SUNSET


   Like a tarnished brass tambourine, the enormous disc of the setting sun hangs low over the boundless ocean of sand. All day long it has blazed down mercilessly, shrouding the sky in a whitish-gray haze. But at the approach of sunset, a sudden transformation takes place: the sky turns blue and the heat of the day gradually gives way to coolness.
   The tiny particles of sand sparkle and the smouldering sand-hills grow quiescent in these minutes before the sunset. When night comes, cool breezes will waft above the hills of the Kara Kum, the sand-hills will awaken once again, and the saxaul branches and wire-grass will rustle and murmur gently to themselves.
   But that is at night, when the southern stars, big and bright, ascend over the desert hills. For the moment everything is calm and still. With bated breath we marvel at the sunset.
   The sun touches the tops of the distant hills and casts a final, crimson glance at the Kara Kums before sinking beneath the waves of sand. In several minutes night will be upon us. In the South there is no twilight. Night follows directly in the wake of the sunset, and the sunrise heralds in the day.