THE SANDS OF TIME
CREATIVE DIRECTION: DANÉ STOJANOVIC
PHOTOGRAPHY: PAUL MOREL
FASHION DIRECTION: MARNE SCHWARTZ & ANNA CASTAN
MAKEUP: MANUEL LOSADA
MODEL: KRISTINE / MMG
WORDS: ALISSA THOMAS
He told her it was the jinns. The demons of ancient beliefs. That she should be wary of venturing towards it. He said he wouldn’t get closer than a mile in any direction. She thanked him for his advice, for his warning, and paid him accordingly. The loose gravel was beginning to corrode beneath her comrade as she reared him towards the vacant city, so they walked slowly. Al Madam, it was called. The Ghost Town. Their perilous journey had lead them here. They would find refuge, for a night, for two, perhaps. Wild, spirited, desolate. She’d heard the stories. That the people had fled something supernatural, something unspoken, years ago. But she felt no resistance. No fear. Instead, she felt a calling. She felt a homecoming.
Before the fall, before the desert, in the time of order and complacency, the measurable moments of her days and nights were etched into an expected existence. It was all so fleeting, so repetitive, so replaceable. Fill the cup, fill the cup. She’d been a willing servant to its alien necessity, to all the modern rationale and to the logical mutation she’d been powerless against. Realism had whirred inside its relentless mouse-wheel, deflecting the foreboding, existential gravity that taunted at its sides. It was a realm she could only realise in the quiet of the deepest night. Because, by the madness of day, it retreated, nocturnal to ubiquitous daily farce.
Only five more miles now, she whispered, but her steed was weary. They paused. Trudging the sand, her boots grated as though they were searching for a pedal ignition. She placed her brow upon his coarse, flushed muzzle as he bleated and nickered toward her, flicking his mane of loitering flies. With a calming slide, she stroked his cheek. He dipped his head to caress her shoulder. She felt the well of warm tears begin to form. The days, the nights, the heat, the cold, they had navigated this expanse together. This journey had broken them. It had made them.
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As dusk began to simmer on the horizon they reached the town. But her companion stops short, uncertain in its atmosphere. He’s cautious. Apprehensive. She dismounts, and walks towards the first house. A preserved shell. It’s all hollow. Frozen in time. She creaks open a carelessly hinged door to see hills of wispy, red sand climb the corners inside. She runs her fingers across its decadent wall tiles. Forgotten decoration. Rooms of nothingness. She sinks into the cool, shaded sand and peers out a sinking window. A scorpion scampers close enough to hear its predatory hiss.
Slowly, the desert is claiming this village. These walls will fall victim to its ruthlessness. You can’t fight time, here. Not forever. You are at the mercy of its callous rule. You can build the walls, you can lay the land but, in the end, it will win. Time is the only demon, here, and it’s the most unforgiving of all.
Darkness begins to unravel across the dunes, so she heeds its slow warning. There’s a cracking outside. She rises to her feet. Her companion is imposing the walls, trotting against the rusty, iron gates. She tames his consternation and leads him to a narrow opening. A dry pail creaks on a peeling, metal hook. She fills it with water, using half the small bladder she’d salvaged some miles ago. He laps at the offering. She sips from the flask. They stand together. Alone, but together.
We are this town, she tells him. Haunted, desperate. We too, were scorched by a treacherous foe. We are strong. We are still here.
The last drips of the water bead on to the sand beneath them. She scoops a fist full. She holds it. Gripping her knuckles and mustering her fingers to prevent its release. She holds it. Straining. For a moment. Then a moment longer again. But soon, her hand grows painful, tired. It can’t imprison the granules much longer. Thin streams of sand start to escape between her fingers. Then a cascade slips out beside her thumb. It’s futile. She opens her palm and surrenders, watching the remaining pieces flee like released insects. Her companion’s eyes shutter as he nuzzles the makeshift trough. He leans into her and she extends her arm. Open, vulnerable. Perhaps right now, even if only for a moment, time is on their side.
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