The Mudslide

Elvis Bego

We were waiting for the mudslide and the night. There had been no rain since 1979 and now it came out of a blue sky. Blue at first, but soon it darkened to a bruised iris. An Egyptian drizzle, light but persistent. The aged sand dust had hovered in the air so long and now it dispersed, clamped to the dirt ground. Dust returns to dust. The air was purged and the lungs grew hale. We heard voices burbling all the way from the mid-town of Luxor, howls of giddy children and adults stomping in alleys, as though gifts were falling from the clouds. They flew in mindless ecstasies. We saw smiles on faces that had forgotten how to smile, teeth glinting like scimitars. Among them young men who had no memory of rain. And we? We were just waiting for the mudslide and the night.

We crossed the river. The soaked boatman would not set off till he had his coin. He must’ve thought me suspicious, a European in a galabiya among local rogues. Grim and mute we sat watching the barren hump against the lowering red sun. The balming sound of oar lapping the pliant river braced us for the search. Night had fallen by the time we came to the foot of the hill. The wet earth had slid. Picking at the soil by the light of a single torch, it didn’t take long to find the crypt. We pried its stone lid ajar. A wonder of gold, trinkets, tablets, figurines, manuscripts. The husk of a body. God is great! We flew in mindless ecstasies down there, whirled like sufi sages, grabbed the treasures and rubbed them against our bony faces. But then we heard a deep rumble and we scrambled to close the crypt before the new slide could make a second grave. And yet. I fear that we must cross another river.

Born in Bosnia, Elvis Bego became a refugee at age twelve, and currently lives in Copenhagen. His work can be found now or soon in AGNI, Threepenny Review, PANK, Massachusetts Review, The Coffin Factory, Parcel, and elsewhere.