The day had gone dark again. It seemed as though someone was constantly playing with the dimmer switch on a lamp. Or, perhaps, heavy clouds were drifting across the sky in front of the sun, casting dark shadows over the land. I looked up—cringing, afraid, knowing what I would see—and stared at a cloudless, purple sky.Purple… blue… I don’t know… colors had changed since the water had gone. “The same thing, only different,” my old man used to say. The sun was high overhead, but seemed to be fading; losing power. Pulsing, maybe, is the best word to describe what it was doing. It had burned too, hot for too, many days—something to do with the blasts maybe—scorching the earth and drying it of its life-giving water. And now it, too—the sun—was dying. Spent… and wasted. I looked down again and stared across the dry cracked earth toward the hills in the distance. They rose into the ugly, throbbing sky like angry blemishes on an adolescent face. It was difficult to tell where the hills ended and the sky began. Everything looked the same in the strange light. The dusky hues ranged from a grayish blue to a deep purple. Jimmy Hendrix shouted two words in my mind, “PURPLE HAZE!” The surreal scene—the world, void of color—only added to my sense of despair and defeat.
The trees had died a while before. Their once leaf-filled limbs now gray, skeletal arms and fingers stretching toward the pulsing sky begging for a taste of the cool, clean water which no longer flowed beneath their roots nor came down from the sky in the form of rain. The ground around the lifeless oaks and cedars, once plush with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and green vegetation was cracked and barren. As I began walking again, small crystal clouds of blue-gray dust puffed at each step, then fell quickly back to the ground, leaving scarcely a sign that I had passed. A few of the particles hung in the still air, then fell so fast they appeared to vanish. If someone were to pick up my trail, even an hour from now, they would believe it to be days, maybe weeks, old. There was but a vague image of a footstep where my bare feet had touched the dusty ground. No matter. There was no one to find the traces of my footsteps.
It was almost too much to fathom. I had spent many sleepless hours trying to make sense of this thing that no sense could be made of. Evil. That was the only explanation. A phrase or title, I don’t remember exactly where it came from, jumped across my thoughts. “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” It had come all right. It… something… had sucked every last drop of moisture from this planet. Water… now more precious than gold, was nowhere. Rivers and lakes had vanished. Plant life had dried to dust. Human and animal remains were indiscernible piles of gray powder. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but everything had contained water. When the water had gone, the structure of all things changed… crumbled… vaporized.
Why me? Why am I the only one left? Or am I? Is this death? Are there others wandering beside me I can’t see? Or… am I truly alone? It seems a lifetime has passed since the last shuddering blast ceased to rock the cave where I had hidden. I’d been hiking alone in the hill country west of Austin, looking for arrowheads, on the day it began. … To be continued…