It was five years since the oceans had burned away and he missed them dearly. Not for the fish or boats. Nor for the waves or the smell of salt. He didn’t miss their size, for the land was bigger now. And he definitely didn’t miss the thought of their inky depths and the dark secrets kept deep below where even light abandoned hope.
No, he missed them for their wetness. Nothing’s ever wet anymore. He thought that was the biggest shame of all. Dry, everywhere was dry. Dust and sand and rock and bleached bones. Even the people were dry. They no longer sweated, their bodies adapting to the scarcity of moisture. Withered husks, shambling around a desiccated world. A shame, a damn shame.
Yes, he missed grass, but more than that he missed the early morning dew. Yes, he missed the cold, but more than that he missed the condensation on windows. Yes, he missed a drink, but more than that he missed the satiation of liquid. All that was now is dust. And all that will be is dust. An endless tide of choking particles, burrowing into the smallest of cracks, gnawing from within. Exposed surfaces relentlessly buffeted and scoured.
Rain! Honest to God, wet-through drowned-rat-looking rain. That feeling, ironically, burned within him. The desire for rain that would soak you through to your core and bury itself deep in your bones. He kicked the ground and – without any surprise – a burst of red dust billowed. Oceans, rain, rivers, snow, mist and fog. A fantasy now, of course. But one he returns to often — a dream haunted by dreams.
He sat below an overhang of rock high up a cliff facing North. The wind changed hourly, but for now it blew from the South, and he was protected in his little nook. His hands were chafed raw. Cracks on cracks split across his knuckles and every movement of them split them again. He sighed heavily, adding to the bitter wind. He could feel his body and mind flaking away, joining the swirling ever-present dust.
He sat there, cross-legged, for a while. For how long he couldn’t say. Lost in looping thoughts, loose and disconnected. In time, a low rumbling rose in his ears. At first he thought it was another rock slide or crumbling of a nearby cliff. But the sound didn’t stop. It grew and grew. Rising in volume into an almighty roar. He stood and leaned out from the ledge. Something was wrong. Is this the end, he thought? The final shout of a dead world?
Something was wrong. Wind. There was no wind. Not even a gentle breeze. For the first time in years his ears weren’t being whipped. His eyes scanned the horizon and what he saw broke his heart. Coursing along the valley in the far distance, stampeding and churning across the floor — water. A rising tide of foam and waves a hundred metres tall was crashing and tumbling. Tears filled his eyes, a feeling long forgotten to him. He stared as the water thundered and rumbled, spreading to fill the entire valley. His legs gave way beneath him and he collapsed to the floor.
He lay there, minute after minute, hour after hour, watching the water grow. He lay there with tears streaming down red dust-caked cheeks. He lay there praising every God and deity and belief he could imagine. He lay there as he dreamed his last dream, and until the wind rose again and took him away.