It’s a hundred miles from here to the next town. Easy enough in a car, but when you’re walking with an empty jerry-can that your friend Dogg forgot to fill up last time he borrowed your car, it might as well be a quarter-million miles.

The desert sun’s already drained me of sweat, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die here, somewhere on the side of the road. All I can taste is salt, and I’m so dizzy the only choice I have is to keep walking. If I sit down I’m not getting up again.

Someone told me cacti hold water, but I don’t know what kind, or how to get at it. Not that it matters, I haven’t seen a cactus yet, just asphalt and baked sand and my own shadow getting longer in front of me.

I think I’m starting to hallucinate, too. At the edge of the flat horizon, right at the vanishing point, there’s something tall waving to me. But maybe it’s a mirage.

Keep walking.

And now it’s right in front of me, and it’s tall, with green skin. I know I’m hallucinating now.

It knows my name. “Hello, Charles,” it says.

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