There was an old man walking down a very long hallway and Richard wondered how he knew it was an old man, but the hallway melted away, and the old man was now walking across an open canyon and the sky went on forever.
The old man walked towards him as he lay in the sand, and he looked as if he had been in the desert forever. Deep canyons of his very own crisscrossed his face, and the old man’s eyes were set deep behind the face, but Richard saw life there. You may not leave this place alive, I have to tell you that, but you may leave this place alive, this too I have to say, but whatever happens here in this time will only be determined by you now. You have to say it, my son, you have to say it aloud, and you have to mean it, and if you do not, well, I cannot help you.
“I want to live.” Richard managed to gasp through the pain. He was on fire. The sand crept into every part of his body and each grain was a tiny flare of acid. The dust was like pinpricks. The air itself seemed to be overheated.
“Stay with me, Richard! Don’t you give up now!”
You have been bitten by Chiauhcóatl, the old man said, and you know what that means now. I know you do, and I am sorry for I would not have wished it on you, but you wished it on yourself. He is gone now, but from this day on he will be your brother, if you live, and you two will share the desert in many ways. You said you wanted to live, but you did not come out here to live.
“Why, why, dammit,” Richard gasped “why the hell did I come out here then?”
“Don’t try to talk, Richard.”
I cannot tell you. I am not here to give you answers, I am sorry, but I can only tell you if you are going to live or die, and that I cannot say yet. If you die, you come with me. If you live you stay, and then one day you will come with me.
“Death?” Richard tried not to scream and failed. It felt like every nerve in his body was on fire.
“Hang on, Richard, hang on!”
Death isn’t something you know anything about, my son. Were it that simple, I would not be needed. But I will try to make this as painless as I can, even though it might seem like I am not helping you, it would appear you are still alive, and this is not something that many can say at this point. Tell me what you want, Richard.
“I want to live.” Richard cried out.
You say that but you came here and you died the first night. You planned for your body, and you planned for your water and you planned for your food, but what of your soul, my son, what of that?
“Kill me!” Richard gasped in pain.
I cannot. I would not, no, I must tell only the truth here, I have killed before. I would again, but no, not this time, if Chiauhcóatl takes you then that is what must be, but I will not, and I do not think the desert will now. It is dawn, Richard Steven Glass. I will stay with you until it is dawn again. If we do not leave together then, I will leave you, and you will live. I think you will not die, but you will wish, many times over, that you had. Pay attention or the pain will draw you away from what you should see.
“Dammit! Richard! Breathe dammit, breathe!!”
There was a slight ringing in his ears but Richard stood at the entrance of a cave and helped people inside. It was incredibly dark. He put his cell phone on a shelf in the back and flipped it open, letting the blue light shine in the dark. There were people, only shadows of people, really, and he was trying to get them all into the cave, there they would be safe, from something, Richard didn’t know what it was, but a thought crept into his mind. There was something bad in the cave, something, some one, bad, in the cave, and as Richard watched the phones was flipped down again, by someone who should not have been there.
“Drink, Richard, you have you get water into your body”
There was a woman walking along a path, and no matter how quickly he tried, he couldn’t catch up to her. Richard ran as fast as he could and the woman was walking slowly, too slowly, and she was looking up at butterflies, and stopping to write in the sand. The ocean crept into the garden, and then disappeared and the woman would write in the sand as she walked. Richard stopped to read the writing, it was poetry, he could tell that, but he couldn’t read the words. The letters were there, the words he knew, he knew he knew the words, but his ability to read was totally gone. Richard knew what each word was, he knew the meaning of each word, but together they made no sense at all, even though he knew they should. Richard chased after the woman, running faster and faster and faster and suddenly the sun came up and it was totally bright light and there was pain and Richard screamed but the pain was gone and the light was gone and the old man sighed and stood up and he told Richard that tomorrow, perhaps, but this day, no, Richard was not going to come with him, and the darkness closed in around him again and Richard saw the light, the light he knew so well, he raised himself up on his elbows and saw the entrance to Home Cave, and he was inside, and he was alive.
“Good Morning, Richard.” The woman said. “My name is Zoe.”