Vasant (Spring) 2020 Short Stories - Russ Bickerstaff



By Russ Bickerstaff

It wasn't that she didn't care. It was that she simply didn't have the energy to care. The desert stretched out in all directions. The sun was setting. There would be all kinds of problems that went along with that. And a part of her really wanted to work out how the hell it was that she would have ended up in the desert to begin with.


There wasn't anything else going on here, but she knew that sleep would only really come when she was able to rest. And she wouldn't really be able to rest until she had come to be in some sort of sheltered place. And this was NOT a sheltered place, of any kind. In the least.


Sleep had so often come with the setting sun in the past. It was not the case here. And though she was quite clearly exhausted, she never really managed to make it work otherwise, there was some sort of sense that she might be sleeping.


She had that weird sort of lucid sleeping feel about things because honestly, she couldn't remember specifically how she had come to be in this position and usually when that sort of thing happened, she was dreaming. So she figured that was probably what was going on right now, but it was very, very difficult to tell.


And so it was that things were more than a little confusing. But she knew that there was only one way out of any of this and that was to find shelter. So perhaps she would wake up when she came to find shelter. But it was very, very difficult to tell. She checked her phone for the time and she knew what she would find. Only haziness.


Yes, there were a few applications on the phone, but as it didn't seem to be connecting to anything in the way of internet service, there really was no way of knowing the time or the date or anything like that. It was, however, a little odd that she would still have a full battery.


Although, having solar recharge on her phone meant that it was never really going to run out of power, so all was cool with respect to that . . . she just felt that it was kind of strange that the whole thing would be behaving the way that it was under the circumstances.


Things continued to work out for her. The wind continued to whip around the sand dunes. The sun continued to beat down during the day. It still continued to be unbearably cold

during the night. And through it all she felt as though she felt fine. This was more than a little bit strange under the circumstances. And without any hunger or thirst beyond the basic level that she'd come to associate with the desert, she never really felt the stress on her body increasing. Ever. It was always resting at a fairly basic rate, which was honestly more than a little strange.


And so she felt as though, perhaps rather than being in a dream of some sort, she may have been in some sort of afterlife. Whether it was heaven or hell or purgatory or whatever didn't seem particularly relevant now that she was in the place. There was nothing that she'd be able to do about anything at this stage anyway . . . In any case; there was no question that something was most definitely going on that was entirely out of the ordinary.


It didn't help that she kept getting strange things entering into her mind . . . images. Not visions really. . . just icons. And they were so close to what she considered to be the centre of what she was that she couldn't really figure out what it was those icons were.


So she continued on into the night . . . moving just to keep from having the chill get to her too much . . . and yes, she was tired at the night, but no more tired than she had been before . . . and certainly no more tired than he had been the day before or the evening before that.


Or any of the days stretching out into the past that seemed to make up what she considered to be her recent memory. It was all a bit of a loss. And it was all a bit of an uncertainty to her.


Not that she didn't have distant memories of childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Or really anything else for that matter. She just couldn't seem to access the memories that connected this memory to any of the memories she'd had from being here in this desert.


And that was a bit of a pity considering that she probably could have worked out how to get out of here had it not been for the fact that she was incapable of remembering exactly how she'd gotten here. And that was something that was nagging at her for quite some time.


It seemed strange for her. She seemed to know everything about herself and her situation but how to get out of it . . . because she didn't know, for instance, why it was that she wasn't hungry or thirsty and didn't seem to have been for a very, very long time. . . presumably she had eaten and slept very close to when she'd gotten into the desert, but she didn't really know much more about it than that.


And that might've accounted for the first eight hours or so of not really being tired or hungry or thirsty or fatigued or anything, but it had been at least several days, hadn't it?


There was also something kind of strange about the whole thing that kept her from feeling completely okay about what she knew about the situation and that was the fact that, as vivid as her memory had been about everything that went on before making it into this desert, she didn't remember exactly what had happened just before she had gotten to be where she was.



Russ Bickerstaff is a theater critic and aspiring author living on the south side with his wife and two daughters. In over ten years of covering the theater scene he has reviewed more than 1,000 shows. In addition to his work for The Shepherd Express, he maintains his own reader-funded Milwaukee theater blog. His short fictions have appeared in more than 30 different publications.





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