Video and music by Paul H Williams
Filmed on location in Abu Dhabi
Best experienced with headphones
"Sometimes in the late afternoons we'd drive out along the beach to the Scented Desert and sit alone by one of the pools, watching the sun fall away behind the reefs and hills, lulling ourselves on the rose-sick air. When the wind began to blow cool across the sand we'd slip down into the water, bathe ourselves and drive back to town, filling the streets and café terraces with jasmine and musk-rose and helianthemum."
J. G. Ballard, Prima Belladona.
“At sunset, when the vermilion glow reflected from the dunes along the horizon fitfully illuminated the white faces of the abandoned hotels, Bridgman stepped on to his balcony and looked out over the long stretches of cooling sand as the tides of purple shadow seeped across them. Slowly, extending their slender fingers through the shallow saddles and depressions, the shadows massed together like gigantic combs, a few phosphorescing spurs of obsidian isolated for a moment between the tines, and then finally coalesced and flooded in a solid wave across the half-submerged hotels. Behind the silent facades, in the tilting sand-filled streets which had once glittered with cocktail bars and restaurants, it was already night. Haloes of moonlight beaded the lamp-standards with silver dew, and draped the shuttered windows and slipping cornices like a frost of frozen gas.”
J. G. Ballard, The Cage of Sand
"May I have some water?"
I opened my eyes to find myself looking up at a tall figure standing over me. The voice was female but the silhouette, burned out by the intense, afternoon sunlight, was strangely androgynous. I was still drowsy. I'd come for a swim at the hotel's small, artificial beach and, after half an hour of floating under the gaze of the semi-constructed skyscrapers on the neighbouring island, I'd returned to the shore for some food and a nap. The heat was relentless and I was sheltering beneath one of the thatched wooden sun shades planted deep in the soft white sand.
"Yes… yes… I must have drifted off," I said to fill the vacuum while I located the bottle by the side of my sunlounger momentarily distracted by the lines of ants marching across the microscopic dunes.
When I looked back I realised I was in the company of a young woman. She seemed to be all arms and legs, very thin and angular. Her skin was deeply tanned and still dripping with water. Mirrored sunglasses obscured much of her small sharp face. As she raised the bottle to her lips a multitude of bangles slipped down her arm with a metallic rattle. I watched her drink for some time never having seen her amongst the regular group of hotel guests that I maintained my distance from with casual nods.
"That's much better," she said wiping her mouth with a satisfied gasp. "You like Ballard?" she nodded at the blanched copy of Vermilion Sands I had on the small, white plastic table next to me.
"Yes, I'm definitely a Ballardian," I said smiling. I couldn't place her accent. It seemed to veer from Russian into something much more eastern.
"Of course you know that Vermilion Sands actually exists," she murmured.
There was a pause. Even the clanging of the workmen across the water constructing the new high-rise apartments seemed to fade for a few seconds.
"In our minds," I said.
"A few hours drive from here,” she said ignoring my response. She let the idea slowly form inside my head. “Pen?" she demanded holding out her hand.
I fumbled in my rucksack wondering why I seemed to do whatever she said.
She started to sketch out a map on the pure white napkin that came with my lunch stopping occasionally to toss back her long black wet hair.
"That should get you there," she said leaning back satisfied with her handiwork.
"Oh yes," I looked at the map. "There it is Vermilion Sands..."
"You don't believe me!" she laughed.
"I'm afraid not,” I laughed back. “Not even a little bit."
She curled a forefinger at me to come closer. I leaned forward and so did she until our faces were just inches apart and I could smell the brine on her skin. She reached up to slowly move her mirrored shades down below the bridge of her nose. I looked into what should have been her eyes. Pale blue sea-anemones waved their delicate tendrils at me as if wafted by warm ocean currents from beneath a different sun.
I nodded my head.
She restored her sunglasses and stood up once more towering above me.
"Go and see," she said over her shoulder as she returned to the gently lapping waves.