July 7, 2023 /

She’s dying, you can feel it. The air from her lungs is weak and heavy, humid from the death lingering in her chest. Her skin is hot and cracking, and she does not rest. Every moment she moves, lumbering, wheezing, clinging to life, you feel her pain.

It burns in your lungs with the pollution in the sky. It shakes your home with the earthquakes and sinkholes. The air is hot and heavy, the sun blistering against you and you feel her pain.

It is summer and the trees have no leaves. Your planet is dying, and you have nowhere to go. You will die with her. All of the others left you, leaving in their tin cans, up and away towards the great dark abyss.

You stayed. Stayed on her eternal red desert, and hot orange mountains. The lakes long dried up, any water left polluted and dark. You didn’t have much time before, anyways. You didn’t need to run from what was coming. You were dying. Space had nothing for you, so you would stay with the only family you had left.

You were both dying, and you would die together.

You haul yourself off of the porch chair, and lumber forwards, off the porch. You step onto the blistering red sand, the grains sneaking into your shoe and grinding against your skin, but it doesn’t bother you. It’s almost like a reminder. “Hello, hello!” It seems to say. “We’re still alive, you’re still here!” It feels like love. It feels like fear. You walk out among the dunes, forward, forward.

You trek towards the drying oasis, no need for maps or compasses when the steps have been burned into your mind eternally from pure habit. You walk, the sand still saying its hellos. The sun kisses your skin, like a rough lover in the heat of passion. It burns, but you don’t mind it.

You make it to the oasis, and sigh at what’s left of the polluted water. Green and black angry clouds, filled to the brim with acid water, are on the horizon. You know it’ll never make it here. The wind is picking up, and will carry the clouds away.

You crouch at the water, scooping it up with your hands and drinking it. The sour taste lingers on your tongue and yet somehow soothes the ache in your bones. You wonder if it’s just the familiarity, or if the poisonous water is finally killing you. 

You don’t mind. You hear a groan in the distance and a loud boom. You look up, dirty water dripping from your lips as you watch yet another mountain collapse. You stand, watching as the shockwave lifts up the sand, causing yet another sandstorm. You turn. You walk away.

You barely feel the sand anymore. Just an occasional gentle “Hello, hello?” As if it wonders if you’re still there. The feeling is starting to fade though, your hands and feet tingling with so many pinpricks. You trudge along, the wind beginning to lick and lap at your hair, tossing it into your face and covering your eyes. You don’t want to put the effort into fixing it, you’ll reach your destination eventually.

Or you won’t. Apathy fills you, from your tingling fingertips, to the cold and heavy pit in your chest. From your bleeding, chapped lips, to the dirty clothes you’ve worn since you knew you were going to die alone.

It’s a warm summer day, the trees have no leaves. You fall to the ground as the sandstorm grows closer. You feel cold. You close your eyes, tension releasing as you sink into the warm sand like it’s a warm mattress. 

Your breath begins to stutter in your chest. You feel like coughing. Blood is rushing in your ears. Is this it? Are you dying? Your eyelids are heavy, despite being closed. You feel like you may never open them again. You are welcomed against her warm skin. You rest atop her, and sleep. 

The storm rolls over the dunes, sand whirling as the man lays there. It begins to cover him, as she ever so gently tucks him underneath the sand as though it were a blanket. Warm and comforting, it is the only burial he will have. She is the only one who will mourn him.

The rest of her children left her, and she cannot fault them. Though they destroyed her, she is happy that they will continue to live. It wasn’t as though their act was malicious, children rarely are purposefully cruel. And when they learned their mistakes, they certainly tried to fix them.

And yet, they were all too late. She was doomed, and they would be doomed too if they stayed. And so they left, mournfully, picking up the pieces of their cultures and doing their best to keep every memory of her they had. All but one, a single man chose to stay. She can’t say she was happy about it, yet…

It was a great comfort, knowing she would not die alone. She remembered all her children, buried beneath her skin. She holds their memories close, and closes her eyes. Her body is wracked with shivers, shaking against itself as she tears apart slowly.

It hurts, but she knows it will be over soon.

And it is.

—  Xeffrei Champion