She woke up one day, she didn't know which day, and it took a long time to realise it was a day on which she woke, or that she woke. She woke with all the words in her head. She didn't know what was happening. She just didn't get it.

It is hard to describe the ordeal of organising a language; it cannot be described using language. She had to put a meaning to all the words, which involved giving a meaning to all the words used in the meaning.

It took her a long time; she didn't know how long it took, but she did finish.

She knew every word but she didn't know how long it had been since she awoke. She only knew it had been a long time. She was in a house, a well-supplied house as she would discover. There was food and water, which she had consumed from instinct, or habit, while her mind was busy with all the words.

But finally the day came that she ran out of food. She knew she had to leave.

She pushed the doors up and open, a trap door leading out into the world. Light burst in; light so bright it blinded her and burned her skin. Along with the light came a fair amount of sand, cascading in where there had once been a surface beneath it. And along with the sand came a starved, but still quite large, dog.

She hastily pulled the door closed overhead.

She slumped against the wall with no idea what to do. She knew that she had to leave, and she knew that she could not leave. She didn't know what she could do to overcome that blinding light, except to stay away from it.

The dog nudged her.

"What?" she asked irritably. It was the first time she had used a word out loud since she found them all inside her head. It felt strange, to hear in the world what she had heard in her head.

The dog gave her a strange look; she knew it was strange, but not why it was strange. He flicked his head, beckoning her to follow, and she did, because there was absolutely nothing else she could think of to do.

The dog gestured again with his head and she followed him further into the house than she had been before. She had only been in three different rooms: the one she woke in, and slept in, the one that had food and water, and the toilet.

She pulled herself to her feet and followed the dog into the house. There were lots of rooms, lots of doors hanging open, all the rooms had beds, but little else. They walked slowly; the dog was weak, his ribs showing clearly through his thick coat.

There was a closed door. There were no other closed doors, other than the one with the light beyond it. She felt fear. Maybe this door also concealed the light that would burn her. Maybe she shouldn't go through.

The dog looked back at her, then gestured with his head at the door. He seemed friendly, and he would know if there was light beyond. Why would he? She stepped past and opened the door. The room was dark, as all the rooms were. She had once found a switch that made the room blinding, but she had left it alone after a single test.

But this room was too dark; she searched for the switch on the wall next to the door, where it was in her bedroom. She found it and, after firmly closing her eyes and covering them with her hand, she flipped the switch.

Even through her closed eyes the small bars of light that came through her fingers were blinding. The light slowly became less blinding, until she could remove her hand, and after a long time she felt able to open her eyes. The light burned into her for a moment but quickly dimmed enough to be bearable.

The room was another bedroom, slightly bigger than the others, with a wardrobe built into one of the walls. The dog jumped up on the bed and lay down. There was nothing on the bed but a sheet. The dog gestured with his head at the wardrobe before closing his eyes and settling into the bed.

She opened the doors and inside found a khaki outfit. She had never found any clothes before, and was interested, but there was something wrong with the clothes here. They didn't seem practical, but she still took them out. If she put this on it would cover every possible bit of her skin, except her head and feet.

The clothes didn't seem practical until she looked down at herself. She had never really looked at herself before; it had never mattered. She had always been extremely pale, almost to the point of being luminescent in the darkness of the house, but now she was red and there were blisters. The doors had only been open for a few seconds and this was the effect?

She remembered the light that burned her eyes and her skin. She could see that the clothes were practical, they were her shield. She left the clothes on the floor and went back to look in the cupboard, there she found what was effectively a helmet, also khaki. It was a helmet with extremely dark tinted goggles and more cloth that would go over her mouth and her neck. There were also black leather boots that would go up to her knees.

"How did you know this was here?" she asked the dog, who made no response, being fast asleep. It would have been easy for her to justify talking to a dog, there was no one else to talk to. But she felt no need to justify it; it felt like she had talked to him for a long time.

She moved the helmet and boots out of the wardrobe and had another look inside. She could see nothing else within. But she was determined that there was, so she started tapping on the panelling to see if it was hollow. The sides were not hollow, but when she tapped the back it sounded hollow.

She felt around the edges, but there was no way to get the wooden back out of the wardrobe, not without force. She hit the panel, hard, because at that time she didn't know what pain was, except as a concept.

It hurt, splitting the skin across her knuckles. The wood splintered and broke perfectly in half. She pressed her hand over the split, not sure what she was really doing, forgetting momentarily about the hole she had created. But she remembered quickly and paused from nursing her now injured hand to find that the hole was empty. It was barely big enough to be a hole.

She scraped out the entirety of the wooden panel in something of a panic, despite the splinters that lodged themselves in her hands. There was no reason for this panic, but, after the pain in her hand, which she now ignored, it seemed incredibly unfair to find nothing within.

She turned away from the empty wardrobe and walked over to the bed, where she pressed the bloodied knuckles into the sheet. The dog opened his eyes and gave her a look. She looked back at it, then lifted her hand and tore off a long strip from the sheet covering the mattress.

She wrapped the strip around and around her knuckles, feeling pain that she associated with the split skin but felt more like needles. The dog shifted his head closer to the spot of blood that she had left on the sheet and started licking it off.

"That is a strange thing to do," she pointed out.

He made no response, only continuing to lick the blood off the sheet. She looked at her hand to identify the source of the small pains, little pieces of wood lodged in her flesh. She started to pull them out with her fingernails, finding a fair few.

The dog finished cleaning the mattress and shifted back to his original position. She unbound her knuckles. They had stopped bleeding, but that wasn't why she was unbound them. She needed to get the splinters out before she bound them properly. She didn't want to heal with splinters in her hand.

They were all pushed under her skin now. She dug with her fingernails until she started bleeding again; it hurt but she did not want to leave any in. She re-tied her hand to stem the blood now leaking from her palm, but the skin was already closing. In the light she could see that her skin was no longer blistered and that the red was fading quickly.

The dog seemed to wake up, stretching and lifting himself off the bed. He padded away from her, out of the room into the rest of the house. She wasn't sure if there were any more undiscovered rooms in the house, so she followed.

The dog did not take her anywhere she hadn't been, he took her to the fridge. The fridge hadn't worked for quite some time, but was still colder than the rest of the house. There was nothing in there; she had eaten it all before the fridge had broken.

"There is nothing in there," she told the dog. There was no food anywhere in this house.

The dog stayed looking at the fridge; he didn't seem to be waiting for her to give him something, just waiting for her to listen to him. It was a strange sense of déjà vu. She had never met a dog before, not that she knew of, but this motion was intensely familiar.

She opened the fridge and it was as empty as she remembered it. The dog continued staring at the fridge, making no move to do anything now that it was open. She closed the fridge and looked around for the water, not sure why.

The dog watched her, still looking at the fridge from time to time. She got the water, a massive container that was almost empty by now. The dog padded forward and sniffed the container of water. He looked at her and she knew that he really needed some water, yet she was reluctant to give him any.

The dog went back over to the fridge, he nudged the back of it and then he turned and looked at her. She walked back over to it, not completely sure why she had dug the water out. The dog looked at her again and nudged the fridge.

It wasn't working she figured, it wouldn't matter if it broke more. She gripped the back of the fridge and pulled it out from the wall. It disconnected itself after a small amount of strain and she shifted it into the middle of the room.

There was nothing there. It was just the wall. "Why did you want me to do that?" she asked the dog, not expecting an answer.

The dog looked at the wall, then at her bandaged hand. She stepped forward and started tapping the wall like she had with the back of the wardrobe, but with the other hand this time. After a short time the wall resonated. She could feel another hollow panel.

She took a deep breath and smashed her fist into the panel. This one only cracked, the plaster over it holding firm, almost. It hurt more than the first time, opening up the splits over her knuckles. She took another deep breath to steady herself.

The panel broke inwards this time, cracking in the middle and falling to the ground. The plaster crumbled around the hole she had made in the wall. She cleared it out, no splinters this time, only crushed plaster.

This compartment wasn't empty like the last one. There was something in there, something metal and dangerous. She didn't want it. She had never seen one but she knew what it was, and it was dangerous. She wouldn't have taken it if that thought hadn't come into her head. Whoever left this for her was the same person who had left the food and water.

She picked it up and it felt almost familiar, the same déjà vu, something that she had once had but never seen before. But unlike the dog, who she was sure she knew, she knew she had never used one of these. She had never used a firearm in her life.

It was a handgun, a loaded handgun. She didn't know why anyone would leave this for her, but she knew someone had. The dog approached and looked into the compartment. She didn't see anything in there. The dog obviously agreed with her, and moved away again.

She knew how to work it but she didn't know how it worked. She looked over it and found a button, and a switch. The switch was set down, but she wasn't sure what that actually meant. She pushed the button and something fell out. She was surprised enough that she didn't catch it and it fell to the ground.

She stooped and picked it up, it looked like it was full of something, but it took her a minute to remember the word. Magazine, that is what it was, something she remembered. It was full of bullets, but she knew it was spring loaded, so it might look full and in fact not be.

She pressed down on the top bullet, it pushed in slightly and then stopped; the magazine was full.

She left that house shortly after finding the gun, putting on the khaki suit and taking a knife and the water container from what was theoretically the kitchen. She had no desire to use that dangerous thing.

The dog followed her. She didn't know why he would do that; she had not given him much. She had given him some water in the end, even though he had not asked. She understood, though, that there was also no reason for him to stay in the house.

She walked out into the bright world outside, into the sand that covered the world now, and found bones. Outside the house she found a pile of bones; she knew they were human bones, and she knew that it was the dog who turned them from humans into just the bones. It didn't bother her as much as she thought it should.

She didn't know that the sand covered the world, but she thought it covered the world. It was everywhere. There was nothing but the sand. She couldn't see the trapdoor into the house after only walking for a minute, there was no wind.

It was hard to tell what time of day it was as she walked. In a desert you want to know the time. If there are no clouds then the night must be cold. Heat leaves this world in the same manner as people, up. She couldn't look up to judge from the position of the sun, because it would undoubtedly blind her, despite the heavily tinted goggles over her eyes.

So she just walked. It was not boiling hot, which is what she had expected, but it was still sweltering, and the thick clothes where not helping. She held the knife in her hand, she didn't want to cut the clothes, and she had nowhere to put it. She carried the water jug over her shoulder.

The dog stayed next to her, despite the fact that she walked fast, even though he was so obviously malnourished. He kept up with her, but he looked like he would have preferred not to. She had no problem with the dog but felt that, if he wanted to come with her, he should keep up.

But she didn't think about any of this as she walked. It didn't matter that she had nowhere to store the knife, and it didn't matter that the dog could only just keep up. All she could think of was the sand, sand that covered everything, sand that covered the world. The sun had dried her world, dried and crumbled everything into sand.

The thought never occurred to her that the sand might not cover the world, nor did it occur to her that there might be a place other than the house she had just left that hadn't dried and crumbled in the sun. But it also never occurred to her that leaving her house might be a waste of time, not prolonging her existence, merely shortening it.

Dehydration did not set in, she did not even think of it. She walked for a long time, the dog kept up for the whole day, but she didn't really notice. The only thing other than the sand she could think of was that the night would be cold and she could think of no way to stay warm.

The sun hit the horizon, blinding as ever, but still she walked towards it. She just couldn't look at it. And then it was gone and darkness charged across the desert, covering the world just like the sand and, just like the sand, it left her no place to hide.

She knew that all she could do now was sleep, but she didn't want to sleep, just like she didn't want to eat and just like she didn't want to drink. But the dog could not continue. He collapsed when she stopped; he didn't even pant; he only slept in a complete exhaustion that she knew she would never experience.

She sat down next to the dog and pulled off the helmet and then she lay down in the sand. It didn't get into her clothes; it didn't get into her shoes; it just sat around her, like it was biding its time. She knew she was just in a bad mood due to the fact that the sun during the day was blinding and sweltering and at night the cold spread through her body within minutes.

But the sand maintained its warmth.

She didn't sleep that night, or the next, but she slept the night after. She continued this pattern; she didn't walk at night, because the dog couldn't manage it. She lay in the warm sand and stared at the sky, blank and empty. There was something missing, but she did not know what it was that should have been there.

She walked for six more days before she found food. It surprised her that the dog kept up with her for she found no water either, but he did stay. For six days he stayed exactly by her side and did not leave her.

But now, after seven days, he was running.

Another mirage is what she thought when she saw it, but as she got closer it did not move away like all the others. By this point she wouldn't have been opposed to water and she wouldn't have been opposed to food.

There was a prone shape, just by the lake. It wasn't really a lake, more like a pond, but it was clean water, and that was enough. The shape wore clothes like hers, but they were tattered, and frayed. The dog was already on the corpse, even before she saw it.

She jogged over to them. The dog moved back, despite the amount he was salivating. "Drink something," she told the dog. "I would prefer that you not rip these clothes."

The dog dived into the lake. It seemed like it should be boiling, but it looked cool, or at least not as hot as the rest of the world. She knelt down by the prone shape. She didn't think of it as a person, but only because it no longer looked like one.

She noticed pockets sewn into the clothes, which seemed like a good idea. The knife was still in her hand. She went through all the pockets she could see and found only one thing, or nine things, a pocket full of bullets.

Only three of them were the right size for her gun though, so she only took those, leaving the others in the pocket, having no use for them. She wasn't sure what to do with the new bullets she had picked up. She had found some loops on the inside of her clothes and that was where her gun was, but she had nowhere to put the bullets.

She put the bullets in a different pocket on the corpse and turned it over. It had a pack, which she relieved it of. She opened the pack, and there found an empty bottle and a fair amount of food, all canned and all looking like the only reason they would be eaten was lack of anything else.

She also found a sewing kit, a thick needle and a fair amount khaki thread, a great deal of it in fact, and some big scissors. The scissors weren't that sharp, but they were better for cutting fabric that her knife.

She pulled out the scissors and cut a fair amount from the corpse's clothing. Their skin didn't burn like hers had, not at first, but then sunburn started. It took a long time for them to start to blister, but they did eventually. She took the pack and moved away, taking the bullets and putting them in the pack.

The dog erupted from the lake and charged at the corpse again, eating and eating. She moved slightly further away, and then started to make herself a pocket and a way to store the knife she had been carrying for the last seven days.

The pocket was easy, despite the fact that she had no idea how to sew. It seemed loose but it took her a moment to realise that that would be a bad thing because the sand would get in, so she lined it on the inside.

She opened the pack and pulled out a can. She contemplated taking the lid off with a knife but, because of her lack of cutlery, she decided to look for a can opener, or some other cutlery, to avoid cutting her hand any more.

There was no cutlery and there was no can opener, so she just made a hole in the top of the can with the knife. She was about to try to get the corn out with her fingers when it occurred to her that maybe that was a bad idea, so she upended the can over her hand.

She ate that and then repeated the process until she was no longer hungry. There was still half the can left. The dog was still eating, he had been for a long time by now. It seemed like he had probably eaten a bit too much and would get sick or something, but he just kept eating.

She sat there and stared at the can for a while, not really sure what else to do She didn't really want to leave the lake that day. It seemed to her a good place to wait. She wanted to keep the rest of the can, but had no good ideas about how to do so.

She eventually put a piece of the remaining fabric over the top of the can and then wedged it into the sand. She opened the bag and put the gun in it. She put it down next to the can and stabbed the knife into the sand next to them both.

She wanted to wash her clothes and herself, but she couldn't do that during the day because she would burn, and she couldn't do it at night because it was too cold. It took her another minute of staring into the lake before she realised that could just walk into it fully clothed.

The water was cool, despite having been in the sun for a long time. She lay down in the water, letting it soak into her clothes and weigh her down. She floated down through the cool water until she was lying at the bottom of the lake.

She lay there and stared up through the water and her goggles at the bright sky, enjoying the ability to do so as the water diffused a lot of the light that came down. She lay in the wet sand at the bottom of the lake and stared up at the sky.

But soon enough she felt the need to breathe and so resurfaced, breathing heavily through the now wet cloth that covered her mouth. She caught her breath and stuck her head back under the water, face first, and the water. She drank as much as she could without feeling sick.

Again she came up panting. Her clothes completely soaked, she waded out of the lake and stood in the sun for a while, wondering if the water was bad for her boots. She dried quickly, as she had expected she would and then she let the sun dry her boots. It seemed better than leaving them wet.

She filled her massive container, the one she had taken from the kitchen. The sun was inching towards the horizon by this point, about twenty minutes before sunset. She had slept the previous night and so didn't want night to come so soon, but there was nothing she could do about it.

She had energy now. She had eaten and she wasn't going to just lie down and wait for the sun to abandon her to the desert. Three spare bullets. She fished the gun from her bag. It took her longer than expected, considering it was one of about six things within.

She pulled the empty bottle from the bag. She had no need for it, so why not pump it full of holes?

She moved back from the lake, still facing the sun because it seemed smart to be able to overcome the light and still be able to aim. She threw the bottle up into the air, watching it, she aimed one handed and... click.

Nothing happened and the bottle landed, unharmed, in the sand about a metre in front of her. She looked over the gun, and now, in the light, saw a small letter 's' scratched under the down lever. The safety was on. That was why the gun didn't go off.

She flicked the lever up then stepped forward to retrieve the bottle.

She threw it high into the air. She watched it fly up, aiming one handed with the gun, hoping that it would go off this time. She squeezed the trigger and... bang. It was loud, but not too loud, she could deal with it.

The bottle landed on the lake and floated, no water flowing in. She fished it out, getting her boots a little wet again. There was no hole in it. She turned away from the sun, which was almost straight across the lake from where she now was.

She threw the bottle up again, this time gripping the gun with both hands. She closed one eye and... bang. The bottle jumped in mid-air. She shifted her grip slightly and... bang. The bottle jumped again in the air before falling to the ground.

Her ears were ringing but it faded quickly. She judged that the gun would be too hot to replace under her clothes, considering she had nothing to insulate her against the heat. She walked over to the perforated bottle. There were two small holes in the front and two slightly larger holes in the back.

Darkness hit like a wave, the night flowed past her. It was strange to watch night crossing the desert, but there were no interruptions in the surface and so, to some extent, she could watch it. She fumbled the magazine out of the gun and forced her three spare bullets into it.

The dog was sleeping next to the mostly eaten corpse, looking completely satisfied, and a lot healthier. She lifted the goggles from her eyes and rubbed the lines they had left around her eyes, but then she replaced the goggles and sat down in the sand.

She could see almost nothing with the goggles on, but she preferred it at night, there was almost nothing to see. She sat and watched the world go past, colder than usual without the sand against her back, but she stayed sitting for a long time before lying back.

Lying down was probably what saved her, less than thirty seconds later she heard something, a familiar sound that she had never heard before. There was no déjà vu so she thought about it, why was it so familiar?

Because she heard it every minute of every day. Someone was walking through the sand. Soon she could hear the sound of teeth chattering, or what she assumed was the sound of teeth chattering. Someone walked right past her prone form, walking towards where the lake lit up the night.

It didn't seem right that the lake lit up the night, a mirror with nothing to reflect should reflect nothing. She slowly and quietly lifted her goggles from her eyes. There was a man walking past her, holding a very battered looking knife.

He was looking around; she wasn't sure how he knew there was anyone there until she realised that he must have heard the shots. It couldn't have been that long ago. She quietly got to her feet; she must have made some sound but went unheard as the man saw the dog.

"Are you looking for something?" she asked him, trying to bring his attention away from the dog.

He span, startled. He had a strange look in his eyes. "Give me what you have!" he insisted, he was not speaking English, but she knew all the words. Or it wouldn't have taken so long to organise all of them.

He lunged at her, giving her no time to reply. She moved out of the way and went for the knife... which was still jammed into the sand with her bag. She didn't want to use the gun, because a gun is not what she wanted to use.

He lunged at her again, jabbing at her with the knife. She stepped back and to the side, dodging again. He lunged again and again, no other movements, just stabbing, which was strange, but helpful for her.

She took a few quick steps back, giving her a moment and a good look at her assailant. He was taller than her, which felt a little strange for no reason. His clothes were tattered and frayed like those of the corpse.

He lunged again, charging the distance between them. She didn't step out of the way this time, she shifted slightly and the knife went past her, just missing her clothes. She wrapped an arm around his wrist and squeezed. The man writhed and cried out.

He let go of the knife and leaned back enough for her to hit him, first in the face, then she let go of his arm and hit him in the stomach, doubling him over. She stooped and picked the knife up from the ground where he had dropped it.

"I will not give you my things," she told him in the same language he had used. "But I will let you keep your life."

He screamed and swung at her. She dodged, but not quite fast enough. The blow hit her in the shoulder, freezing her left arm, luckily not the hand holding the knife. She dodged the second blow and the third as her arm regained feeling and movement.

He tried a right hook and she blocked it, stepping in close to his body and putting the knife against his throat. "I will give you another chance," she told him, gritting her teeth against the anger building inside her.

He screamed right into her face and pushed himself against the knife. It did not cut right away, taking almost a second before breaking the skin. A massive, mostly toothless, grin spread across the man's face as he fell to the ground, landing heavily in the sand.

She dropped the knife, outraged that someone would do that to themselves. She had no issue with what she had done. She had not done it herself, but that wasn't the point. He had attacked her. Anger filled her head. How dare someone attack her. She tried to push it away, she knew why he had done it.

The anger filled her like a wave of fire, all the way to the brink and...


Something clicked inside her head and the anger drained out; it wasn't her voice that she heard inside her head, it wasn't her voice that set her ears ringing. She saw the dog standing now, sleep completely gone, ribs again showing, staring at her with a frighteningly human expression.

She woke to the sun spreading across the sky, reaching up from the horizon to once again engulf the world. She replaced the goggles over her eyes, then pushed herself upright to see the dog sleeping next to the completely cleaned bones of the corpse. Something had happened to him last night, she knew it.

She got up and the world shifted under her. She balanced herself but knew she needed more sleep. She retrieved the bag and cut up the new corpse's clothes into useable amounts of cloth, he had no pockets and nothing she could use.

She stuffed all the cloth into the bag and then put it back with the knife and the jug of water. She checked the temperature of the water. It was not rising as she had expected from the heat of the sun.

She walked back over to the water and lay down so that it reached up to her chin and let the world slowly drift from focus.

This time she woke with the sun burning right into her brain. She pushed herself up and got out of the lake. She dried just as quickly as she had the previous day. The dog was lying next to the fresher corpse, which was about half eaten now. He looked like he had yesterday when he had finished eating.

"What happened last night?" she asked him, almost expecting him to answer.

He did not.

"Fair enough," she said, mostly to herself, then looked back at the dog. "Can you walk?"

He stood and started towards the same horizon as the sun, walking slowly. She picked up the stuff she had left on the ground. The can had heated up, as had the knife, but more so. She pushed the knife into the pouch she had sewn for it, which did not come off as she had feared.

She slung the water over her shoulder again, it was a lot heavier than before but still she didn't have trouble with it. They walked slowly for the rest of the day; neither of them were up to going any faster.

She slept again that night, unprecedented but not unexpected. What was unexpected was the dream, but really it was not a dream. Her dreams were immaterial, her dreams were insubstantial; they meant nothing, but this one was important. This one was clear like something that was happening, or something that had happened.

She was sitting in the sand, it was hot and it was bright. She knew that there was heat but she didn't feel it, and the dark lenses shielded her eyes from the light that blinded. It was her desert that she stared at, like she saw it during the day, but unlike during the day, she was not alone here.

He was talking. She looked at him, dark skin and dark hair and dark clothes. He was always so monochrome, she thought, but that was not what she was thinking. It was what she remembered thinking. It was a dream of something that had happened.

"It seems to me that you have calmed down, after so long," he said, voice deep and sad. He did not look at her as he spoke, but observed the sand, longing clear on his face.

He wishes that it was not all gone, she thought. He wishes that nothing had happened. So did she.

"Calmed down," she said. She sounded somehow different, older and younger at the same time. "Calmed is the wrong word. I am not calm."

"There is a difference between rage and bitterness," the man said, still looking out at the sand.

"You understand me so well," she said. "Rage and bitterness are as different as hot and cold but they are both anger."

"And if you have bitterness as strong as your rage was..." he let the sentence trail off. He rubbed his eyes with thick fingered hands.

She knew he was crying, she also knew that after so long he was no longer sad, just less in control.

"They are different facets of the same emotion," she said, "and it is difficult to quantify emotion."

"That is true," he replied.

They were quiet for a minute, staring out into the world. She could see her legs and shoes now. She was wearing black pants and shiny black shoes. From her outside perspective it seemed a waste of time to keep the shoes black and shiny. But it was obvious her and this memory where not the same person despite having the same body. She leaned forward to clean a spot from her shoe.

"Bitterness is just as destructive as rage," he said quietly.

She looked at him and he looked back. His eyes were white, completely white. He was blind, his eyes sealed. That was why he wore dark colours, because he did not like his eyes. She knew this but refused to help.

She woke from her memory and she wondered how she could have helped him and why she would refuse to do so. The sun was not yet rising, but the horizon was glowing. She sat up, chilled despite the warm sand.

The dog was staring at her, his eyes bright in the darkness. They reminded her of the eyes in her memory, but he was not blind and his eyes were those of a dog, not a human. She stood and stretched, hastily pressing the goggles over her eyes as the sun burst from the horizon, baking the sand once again.

The dog stood and she looked down on him. He looked healthy now, and pretty fat, like he had absorbed all he had eaten. She started walking, faster than usual, trying to get the questions out of her head; why wouldn't she help? Why did the dog remind her of the blind man? Why didn't she feel the heat?

But she felt the heat now.

It took her another five days to become hungry and the same amount of time to sleep. She ate in the morning, before the sun rose. The dog was not wasting yet. He was slightly less fat but not in any sort of trouble. She cut the top off the empty can with the knife then folded down the sides so they wouldn't be sharp. She figured a cup might come in handy at some point.

Two days later the dog appeared to be dying. It took her at least five minutes to work out it was from dehydration. So the cup did come in handy. She poured some water in it and the dog drank it instantly, but also with extreme care. She filled it again and he repeated the process. There was a lot more water but she had no idea how long it would take them to find more.

She picked up the cup and put it back in her bag. The dog looked wistful but did not protest. He just fell back into step with her as she continued to walk. She imitated the sun, heading for the same horizon. There was no reason for this, only that it gave her a direction. Being directionless in the desert was the fastest way to get lost. She wouldn't know if she was backtracking or just going in circles.

She dreamed again when she slept, or she remembered again. This memory was stranger, to her; buildings and people. She didn't like it but she could do nothing but see it through.

She was standing in a long room, that in itself was a surprise, but not in the memory. She was just standing there, waiting, everyone staring at her. They always stared, she was much taller than any of them and she was built in a frightening way, or so she had been told.

She stood there and introduced herself to the class. They had talked continuously from the moment she arrived, as they always did when she arrived at a new school. They always said the same things about her, but she couldn't have cared less.

It was strange; she said words in the memory, but she heard none of them, like they were a secret kept from her. She sat at an empty table by herself. She was by herself whenever she could manage it. It was raining outside. She knew what it was but it was a shock to see water falling to the ground outside.

A boy walked in. She recognised him, a younger version of the blind man, but at the time she did not know him. He was not blind; dark eyes and pupils a bit too wide. He saw a bit too much. He looked around, smiled to himself and sat next to her.

He said nothing to her, just sat down and stared out of the room. He didn't seem to be seeing anything. He was just staring. At the time she thought to herself that he was just being presumptuous, but the look on his face, one of complete disconnection from the world, is what stopped her from actually saying anything.

The next day he sat next to her again, in the same place. "Why do you sit next to me?" she asked him.

He connected to reality and she could see the physical effort involved. "You are in my seat," he told her, the same deep voice as the man in the other memory. "So I am sitting next to you, almost my seat."

The next day she sat in a different seat. He stared out the window with the same look on his face, like the world wasn't what mattered. She didn't get it. She sat next to him day after day, but only at the start of the day; they never saw each other anywhere else. It was hard to say whether or not he saw her at all.

She woke from this memory confused. It was something that had happened to her, to be sure, but there was no way that it was useful. She got up, again before the sun had risen. The dog was staring again, the same look as the last time she had dreamed, but this time he seemed dissatisfied with her response. She did nothing.

She pushed the goggles over her eyes as the sun once again pulled from the skyline into her desert for another day of scorching heat. She and the dog walked for a long time, very slowly drinking the water, which somehow retained its coolness despite the constant sun.

It took them almost a month to find another lake. Maybe it would have taken less time if she had been looking, but probably not. She never saw footprints in the sand, not even her own. There was no way to know where you had been, except by always having a direction.

The dog dived in again. She couldn't help but notice that he was starting to get scrawny again. His flesh was not as thin as when he had found her, but he was not much thicker. She dropped the bag; there was no one here this time, no corpse or evidence of anyone else.

She opened her bag. There were still a fair few cans left, but she was concerned that she would have to start feeding the dog again soon, so it would not last as long as she wanted it to. She was not hungry and the dog was not starving, she dropped the container, still about three quarters full, to the ground with her bag and then the gun and the bullets went into the bag and the knife went into the sand. She waded into the water.

She lay in the water, letting it soak her clothes and her body. It had been a long time since she had had the opportunity to be clean and she was embracing it wholeheartedly, turning so that her face was away from the sun, and taking off her goggles to clean the inside and around her eyes.

She badly needed to breathe, but stayed in the water for as long as she possibly could before resurfacing, quickly letting her goggles drain before clamping them firmly over her eyes. She walked out of the lake and the sun dried her quickly. It was close to the horizon, which was good as she didn't want to have to wait there for long.

The dog appeared from the lake. Night came shortly after, spreading as swiftly as ever. She had no need to sleep, no need to eat. So, as always, she lay in the warm sand and stared at the night sky, wondering what was missing, there should have been light. The light in the lake was not right. A mirror with nothing to reflect should reflect nothing.

It took her another six months to run out of food, which was something of an effort on the dog's behalf. It could have gone quicker. In the end they found nothing else he could eat, so the food went faster than she would have preferred. The water lasted another six days after that, but they ran out of that as well.

Almost eight months after leaving the house, seven months since the dreams began, she saw a figure in the distance. It didn't matter who it was, other than the fact that it was a person, and they would have supplies, or at least flesh.

The person stopped when they saw her, staring at her, but she just continued towards them, trying not to look threatening. She had learned from past experience with people that they were all threatening in this desert.

She saw them reach for something, their clothes made it difficult to tell what it was, but the motion was decidedly hostile. They withdrew their hand as she got closer still, holding a handgun, similar to her own, but bigger.

The dog charged. He was protective, but mostly this time it was just hunger. She knew that but she also knew that he wouldn't survive a bullet. She knew that she was also unlikely to, but it seemed to her that there were more places she could be hit from this angle that would not be fatal than there were for the dog.

The gun was pointed before she had time even to reach her knife, but she went for the gun, knowing the dog would give her enough time.

The sound of their gun was loud, amazingly so. The world slowed and she saw, in perfect detail, the action of the gun, the flash of the muzzle as the bullet was propelled forward, the slide slamming back and a now empty shell being flung from the chamber.

She watched the bullet as it sped towards the dog, closer and closer. It was going to kill him. She could see it, speeding towards him, so fast that there was nothing he could do, nothing anyone could do to stop it.


The word was so much louder than the gun, so much louder than the last time, but it did not intrude into the real world. It left her ears ringing barely a second after it reverberated through her and this time it was her own voice. Her world was on fire; everything was burning.

But nothing was burning. Something crashed through her, but it was not staying. The knife was in her hand, gun falling to the ground where she had been drawing it. And she was there, just touching the man down the length of their bodies, the knife deep in his stomach.

But then she was a step away, pulling the knife with a strength beyond even her own imagination, up and through the man's torso, cutting him open from stomach to shoulder and slicing his heart clean in two.

And then it was gone. The world was bright again, the sun burning. She turned to the dog. He was totally still, but unharmed, the bullet lying, crumpled as if it had hit something, in the sand just in front of him. He was looking at her, the look in his face was strangely familiar, but it was still a dog's expression.

"Has that ever happened before?" she asked him.

It is unlikely that the dog answered her question. He had never made a sound in the eight months or so she had known him. But for all she knew he could have answered her. She was gone from the world in moments.

She woke with the sun just peaking over the horizon, the light spreading over the world yet again. She was hungry, amazingly so. The dog was lying nearby, fully awake, staring at the corpse of the man who had shot at him. It was not fear or recognition in his expression but deep, animal hunger, the kind of hunger he had had when he first saw the corpse by the lake.

She pushed the goggles over her eyes yet again and stood up She walked the two steps necessary to get to the corpse, then crouched down next to it. From this close she could see it was a man, just like the other two. It made her wonder if there were any more women, but she wasn't really interested.

His clothes were not tattered like the others she had seen and he had a helmet similar to hers, only his was more worn. He had pockets that looked like they had been professionally sewn into his clothes. She went through them all and found a great many things of use.

Or a great many things that could have been of use had they not been covered in dried blood. She found a second gun, one that looked like her own. The gun was loaded so she took the magazine and bullets and left the rest. She found a can opener and a fork, but no food in the pockets.

She rolled him over and found he had a pack. This one was bigger than her own, but she had cut one of the straps and so it was also less useful. There were a fair number of cans in the bag, so she opened her own bag, which she had slept on, and shoved all of the cans in.

But best of all she found two full bottles of water, not because she was thirsty, which she was, but because the fact that none had been drunk meant that there was a lake near here. She drank half a bottle of water, then retrieved the cup, somewhat squashed now and filled it for the dog, who drank the rest of the two bottles.

The dog looked at her questioningly and then at the corpse. "There is nothing else I want from it," she told him, he was about to pounce when she added: "But there is probably a lake in the direction he came from, and we need water."

The dog was torn by indecision. He really wanted to eat then, but he also wanted water. "I will drag this over to the lake if you can show me the way," she told the dog, because by this point she really had no idea which way he had come from. There were no footprints in the sand.

The dog nodded vigorously, so she picked up the water container she had dropped and the gun she had dropped and the knife, which she cleaned on the corpse's clothing. Then she gripped the corpse by the shoulder she hadn't split and started dragging him after the dog, who was actually acting the part, running back and forth and around in circles.

The lake quickly appeared in front of them. It did not come over a rise. There were no rises, but it appeared out of the landscape and came towards them. It took about an hour to reach it, which seemed like a long time to her, dragging the corpse as fast as she could manage, but the lake had appeared out of the horizon so it was probably faster than it should have been.

She dumped the corpse some distance from the lake. There was still blood leaking from it, despite how long ago it had died, and how hot it was. Then she dropped all her stuff some distance from the corpse.

She walked into the lake, far enough that her head was below the surface, but she was still standing, heavy clothes weighing her down. She stood there for a while, just staring, disconnected as her old friend had been. Why wouldn't she help him?

She needed air but she still stared out of the world, seeing the memories she had; a boy who was never there and a man who couldn't leave. That was why she took his eyes.

Her head broke the surface and the thought left her. The dog was looking at her again, pausing from eating for the moment necessary to freak her out. She went back under the water and walked back out, facing away from the sun she washed out her goggles before emerging.

She stood and dried in the sunlight before walking over to her bag and getting a can of food. She sat in the sand and ate the entire can. It was more than she needed to eat, but it felt good to have food again.

She was standing at the front of the class, again there were no words, but this time there were no faces. The room was empty, a girl leaning against one of the desks, smiling from ear to ear with real happiness. She walked into the room, it was not what she was expecting, but she didn't remember what she expected.

There was something in her hand, a crumpled note.

The dog was standing on her chest, staring at her, white eyes. But they weren't white. They were dog's eyes and she was lying on her back in the sand. She sat up. That wasn't right. That had never happened to her before.

She stood shakily and walked back over to the lake. It was darker, but it was not night, cold was not rushing towards her. She reached the edge of the lake and stood, staring into it, this time trying to stay in the world.

She was leaning on an iron fence, staring at a lake that was not interesting. "I'm so glad," a girl said next to her, the girl from the class room. "I thought for sure when you said I was not what you expected that you would say no."

"If anything," she started, turning away from the still water that seemed to glow. "You not being what I expected is why I did not say no."

The girl put an arm around her and...

The water hit her in the face. She felt it solidly even through the goggles, which cracked slightly upon collision with the sand and began to quickly fill up. She pushed herself up onto her hands and knees, face above the water, which slowly drained from her goggles.

The light was dimmer than before. She stood, shielding her eyes as her clothes dried. The sun was no less bright, no less hot, so she turned away before she was blinded. She sat on the sand and tried to concentrate on something, but there was nothing there to concentrate on.

He was still away from the world. He wasn't listening to the girl, only staring out of the world. She sat there, her arm around this girl and felt like doing the same. She always wanted to leave the world when he was there. It was a compulsive desire to find out where he had gone.

But the girl was talking, so she attended.

The light was blinding her, but it just looked dark, like something had pulled it all from her brain. She sat up again, looking away from the sun and back over the lake.

The iron fence was slippery this time as she watched rain falling onto the lake, shattering and scattering the light that always seemed to emanate from this place. The rain was interesting from an objective view, but she was no longer objective.

What was taking the girl so long?

Suddenly she was cold, which was not right. She had not been a moment ago. "Where is she?" she asked. He was there, staring into the lake.

"It always looks like the light is coming from it," he said. For once he was in the world. "But there is no light here, there is only a reflection."

"A reflection is enough light to see by," she told him. "Where is she?"

"She is where you left her," he said, still staring at the lake. "A reflection of light is enough to see by, but what of when there is no light to reflect."

"If she is where I left her then that is where I will go," she said.

The dog was standing on her again, eyes like the man in her memory. This time they were not dog eyes. They stayed where they were. She threw the dog from her and he landed in the lake. The night had spread once again across her desert and that was where the cold came from.

There was ice all around. She knew where it came from, just like she knew so much, but she never could accept it.

She was showered with water as the dog exploded out of the lake. Still he made no sound, but the eyes were all white. The eyes of a blind man, a man sealed away from the world. She remembered the white eyes of the man in the desert, the eyes of a man sealed into the world.

"I always wanted to know where you went," she told him, sunglasses the only concession she made to what had happened.

"I always wanted to know where I went," he told her. "But I don't know, I just went somewhere else."

"If you had stayed..." She let the sentence trail off, aware that she had said it too often.

"It would have happened the same way," he said, sad like he always was. "And I would no longer be here for you."

The dog was staring at her, his eyes still white. How could he stare if he could not see?

"You did what?" she screamed at him, trying as hard as she could to fight the rage, once again boiling from that bitterness that had been with her for so long.

"I did not do what you accuse me of," he said, standing, his eyes closed and his face creased with concentration. "I told them…"

"It is because you told them?" She screamed it, unable to force it all away.

He could say nothing, putting all he could into stopping her again. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, but he could not get the words out.

The dog hit her again. Something was wrong with this world now.

It was raining in her desert.

"I miss the rain," she told him, sitting in the sand and staring up at the sun though her sunglasses.

"This is your desert," he said. "Maybe it will rain one day."

"But it is my desert," she said. "It is a desert for a reason."

"Maybe one day you will stop missing the rain," he said.

She sat up and looked at him. "But somehow I doubt you will stop missing the world."

The dog was lying next to her in the rain that washed over her helmet. He looked defeated. She tore off the helmet and ran her hands through her hair. It caught and tore. She had never brushed it, never cut it. It had grown a long way.

She searched for the bag, but the lake was not glowing. There was no light to reflect.

She sat heavily in the sand and felt tears trace warm paths in the cold rain flowing down her face.

"It seems to me that that was too far," the voice echoed through the cold complex, coming to her over the ice formed on the ground, through the maze of icicles.

She was running, sliding over the ice, perfect balance as always. She crashed into the wall, skinning one arm, but she kept running. The girl was where she left her. The door was closed. She could not, and would not, stop.

She smashed into the door. The chain on the other side snapped tight and the iron bar across the door bent inwards.

"He told her," someone said, no condemnation, only recognition of a fact.

She took a deep breath and...

The light burned through the clouds, but she was not going to put the helmet back on. The clouds grew thicker once again and the cold stayed.

"Why did they do that to me anyway?" she had asked him so many times and he never said anything. For so long he had remained silent on the subject.

She was sitting in the sand, it was hot and it was bright. She knew that there was heat but she didn't feel it, and the dark lenses shielded her eyes from the light that blinded. It was her desert that she stared at, like she saw it during the day, but unlike during the day, she was not alone here.

He was talking. She looked at him, dark skin and dark hair and dark clothes. He was always so monochrome, she thought, but that was not what she was thinking. It was what she remembered thinking. It was a dream of something that had happened.

"It seems to me that you have calmed down, after so long," he said, voice deep and sad. He did not look at her as he spoke, but observed the sand, longing clear on his face.

He wishes that it was not all gone, she thought. He wishes that nothing had happened. So did she.

"Calmed down," she said. She sounded somehow different, older and younger at the same time. "Calmed is the wrong word. I am not calm."

"There is a difference between rage and bitterness," the man said, still looking out at the sand.

"You understand me so well," she said. "Rage and bitterness are as different as hot and cold but they are both anger."

"And if you have bitterness as strong as your rage was..." he let the sentence trail off. He rubbed his eyes with thick fingered hands.

She knew he was crying, she also knew that after so long he was no longer sad, just less in control.

"They are different facets of the same emotion," she said, "and it is difficult to quantify emotion."

"That is true," he replied.

They were quiet for a minute, staring out into the world. She could see her legs and shoes now. She was wearing black pants and shiny black shoes. From her outside perspective it seemed a waste of time to keep the shoes black and shiny. But it was obvious her and this memory where not the same person despite having the same body. She leaned forward to clean a spot from her shoe.

"Bitterness is just as destructive as rage," he said quietly.

She looked at him and he looked back. His eyes were white, completely white. He was blind, his eyes sealed. That was why he wore dark colours, because he did not like his eyes. She knew this but refused to help.

It was repeating itself; a more complete picture.

"I suggested that they provoke you," he said quietly. She knew he was answering the question she had posed so many times.

"You suggested that they provoke me," she repeated. She didn't quite get it for a moment.

"I told them that if they provoked you, you would do something," he said.

"So you knew," she said, her mind leaning away. "You told them before you told me?"

"I told them," he confirmed. He always looked like he was staring away, but there was no way he could be, not after what happened. "So they asked me how they could provoke you."

"You didn't tell them," she said with conviction. Still unable to process what he was saying.

"I told them," he told her, facing her.

"You did what?" she screamed at him, trying as hard as she could to fight the rage, once again boiling from that bitterness that had been with her for so long.

"I did not do what you accuse me of," he said, standing, his eyes closed and his face creased with concentration. "I told them…"

"It is because you told them?" She screamed it, unable to force it all away.

He could say nothing, putting all he could into stopping her again. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, but he could not get the words out.

It was a more complete picture, all the parts coming together, but it was no puzzle. She knew it all. "You told them," she screamed the words at him. "They took her because of you. It was you."

The rage was uncontained. She could not stop it. She could do nothing and now neither could he. It was too big for her to contain any longer, too frightening.

The sand shone in the sun as it rose into the air, a whirlwind that engulfed them, the blind man on his knees still trying, vainly, to stop her from repeating her mistakes. "I should have left you there," she felt herself scream again, her voice tearing its way out of her throat.

His eyes opened, his old eyes, seeing a little too much. "If you had left me, you would have destroyed yourself along with your world." He told her, calm in the sandstorm that tore at his face and his eyes.

She screamed, wordless and filled with hate. It was not hatred for the world, and it was not hatred of him. She knew who it was for, just like she always had, but she could not accept it. The sand spun and spun until it was solid, until she could see her old world in it.

But the anger inside her was too much and the sand was solid. It changed everything around her. It made a place where she could hide. He was staring at her, his eyes empty once again.

"You will destroy yourself if you leave me," he told her quietly. "And you don't know why you have not destroyed it all yet."

Again she screamed, the sound clawing its way into the world. This time she did it. She destroyed the old world, all of it that she could find, she changed him and she changed herself, the hole around her became the hiding place she had envisioned.

He was right in the end. He always was. She had nearly destroyed herself when she tried to leave him behind, but she could not leave him, and she could not destroy herself. She hid everything away and she left nothing but the words she had known.

The sun was warm against her back as the rain fell. It was not hot and it did not dry her. The dog lay in the sand. He stared out of the world, like he always used to, when he still had his eyes. She stood and stretched, but knew that soon she would know what had happened, why her desert was no longer a world.

She walked over to the bag and got out the scissors. Her hair fell in chunks, all matted together from eight months under a helmet. It fell and fell until it was short and prickly and fresh, until she could run her hands through it without them catching.

She walked away from everything she had, walked until she could no longer see her bag across the lake and then she sat down on the bank and stared into the water, which once more reflected light that was not there.

She had always hated the sand, but she had always loved the rain.

She had never seen rain, never seen anything but the sand.

The dog lay next to her and stared into the lake, eyes that saw a bit too much. Like he had once had.

She stood and leaned against that iron fence like she did so often. She stood there and waited for the girl to come, like she had said she would. The rain started. She had known it would but had brought nothing waterproof. She did not need it.

The rain broke the light that came from the lake in the middle of the city, the last vestige of nature in this grey place. The rain got harder and harder and she knew something was amiss. The girl would never leave her waiting here so long.

The iron fence was slippery this time as she watched rain falling onto the lake, shattering and scattering the light that always seemed to emanate from this place. The rain was interesting from an objective view, but she was no longer objective.

What was taking the girl so long?

Suddenly she was cold, which was not right. She had not been a moment ago. "Where is she?" she asked. He was there, staring into the lake.

"It always looks like the light is coming from it," he said. For once he was in the world. "But there is no light here, there is only a reflection."

"A reflection is enough light to see by," she told him. "Where is she?"

"She is where you left her," he said, still staring at the lake. "A reflection of light is enough to see by, but what of when there is no light to reflect."

"If she is where I left her then that is where I will go," she said.

She turned and ran, ran as fast as she could; she slid through the streets knowing exactly where to go, where she had left everything. Abandoned buildings had always drawn her in, always intrigued her, but there was one place in particular.

She didn't know what it had been and there were so many cooling units it was hard to guess. Her feet echoed in her head as she ran, pounding against the hard ground, sliding in the rain, skidding when she could not turn fast enough.

""It seems to me that that was too far," the voice echoed through the cold complex, coming to her over the ice formed on the ground, through the maze of icicles.

She was running, sliding over the ice, perfect balance as always. She crashed into the wall, skinning one arm, but she kept running. The girl was where she left her. The door was closed. She could not, and would not, stop.

She smashed into the door. The chain on the other side snapped tight and the iron bar across the door bent inwards.

"He told her," someone said, no condemnation, only recognition of a fact.

She took a deep breath and... slammed into the door with all her strength. The sound of tearing metal assaulted her ears and then she was through, into the massive main room, filled with coolers. All the coolers were operating as high as they could, but the noise was not deafening as she had always assumed it would be.

"Maybe it will be too much," someone said.

She could see nothing but the figure in the middle. There was nothing else in her world.

The girl was sitting in a chair, head hanging, not moving, not breathing.

She was there standing in front of the girl. There had been no movement from the doorway to there, but she didn't notice. The others noticed and it made them smile and think that maybe it had not been in vain. She pushed the girl's head up. It lolled back on her neck, her whole body was limp.


It could not be... it could not...


How could this have happened? Who could have let it happen?


Why would this happen to her?


They would pay.

"I told you we had gone too far," one of them said. She could hear them again, see them again.

The Rage poured through her, burning her like fire and for the first time in her life she could do nothing to stop it. She could not suppress this anger and she could not divert it. It was clear and it was hot. It broke her seals and all the anger she had ever put away crashed through her. It poured through her like lava.

The sun was bright, she wanted sunglasses.

"Where has your world gone?" he asked her, he was sitting next to her.

It all came back. The girl was gone.

But where was she?

All she saw was the sand.

It was only afterwards that she knew what happened. It could not be remembered it any other way.

The air moved around her; it spun around and around and the sun crashed in and it burned out the life. It burned away her world. They stood there and they saw what they had done and she saw in all their faces the understanding that they had done wrong.

The sun shone into that dark room and burned everything, everything she could see. "If you try to leave me behind you will destroy yourself," he told her calmly, appearing the way he did as if from the woodwork.

"I don't care if I destroy myself," she told him, thinking that finally this might be true.

"If that was true your anger would have overcome you long ago," he told her, still calm.

The storm spun faster and faster and the sun got brighter and brighter. He wasn't there anymore, staring out of the world. He was blind to the world yet again. "If you don't see the world then you shouldn't see at all," she said, any vestige of calm draining out of her.

"Maybe you are right," he said, almost like he didn't really care. "Maybe I shouldn't see."

"THEN DON'T!" she screamed at him.

The sun was bright in her desert. He was lying next to her.

The sand was hot and the sun was hot.

"I guess I can't see the world," he said.

"There is nothing left to see," she told him, surveying the destruction.

"When that is true I can accept my eyes," he replied, sitting up. "But until then I will miss the world."

"You never saw the world," she said angrily. "How can you possibly miss it?"

"Someone told me that you miss what is gone," he said. "But just because my way of seeing the world was different than yours does not make it less valid."

She lay back in the sand, tears in her eyes, but the memories were gone now, all back inside her head. The sun was gone behind the clouds, but the light was still bright in her eyes after so long without seeing it properly.

"Didn't I tell you that you didn't want to destroy yourself?" he asked, sitting up beside her but still staring into the lake. His eyes had been returned to him after so long. "You were lying when you said there was nothing to see."

"There is nothing but sand," she told him. "I don't like the sand."

But she liked the sand, the way it covered everything.

Stop lying.

"I guess you are still in there," he said, looking at her with eyes that saw a little too much.

"Of course I am here," she said.

"I did not mean you," he told her. "There is an objective opinion at last."

How could I be objective?

She could not hear the words, but he could.

"You are not her," he told her. "You are a new person completely."

"What are you talking about?" she asked irritably.

Stop It!

"What was that?" she asked.

There is no reason to be angry, no reason to be irritated.

"Who is that?" she asked, angry, not concerned.

I am an objective opinion.

The new mind that could see her entire life.

Even if you think your anger is unjustified it is not a good idea to repress it.

"You said yourself that it was unjustified. What else could I do?" she asked, still angry.

I did not say that it was unjustified.

"You should express it," he told her. "You should let it go and realise that it is unjustified."

She felt like they were ganging up on her and they were, in a sense.

People telling you the truth is not ganging up on you.

"You are both against me," she said, anger slowly seeping away.

"We are both with you," he said calmly, staring out of the world.

The fear will never go away if you do not acknowledge it.

"I am not afraid," she said, but she had no conviction anymore.

If you were not afraid you would never have pushed it all away.

"My anger is myself" – she meant what she said. "I do not fear myself," she insisted.

"Your anger is not yourself," he told her, focusing completely on her for the first time she could remember. "In the same way that I am not."

"Of course you are not me," she said. She did not understand what they were saying.

If he is not you then why does he still live?

She didn't get it. "He is my friend," she meant to say it with certainty, but was that the reason?

Because he is your only friend.

"It is because I am the first person you befriended," he told her.

"What difference does it make if you are my friend?" she asked, irritation now masking, or stemming from, her immense confusion.

"If you leave me behind you destroy yourself," he said once again.

If you leave your friends behind you destroy yourself.

"My friend is not myself," she insisted. "I would not destroy myself."

But, in your effort to leave your friend behind, you did destroy yourself.

"When you tried to abandon me," he started, seeing past the world once again. "You hid all your memories. You tried so hard to destroy yourself..." he trailed off.

"But?" she asked, frustrated that she had no idea.

But you still do not want to destroy yourself and you had no wish to leave your friend behind.

"Why?" she was reduced to asking questions.

There was no response. Either they wanted her to work it out for herself or they didn't know. She hoped for the latter but knew the former was more likely.

"Why can't I leave my friend behind?" she asked.

Why did you leave your love so easily, but you still cannot leave your friend?

"I did not leave her," she said, but she knew that she had. She had given her up.

"Your friends are more important than yourself," he said.

"Because you are what makes me who I am," she said.

Your friends define you more than you define yourself.

But the new mind was gone. She could see all she had done in a new light and she regretted it all, but that was nothing new, not really. And maybe she could put it all behind her now. She could start again, but not just yet.

"I am so sorry," she told him, "for all I did to you."

"You don't even know why I forgive you," he said. Then he paused and looked inward. "I guess I don't know either."

"I'm sure there will be time to work it out," she said, following his gaze.

"That is almost as bad as just being angry," he said, still calm. "You have to at least try to work it all out for yourself."

"I guess." Again she was uncertain; a new perspective did not make it easier for her.

"You have always been bad with introspection," he said, smiling to himself.

"You haven't known me long enough to say that," she replied with a smile.

"I have known you for a long time and I am still surprised when I remember that you were infatuated," he told her.

She didn't know what to say to that so they were silent for a time. He stared into the world once more. "When you stare like that," she started, surprised she had never actually asked this question, "what is it that you see?"

"What do you see when you stare out the window of a train on a long trip?" he asked in return.

"The scenery?" She wasn't sure, she didn't really pay attention.

"You see the world go past," he told her. "I watch the world go past because observation leads to understanding."

"You cannot understand the world," she said.

"If I had had my eyes all these years I am confident I would understand the world," he said, just watching the world.

"It seems to me that you should understand it anyway," she said. "But what is the point?"

"If I understand it then I can accept what it does to us," he told her.

"That is like saying that understanding that a kleptomaniac cannot help but steal means that you can accept that they steal from you," she said.

"A startlingly good analogy," he replied.

"Just leave it alone," she said, lying down in the sand.

"I can't leave it alone," he told her. "You should know that by now."


He lay down in the sand beside her. "You can't leave it alone either." He told her.

"I know."

"Why should I understand it?" he asked after a long time staring into the clouds.

"If even I can understand it then surely you can too," she said.

He stared into the clouds for a long time before saying anything. "There was no rain," he said sadly, "because you have always loved the rain. So much sand," he continued, "because you always hated sand."

"And the sun was so strong," she continued for him, "because, let's face it, I was pretty vitamin D deficient."

He laughed at this, an ongoing joke that had been suspended for a very long time.

"I know that I have to let it go," she said. "But I don't want to."

"You don't want to put that much of yourself aside," he said. It was a statement, no trace of a question. "But you have to let it go before you really do destroy yourself."

"But…" she knew what the problem was, but she had no idea how to solve it. "It's just that…"

"Unable to speak," he said. "It has been a long time since she died. If your anger is all you have left of her then that is worse than just forgetting her."

"How could it be worse?" she asked, but she knew already.

"You corrupt her memory," he told her. "And you know that."

"I know," she said. "But my memory is refreshed."

"All the more reason to avoid the anger," he said. "If your memories are once again uncorrupted, then now is the time to deal with them."

"You know full well…" she began, but someone cut her off.

"Full well is a strange thing to say," the girl said. "But I know." And with a smile she added: "Full well do I know."

"You need to deal with your memories before they deal with you," he told her, hands on her temples, anchoring her like she used to anchor him.

"I know I will survive my memories dealing with me," she said. He let go of her temples. "But will they survive me dealing with them?"

"I don't mean it like that," the girl whispered to her. "I just mean ask them to leave us alone."

She smiled at the girl, but still walked up to them.

"I know that you will not enjoy your memories dealing with you," he told her, sitting right in front of her, legs crossed. "Because soon enough the memories that you tried so hard to get rid of will come back for you."

It was indeed the case. Her father pulling the toaster out of the socket and throwing it across the room. The way that her mother fell, like all the strings that had once held her up had been cut at the source. The police asking questions.

"I don't want them back," she heard herself say, but she was powerless now.

A man who was a little bit too possessive; they left her with that family and never came back. Worse and worse until the house was burning and her feet hurt as she ran as fast as she could in nothing but her stupid little nightgown, age nine.

"These are things I didn't know about," he said, hands again on her temples, again anchoring her to her own sand covered world.

"I am the only one who knows these things," she said, "and they have been forgotten for quite some time."

"I'm very sorry that they have come back," he said, not letting her go this time.

"I think that maybe dealing with my memories may not be better than being dealt with by them," she admitted.

His hands dropped to his sides. "I don't know," he said slowly, the calm leaking from his voice.

That was the only thing that kept her where she sat in the sand. How could he possibly not know?

She forced them all down, all down and away. That was what she knew how to do. That was what she was going to do. Deep breath, and she could see the desert again, the man sitting cross legged in front of her and the lake that was still nearby.

"You always seem so calm," the girl told her. "But really you aren't."

"Have I ever been angry at you?" she asked.

"That isn't the point," the girl told her. "You force it all down. You hold on to it and let it fester."

"Fester is a nice word," she said, knowing that what the girl said was true. "But if I have never been angry at you, then what is the problem?"

The girl rubbed her eyes but could not tell her why it was a problem.

"You know what the problem is, don't you?" he asked, and she could see the sand again.

"I know. She was afraid I would explode one day and break down," she told him.

"And that is exactly what happened in the end," he said with a sigh, lying back in the sand.

There was nothing to say to that. She just stared across the sand. It was strange to see rain after so long without, but it made her feel better, like maybe the world was getting better. "I don't know what to do with any of it," she said, not really talking to him. But there was no one else here.

"I still don't know," he said.

"I thought for a very long time that you knew," she said. "You know me so well, but still you don't know. It is worse than not knowing myself."

He sat up again, the rain running down his face like tears. But he was calm again. "It seems to me that you need to let all the anger go," he said. "You burned down their house. They did not survive, none of them survived."

"You survived," she said.

"And I am the one that tried to stop them doing what they did," he said. "I suggested that they provoke you, but I told them it would not go well if they took her from you."

"I feel like we would have saved a lot of time if you had said that eight months ago," she told him.

"I don't think it would have," he said, meeting her eyes.

It was a shock to meet his eyes. He never really looked at anything, but now he was focused. It was strangely like she could see right through him. It was not that she could understand, but like she could see the rain behind him.

"You cannot see the rain behind me," he told her.

"Then what is it that I see?" she asked. "Is your head see through?" She tried to joke.

"No," he said, it was final.

But that wasn't the problem. She couldn't hold them all down for long.

"You have to let the anger go," he told her. "They are all long dead."

"That doesn't help me," she said, but she knew what would help her.

"But you gave them all what they deserved, didn't you?" he asked, as always understanding exactly what she needed.

"I guess I did," she said. "But it was a long time ago now."

"Time heals all wounds. It doesn't open them," he said, still calm. She could see the rain tracking over his eyes but still he held her gaze. "All these things happened a long time ago and you got your revenge a long time ago."

"But..." She couldn't really finish the sentence; she just didn't want to do something that hard.

"You are well prepared to fight anything, aren't you?" he asked, seeing through her as always. "I just wonder why you are fighting now, when you are so close to helping yourself."

"Fighting always seems like the only thing that has ever gotten me anywhere..." she started.

But he cut her off, calm cracking a little. "Stop. You know that is wrong. You know it!"

"I do." It rattled her more than almost anything to see him angry, and he wasn't angry, he was only less calm. "It's just that..." she trailed off.

"Just that you don't want to do something so hard," he said, calm returning, almost like it had never left. "We both know how deeply ingrained the anger is by now."

"Stop it." The sound of her eight year old cry seemed to echo across the desert, but she knew it was only in her mind.

"It is just that I had been calm for a long time," she said. "I really was calm, but not letting go of all that anger meant it came back so quickly."

"I know that," he said truthfully. "You have to let it all go. People long dead have harmed you long ago. But you avenged yourself before any of this really started. It was the first thing you did and you know it."

It had all come back to her when her memories had cleared. Her life had come back in full force. She had killed them all. She had killed them in a blinding rage and she had waited a long time to hear the girl breathe, a long time waiting in that ice box to hear the dead girl's heartbeat.

But something had shaken her from her trance. "I knew they would go overboard," he had said, entering the room, eyes finally seeing. "I told them what would happen, but I guess you are the only one who listens to me."

The world started to brighten, brighter and brighter, while he stood there and watched. "You would destroy your world before your friends?" he asked. She could say nothing, could do nothing now that the rage had really begun.

"It is good to see what really happened," he said, back in her desert. "For so long you were misinformed."

"They all died," she said. She had known it, none of them had survived, but it was still a surprise.

"They all died," he repeated. He had known. He was not surprised, just confirming.

"I killed them all." She had known that too. The method however, had been forgotten.

"You killed them all," he repeated. "There is nothing left that you can do."

"But…" she said. She knew the end to this sentence. The girl was still dead.

"That is the truth," he said, knowing as always what she thinking. "But there is nothing else that you can do."

"I know," she said. She had to admit it sometime. "But I still want to do something else."

He closed his eyes, the only evidence that he was not as calm as he looked. "The only thing you can do is accept what happened," he told her, opening his eyes again. But he wasn't really looking at her now. "That is the only thing that there is left to do."

She knew that. There was no need to say anything else. By now she couldn't help but accept what had happened, because she remembered it all, and knew that if she didn't accept what had happened it would deal with her this time, no matter how hard he tried to intercede.

The memories flooded through her, the right way this time. She remembered her mother making a cake, smiling happily in the kitchen while she and her father sat at the table, chatting inanely as you do with children.

She remembered sitting on the girl's bed, watching her dancing while the computer took its sweet time to start up. She couldn't help but smile, but no matter the urging she would not dance, she claimed that she couldn't, but she just wanted to watch.

She remembered sitting in the desert talking and talking for a very long time with him, staring out at the sand while he talked about the past. She remembered walking through the desert, under the hot sun, wondering if there was really anything out there.

She felt the rain coming down in sheets, but she still felt the sun, calming as she calmed. She could feel the fires die and she could see the clouds thickening all over her world, all over the desert, finally giving people some incentive to stay calm.

She lay back in the sand, soaking in the rain and finally feeling her world and the people in it.

"You always loved the rain," he said.

"I've never felt this before," she said, wondering if it was really true.

"You have felt this all your life," he told her, shifting and lying down beside her.

"I guess that turmoil is part of life."