When I reached up to wipe the sweat from my face, and my hand came back bloodied, I knew I was in serious trouble.
My lip had split from the heat, parched from the burning sun and vicious lack of water. It was brutal, the sun, unrelenting and unfeeling. It was better in the shade, but I had been so sure I was finally going the right direction, that the sandy gulch was the same one I had crossed on my way in.
It wasn’t, and when I realized that I did everything I could not to cry.
“Have to save water,” I thought, my heart in my throat.
I had collapsed in the almost forgiving shadow of a large rock, and closed my eyes, doing my best to not despair. It had been three days, though the third was almost over. I hadn’t run out of water until early that morning, but I was already thirsty by then, starving myself of it until the last of my resolve fell away like sweat.
I had tried to travel by night, but it wasn’t any easier. It was cold out here in the empty desert, colder than it should have been. Walking was treacherous in the dark, the stones and scrubby bushes sliced at my feet, and breaking my leg in the moonless black would mean certain death. And where was there to go? Even on the first night, when the moon had briefly peeked out from behind the soft stars, there was no guidance from the black horizon.
I was tired. So impossibly tired. Every movement was a small agony, but if I stopped, it would be harder to continue. My body was screaming for water, but I knew I was hungry too, I had to be. I had finished all that was left two evenings before, and had failed to find anything I trusted to be edible.
I opened my eyes in the shade of the towering rock. The sun blasted the sand in front of me, and I saw a flicker of motion through the rippling heat. A small lizard ran suddenly near me, and stopped to take me in. It flicked its toungue over its face as it stood, deciding if I was a threat. I thought about reaching for it, tried to imagine snapping its neck and eating it, the crunch of its bones and innards in my dry mouth.
The thought of liquid gave me the energy to reach for it, but I was painfully slow, and the reptile darted away with no effort. I took a deep breath through cracked lips and sat up. I tried to glance up at the sky, to get a sense of what time it was. It had to be late afternoon. I wished for the fiftieth time I had my watch, though that probably would have been taken too.
The only emotion that came stronger than fear and despair was anger. Anger at whoever had done this, whoever had left me out here to…to what? Die?