The sun continued to rise, growing hotter and brighter, drying out the ground so it split, cracked and brought up puffs of dust over his boots. It beat down on him and he sweltered under it, began to take more sips of his water. He had to force himself to only sip, didn't know how long it would be before he found a place to refill.
Flies bothered him, buzzing close and lighting on him so he had to continually brush them away. But their noise was a relief from the silence, their presence signified other life, that life still went on somewhere, if he could just get to it. The red dust rose higher, it stuck to his body where he sweat, covering him in a layer of red like paint. The same sun reflected on the ground, white and shimmering on salty patches, casting hard, black shadows on the rock outcrops. Heat rippled in the air and those rocks moved in his eyes, wind-softened shapes stretching, sighing, moving as if his passing woke them from centuries of sleep.
He thought at first it was just another group of rocks, but as he neared, the odd regularity of its shape made him squint and hurry forward, forcing his tired legs to march. Houses, they had to be. A small town, where there might be people, certainly water and maybe food.
It struck him as he got closer that it was very quiet, no one about. The houses, built of wood carried miles down the track, had an empty, abandoned look. Paint was peeling, the glass in the windows cracked. The railroad passed them by indifferently, traveling on until it disappeared on the distant horizon. There was barely even a stop, only a small signal and a raised wooden platform on one side that creaked alarmingly under his weight.
It wasn't much of a place, barely one street. He walked down it, feeling somehow uneasy about walking close to any of the buildings.
"Hey!" he hollered, but the only reply was his own voice carried back to him, mocking and strange.
"Is anyone here!" he tried again, but there evidently wasn't, or if there was they preferred to stay hidden. He imagined eyes peeking at him through some dusty pane and shivered.
The wind rose up, swirling the red dust, carrying it up in clouds. It whispered.
He forgot his search for water, forgot his need to find anyone. Forgot everything.