There was a note. It read, simply: “find water.”
He looked all around. In every direction stretched a flat, yellow land unbroken by vegetation. Above him the sun was a white point in a field of endless blue. It was very hot.
He picked a direction and started walking.
The land threw glare back at his face until he began to worry of blindness. He attempted to tear a strip off his shirt to place over his eyes, but he had nothing in his pockets to start the rip. He settled for pulling the neck hole over his head and letting his arms dangle free from the body of the shirt.
He had cowboy boots too tight to pull off his feet. He had jeans that quickly became sodden with sweat. Walking became difficult and painful but he didn’t stop.
A dark gray line on the horizon became a dark gray line just below the horizon became a dark gray snake stretching before him became a road empty of cars. He turned perpendicular to the direction he’d been traveling and walked that way.
The asphalt was easier to walk on but it radiated heat like an oven door. There was no center stripe or markings of any kind to indicate direction.
Bright squares on the horizon.
He shouted. The sound of his own voice startled him. He broke into a run.
The squares were bright metal, and people were moving in them. People. Dim and dark in the sun, indistinguishable to his damaged eyes.
No, as he drew near, he saw.
Not people. Shadows. They moved as if conversing with one another, servicing engines, replacing flats. They faded with proximity. The boxes, arranged to look like vehicles from a distance, clarified into a disparate pile of metal parts.
He found a small scrap of steel that pricked his palm and used it to slice his shirt. He tied the blindfold and put his arms back in his sleeves.
The road ended itself in a hill. But it wasn’t a hill, it became flat as he approached it. Anamorphic shadows sank into the ground as he walked forward into the bright yellow land again.
It looked like a stereotypical desert, but the dunes flattened out as he approached, dissolving into a loose collection of brown shapes. When the next shadow came, he expected it to fall into flatness as well, but it remained standing even as he drew close enough to see detail.
It was a weathered-wood building. He could make out windows and a single red door and by the time he noticed the spigot he had broken into a run for the blue shade of it.
He did not halt, merely ran straight into the building with his hands out, afraid it would fall flat. It didn’t. He hugged the wall.
The doorknob did not have a keyhole, but it was not yet time to try that. He turned the spigot, and clear water came gushing out. He put his mouth in front of it. The water was as hot as a shower. He leapt back, and the spigot spat itself dry.
He stood there, dripping.
Nothing else came out.
He tried the doorknob, and it turned freely. It wasn’t connected to anything.
He took his hand off the knob and blinked.
The door was painted red, but its surface was the surface of the slats that made up the side of the building. The windows were opaque. Steel, he found when he tossed a pebble at them.
He slumped down beside the building in despair. When he leaned back, he fell flat.
The building was gone.
He sat up.
He was alone in the middle of a wide expanse of yellow. A pinprick sun was nearly lost in the endless blue sky.
Something crackled beneath him. He pulled it out.
It was a note. It read, simply: