A man finds himself while lost in the desert.
With a roar like a lion, the truck made its way down the highway. Kicking up clouds of dust behind it, the vehicle was coated with grit and dirt. The driver, seemingly oblivious of any posted speed limits, was able to make quick progress along his route. The driver gripped the wheel firmly and struggled to gaze far beyond his position. The miles of road that lay in front of him appeared to fade into the distance much like the miles behind him had. Each mile he saw the same landscape, the same mountains, and the same brilliant sun rising high above him. The great distance he had covered and the great distance ahead began to worry him.
The monotony of John's drive was broken only by brief periods in which music sounded from the radio. The few notes that were able to sputter out of the radio speaker suggested the melodies of old songs. These periods served to amuse John even after they were cut off. With each short musical phrase, the driver's thoughts were freed of worries.
The needle of the truck's gas gauge had moved further and further towards the large red "E" with each passing mile. John, upon seeing this, tapped at the gauge's glass cover, and frowned. The drive he had undertaken had taken up over three quarters of his tank and no filling stations were in sight.
John pulled the atlas from the passenger seat and began to shift his eyes between its papers and the road ahead of him. Looking at a chart in the back of the atlas, he determined that he had put over a hundred miles between him and the last town he passed through. The gas he had in his tank would not be able to get him anywhere close to the stop on his route. He was sure that his truck would be running on fumes before he reached the town ahead. He slammed the gas pedal with his boot and shot across the desert.
After what seemed another hour of driving, the truck's engine began to sputter. John looked at the gas gauge and saw that it was still above the "E." He guided his faltering truck over to the side of the highway. A cloud of steam rising from the vehicle’s hood convinced John to abandon his truck for now and set off on foot. He was wary to do so, though, due to the heat that bore down upon the desert.
John glanced at the pile of materials in the passenger seat. A canteen, a wad of single bills, an atlas, a pair of sunglasses. John weighed the importance of each item. With some reservations, he left behind the road map. He had studied its features enough to understand that the next town would lie somewhere along the highway. Holding a canteen and a wad of cash, John started walking towards the next town.
After some time, John was able to spy small houses along the horizon. Until he was able to make out each minute feature of the structures, he took them to simply be mirages. When he finally came close to them, the sight offered him some relief.
"Perhaps," he thought, "one of the inhabitants would be able to give me a ride."
As he drew closer to the wooden homes, John began to doubt whether any of them were occupied. Looking carefully, he could tell that many of their windows were busted out, exposing the interiors to the elements. Bushes had choked off the path to each home's front door. John treaded carefully through the shrubbery surrounding one house and peered in through a gritty window. Wiping away the dirt with his sleeve, he was able to see the dilapidated state of the home. The blue wallpaper had chipped and cracked, revealing layers of increasingly garish paint underneath. Chips from the wallpaper collected along the floor. A rotting sea green couch with its foam cushions exposed sat along the far wall. Pictures hung from the walls that displayed images of more prosperous times: family reunions, children's birthdays, and barbecues, among other things. Rusted utensils, shattered dishes, and crumbling books littered the floor.
John pulled away from the window. Stepping carefully around the bushes, he walked back to the road. He checked his pockets to ensure that none of his supplies had fallen into the thick cluster of bushes.
He fingered for the wad of cash in his pocket and, upon feeling it, continued along the highway.