h2>Dating : Stranded
She fell against the flaming rock, all hues of reds and oranges, the searing heat tearing at her back. The relentless sun beats upon her aching body, each blow sending wave upon wave of sweat rolling over her skin. The merciless heat and the knife-like stab driving through her swollen ankle produce shimmering mirages atop rocky outcrops. The pause between each stab is bliss. A pool of water beyond flickers into life like an old movie projected upon a sandy screen. She waits for her brain to reject the mirage. It keeps inviting her to drink as the gracious hostess of a party would, persuasive and calming. The knife falls to the back of her mind as she contemplates the ten yards between her and the possibility of water. Her ankle won’t let her walk that far. Her mind flits, involuntarily, back to athletics and asthma making a mountain out of the 200 metre sprint every year. She looks at the Mt Everest before her now and pulls herself up. She searches for each handhold, testing her weight, finding her balance until the rock supports her. The effort this takes leaves her short of breath and dizzy with pain. A cool breeze gives respite from the sun but not her mind. The silence is stark just like this land; red dirt, baked dry by the sun each day, rocks cracked open like overcooked muffins and spiky little anemones tumbling across a sea of arid land. A bird’s call rings through the air. She fumbles for her phone, the ‘SOS Only’ message leaving her feeling as futile as this land does. The knife hacks through her ankle again, snagging against each nerve as if the blade is made of tiny thorns. The pain and desolation overpower her as the brilliant ochre and russet world falls in upon itself, tumbling over her and pushing her into blackness.
She drags herself out of the dark into a shaded world. The sun hides behind the rocky cliff she slumps against like a sack of flour. The cliff above bears the bite of the sun, the venomous heat still penetrates her to the core. Hauling herself out of her stupor, she pushes the fog of pain from her mind. The stabbing pain has receded, the knife’s edge has worn away. She swallows to purge the grit from her mouth but her throat rasps like sandpaper against stone. The thirst threatens to set in. It sputters for a moment, then the memory of cool water trickling down her throat sends it roaring into life. She opens her eyes to the azure sky above, wishing she could drink it. Before she can stop herself she searches for the pool of water, every fibre in her body willing it into reality. It beckons to her again, mocking her. Her mind races as she assesses the situation. The weather trials she’d been running had shown a hint of humidity here, but she’d written it off as an anomaly. Humidity out here made no sense. Maybe, just maybe, it had spiked because of the water in that pool. She can see the pool so clearly. Her scientist’s instincts scream at her, begging her not to grasp at straws. Fanciful thoughts are not how she reached the top of her field. She clamps her eyes shut in an effort to push the temptress away. Slowly her breathing calms. She focuses on each breath, keeping a steady rhythm to still the whirling thoughts in her mind, when she hears another rhythm. Her thirst amplifies it into the sound of a child splashing in a bath, in reality its quieter, more like a dripping tap. Like a cat sneaking up on a bird, she raises her eyelids, trying to pin an image to the noise. Slowly her eyes focus on four legs, sandy in colour, a tail, and two ears pricked like gold radar dishes set to scan. She keeps herself as still as possible so as not to startle him. A wild gasp of joy slips from her lips when her brain finally comprehends the noise is him lapping at the water. His ears swivel toward her, they pause, and then they fold flat in fear as the smell of human reaches him. Two fooled senses are highly improbable, three are practically impossible. She needs to touch it, taste it, or smell it. She has to get closer.
As the sky deepens into royal blue, the fiery reds morph into rich purples and indigo. The sweat on her body cools as the mercury plummets, her resolve begins to rise. She grips the rock in her left hand and pushes against it, slowly levering herself upright. Walking is impossible, her ankle would scream at her like a cranky toddler if she tried. She drops to all fours instead. Her hands and knees hit the burning sand again and again. Agonisingly slowly, cushioning her ankle, she makes her way to the pool. The pattern of burning hand and cooling knee lets her gauge how far she has to go. She only has three more burns to endure when that rich, damp, oozing smell wafts toward her. She lets the temptress guide her to the waters edge. She dips her head toward it, her hands slipping through red gold sand and into blissful, soothing coolness. Lapping, slurping and sucking at the liquid lapis lazuli, the sandpaper softens. With one threat finally at bay she rests her throbbing ankle, puffed up like a blowfish, in the water. The temptress’s cool caress sheathes the blade and clears her mind, letting the reality of her situation sink in.