Short Story: Desert Heat

I wrote a random little piece using a prompt from a book called The Writer’s Block. The prompt doesn’t really match the story, at all, but whoever said prompts and stories had to? The prompt was “According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one person is killed every year while painting stripes on that state’s roads and highways. Describe one of these accidents.

Desert Heat

I walked along the empty highway, miles from anywhere, miles from nowhere. The sun shone down on me from high up in the sky and I could feel a layer of moisture coating the back of my neck. I hadn’t had a drink in nearly two miles. My knees had become unstable.

I didn’t think I would make it to the next town.

In the distance a truck the colour of desert sand had pulled over by the side of the road. A man stood on the dirt track beside the highway, a wide brimmed hat sat askew on his head, whilst his pants were gathered halfway down his legs. His hand wrapped around his manhood as he angled urine away from the road.

It felt like a mirage.

There was no water, no food, no vegetation at all except for dry grass that had miraculously survived the summer’s heat. What I saw was a man who could take me to water, to food, to shelter. I saw a truck where the window could sit open and the great gusts of speeding air could cool me to a shiver.

“Wait,” I shouted, my throat burned more each time I repeated the word. I picked up my pace, though each step wasn’t much faster than a slow walk.

The man zipped up his pants and returned to his vehicle. He rolled down a window and I felt an insurmountable amount of jealousy. I could almost feel the stagnant air circling around my face when the engine roared and the truck sped towards me. I tried to swallow but my sandpaper throat made it almost impossible.

“Wait,” I shouted again, not much louder than the other dozen or so times. I moved out into the centre of the road and lifted my arms in front of me, an action reminiscent of the times I spent in the gym trying to lift weights.

I stood my ground, feet firmly on the tarmac; a little squishy from the burning ball of fire up in the sky. If I stayed where I was the truck would have to stop, he would have to pay attention to me.

Where my throat had failed, my body could not.

The truck came faster down the road, the engine ticked over, the wheels turned with each few yards. I waited until the truck approached, fearing nothing but the unbearable heat.

When the truck flew through me I expected to feel pain. The sudden shock of a vehicle smashing into my weak skeleton and throwing me out across the scorching desert. I didn’t feel any pain. I didn’t feel anything else either. I turned around to watch for the truck travelling on behind.

“Come back,” I said, my attempt to scream failed like every attempt before it.

The truck drove on down the road at speed as though the man hadn’t seen me. A few hundred feet further along the highway the truck slowed. The man got out of his vehicle and walked again to the side of the road. He didn’t drop his pants, nor did he urinate. He knelt down beside a shape, his head low as if in prayer.

That was when I knew that the truck wasn’t a mirage. It wasn’t my saviour from the heat.

I was already gone.

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