The distances danced in the heat. We watched from the shadows. It was too hot to be out there, during the hottest hours of the day. But there was something moving out there, we could see it.
Shading her eyes as she watched, Wendy turned to me before letting her hand drop. I did not look at her; I kept watching the distance and the shimmering shapes. I felt Wendy’s turn and heard the question she didn’t ask.
I nodded and she left my side.
Wendy was back in less than a minute. She handed the rifle to me while she checked the shotgun was loaded and ready, as it should be.
I checked the rifle, blowing dust off the lens covers on the sight. I didn’t want any of that dust on the lenses and the dust gets everywhere, no matter what.
Sometimes it seems that the only things we have too much of these days is the heat and the dust.
I peered through the sights at the shimmering distance. The shapes leapt into view. There were figures staggering in the heat, two or three of them. I waited for the shapes to resolve a little more.
‘Three of them,’ I spoke for the first time. I felt Wendy nodding next to me as she counted her shells out, ready for reloading.
I scanned the horizon slowly. ‘That’s all of them.’ I swung back to the shapes shimmering in the distance. In the meantime, one of them had fallen to the ground. A wave of dust billowed up as the fallen figure tumbled and rolled down the side of the dune.
‘A man, a woman and another one that could be a child,’ I said.
Wendy’s hand hesitated over her shells. ‘A child?’
I nodded. My hand reached for hers. I could feel a layer of the gritty dust on her skin.
We looked at each other for a moment. Then I took a deep breath and lowered my eye to the sight. The woman fell to her knees by the man who’d fallen down the dune. From the way he was lying, it looked unlikely he’d get up ever again. The woman knelt by his side, her face raised to the sky. I could just hear her scream on the breeze. On the dune above her, the child stood alone and lost; a young girl who had no idea why the world had turned against us all like this.
I felt Wendy looking at me again.
‘All right,’ I said, lowering the rifle. I took my hat, grabbed a couple of water bottles and we set out together into the heat. Both ready to save the woman and the girl from what this world has become.