This desert was unlike any desert on Earth. There were no dunes, no hidden rivers of water ran deep below the sand, therefore no desert life was extant. Not a lizard, or a cactus, or even the stray beetle. There was not a cloud to be seen in the clear blue skies, and worst of all, there was no sun. It was always day here, in the realm of the mirage-creatures, those alien wizards whose technological prowess had forged this land, to hide themselves from the stars, from the cities, and from all other forms of life. Here they meditated, and here they grew in power, through thought and by the deep focus of will, and here it was rumored that men could go beyond desires and passions, and live out their abilities. It was not the place to go, if anyone was in search of peace or happiness.
The pilgrim who had ventured into this place, had passed through many portals on many realms, traveled through tunnels bored deep beneath the grounds of infinite planes, crossed the vast distances between the stars of various skies, and had trespassed through secret and guarded doors that were never meant to be opened. Once there, all knowledge of the past escaped into the atmosphere, taking with it the primitive urges of sleep, hunger or thirst. The instincts evaporated, all knowledge of language or logic or syntax were forgotten. The senses, however grew keener in their reckoning. There was nothing to see but the endless expanse of the sand. There was nothing to hear but the murmur of sand rubbing against sand. There was nothing to feel except the slight gusts of warm wind or the heat that radiated from the ground and the sky. The tongue and the nose were useless here, at least their designs were. Solitude could be sensed, along with a great power of the mind, and a greater will bent upon him, calling for him. There was no death or decay here, but that brought him little hope.
He could do little but walk. On and on he plodded, without count of the hours, for there was nothing to count time by, and without count of distance, for there was nothing to measure by, not even a trail of his own footprints crawling back to the horizon. The very ground beneath him mutated and changed, forming matrices and patterns, constantly sifting, as if he were walking through a large shallow quicksand. He moved at random, towards whatever he felt like, it was a time before he understood that he was answering a greater summons, following not his own will but of another... or of others. The glimmer in the horizon resolved into a cloud of mist very close to the ground. It shimmered, but without reflected light, like the fumes above a fire. It was a thick blanket, cloaking something. He walked towards it. It was not a mirage, or a body of water, but a thick fog. He could make out shapes and shadows, moving about in the midst of it. He was sure that this was it, the climax of his long journeys, the people he was looking for. There were many of them, he could not count them, indeed, he knew no such thing as numbers. There was however, a vague understanding of quantity, few, more, many, less... suchlike. They were all garbed in a similar fashion, ragged pieces of cloth tied around their waists, some wore robes, a few had turbans. As he moved through them, each one he came close to raised his hand and slapped the back of his head hard. This, he assumed, was the part of some initiation ceremony. No one spoke to him, or to each other. It took him a while to understand that with every slap he received on the back of his head, a different stream of thoughts began to pour into him.
He must have received the magik from all of them, when another grotesque ritual took place. They called him, from the inside of his own head, towards a basin of iron that had been conjured, and in it, each of them passed by dropping a bloated leech. They then attached a leech on him, and waited till it was bloated, and then another one, and another one, till all his blood was drained. These leeches, for that was the closest approximation, were bio-engineered to drain blood, and release it again, without gaining in the process. The energy for this operation, they drew from the metals in the air, but it will suffice to call them magiked. Then each of them took a leech, and attached it to their own arms, and let it fill them with the pilgrim's blood. The pilgrim, meanwhile, had fainted into the bowl, and the leeches drained the blood from all of them into him, rejuvenating him with life.
He understood the morbid significance of this ritual, they were all tied with the strongest bond possible - that of blood. And yet none spoke to him, gave him any command through telepathy, or revealed their intentions in any fashion. Many rested, or seemed to be in thought, or deep meditation. He too sat down, and waited, for there was little else he could do. They approached him, two by two, led him away from the group, to a little place by their own, stripped him down, and mingled their bodies with his. When he was done with one pair, another approached, and then another. Each orgy was bereft of any sexual energy, and yet sex was exactly what it was, he let his body be possessed by each of them in turn. This act lasted a long time, drained him more than the others, and at the end of it, he was convinced that it was his time to wake, to receive, to progress and to learn.
The other's conferred amongst themselves by telepathy. He had come far, further than the most of them. He had proven his will was strong enough to receive the powers they shared and commanded. The powers that were unmatched by the gods of any civilisation. They were willing to open their minds to the newcomer.
It was like a flash in his mind, only in slow motion. With each change in the amount of brightness, of knowledge, came an anticipation of it growing in brightness, and the power radiated through him, waxing in his mind, encompassing it. He sought to explore it, instead of controlling it. He sought to see how bright or powerful it could get, instead of containing it. The infinity of possibilities, of understanding, and of knowledge flooded through his brains. It was the greatest mistake he ever made. After conquering all else, he failed the final test, he failed to receive the gift, and to use it. The power that pulsed through him, killed him.