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Card Challenge: Day 25

So, i enjoyed writing this, but it does not really go anywhere. It definitely does not have as much of a plot as I would generally want, but I think it would be fun to revisit this world at another date, so it was fun in taht respect. Still, kind of a weird one!

Card Day 25: Lines in a person’s palm seen through a magnifying glass as rivers of water.

The world was a cracked, dry, broken place. It was half-shattered by the heat, held together by sheer stubbornness and human determination.  Sometimes Daion thought it would spin itself apart, scattering tiny pieces of dust to all corners of the galaxy. Sometimes, he even hoped that would happen.

Today, his throat was parched, his skin was reddened, and his eyes ached with the force of the bright sun. He stood atop a craggy hill, looking around at a brown dessert stretched beneath a rotted orange sky. It was the same in all directions, differentiated by a hill or ruined city on one side that was a different hill or desolate town on the other. He lifted the dusty goggles from his eyes, squinting against the glare as he tried to notice anything in the distance that broke the monotony. Successful, he let out a sharp whistle.

“Trista, gotta camelback, straight ahead.” He had seen the familiar silhouette bopping along behind the rough terrain, its stooped back promising reward. Trista scaled the summit beside him, her hair sticking up haphazardly around her goggles and dust mask, styled in place by the stiff winds and an unhealthy dose of sweat.

“Sweet. I could go for some guilt free refreshment.” He could see the smile stretching across her face, even beneath her protective gear. She adjusted the pack on her back and started clambering down the other side of the hill. Daion followed at a slower pace, watching her haphazard descent as a trail of anemic dust in the air, caught and spun away by a sudden breeze. He took care to avoid the places she slipped into freefall, letting his feet expertly test the shifting terrain for stability. It was just like Trista to rush into everything, unaware of the potential pitfalls waiting along each step. But, in many ways, it was that unbridled adventurous spirit that he so appreciated.

“Don’t strand me up here,” he chuckled, selecting his careful path to more level ground. They followed the shadows, galloping over dunes and hills towards the previously marked salvation. Daion tried not to notice the impossible dryness in his skin and mouth, ignoring the fact that the sweat had dried on his brow. He was certain Trista was fading as quickly as he was, though she continued with the same dogged perseverance. Finally, they crested the hill and saw the familiar grey lump seated on the sand.

“Oy, Brother! Got some respite for some weary bones?” called Trista merrily, sliding to a stop next to the monk. He was covered in pale gray clothing, enough to cover his body, but thin enough to prevent him from cooking under the sun. Nevertheless, his face was red and pinched, sweat dribbling down his brow.

“Yes, of course. Have a rest, have a drink,” chimed the man, pointing to the thick water bag that was now seated beside him. Normally, the bag would sit precariously on his back as he trundled through the wastelands, granting miracles to dying travelers.

Daion filled up Trista’s canteen, and then his own. “Drink, brother?” he offered the weary monk.

The man smiled pleasantly, his eyes saying yes as he spoke. “No, I have my ration right here.” He tapped the canteen on his waist gingerly, and Daion took note of the hollow tone. “This is for the travelers. It is our duty to provide a cup of water to those who wander.”

“Well, you are a life saver, Brother,” thanked Daion as he tipped his canteen back. The water raced over his tongue and throat. It seemed as if the tissue was too dry to absorb a single drop of the water, and it filled his belly quickly. The cool was so refreshing, providing a glimmer of light to his shadowed eyes. Trista’s eyes were closed, and he could see her swishing the water around her mouth in ecstasy. There was the sound of silence, of water trickling from the plastic canteens, and of the two travelers gulping thirstily. Then, just silence. Daion felt the dehydrated headache beginning to fade and he could once again focus.

“Anywhere to sleep around here?” chimed Trista, having emerged from her water-logged fantasy to notice the darkening horizon.

Daion’s eyes shot to the west, seeing the sun as a swollen blister on the horizon, threatening to burst and poor flames across the world. Nature would kill you in the day, but it was humanity you had to fear at night. He could see the same unease flashing across the monk’s face. Daion felt the uncomfortable distrust suddenly chill the air. Yes, the monk had no idea who these two travelers were, and no good reason to reveal his one spot of safety. Providing a cup of water? Sure. Lead strangers to those people he cared about? Never. The monks caring nature left him fumbling over words, unwilling to lie, and unwilling to answer.

“No problem, padre. But we better get going.” He tipped his head toward Trista, and she was on her feet in a blink. “Take a bag for the road?” he asked as he gestured at the hefty reservoir. “Make your trip home a bit lighter?”

“The day is nearly done. Take what you need.”

The nights were cool and lonely. It would have been best to travel then, but the dangers of the road were too great for the two of them alone. Instead, it was time to hunker in their burrows while predators roamed. Daion scattered the sand that displayed their steps off the main path; the wind would have likely taken care of it, but you could not leave something so important in the hands of chance. They slid behind a tangle of rocks, slipping into the deep shadows that whispered security. It was a dinner of stringy jerky and stale dried fruit, with a few precious sips of water to wash it down. Neither of them spoke. It was too dangerous.

In the silence of the night came growls and hisses rom whatever creature still managed to live out there. More concerning were the whoops and hollers of the human creatures that somehow managed to thrive on cruelty and anarchy. Trista squeezed her eyes shut at the sounds, and Daion moved in closer, aware of the memories that were etched on her eyelids.

“I’ll take first watch,” he said, squeezing her hand briefly. She nodded and rolled to the side. Somehow, you got used to sleeping through terror around here. Daion leaned back against the rocks, listening and watching the stars. It was hard to imagine this feeble existence was, in fact, reality.  But, he looked at Trista, already breathing evenly in sleep, and he realized it could be worse. Daion remembered his first months alone, the violence and desperation. Now, he was filled with a strange peace and acceptance of life as I was. And he smiled at Trista as she slept, feeling the familiar ease of friendliness and protection. It was nice to create, rather than destroy. The night raged on, and Daion kept watch, waiting for the punishing eye of the sun to relieve them of the dark side of the human condition.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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