I don't know how how I got there. One day I woke up, in the desert
, with nothing but the clothes on my back
. My former life, as I like to think of it now, was a blur. I remember small parts every now and then, but for the most part the past is a big fog in my mind
. The more I try and think about it, the fuzzier it gets. I suppose it doesn't matter
For days I walked in a daze. There was no water, and the only food I could find was a small package of dried beef in my pocket. I ate it all the first night. Eventually I stumbled across a small creek winding it's way through a canyon. That's where I met the old man.
At first he didn't seem to notice me, or at least he pretended not to. He was on the other side of the creek, apparently looking through the dirt and rocks for something. He was wearing camouflage pants with a safari vest and a wide brimmed hat. He had an unkempt beard and wild tangled hair struggled to be free from the confines of his hat. A small mule stood by his side, loaded with supplies. The mule looked like it had seen better days, I suspect it would become the old man's dinner before too long.
For a few hours, I sat watching him root around in the dirt. Eventually I dozed off. I awoke at dusk to find him sitting beside me, digging the dirt out of his fingernails. He had built a small fire and the smell of roasting meat was wafting through the air.
"When's the last time you ate?" he asked me.
I couldn't find the words to answer him, but he offered me a plate anyway. As I ate, I noticed the mule was nowhere in sight, but I was too hungry to care. The old man took out a hand rolled cigarette, and as I ate he began to tell me his story.
Before the world changed, he had been a school teacher in Birmingham. He taught english at a small university, and lived a happy life with his wife and children. They all died during the change, leaving him alone in a hostile and desolate world. I wasn't sure what he was talking about, but I listened in silence.
He went on for hours, though I tried I could not follow most of it. But it didn't matter, for the first time in days I had a full belly and a comforting voice to listen to. Eventually I realized he had fallen silent, looking off at the stars. It was late and the fire was almost out. He tossed me a blanket and told me to sleep, a little hint of a smile in the corner of his eyes. I thought, for a brief moment, that things would be ok now and I drifted off to sleep.
In the morning I woke up alone. There was a package of dried beef and a canteen of water nearby, but no sign of the man. I sat there most of the day, waiting for him to return, even though I knew he would not. As the sun began to set and the world began to cool, I headed west along the creek.