My hand burns. I crack open one eye and glance at it, half expecting the thing to be engulfed in flames. The skin is red and there is way more dirt under my fingernails than I thought was possible, but it’s not on fire. The desert sun has changed position and my hand is now out of the protective shadow of the umbrella.
I pull my hand back into the shade and let my eyes slip closed again. It’s still too hot to walk. I probably have another hour before the sun sets and the temperature drops. I’ll walk then. Now, I need to stay protected from the sun under this umbrella I found half buried in a dry river bed.
I don’t know how long it’s been since the wind snatched the post-it note out of my hand and I chased after it, getting myself lost in the process. It feels like days, but that’s not possible. The sun hasn’t gone down yet.
The post-it crinkles as I yank it out of my pocket. I smooth it out and read the gas-station clerk’s number. He was cute and all, but not cute enough for all of this.
Why in the world did I have to chase the post-it? When the wind snatched it way I could have sucked it up, gone back in the store and asked him for his number again. But, no. I decided to run out into the dry wasteland. Because I didn’t want to look stupid. Well, I look stupid now, all curled up under a dilapidated umbrella with one hand burnt to a crisp and the half-eaten chocolate bar I bought at the gas station melted to mush and staining my pants. Plus, I’m thirsty as heck.
Good thing I still have the pen he used to write his number in my pocket. I can use it to… Wait. The pen is just as useless as the post-it.
I ball up the number and almost chuck it into the dirt, but I stop mid-throw. The desert gets cold at night. Really cold. If I can’t find my way back to the gas station and my car tonight, I might need the paper to build a fire. And I could use the pen as a straw if I happen to find some water. I shove the post-it back into my jeans pocket with the pen.
Maybe they’re not so useless after all.
Something glitters on the horizon. I sit up and stare at the line where the sky meets the dirt. Heat waves distort the air, undulating like ghosts in the sun and the miniscule amount of hope I had disintegrates. No one has come to rescue me. The shimmer I saw was a mirage.
But it happens again. A quick shimmer of light at the top of the hill. I jump to my feet and knock over my umbrella tent. A gust of wind catches the umbrella and it slides across the ground. I grab it before it’s carried away. There is no way I’m losing this umbrella. If that light turns out to be nothing but a discarded candy wrapper or a shiny rock, I’m going to need it.
I hold the umbrella over my head and make my way across the hard-packed earth, like the Mad Max version of Mary Poppins. I don’t know what the irregular bursts of light are, but I’m going to find out.
The lights are farther away than they seemed at first. I walk for what feels like forever, being careful not to step on any snakes or scorpions hiding out in the rocks. As the sun slips down and kisses the horizon, the lights grow bigger, brighter. And they’re coming in pairs. Like glowing white eyes, they peek up over the hill and disappear behind it.
The roar of the highway rolls over the hill like an angel’s choir and a cross between a laugh and a sob squeezes from my throat. I drop the umbrella and run faster than I have run in my life.
I have no idea where I am, what highway that is, or how far away from my car I am, but it doesn’t matter. If I can flag down a car, I can get to a phone. Good thing I didn’t throw away Mr. Cute Clerk’s number. It’s my ticket home.
About the Tour
Each day of The Crossroads Blog Tour, a new research question will be revealed on The Crossroad Blog Tour main page and each day the answer to that question will be found within one of the different blog posts by Crossroads Tour authors. Your job is to get the question, read the blog posts, and collect all answers by the end of the tour.
A Grand Prize of a FREE Kindle, pre-loaded with ebook titles from as many of this years participating authors as possible (some are debut authors and their title may not yet be released) will be drawn using the Rafflecopter entry system and is open TO EVERYONE.