Short Story: THIRST

Another bit of flash fiction that originated from a class assignment – to write a character who wants something. Badly. 

THIRST

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Even the grass had begun to scald her exposed skin by the time she noticed the glass of water, shimmering in the rays of brutal white sun. Her sandpaper throat gaped and sucked in dusty air at its promise. The sun had taken nearly every atom of moisture from her body and absorbed it uselessly into the furious sky. Brittle and draining, she could not move, let alone find her way back into the house under the protection of a roof. She had lain there wheezing, aware of how her body would shrivel like a forgotten apple off the tree, until the glint of liquid shot into her eyes and blinded her. Someone had left it on the old boards of the porch, barely concealed by the shade and leaking deliriously attractive condensation. As she stared at it, she could almost feel it sliding down her throat, seeping into the membrane that had receded and cracked, replenishing all that was about to evaporate. The false sensation was enough to give her strength, and she turned over, and began to crawl.

Dark sweat had crusted on her skin, beneath which her muscles and bones were melting into rancid jelly, so movement was a monstrously painful task; but the water beckoned, and she could slide along the grass if she rooted her fingers into the soil and tugged. With pitiful huffs of desert-breath she inched toward the house. The soil singed her hands and formed instantaneous blisters. Pain, however, had become mundane to her in the heat. She scorned her hands for their weakness. Soon soon soon she promised them, that cool touch and rush and we will feel good again.

The porch seemed to retreat from her as she dragged her gelatinous body toward its prize. Stooooop she wanted to cry, but her tongue clacked like a dying beetle between her teeth. She could feel her vocal cords twanging in her chest; in a moment they would snap. Wait goddamnit she cried to them, wait one fucking second. It was closer, yes, drawing closer all the time. The water seemed to exude relief and mercy in a cooling breeze. Its cresting kiss invigorated her flaccid limbs and they slunk forward at a slightly faster pace, just fast enough to reach that water before the sun finished its task of burning her to ashes. She would laugh at the sun once the water had restored her vocal chords and tongue. Oh, how she would laugh, shake the earth with the raging sound, quake the sky until the sun itself came tumbling down, crashing into her flood of moisture and extinguishing in a pathetic fizzle of steam, how lovely that sound would be in her gushing ears, how powerful her cooled and reanimated body pulsing with fresh fluid…

The door to the house opened as she reached for the glass, hardly a foot away. A man dressed in loose beige linen stepped out, squinted at the sun in disdain, and made his slow way over to the edge where she was lying. Without looking at her, he stooped and swiped the glass from its place. He sipped at it and grimaced – no longer cold. Spitting to rid himself of the taste, he upended the glass and let the water tumble into the dirt, which drank it up greedily. Then the man took the glass back inside and disappeared.

She remained still, unfeeling, for a moment. Her mind had numbed. But she did notice the rim of condensation on the wood of the porch, the ghost of her salvation. The grass or the sun had not yet swallowed it. Perhaps if she moved quickly, pulled harder at the soil, she could reach it with her tongue before it, too, disappeared. With a hollow groan to the merciless sky, she rooted her fingers once more and heaved.

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