The Dry Lands
He laid on the cracked and dusty ground, unblinking, staring up at the brown clouds, utterly and completely emotionless as they drifted above him like a slow-moving processional, obscuring the harsh light of the suns from his broken body.
The Workers tossed him out like the trash; a piece of waste no longer needed. Just like that. His life was over. With a grunt and a considerable amount of effort, he bent his limbs at the joints, cringing at the sound of bones as they rubbed unnaturally against the breaks sustained from the fall. The dry air zapped all moisture from his mouth and he fought to keep from spitting out the dirt that swirled, unwanted, onto his tongue. Spit was precious in the Dry Lands. Even if one was lucky enough to end up here with water…a man simply didn’t spit out his life-source onto the gritty earth because of a little sand.
Krane Hutch had never been a lucky man.
It took five minutes to realign his left arm enough to slowly reach across his chest and tug on his right arm. It was broken in more places than Krane thought possible; flopping limply when he managed to lift his hand and wrist off the hot dirt of the canyon. The pain was there in full force – stinging at his eyes, creating a dull ache in his head and forcing bile up his throat, but he clamped down harder on his jaw until it popped, along with his right elbow.
His head fell back onto the ground in relief. The hardest part was done. Arms took longer to heal than legs. The bones were smaller, and there was a lot more of them. Plus, he couldn’t align the joints in his lower half without the use of his upper half, so hands and arms would always rank higher than legs and feet. His legs took only minutes to repair.
With a series of deep breaths, he tilted his neck from side to side and rested his swollen arms straight at his sides. Then he rolled his hips back and forth, slowly setting the snapped and protruding disks of his back into their rightful slots. The spine was tricky. The first time he broke his back was after a night out with the Raiders, a crazy salvage team which spent more time drinking illegal rash than actually salvaging anything. Drunk and unaware of his surroundings, he stepped off the ship’s loading dock and slid down a cliff. A boulder broke his fall, but he spent the night in excruciating pain trying to put his broken vertebrae together. The Raiders never noticed he was gone. At dawn, when he stumbled back into the galley, the other men were too drunk or too uninterested to ask about his blood soaked clothing, so he didn’t bother filling them in. He was used to doing everything on his own. Always had been and always would be – totally alone.
Lying in the dirt just an hour or so before the hottest time of the day, he stretched his legs out slowly, flexing his toes up and down until the muscles of his lower back constricted around the damaged disks. He bit down on his tongue, drawing fresh blood more than once before it was over. But it definitely didn’t take all night. Less than one hour after he was tossed mercilessly out of the hot sky, he sat up to investigate his surroundings.
“Now, isn’t this just bloody brilliant?” he asked the whispery wind.
The only answer he received was a faraway call of some sort of bird of prey he’d rather not meet face to face. Fisting his hands, he pushed his knuckles into the dirt and shakily righted himself. He had managed to land less than one hundred feet from the edge of the massive canyon. Other than the gargantuan split in the earth, there was absolutely nothing to see. Just dry, brown rock and blowing sand stretched out before him.
His six-foot frame barely cast a shadow. Since one of the suns shone from the east, and the other from the north, there wouldn’t be a shadow until the planet tilted in a way that allowed the sunrays to cross over each other before taking to the horizons. He had no plans in being out in the open when it was high noon. The heat alone would blister his skin. Having the thermal rays of two suns beating down on the Dry Lands had killed all but the smallest of creatures; except perhaps the ones that lived beneath the ground. No man had lived to tell a tale about those creatures, so he doubted their existence. Still, he walked quickly, and with focus, though he wasn’t exactly sure where he was or where he should go.
With no water, no rations and not even a flask of rash in his back pocket to swig, he figured he had less than three days in the awful and uninhabited region before the birds found his corpse and picked it clean.
Whistling the tune of a song long ago forgotten, his feet kicked up bowls of dust with each gaping stride as he paced toward the mountains. They were scraggly rocks jutting from the fractured crust, too frigid at night to keep even a gnat alive, but it was his best option. Shelter was essential to survival.
The hard knock to his head obliterated the last day of memory from his mind, but he knew why he was here. Why he had been cast out with no supplies, yet not stripped of everything like his clothes or boots – a loss that would most certainly mean death in a place like this. Someone was making a statement. They wanted him dead, but not too quickly. Nah, someone wanted Krane to suffer. The fall hurt, he’d be the first to admit that, but the recovery was worse. The fall took seconds – putting himself back together took far longer than that. He supposed he was lucky they dumped him and flew off. Had they stayed to admire their work, the Raiders would have found Krane in a state of reconstruction. The Raiders weren’t the smartest group of men, but even they knew it wasn’t normal for a man to do what Krane could. He was different, in more ways than one, and people like him were killed for far less remarkable reasons. If they came back and found no sign of his body, they’d assume the predators dragged his broken corpse off and ate him for dinner.
With a sigh, he shook his head at his predicament as his strides slowed on the incline at the base of a mountain. He knew that girl would be his undoing. Girls always were his undoing.
© Trish Marie Dawson