the breeze. The stranger spoke.
‘You are close to death, my friend. What brings you into the desert?’ He pulled at the tuft of the dying man’s hair to make eye contact. The stranger’s face concealed in shade, the bright sun behind him radiant. He brushed the dying man’s brow and smiled. ‘Blue eyes.’ He looked elsewhere into the dunes and then returned his gaze. ‘Those who come from the north bring only death.’ He paused. ‘It seems even to their own. A shame.’ The dying man floundered in the sand and pushed his arms towards the stranger, grappling at his ankles, wheezing and writhing. His skin had gone a deep red and cracked and peeled at every movement. The stranger only watched him and then smiling gentle spoke. ‘Drink. We from the south choose to bring only life.’