You shove the man away and gesture for him to stay back, to leave. Instead, the man lunges at you and punches you in the jaw. You stumble backwards, and before you can regain your balance, he moves forward and kicks you in the gut. You go down, and before you can react he is on top of you, his hands around your neck.

You claw at his hands, trying to get him off as he cuts your air supply. You kick, but it doesn't do any good. Dark spots start to appear at the edges of your vision. You can hear the man say, as if from a distance, "I've always wanted to do this."

You reach out, trying to push his face away. He laughs and bites your hand. You reach out in the dirt around you for something to hurt the man with. A rock, a piece of glass-- anything that would get him off.

Your hand closes around a thick stick.

With no hesitation, you slap the stick into the man's head. Your aim is bad, and your vision is starting to go from the lack of air, but you feel the stick make contact. You hear the man scream, and suddenly you are free. You suck in a deep breath, and your vision clears. The man is on his knees a couple feet away from you, the stick lodged in his eye.

"You bastard!" he screams. With a spurt of blood he tears the stick out of his eye and runs toward you, holding the stick up like he intends to stab you with it.

When he's close, you kick him in the gut, and he goes down. From the ground, he wraps his arms around your legs and pulls you down, too. You both wrestle in the ground, and he once again is on top of you, trying to jab the bloodied end of the stick into your own eye. You are holding onto his wrist, trying to stop him.

"I'll kill you!" he screams, and you believe him.

With a sudden surge of energy, you hurl him to the side. You manage to take the stick and, with a moment's hesitation, stab the man through the eye.

"I'll kill you!" he screams. You stab him again, this time in the throat. Then the chest. You stab and stab and stab and when he finally stops moving, you find it hard to stop yourself.

You do stop, eventually.

He's been dead for a while.

You sit back, breathing hard, and watch as the dust rolls over the man's corpse. You're shaking.

You didn't have a choice. There was nothing you could have done.

The stick you used to kill the man claiming to be your father has transformed in your hand. Now it is a knife, wicked-looking and sharp with a wavy edge. The word kris comes to mind. You cannot remember if you already knew that word, or if it just came to you.

You look at the knife long and hard before tucking it into the sheath on your belt--

Wait. Did you have a sheath earlier? Did you have a belt earlier? You don't remember, but you have one now. It might come in handy later.

You cast one last look at the corpse, then press ahead. You still need to figure out how to leave this place.

[You Wander the Desert]

[You Wander the Desert]

[You Wander the Desert]

Some time later, the sun is hot overhead, but you don't feel uncomfortable. Usually you'd be sweating in this heat. Usually you'd be feeling tired, or thirsty, but you're not. You know you must have traveled some distance; the body of the man who attacked you is nowhere in sight, long gone over the horizon, but the lack of anything makes it feel like you've gone nowhere at all. The dust rolls past your legs, and you find yourself following the same direction.

For a long while, nothing changes.

Then, in the distance, you see a lone figure.

There is someone up ahead. You're somewhat wary after the last encounter, but you also know you need all the help you can get to get out of. . . wherever the heck this place is. You keep walking.

You try to shout out, but can't. Your voice is gone. That's another thing you'll have to worry about. How did that happen? The last man, the crazy man, he said someone had stolen it. The other winged man before that said the same. But that's impossible. Maybe you just screamed yourself hoarse. But you don't remember that either--

You freeze.

The new man looks exactly like the one who had just attacked you, sans cigarette.

Just as you're wondering if you can somehow avoid him (no, the desert is to empty. There's no way you can sneak away, unless you're willing to crawl in the waves of dust--) he turns and sees you.

"Oh thank God!" he shouts. He runs toward you. You pull out the knife immediately and hold it in front of you threateningly.

The other man stops.

"Kiddo, what are you doing with that?" he says. "Aren't you happy to see your old man? I've been so worried!"

You want to scream at him. What's going on? Is he the same as the one before?

"I've been so worried," he says again. "I thought you were gone for good. I'm so sorry. I just want us to go home, okay? I should've figured you'd be fine though." He smiles, and you see there are tears in his eyes.

"You were such a smart kid. Always figuring things out, getting into trouble and then getting yourself out of it. You didn't need your old man then, and I guess you don't need him much now, but I want you to know that I'm here for you. Always will be."

You want him to shut up. With every word he says, you find yourself getting angrier and angrier.

"I'm so proud of you," he says. "How you've turned out. I don't think I say it enough. When we get home, I'll say it more often. Every day. I'm proud of you. I love you. You know that, right? I love you. Ever since your mom first found out she was carrying-- from the very first second. The happiest day of my life was the day I finally got to meet you--"

The more he talks, the more enraged you become. Deep down, you know that you shouldn't be this angry. He's speaking nonsense, like the other one did, and you didn't feel nearly so mad at the other one. You shouldn't feel so strongly towards this one, either. But there is something wrong going on in your head, and looking at him disgusts you. You have never hated anyone more in your life.

You realize with a dull surprise that you have been mouthing the words "shut up" over and over. The man hasn't appeared to notice. He tries to come to you, to hug you or something, and you push him back. He comes again, and you shove him back, harder. The more you push him away, the more he tries to tell you of his love and pride in you.

You snap. You start hitting him and kicking him, mouthing profanities you wish you could scream, and he makes no move to defend himself.

"I love you," the man says. He doesn't fight, doesn't beg, doesn't ask why you're doing this. He just repeats over and over, "I love you. I always have, I always will."

The dagger is in your hand. It feels warm. It feels--


--right. With a quick gesture and no hesitation, you slit the man's throat.

He dies quickly, but as with the other man, you're having trouble stopping yourself from attacking the body. You stab and you slice and you cut and you dirty that stupid, perfect suit with his blood.

When it's over and done, you know you ought to feel horrible, and you ought to be horrified what you'd done. Some small part of you is, but the rest of you is viscerally satisfied. It feels like you've eaten a big meal. It feels like you've just had a cold glass of water. It feels like you've finally completed a big task you meant to do last week, and now you can relax. You feel good.

You get up, tuck the knife away, and. . .

-->[Wander the Desert]