The sky glowed a bright orange. A long cloud drifted in the distance, near the horizon, painted red. Wind blew across the lands and lifted from the ground dirt, and dry leaves, and a few long strands of hair.
A man was sitting, leaning on a boulder, outside his small flaking house. It was the middle of summer and the last rays of sunlight touched his face, and the soft currents of air took the heat away, and his hair fell from his head one strand a time. His eyes had been dried out, and the empty sockets in his head peered into the nothing, and his mouth rested wide open, and his skin turned ever thinner.
“Hello there, Mr. Red,” A man spoke as he walked by the decaying body, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it today either.”
The man with the red shirt, sitting by the boulder, remained silent and dead.
The walking man continued his path into the desert, and the body with the red shirt continued sitting in his place. “I won’t take long.” The walking man said as he left the corpse behind.
The man’s back arched forward, as if holding at its top a load. His stride was slow and his footsteps heavy, and his gaze was set to the disappearing sun.
If he continued walking, he thought, he might postpone the night, and the darkness would not come. If he could keep the sun above him, if only he could walk a little faster, then maybe he’d forget the cold, and he wouldn’t have to shiver. But the sun has always been harsh and distant, and unremorseful in its actions. Never had it waited for him, and never would it wait. The last light shined behind the mountains, drawing with it their outline, showcasing the first of the coming blackness.
“It’s okay,” He said and sighed, and he stopped with a loud thud, “Tomorrow we can try again.”
Night had fallen in the east. The tired man dreaded the way back, and on moonless nights like that one the world disappeared. So he clomped, and he tripped, and he cried his way back.
“Aren’t you tired of seeing me?” The man said to the corpse, when he ran into it again. “I sure am, brother. I’m tired of seeing myself. Look at my shoes. They’re ripped open. You can see my feet from the side there. See?” The man wiggled his left foot. “It’s there… It’s kind of disgusting you know? Dirt gets in there and then I have to walk on dirt all day. And then I never make it. The sun is too fast. It looks slow you know? If you stare at it, it looks like it never moves. But it does, brother, oh does it. Faster than you can run. I bet’ya not even the fastest kid could outrun it. Or maybe he could… I don’t know. But I’m old, and there’s no kids ’round here anyway, you know? It’s no use, you know? It’s dark all over again. All over again, brother. It’s gonna get cold soon, too, and then we’re gonna be cold.”
The corpse with the empty eyes did not move, but a few strands of hair were carried away with a sudden gust of wind.
“Are you sure you’re gonna be okay with that shirt? It’s gonna be cold, brother. You want my jacket? You can give it to me tomorrow. It’s okay, really. I got another jacket. It’s okay. I’ll be okay. Just take it.” The man covered the sitting corpse with his jacket.
“I’m gonna go. I gotta get walking. I gotta get home before it’s too late, you know? Don’t wanna keep the wife waiting!” The man laughed a sincere laugh, and then he became quiet.
The sky and the mountains had become one. A wall of black extended from the ground and into the infinite. The man’s skin crawled at the sight and goosebumps crept up his spine. His eyes widened, trying to catch a glimpse of anything, but only the dim light of the stars shined lazily, unable to illuminate the world.
Another gust of wind blew by and the sound of a moving shrub lingered with it. Another moment passed. The man looked to the ground. Silence took over. The man breathed a loud breath.
“Alright. Well, like I said, I gotta get walking. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
The corpse didn’t speak.
“Yeah… Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
So the man walked slowly away. He walked back the way he came, having given his jacket to the drying corpse. That night a storm made its way over his home, and it rained down on him. The man died. Maybe had he had his jacket he would have survived, or maybe he wouldn’t have. So the world had another corpse. That made two, and they both rotted beneath the sun, and the rain, and the cold, and no one will ever know they’re there.