Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
I’ve known the final line of this story for weeks now, and I enjoyed figuring out the beginning. Desert survival, wild animals and a teacher with a twisted idea of a lesson!
Onto the story!
It was the longest day of the year in the sweltering heat of the desert the day Nikki discovered the well was empty, and that was only the start of their problems.
‘Well, that’s just perfect,’ Nikki said, as the bucket she’d lowered came up empty. She upended her flask over her mouth and lapped at the few droplets of water left. ‘What now, Dean?’
Dean held up his flask and took a sip. ‘Should’ve savoured it like I did.’
Nikki gestured to the dried up well. ‘Why would I, when I thought I could refill it?’
‘Better to err on the side of caution, Nik dear,’ he replied with a grin. ‘Survival skills 101.’
He popped a few raisins into his mouth and began to chew. Nikki glared at him. ‘What’d I do to deserve this?’
Dean boomed his next words, in a perfect impression of their class tutor. ‘Only the strongest survive the desert. You are my best students, so to the desert you shall go.’ He sighed and switched back to his normal voice. ‘If you weren’t so competitive, you wouldn’t be here.’
‘Oh, so now this is my fault?’
He nodded and offered her his flask. She reached out to take it, but he snatched it back to his chest. ‘Small sips only. Who knows when we’ll find more?’
The desert sprawled around them, a harsh, unforgiving sea of dusty yellow. Nikki nodded and took the smallest of sips. As much as she hated his pompous attitude and superiority complex, he was right. She handed back the flask and grabbed her backpack.
He secured the flask to his belt and knelt to stuff his sleeping bag into his bag. ‘We should get moving. No sense staying here now.’
She squinted at the sun, directly above them, and sighed. ‘Yeah, s’already midday. You wanna keep heading North, or take the safer route?’
He pulled a crumpled map from his pocket and studied it with a frown. ‘North. It’s more direct.’
Nikki nodded, and as soon as their camp was packed up and their backpacks bulging, she pulled out her compass. ‘This way. We need to take care. We’re not really prepared-‘
He cut across her with a scowl. ‘I know, but we don’t have the time or energy reserves to waste hunting the desert for water.’ He jabbed a finger at a ridged mountain area on the map, directly north. ‘There’s bound to be water here. The sooner we get there, the better.’
Nikki made a face at his back as he set out, but stuck closely to his side. He had their only water, and as much as she hated to admit it, she’d never make it on her own. Determined to make the most of every second of remaining daylight, she picked up the pace.
They’d been walking for three hours, according to her pocket watch, and still nothing but endless sands surrounded them. Nikki wiped a hand across her sweating brow and reached out towards Dean. He fumbled with the clasp on his belt and passed her the flask, but when she tried to take a sip the single remaining drop of water barely quenched her thirst.
‘This isn’t good, Nik,’ Dean said, when she tipped the flask upside down and passed it back.
‘I know.’ She licked her chapped lips and held out a hand. ‘Lemme see the map?’ He passed it over, and she frowned. ‘We should’ve reached the mountains by now. You sure we’re going the right way?’
Dean held up his compass. ‘Positive.’
Nikki squinted at it. ‘Should we pick up the pace?’
‘Probably. I dunno. Teacher said when you’re without water, you should conserve energy, but if we move faster we might find water sooner, so…’ He shrugged and glanced to the side. ‘What’s that?’
A cloud of dust sped across the sand towards them. Nikki’s eyes widened as she made out a pair of coyotes within the cloud. She grabbed Dean’s arm. ‘We need to run.’
Dean shook his head and planted his feet. ‘They don’t attack humans. Stay still and they’ll go right past-‘
He yelled as one of the beasts sunk its teeth into his leg. Nikki let go of his arm and swung her pack at the animal’s head. It let go with a whimper, but its mate leapt at Dean and knocked him over. He shoved it off and managed to roll away, to stagger to his feet as the animals circled them. Nikki grabbed some dried jerky from her pack and threw it towards them. The coyotes gobbled it up and turned their eyes on her as they stalked closer.
‘Throw them our packs,’ Dean said, hand held to his stomach and eyes glassy. ‘Maybe it’ll distract them long enough for us to get away.’
Nikki bit her bottom lip. ‘This’s all we have.’
Dean’s pale face stared at her, and he swayed on his feet, a shadow of the arrogant teen who beat her in every class test. She sighed and tossed their packs behind them. The coyotes sped past her, and she grabbed Dean’s arm. ‘Come on.’
He winced as his left foot hit the sand, and Nikki wrapped an arm around his shoulders as she dragged him along as fast as she could, to the North and away from the ravenous coyotes. ‘I thought you said they didn’t attack humans?’
‘Must’ve been starving,’ Dean replied with a forced grin. ‘I wonder if they’ll eat my raisins?’
‘Helpful observation as always,’ Nikki said with a roll of her eyes. ‘Save your strength.’
Dean coughed and clutched his side. ‘Yes ma’am.’
Nikki frowned as a red stain crept through his shirt. ‘You okay?’
He shook his head and winced at the blood on his fingers. ‘I’d love to sit down.’
‘You can’t. We have to put enough distance between us and them to make camp before sunset.’ She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the late afternoon sun and smiled.
‘You’re right, and I don’t say that often,’ Dean replied with a laugh. He clutched his side and followed her eyes. ‘Is that the ridge?’
Nikki nodded. ‘Do I need to carry you?’
Dean grimaced and hobbled towards the mountain ridge rising out of the sands. ‘I’ll manage.’
Nikki rolled her eyes and slipped an arm under his shoulders. ‘Lean on me, it’ll be faster.’
He sighed, but she felt some of the tension drain from him as he used her as a crutch. They staggered across the desert and up the rocky mountains to make camp in an empty cave.
As the sun dipped lower Nikki glanced at Dean’s shivering form, bundled under her coat, and shuddered as the chill air raised goosebumps on her arms. The cave was a great find, a natural replacement for their lost tent. Perhaps tomorrow they’d find a spring to fill their flasks and hydrate them more than the few berries they’d scavenged from the mountain bushes.
She traced her finger over the map as the sun set, golden crimson and beautiful against a backdrop of sandy dunes. Four days until their teacher came for them. If they set out for the meeting point before sunrise they should make it on time, even with Dean’s injuries. Regardless, wherever they went from here she knew she’d never forget the sunset on the longest day. One day the sun would set on them for good, but not today.
Thanks for reading!
I’ll be posting a serial starting next week. Each part will relate to the weekly prompt, and it’ll run until the end of August. It has magic, a prince, and two characters who dislike each other who become stranded together.
Why not write a short story or poem based on a prompt?
The prompts for July are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
‘The setting sun bathed the blood soaked ground, and I wondered how it had come to this.’
If you use one of the monthly prompts or the expanded prompt to write a story, feel free to share your blog links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one-off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!