Vultures

The vultures are eyeing me, staring me down. They look hungry, ready to rend me limb from limb. I have to keep moving.

I can smell the stench of carrion around me. I cough, I gag, I continue to crawl.

One lands in front of me, and screeches in my face; I reach out to shoo it away, try and scare it off with my last, fading breath. I pick up a branch near me and swat at the bird. It flies away.

I keep one foot in front of the next, lurching onward. The sun beats down upon me, and I swallow, my throat parched, feeling like a single sheet of tissue.

How did I end up like this? Where had I gone wrong? My head spins; I feel like I’ve been walking for my entire life. Fatigue tears at my shoulders, pulling me down. I can’t stop, I have to remember who I am and what I’m trying to do.

I feel the rush of feathers on my back as the vulture comes at my back; I whirl around and smack him with my open hand, and he flies off. Only then do I feel where his beak tore my back, the new hole in my shoulder. The pain staggers me when it comes. I keep moving, and hold the bloody wound closed.

Sweat closes my eyes. I swipe them free with my bloodied hand, and smear my face with blood. God, what’s happened to me?

If I can reach shelter, I can keep the birds away, so they won’t tear my flesh further. I need water, there has to be water here in this desert, somewhere.

Ahead, over the rise, something dark breaks the yellow sand. Rock? There could be moisture on one of its sides, there could be some kind of vegetation.

The vultures flit before me, shading my burned face in alternating moments. I hear them screaming, circling faster and faster.

I kneel at the rock, which is dry and hot to the touch. I snatch at the sharp edges, trying to pull it out, cursing, stomping on it with what’s left of my boot. Finally a sharp shard breaks free, and I stand, with what might be the last of my strength.

The vulture screeches toward me flying faster. I strike out as it gets closer.

I crush its stupid fucking head.

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