Friday, 29 October 2010

Off the map 4

“It’s not on here!” Big Mike Molloy stamped a stubby forefinger on the map stretched over the bonnet of the Landcruiser. “Way I see it, if it’s not on the map, it doesn’t exist.”

The desert sun bore down relentlessly on the group of hard-hats clustered around Big Mike. Around them, all progress arrested, was a spectacular array of excavators, pile-drivers and dump trucks and all their support vehicles. The trans-national highway (to date ) stretched away into the horizon behind them.

In front of them, in the middle of a wadi they wanted to turn into a six-lane highway, was a small baked-mud hut. It appeared to be a shrine. Primitive and implacable. Earlier than any Sufi, earlier indeed than any Hermetic tradition. Beads and rags were attached to disintegrating wooden staves. Hieroglyphs were scrawled around the tiny doorway, and characters of a pre –Aramaic language. From the interior came the unmistakable odour of goat, mixed with ancient ashes. If you squinted at the few remaining mosaic pieces on its wall you could just make out the remains of a face.

Big Mike looked at it, “Who the fuck’s that?”

“Ozymandias?” quipped a surveyor who liked to think he’d had a classical education.

“More like Ozzy fucking Osborne,” snarled Big Mike, “Flatten it.”

“Someone might be living in it,” protested the surveyor.

“Give a him a couple of goats and a kick up the ass,” ordered Big Mike, “He’ll think it’s fucking Christmas.”

There was a general shuffling. Big Mike looked at them scornfully

He stomped over to the hut, bent down to bellow through the tiny door, “Hey, Holy Joe! Piss off! I’ve got a road to build.”

And suddenly he wasn’t there.

They searched the little shrine inside and out. And then they build around it.

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