The Desert Sun Shines a Cadmium Yellow
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“Stupid fucking water bottle. Piece of shit can’t even hold enough water to last me a fucking hour.” Mirage muttered to himself as he stumbled through the sands. Each step felt like he was walking through pudding.

The sand around Lost Vegas had turned a light pink, with small bubbles rising up and popping every 20 or so feet. God only knew what lay beneath the waves of grains that caused that. Mirage was careful to avoid them anyways.

The distant caws of the crows from the city could be heard from this far out. Of course they could. The Unveiling had caused the birds to be able to scream their wretched calls for miles. If you were close enough, sometimes it would cause your ears to bleed.

One of them was closer, though. Mirage could see the shadow on the ground in front of him as he trudged through the sand. He squinted his eyes to try and see what it was doing, looking up.

The bird was large. Obviously about 20 feet wingspan, with a large, fat, body. Its neck was twisted at an odd angle, with several bends in the throat. It was boney and missing quite a few feathers.

Not a crow.

Mirage quickened his pace, hoping the thing wasn’t following him. Unfortunately, the shadow moved with him, keeping pace and circling. He could see the shadow beginning to enlarge, meaning the thing was getting closer.

As the shadow began to close in, Mirage held his crowbar. Once he felt the wings flaps on his back, he bided his time. Finally, he felt the thing’s claws on his back, he quickly swung the crowbar around behind him, whacking the bird on the skull with sickening CLUNSHK. The bird quickly fell to the ground and began to spasm.

Mirage raised his crowbar up and slammed the end of it into the thing’s head, crushing it’s skull and splattering the sand with it’s brains. The inside of it’s skull was covered in maggots, each one a neon green color with red spikes on it. They gave out shrill shrieks as they were exposed to the air, quickly burrowing into what was left of the brain.

Mirage frowned slightly and backed up, turning his back to the dead animal and going to continue his trek. As he made a few steps, he heard the sand behind him bubble and growl, causing him to turn his head and look.

The ground around the bird shook and spat out sand, sprays of grains flying into the air before being reabsorbed into the sea of sand. The ground began to open up, the sand spilling into a large hole in the ground, dropping the bird’s corpse into the hole.

As soon as it had opened up, it closed, the ground shutting with a loud thud. A small red cloud of smoke rose through the sand and up into the sky, signifying it was over.

Mirage shook his head, somewhat disturbed by the sight that had just occurred in front of his face. He turned back in the direction of the Way and began walking again.

As he walked, the dryness in his throat became worse and worse. There was little water left in his bottle, and the sun wouldn’t set for another few hours. He sighed softly and dragged his crowbar through the sand to clean the bird’s gorey mess off of the tool.

As he dragged his crowbar through the sand, it suddenly snagged on something, thus, it was ripped out of his hand at a quick speed, causing Mirage to let out a grunt. He turned his head and stared at the crowbar sitting straight up in the sand.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Mirage asked the crowbar. The crowbar gave no answer. He made his way over to it and began to pull on it. It didn’t budge.

He frowned and pulled harder, gritting his teeth and cursing. As he pulled as hard as he could, the crowbar gave way, except, something else came up with it.

The crowbar had snagged on a person’s shirt. And with said shirt, came a pile of broken bones. A Nokia phone fell out of the shirt and on top of the pile of bones, causing Mirage to frown. It’d been a long time since he’d seen one of those. He reached down and picked up the phone, shaking bits of bone and bone dust off of the device.

Phone

He pressed the power button and watched as the screen turned on. Not even a scratch or crack on the thing. These things really could survive anything. He looked over the phone to see how old it was. It looked to be the rerelease, seeing as it had a different feel and graphics screen than the original. It was on the notepad app as it opened up.

‘The folks over at Parawatch said this place had some kind of anomaly within it, but all I see is a pond and a palm tree. I’m gonna poke around the pond and see if I can find anything interesting,’ The notepad read. There wasn’t any date or time, thus, Mirage couldn’t see when this had happened.

Palm tree and a pond. Why did that sound familiar?

Suddenly, it clicked. His art. This was his art. The mirage. He quickly looked from side to side to see where it was. How far away had this poor sucker landed?

He finally saw it. A pond with several leafy green tufts of grass sticking out of it, with a large palm tree sticking out of the sand next to it. It was about 80 feet away, meaning he was in the safe zone. If he had stepped 5 feet closer, he would have been turned to dust. Or, at least, his bones would have.

Mirage stared down at the skeleton. He could see the cracks in the bones and where it had been hit. The impact had obviously been fatal as soon as the skeleton had been hit. There had been no chance to help whoever it was, even if someone had been around.

He dug through the sand until he felt a pair of jeans, pulling them out. They had blood stains on them, with the femur bone on the right leg poking a hole through the pant leg. He felt around for a wallet.

In the left pocket was a smashed smartphone and a wallet. He dropped the jeans then opened the leather folding container, seeing a picture of… some kid. He couldn’t have been older then 17. He had a bright smile on his pale face, with messy, golden blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He had freckles dotting his face with a gap between the two front teeth.

The photo was on a driver’s license, which Mirage pulled out to view in its entirety. Date of birth was 07/19/2096. Name was Michael Whitman. Organ donor.

Mirage turned his attention to the mirage. His art had killed someone. He was responsible for this. He shook his head. No. This was just a dumb kid who got himself killed by his art. It was the kid’s fault. Right. Right? No. Yes. It had to be.

He stared at the mirage for a moment, in awe at his sheer talent. God damn was he good. He then turned his attention back to the skeleton. This kid had seen the mirage and been fooled by it. He felt proud of himself… but something else was there. An emotion he hadn’t felt in a long, long while. He’d have to turn the art off.

Why? Why was he thinking about turning it off? It obviously worked. It drew people in and they were tricked by it. Not his fault people were tricked by it. Despite this, he found himself getting down on his stomach and crawling towards the monolith in the center.

As he crawled, he felt the wind on his back from the speed of the mirage above him. He tried to remember how many arms the thing had. 3? 5? 4. It was 4. They spun at a strong speed, one that he couldn’t remember. It was so quick that it would break the bones of anything that it touched, but not quick enough that it would dislodge from the monolith.

He soon got closer to the monolith, the mirage began to fade, and he was able to see what the mirage actually was. He could see the brown stone block which served as the base, and if he concentrated hard enough, he could see the prisms which made up the mirage as they spun quickly. He reached forward and touched the brown monolith, gritting his teeth as the warmth began to radiate into his hand.

The heat continued to increase, the prisms began to slow, their colors fading softly as the speed decreased. As the speed finally slowed to a stop, the prisms fell to the ground with a loud thud, burying themselves halfway into the pink sand.

Mirage let out a sigh of relief and stood up, sticking his hand into the sand for a moment to let it cool off. He watched as the sand bubbled before he pulled his hand out. He wiped the sand grains off of his hand using his cloak.

He then continued his trek towards the city of Adelanto.

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The city had long since overgrown with vegetation, tall palm trees and mighty oaks, blooming birches and bristling pines. Vines roped along the outsides of the trees, intertwined with the bark, with bushes and saplings along the bottoms. The former buildings were barely visible through the plant life, but, it was clear they were still there. The sight was breathtaking.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Jungle was much better than the infinite grains of sand that covered every inch of the desert. Maybe he’d finally be able to get some shade and some water, considering the precipitation of the plants. That’s what it’s called, right? Mirage shrugged, not knowing, nor caring. He just wanted the greenery.

As Mirage made it to the road that connected into the city, he was forced down onto his knees, and the cold metal of a firearm be put to his head. His heart dropped.

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