Straddling the top bar he surveyed the distance. The road was empty. Heat shimmers dizzied his vision. He stepped on the forward pedal and launched back into his seat as the bike moved forward. It had been thirteen days since he’d seen anyone. The place was completely deserted except for the lonely snake crossing the road in zig zag late afternoon motion. He still had enough water tablets and there was food to last for another few months. Infinite solitude was the immediate problem.

At first it hadn’t seemed so bad -talking to himself to pass the time and keep spirits high. But the heat and sweat stinging his bloodshot eyes reminded him that there was no one to see his state of desperation. Loneliness was like a hidden sin, a transgression so heinous that you never told anyone for fear that you’d be cast out. Loneliness proved that your thoughts and dreams meant little without a sounding board to send them back with wit or without.

The hills didn’t bother him anymore than the heat. It was good to have physical pain -it was tangible.

He parked the bike below a ledge of desert wall. The sun, just over the rim of the wall, cast shadows like long fingernails. Someone spoke. He turned and no one was there. Sitting down on the red ground he untied his shoes and cast them aside. He popped a water pill into his canteen and immediately felt liquid weight fill the inside. Taking a long pull, thoughts drifted to Em. Would she like it out here, in this heat, and those long hill climbs? Would she be angry that there was no real food? Would she miss her red wine?

The voices started to come often, and from different directions. The sun had been down for at least four hours. He sat holding his knees to his chest, eyes streaming salt tears, washing grime from his sunburned cheeks. Fear was like so much weight on his chest. Suddenly he leaned over and vomited. The voices were growing louder but he couldn’t make out the dialect. It was so dark. Where were the stars? Something moved about five yards in front. He held on tight to his knees and tried to stop shaking. Could there be anyone around or was it just madness taking over?

A shock like a wreck came upon him. When he woke the next morning his head mated in blood, there were footsteps around his campsite. His things were spread everywhere. Nothing was missing. He packed up and stepped on the upraised pedal. As the pedal cycled he lifted his other leg over the seat like many times before and started to spin. Miles unwound under the spoked wheels. His head ached. The voices were gone. Loneliness was better this way, without the voices.


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foul pete said...

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