The long stretch of desert highway was covered in sand. The wind was sweeping it up, playing with it, and then letting it fall in what looked like a pre-decided pattern. I had been staring at the same desert wasteland for hours, and I had fallen into a trance. It was as if I wasn't perceiving everything that was in my line of vision. My thoughts were wondering off like children after a hectic day at school. I just couldn't follow any line of thought. I was very much aware of my grave situation. The problem was that I just couldn't care about it. I remember feeling this way when I was a small child. It was as if my body and mind just had enough of a certain situation and therefore decided to stop functioning. There were times I thought I'd never come back from this state of being. The actual thought usually awoke me though. It wasn't working now. I felt I was getting close to a panic attack, but I still didn't move or start thinking about a solution.
Reese had been a good friend of mine for as long as I can remember. I remember going to primary school, teasing girls and licking at dripping ice creams. I remember skipping high school to go out back and smoke some of Reese's cigarettes he had nicked from his mother. I remember our last day at high school. I remember Reese's first, and last, girlfriend. I remember a lot of things, but not how long I had actually known the guy. Quite funny really thinking about how long I had known Reese while his corpse was rotting on the same desert highway I was standing on. His shirt had been torn off and I could see the fresh wounds on his upper body. The flesh hadn't started rotting yet, but in this horrid desert climate, it would start rotting sooner before later. The only piece of clothing they had left on him were his boxer shorts, which were stained with all the bodily fluids a post-graduate could imagine. He was lying face down on the road, his long sandy hair scattered across his sun tanned neck. His blood had dried within an hour, and flies were now drinking up the small puddles that were still relatively liquid.
I had just sobbed for the first hour. After that I just stood there, staring my Reese's corpse. I just couldn't take my eyes off him. The was completely indulged by the horrific scene and I wanted to punch myself in the face for it. Here I was, staring at my friend's lifeless body and I was actually interested by it. I was startled by the, what seemed to me like, sudden setting of the sun and I snapped out of my trance from hell. At first I just glanced around me. Then I started to think. There was nobody to be seen close to my position. No cars had passes in what had to be hours. Resources were minimal. My throat had been parched by the relentless sun. I greedily grabbed my canteen and gulped it down. I started to feel a bit better, then I realized that was the last of my water and my mood sank to an even lower point. I checked the contents of my pockets. I was carrying a cell phone that had no battery connected, two lighters, some loose change and a pocket knife. I discarded the change and pocketed the rest of my belongings.
Reese only weighed about eighty-five kilograms, but hauling his body to the side of the road felt like a whole day's hard work. I knew the right thing to do would be to bury him, but I also knew that it would cost me another hour or two. I needed to get out of this place as soon as possible. I had stayed far too long. Religion hadn't been something Reese, nor I, had ever cared about, so I just gave his body - which was now face up - one last look and then I started heading east. Following the highway would be a foolish thing to do, so I veered off and walked through the rough sand instead. I did want to keep the highway in my sights, so that I could spot any oncoming traffic. I couldn't care about what was coming from the west, because what I was looking for had headed east.
The desert had starting cooling off after the sun had set. My flannel shirt and jeans would keep me warm enough for the coming hours, but I wasn't very sure I would manage so well in my current gear closer to midnight. The wind had picked up, which meant my tracks were being covered by a fresh layer of sand. I had this much going for me. Walking in the desert had worn me out. My body was starting to ache all over. The horizon hadn't changed. There were small bushes throughout the desert, with the scarce small tree. How they survived in this god forsaken climate, I have no idea. Apart from the minimal vegetation, there wasn't much to see. Except there was something to see. About five kilometres in the distance I could see a cloud of sand lifting. A few moments later I could hear the roar of a V8 engine. Something had discoursed from the road and was heading in my direction. I froze, and my mind started racing. They had seen me, there was no other possibility, they must have. Time appeared to slow and I was in an enlightened consciousness. There was nothing on my left, and on my right it wasn't much better. The only cover I could find was a strange rock formation about two-hundred metres to my right. Without hesitation I bolted for the rocks. The sound of the car's engine was growing dramatically louder. All the sounds in the desert seemed to be amplified by the lack of natural sound. It was a pick-up truck - the same pick-up they had brought me and Reese out into the desert with - and three men were standing in the back of the truck. Before I realized what they were holding, they opened fire. The roars of their semi-automatic rifles was deafening. Rocks near my feet exploded into a thousand bits and the dust flew in my face. When I fell to the ground, it felt like something had grabbed my leg and pulled it from underneath me. A pang of pain forced its way up my left arm and I tried to scream, only my throat was too dry to create the right sound, and my scream came out like the cry of an infant. There was a tremendous burst of sound just above my right ear and I was sure my eardrums had popped like freshly baked popcorn. My vision was filled with what looked like chimney smoke, and then it filled with a fabulous bright orangey-red colour. When the smoke lifted, there was no pick-up truck to be seen. What had replaced the truck, at three-hundred metres, was one of the best things I had ever seen. The best way to describe what I saw was to compare it to a plain crash. There was a large hunk of twisted and scorched metal. Scattered around the hulk were smaller bits of metal. The only colour I could make out besides the dark colour of scorched metal was red, the colour of flames and bloody human flesh. That was the last thing I saw before everything went black.
I had awoken from what felt like the worst dream I'd ever had. I tried to open my eyes, but everything stayed dark. My nostrils flared and I could smell something that was like a mixture of wet fur and rotten meat. The place I was lying in smelled of decay. My vision was severely impaired by the lack of light. There was a dirty mattress beneath me and a glass of, what looked like, clean water. I gulped it down and got to my feet. I hit my head on the ceiling of what seemed to be a cave of some sorts. Whilst I stood there cursing, a door opened and light burst its way into the dark and damp cave. There was a silhouette of a man standing in the doorway.
"Follow me if you want your revenge," grunted the man. He then turned around and walked back outside. Who was this man and how did he know I was after revenge? Had he seen what had happened? Was he the one who had saved me? These were all questions I asked myself, despite already knowing the answers. Sometimes intuition was too strong to be ignored. I vaguely recognised the man as well, which made the whole situation even more abstract. The man had saved my life, so I might as well do as he says I thought to myself as I walked towards the door.
When I stepped outside the desert sun hit me like a freight train. I had been out for at least one whole night. This was bad, very bad. The man who had presumably saved my life was sitting on a chair smoking a cigarette. He looked as if he didn't care about his surroundings, and that sitting in the middle of a desert was the most casual thing to do.
"W-wh-who are you?" I uttered. He turned around and stared at me. "You know who I am lad." He was telling the truth. I knew exactly who he was. He was the one responsible for Reese's death. I broke out in an intense sweat. My arms and legs started shaking, I wasn't sure how long I'd still be able to stand. I'm done for, I thought to myself. This is the end.
"I'm sorry for what I did to your friend, but you have to understand if I didn't do it then they'd just kill your friend themselves after finishing me off. I had to do it. At the same moment, I did come to my senses and I started planning the plan I've recently set in motion. I'm planning on taking them bastards out, every single one of them, before they can continue what they're doing, and you're going to help me. That is, if you want to of course." He had said this in a voice that was not quite a whisper. I resented the man in front of me for what he had done to my best friend. I did believe every word of his story though. It was one of those clear moments when you are just one-hundred percent positive that somebody is telling the truth.
"I could tell you more about how I ended up joining the guys you've previously met, but that would just be wasting more precious time we do not have. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I g-g-guess so." My voice still hadn't fully recovered and I couldn't help coming across has a stupid kid.
"Ok, first things first. Let's get armed, then we're heading off east. Follow me."
To be continued...