The parking lot was empty. It was about six-hundred square feet, rising no more than a few inches out of the dust. The lot was situated on a vast plane of sand, an endless desert with no discernible boundaries. The only feature breaking up the monotonous sea of sun-bleached dirt was a thin road extending from the edge of the lot until it became too small to be seen.
I knelt in the thin dusty layer that covered the area, burning my knees on the baking pavement to give my feet a break. The sun hung callously overhead. The rays of heat sapped all color and moisture from the scene, leaving it in a constant state of pallor. It turned my back a searing scarlet, boiling it in slow motion. My abdomen was shriveled in emaciation and my ribs poked out visibly, sheathed in my thirsty epidermis.
The only thing that decorated my body besides the coarsely stitched cloth that rested on my pelvis was a small hourglass, suspended from my neck by a long yellow shoelace. The tiny green grains fell into the lower compartment, accumulating via a silent stream of jade. The sand was nearly at its end.
I stared at the ground. Faded tire marks provided the only indication I had as to how I might have gotten there. I had been wandering the lot aimlessly for as long as I could recall. I wasn't sure exactly how long the hourglass had been around my neck either, but it scared me. I had the feeling that something bad would happen once it reached its end. Dismay churned under my sternum. I had to get out of there.
Maybe if I could escape before the last speck of sand fell through the glass cylinder separating the two bulbs, maybe, just maybe I could avoid my terrible fate.
I shakily rose to my feet. Whatever famine had infested me before returned as my stomach stretched back out. I began pacing on the sand covered blacktop. I was tired—my feet dragged, leaving scars in the surface which bled with hot gray tar. I quickly pivoted my head up and turned my gaze toward the first sign of motion that I had seen in as long as I could remember. A small speck of blue established itself on the horizon. It appeared at the end of the road; a head on a silver needle.
I itched my body in anticipation. My eyes were open wide, no longer squinting to avoid sun damage. The object slowly became bigger and closer, sliding toward the lot like an abacus bead pushed by an invisible hand. I looked at the hourglass. It was almost out. This peculiar object must be the catalyst of my demise, I thought. It shifted in my mind from a symbol of serendipity to a symbol of terror. It was approaching.
I turned around and started to run. My legs forgot their fatigue and lifted my feet from the hot pavement, hurling them forward clumsily, my body following. I continued running until I reached the end of the lot. I stopped. Staring out into the vastness of the desert, I couldn't ever remember stepping foot off of the blacktop. I couldn't step off. I couldn't.
Suddenly, I heard the loud rumble of a combustion engine behind me. Whatever it was the pursued me had arrived. I looked at the hourglass. It still had a bit of sand left. I wiped my forehead in relief, smudging my arm with grimy sweat. I turned around.
"Hey!" a voice shouted. "I thought for sure I'd be late, thank the lord you're still around!" A man with long, greasy blonde hair and a bushy handlebar mustache leaned from the open window of an old turquoise truck. The paint was dilapidated and blotched with rust everywhere with the exception of a few clean brush strokes at its edges which were an observably lighter shade of blue.
"I'm here to take you away to safety," he said. "But before we go, I got somethin' I wanna show ya." He reached his left hand down out of the window and pulled the outer handle up. The door made a popping sound and seemed to fly open with a metallic screech. He hopped out of the truck with a choreographed agility and slammed the door as flakes of rust fell to the ground. He wore a maroon tank-top with a bleach stain under the right arm-hole. The tawny cargo shorts he wore concealed half of his knees and his brown sandals branded the earth with striped tracks.
"Nice to meet ya, I'm Terrance." He exclaimed, extending his hand in greeting. "What's your name, fella?" I made no reply but shook his hand cordially.
"Eh. Anyway, let's go out back." In the bed of the truck sat an enormous white box. "Daley's Ice and Ice Cream, since 1993" was printed on the side in faded pink letters that looked like they may have been red at some point. The cooler was secured to the truck bed by a shiny and evidently new silver chain that was wrapped around twice, crossing at the top. He lead me to the back of the truck where the cooler door was. He grasped for the handle and pulled it open. The relative silence was broken by the sound of the suction releasing and white vapor poured out. My mouth hung open.
"She's a beauty ain't she?" he asked excitedly. I didn't respond. I leered at it in awe. A giant, disembodied heart rested in a pile of half-melted ice. There was no blood. The organ was the size of a child and throbbed rhythmically, cycling no fluid. The arteries were closely and cleanly cropped and the surface was a pale, muted salmon color. He closed the door and looked at me with a toothy, yellow grin.
"Anyway, like I said, I came out here to rescue ya. I figured if I save a soul they might let me into heaven for thirty seconds before they kick me out." he punched my shoulder benignly, letting out a guttural laugh. "I wanna at least see what it looks like."
I turned my attention back to the hourglass. Just as my gaze met it the last grain of sand fell through to the bottom bulb. Terrance looked down to see what I was staring at.
"Shit," he muttered under his breath. "Sorry fella, but I can't stick around no more. I ain't got time to get you situated in the truck." He ran back around toward the driver's seat frantically and hopped in through the window. He shifted the truck into drive and turned the wheel, skidding toward the road.
The wheels met the pavement and he sped off. Before he could get thirty feet away, the road sizzled and began to melt. It evaporated into a black smog and his tires fell to the sand, spinning and whining vainly as he mashed his foot on the gas pedal.
The truck sank into the granulated sediment. Sand washed over the sides of the door and flooded the cab. He tried desperately to roll his window up but the handle was stuck.
"Help!" He shouted. I stared silently. Soon the ground was level with his neck and he was screaming for his life, all but his face immobilized. His yelling was silenced by a mouth full of sand. The earth swallowed the remainder of his head up followed by the rest of the truck. The beige powder closed over the top of the vehicle and the patch was once again incorporated into the amorphous, windswept panorama. I took my necklace off and turned the hourglass upside down.
I knelt back down in the thin dusty layer, burning my knees on the baking pavement to give my feet a break.