The Journey

The Journey

Pictonaut challenge story for September 2012.

Their faces spelled out incredulity, puzzlement and doubt. Someone – she wasn’t sure which of them – chortled mockingly. Her father leaned forward, did that phlegmy cough thing, fixed dozy ash eyes on her and stated, “Really? You can’t really be serious about this.” A subtle smirk, ash irises glazed in the early evening twilight of the tea parlour, another roll of phlegm growling.

I am serious, more than I’ve ever been in my life,” Jashian replied. She was sure. She was assertive. Jade green orbs full of life stared unwaveringly into those dull grey eyes and, refocusing, into the surrounding sea of skewered sceptical faces.

Another spluttering growl of mucous and an outbreak of mild disorder. Someone accidently knocked over a goblet of melonwine. The mocking chortle grew louder, well and truly unloosed. A hubbub of harrumphing, sharp forced sighs and shaking heads all merged into a wall of rugged resistance encircling a large tea parlour table.

Idiot!” one of her brothers cried over the hullabaloo. “Are you insane? I mean, what is this?! You can’t possibly do this!

The clammy folds in her mother’s face started to spit out choleric protest. “You can’t! Never! You can’t go! Go off on your own into the desert?! Why?! There is nothing there! Nothing!

But Jashian knew that her mother, her entire family and all in her family’s social circle who were assembled in the parlour on that stifling evening were wrong. “It is not true,” she replied calmly, with conviction, her voice a smooth emollient quelling the prickles of fiery wrath. “I am going to journey into the desert and that is final. You say it is a land of nothing but I believe it to be quite the opposite. There is no such thing as nothing and I am leaving so that I may find everything.

Jashian was quite correct in making this assertion…


  • Abridged extracts from the dictionary (I don’t know whose, but a dictionary is a dictionary. Dictionaries that are wrong or misleading generally find themselves falling out of favour and condemned to an ignominious death in a waste paper bin.)

Des-ert [dez-ert]


5. Any place lacking in something. The town was a cultural desert. Synonyms: wasteland.


6. Of, pertaining to, or like a desert. Synonyms: desolate; barren; infertile; arid.

  • Unabridged extract from Oscar Laurence Filey’s “Memoirs, Musings, Misadventures and Miscellanies

There can’t just be ‘nothing’. Really, that’s a preposterous supposition as ‘nothing’ in itself and of itself is something. One cannot simply do ‘nothing’ for you will inevitably be standing, sitting, thinking, remaining stationary and so on. There is a state of inertia for certain, but yet the individual’s vital biological processes will be functioning so how can you say ‘nothing is happening’ or ‘I am doing nothing’? There is always ‘something’ and never ‘nothingness’.

The only way one may hypothetically experiencing ‘nothing’, I suppose, may be to find oneself in what I believe Jean Baudrillard referred to as ‘the Desert of the Real’ where all artifice of culture and civilisation are stripped back and all that remains is the pure essence of existence – absolute unadulterated reality. Even if that notional desert is a void, it is not ‘nothing’ – it is an idea, a concept and it is therefore ‘something’. There is no such thing as ‘nothing’ and it is my belief that we should dismiss this foolish notion of ‘nothing’ from our discourse and approach to life.”

  • What someone told me once when I was particularly anxious and going through a very dark period in my life. I can’t remember who it was. My mind has moved on from those times…

Everything is in your mind, man…


Immense infinity lay ahead, a sheet of shifting sand dunes stretching to the horizon. The breeze caught the hem of Jashian’s cloak. Through the clouding dust aurous sunrise graced the world in gold.

Jashian had come to a halt and stood still, boots buried in the sand. She gazed over the glorious landscape lying before her and marvelled at her brave new world. Pure. Primal. It was beautiful.

For the first time in a long time she felt peace deep inside. The desert wind howled around and echoed in her ears before resounding down and reaching her soulstuff. The singular resounding sound of the natural world, uncomplicated and organic. It was like the world was opening up and inviting her to embrace its vast expansiveness.

From her high vantage point she surveyed the valleys, the dips and the rising dunes beyond. In the far distance she discerned the shape of almighty Mount Auau rising skyward, hidden behind the ethereal mist.

In a haze of heat, the never-ending sands shone bright blonde and light suffused Jashian’s senses. She squinted as the solar flare scorched her retinas then closed her eyes for a moment of inner appreciation. She’d believed, she’d made the journey and now she had arrived at the aspired ideal.

There is nothing there!” her mother had said. Experience – the here and now – clearly showed Jashian it was precisely the opposite, just as she’d predicted. The desert was exposed, a stark unembellished eternal space but it was not a place of ‘nothing’. The journeyer opened her eyes to her new home, re-affirmed that she was now facing a place that could be ‘everything’ and breathed it all in. Blissful inspiration. Her heart soared, burning brighter than the sun blazing ahead.

Jashian’s imagination unravelled as she reviewed the dunes. Here was an untainted and open panorama of purity where she could start afresh. In the wide golden yonder she could create whatever life she wished – a blank canvas on which to dream and grow. Anything and everything was possible here. The elements – that great white orb in the heavens, the warm breeze, the sliding sands – were stirring her. With a blink the possibilities pooled into consciousness and the desert came alive.

Jashian saw creatures familiar and unfamiliar moving, specks in the troughs of the valley. She spied habitations dwarfed by the dunes, not just places to live and be but also to survive and thrive in. Rays of light shot upward from the peak of Mount Auau, the fingers of the gods beckoning her to step forward and become one with infinite wonder.

The desert had no limits. Jashian would find and realise everything in this wilderness place of nothing that was not nothing at all. She’d made the journey, but this was where her true journey would really begin.

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