By now the footsteps were unmistakable. The ground shook, the trees swayed, and the sound of labored breathing from some great animal reached the two men. A dark shadow fell over the ditch. The footsteps stopped. Orhmad waited, tense, listening. Abd cowered, body curled up and head over his hands, doing his best to shrink in on himself till he was unnoticeable. For a moment there was no sound save the animal’s breathing, the breeze in the trees, and the soft birdsong from the cage over the spring. Then the animal gave a thunderous, hacking snort and stomped forward again.
Orhmad grabbed Abd with iron fingers, shook him out of the fetal position, and gestured imperiously towards the bags. He picked up two, and then began to crawl on his belly along the bottom of the ditch, towards the spring. Abd picked up the bags, looked helplessly at the retreating Orhmad, then at the bags, and then in the direction of the beast. He swallowed hard, and followed.
They kept pace with the great shadow as the crawled along the ditch, stopping when the beast stopped, moving when it moved. Abd was just wondering how it would navigate the fallen tree he had seen along the path earlier, when there was a great snort, a thump, and the dead trunk was tossed through the air like a piece of driftwood in the tide. It landed across the ditch just over Orhmad’s back, sending up a spray of sand. Abd felt a sudden dampness in his robes, but then Orhmad reached back and yanks on his arm. The beast was still going. They crawled on under the dead tree, and Abd considered making a break for it. It was the fifth time he had considered this that day.