I am lying face down in the sand. How long have I been in this desert? It feels like years, but it cannot have been; I would be dead then. I turn my head to one side. I feel shrivelled up. Like a crisp I might snap at any time. I push myself up.
There is nothing for it, if I want any chance of survival, I have to move. My legs feel tangled, but I get to my knees. Then I fall down heavily on my side and pain shoots up in my shoulder. I never thought sand would be so hard. I push myself up into a sitting position. Come on, I tell myself, come on, you can do this. And I remember how I used to never even think about it when I stood up.
When I have found my feet again, I try to figure out which way I had been going before I fell asleep, or passed out. I am not sure which is most accurate. All directions look the same, with the dunes and the sand and the sky, so I just start walking.
I spin around. Who is saying my name?
‘Mr. Harris, please relax.’
There is no one there. Somehow I find enough strength to increase my speed.
‘Mr. Harris you really should lie down.’ The voice sounds so calm. How can it sound so calm? Then I get it. This must be my subconscious, telling me to just lie down and die. I will just have to ignore it. I do my best to steady my steps and continue walking.
‘Mr. Harris can you hear me?’
Just walk, I keep thinking, just walk. It will stop if I ignore it. It is not real. I will have to find someone real to help me. The air burns my nose as I inhale. I gaze into the sky. It should get dark at some point, but the sun does not seem to have moved at all. At least my subconscious shut up some time ago. My eyelids are heavy. I shake my head and slap my cheeks. No more sleeping. Or I will disappear in the sand. I will die out here.
‘No!’ I tug at my sand-filled hair, ‘No, don’t think that. I’ll have to get out of here.’
‘Don’t you think it best for you to stay, Mr. Harris?’ It is not the same voice as before, but it is just as calm. ‘At least until you feel better?’
I laugh at that.
‘Why are you laughing Mr. Harris?’
‘Because you’re saying I might get better if I stay longer. I’m dying of thirst.’
‘Then have some water Mr. Harris.’
I laugh again.
‘You are laughing again Mr. Harris, why?’
‘You’re telling me to have some water. There’s no water in the desert.’
‘But you are not in the desert Mr. Harris. You were rescued from the desert years ago.’
My throat clenches shut. I think I am choking. I am on all fours on a cold marble floor. I am on my hands and knees in the sand gulping down scorching air.
‘I’m not listening to you!’ I shout to the cloudless sky.
‘Go away!’ I crawl on. Up the next dune.
‘Mr. Harris, please listen to me.’
I will not listen. I will ignore all voices from now on. I do not know what madness made me answer them before. I will get out of here some day. I just have to ignore the voices. If I ignore them long enough they will go away.