Arid

By @allie_cramer

Chapter 1

I pushed my way through the underbrush looking for anything that would relieve the intense heat that was beating down on my body. I needed to keep moving even though I had no idea what I was moving towards. I woke up on this planet, not knowing where I was or even what I was. All I knew is that I don’t belong here, but I had nowhere else to go. I wipe my forehead with my sleeve as sweat drips into my eye and grip the small stuffed toy in my hand. It was all I had when I woke up for the first time. There are strange characters marking it, NEIL, that may have meant something to me before, but mean nothing now. The foliage begins to thin, and the heat gets worse as I continue walking. I have seen no other beings since I have been here leaving me with a deep rumbling in my stomach and my throat dry. These feelings are somewhat unknown to me, but I feel as if I have experienced them before. The break I get from all this suffering is when the glowing in the sky subsides to darkness. I can’t tell which I prefer because the darkness allows me to sleep but also overwhelms me with a feeling of uneasiness. There is something watching me through the darkness. It has been there since I awoke. I take solace in this time despite the watchful eyes because they have never once been any more than a feeling in my stomach. 

Moving forward is all I know. I raise my hand above my face and peer into the sky, seeing that the glowing seems to be getting less intense. This has meant that the darkness was coming before so that is what I take it to mean now. The heat begins to lessen, but it may have just been my anticipation for what was to come. This an anticipation unbacked by anything aside from the lessening glow in the sky. In preparation for the darkness, where I will quickly be unable to see, I tighten my hand again ensuring that the small creature is still there. I had left it behind the first night, not wanting to carry around something that made my hand sweat even more and seemed to serve no purpose. I quickly doubled back to where I originally woke up as soon as the darkness began to set in. The overpowering sense of fear that came over me was worse than the heat and the rumbling in my stomach. It came out of nowhere and left me disorientated. The darker it got the worse I felt, but as soon as I laid my hand on the toy they all went away. It is connected to the fear so I never put it down for even a second because of the chance that something may happen to it. 

Now, the glowing has almost gone along with my vision. This time something feels different. My throat is tighter than before and the grumbling in my stomach hurts more. The eyes have more of a presence as well. They are there. Almost, as if they are trying to make themselves known. I move my eyes around the small clearing I have stopped in, but as the darkness has consumed me, see nothing. Deciding to forget about the eerie feeling emanating from the darkness, I bring the softness of the stuffed creature to my face and lay on the ground. 

The burning and tightness of my throat along with the pain in my stomach makes it hard to close my eyes. Sleep is the only thing that will bring any relief, but it will not come. The times like this are the worst. It leaves me to the thoughts that bounce around my head will no rhyme or reason. I get lost in them and almost forget about where I am. This is happening now. I no longer felt the pain or the burning. I feel nothing till the cold fingers grip my shoulder. 

They startle me out of my thoughts, but more than that the feeling of fear returns and I quickly check to ensure I had the toy. It was still tightly grasped in my hand, so I shouldn’t be afraid. Why was I afraid? I slowly lift my head to see what had grabbed my shoulder. They looked oddly similar to what I remember myself looking like. Were they like me? Did they know where I was from? 

I go to ask these questions of the being but am halted when the moments of forgetting about the rumbling in my stomach and burning in my throat are gone, symbolized by the loud cough that falls from my lips as I try to speak.

The being lifts one eyebrow at me in a confused look then seem to understand. “Drink this.” It says. “Those who live here call it water and use it as a cure from the sun.” His voice is husky and dry as if he had been experiencing the same things I had. 

I look up at him again before taking the clear liquid he is offering and taking a drink. I didn’t know what he meant by ‘water’ or ‘sun’ but he seemed genuine and if it may ease some of the pain, that was enough for me. As soon as I felt it hit my throat I never should have drank it. It was poison. It would burn more than the glowing in the sky and would only be relieved by a darkness that I would not wake up from. 

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