IT’S A DRY HEAT
Humans may live
for as many as a
hundred years, but not many more years than that. Other beings of a type not
to be named here
may live forever. Is that fair? No
one has ever said life was fair. In fact, the opposite is often said to be
Robert Morrison woke up
scratchiest throat he could remember ever having. He tried a tentative swallow
and found he’d
nothing to swallow.
He was spitless.
His eyes also felt grainy. Opening and closing them felt like the lids
were lined with sandpaper.
He was in a depression of
packed sand that was still warm, though the air was starting to cool. There
were a million stars overhead, and if
he didn’t feel like he’d been run through the wringer a dozen times he could’ve
enjoyed the display. He watched as every
fifteen to twenty seconds a shooting star raced across the sky. He tried to
see where they started and ended,
but was always too late. Just got the
For a reason he couldn’t
this bothered him.
A full moon had just begun
start up the sky on the horizon.
Was he maybe in the desert?
He lay on his back and tried
remember what could have possibly brought him to someplace in the desert.
“That cute woman in
the bar with
the dark hair and blue eyes,” he thought to himself. “Her boyfriend
had gotten drunk with his
cowboy buddies and she was hitting on me to get his attention. I knew what she
was doing and let it happen.”
He felt no pain and figured
must’ve just knocked him out and dumped him here. But how far was “here”
It would probably be better
try and walk to civilization at night while it was cool. Maybe he could get
to a highway.
Robert tried to sit up and
he couldn’t. He did manage to roll over
onto his stomach and bring himself to his hands and knees.
Panting from the exertion,
paused and looked down at his hands. With
the bright moonlight he noticed his shirtsleeves were tattered and faded. Faded
on one side, like from the sun.
How long could he have been
Still on his hands and knees,
surveyed the area around the roughly circular twenty-five-foot depression.
With the help of the moonlight,
he could see the area about eight to ten feet out from the worn lip of the depression.
“I must be in some
dried-up waterhole,” he whispered through dry lips.
Surrounding the waterhole
the skeletons of all sorts of desert life.
What looked to be dried
rats and mice, armadillos, birds, and maybe rabbits, were joined by a number of
Robert had been on his hands
knees for a couple of minutes when his left femur broke away from his hip and
he collapsed onto his stomach again.
There was no pain. Why wasn’t there any pain?
He thought back to his awakening
and realized that with his dry throat and scratchy eyelids there hadn’t been
any pain either. Just the sensation of ….,
He looked at his right
hand. In the darkness, he couldn’t see a
lot of detail. With his left hand he
tested the strength of his ring finger.
He bent it back and forth as far as it would go and then it …, broke
be good,” he said,
The finger he’d broken
off was mainly
skin and bone, with a small amount of dried flesh wrapped around the bone.
Robert was curious as to
all of his body was that dry. But not
curious enough to continue experimenting.
Still lying on his stomach,
knew he was never going to walk out of the desert.
Two pairs of glowing red
been watching Robert from a distance of about thirty feet.
finished,” a voice
murmured from near one pair of those eyes.
voice. “He’s dried quite nicely.”
“Twenty years is a
long time to
wait, Edgar,” said the first voice.
“It’s like letting
a fine wine
age,” answered the second. “The powder
derived from this gift’s body will provide us with life-giving essence for centuries
to come. The job of keeping him just
alive has been difficult, but well worth the effort.”
“Come now. I’ll bring the urns. Let’s get this done and
get back home.”
“Oh, what a welcome
Robert watched as two old
walked up to him. They looked like
“I could use some
help here,” he
said. “I don’t think I can get out of
the desert by myself.”
The men hunkered down in
squatting position in front of Robert, setting two golden urns to the side.
“You are a very
commodity,” one said. “And we will take
special care that all of you gets out of the desert.”
The second of the two picked
the finger that Robert had cast aside.
He rolled it around in his palms, being careful not to lose any of the
dust he was making.
He transferred all of the
Dust” to one palm and gently snorted a small amount.
He let out a sigh. “Exquisite,” he said offering his palm to his
comrade. “The elixir added to the pond’s
water was just the correct amount.”
“Of course it was
amount, Alphonse. I prepared it and
added it to the pond myself.”
“Testy, testy. I said it was correct, didn’t I?”
Robert grimaced as one of
arms was pulled from his body. Based on the
conversation he was listening to but not a part of, he came to realize he might
be the ingredient in some sort of recipe.
A recipe for life.
But not his life.
Alphonse addressed Robert
more as he carefully broke off a leg at one of the knees and pulled it from the
“Your life essence
enhanced by the process. Your DNA will
course through our families for a very long time. We thank you for that.”
As Edgar was wrenching Robert’s
head from his neck, Robert thought about the Huntington’s Disease that had
killed his father and his father’s father before him.
“What do you suppose
smiling about?” asked Alphonse.
“Who knows what humans
humorous,” answered Edgar pulling the head free. “I’ve always
thought them odd.”
is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has
been a voracious reader for over 65 years. At the prompting of an old
high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious
writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals,
Bewildering Stories, One Sentence Poems, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Literally
Stories, Dark Dossier, The Rye Whiskey Review, Near To The Knuckle, Theme of
Absence, Shotgun Honey, 50 Give or Take, Subject And Verb Agreement Press, and
a number of other online and print journals.
Unweaving a Tangled Web, recently
published by Hekate Publishing, is his first novel.