The dunes spread out before him, glowing burnished bronze under the sun.
Th clouds above were golden, too, mixed with the firey red of sunset. It
all looked so alien, and he could hear the music of its strangeness
playing in his mind, filling him with an appreciation that almost
outweighed his fear. It made him sigh as he wiped sweat away from his
face and did his best to keep his hair out of his eyes.
He spent a few moments just looking out at the world, wondering what was
to come. "There is a certain peace that comes from being completely
uncertain as to how one is going to survive," he thought to himself,
unable even at a time like this to silence his self-commentary. With that,
he lifted one foot over the crest of the dune and
And he was off. He had no idea where he was going, other than that it was
generally northward, based on the orientation of the sun. There was no
reason to his direction.
He walked as the sun set, fading from gold and red to orange and purple to
black, as the wreck of the plane dwindled behind him. The moon rose, and
the dunes turned from one kind of alien majesty to another, gold and red
to the finest black and silver. He stopped to rest at the top of another
high dune, so that he could see the stars. Such stars, they were. There is
no way to compare the stars of a desert, with no light or pollution in the
air, and the silence, with no people or machines. The music swelled in him
again - that was the only way that he could describe the feeling, a wash
of images and feelings and memories that wove together into something
beautiful. It occurred to him that he must be delirious with dehydration,
since in his present state he shouldn't be thinking about how beautiful
the place was.
"And on the other hand," he mused, "why not? As long as I'm here I might
as well revel in it. So there's no food or water. So I'm half a world away
from all that I know, all that I love. This is beauty, bare and true,
singing a song I've never heard before..."
And something split the silence.
A melodious beep, an electronic cricket. He looked around for an animal,
or a person. It took him a few seconds before he realized that the noise
was coming from his belt...
He unhooked the pager, and looked at the display. Elise.
Oh, gods, no...
He sank to his knees and screamed madly at the stars, raging at what he
felt to be the absolute. All these years of silence, and now, when it was
just too late. His tears wet the sand beneath him, and he grew dizzy. He
vomited what was left of his last meal and what little water he had drunk
from his bottle onto the sand as well, where it would take years to decay
in this sterile place.
Finally he collapsed, and stared up at the stars. He looked up, trying to
find a dot moving against the heavens, wondering if he could perhaps spot
the satellite that had sent the transmission. Oh, the irony, all input and
no output. A bitter smile cracked his lips.
All this time.