[4/11 and 5/11/2016 draft – from 25/02/2014 draft]
Her eyes were closed.
She opened them a fraction.
They were gummed-up enough to stop the immediate stinging of sweat.
She wanted to keep it that way.
She peeped, as well as she could, through strings of tackiness and eyelash.
The brightness that was still in the day was screened by this procedure, and she congratulated herself for her forethought, but in fact, she had not anticipated the effect at all.
Much of the stickiness popped away, and her eyes adjusted enough so that she could see some distance – though there was nothing but the expanse of red dust that extended to where a dark line of trees edged the landscape.
Bea had gone that way this morning.
She had watched until Bea disappeared into heat haze.
She had no idea how far Bea had got – but it would have been silly for them both to go. Bea herself had said that.
She lay there under the triangular bit of canvas that she had fixed from the tailgate of the truck to a crowbar that leaned jauntily, precariously, against an outjut of rock.
Her shirt was soaked with sweat – sweat pricked at her back.
She thought of scratching, but the heat sapped her will, and it was difficult to move at all.
She wondered if Bea had found water beyond those trees.
Did she dare to have another swallow of her own supply?
Last night, there had been the screams of beasts.
She couldn’t stay here much longer – who knew when the beasts would be back?
And – would they come nearer this time?
Would they scent her out?
She pulled herself further under the canvas and towards the back of the truck where she had left her water-bottle in the deepest shade.
The shade wasn’t so deep now – the sun had turned in the afternoon sky.
The bottle was warm to her touch, wet with condensation around the stopper – that should have been an automatic seal.
She got her tongue around that, then opened the bottle, and took a sweet, full swig.
The water was almost gone.
Her rucksack was still under the front seat of the cab.
She pulled out from beneath the truck, pushed herself up from under the canvas, swayed in the pounding heat, found a centre of balance, took a few steps to the cab.
She had left the door open – that was luck also rather than forethought, and she chided herself to be more careful – the handle would have been impossible to hold in this heat.
She found the rucksack.
She pulled a thin scarf from it.
She put the water-bottle in it.
There were a few pieces of dried-out fruit left in the front pocket.
She tied the scarf over her mouth and nose, dragged the bag over her shoulders.
She looked across to the line of trees, trying to gauge how long it would take to cross that red vista.
The dust wasn’t deep, but it was dryer than any dust she had encountered before, and every movement stirred and lifted it. She moved through a red cloud, blinking through the irritation to her eyes, tears washing them continually.
The light was beginning to dim.
She dredged through dust.
And then she was tripping through scrub.
There was wiry grass – and the trees ahead.