The sweltering heat made John sluggish, and it did not help that the sun's rays felt like the sting of being slapped on the skin. His water bottle was nearly full, but he did not account for the temperature to affect the liquid inside. He took a gulp and nearly spat the water out, it was boiling hot. He capped the bottle and proceeded east trudging over the sandy dune when he spotted another traveler. He hoped that he was not seeing things, and rushed towards the unsuspecting person.
“Hey!” he yelled, waving his hand. “Hello.”
The person stopped to turn around and responded by waving back at him. As he came closer he soon realize that the traveler was a woman and a beautiful one indeed.
“Hi, thanks for stopping,” he said.
“No problem,” she said. “I was getting worried that I was the only one out here.”
“I'm John Smith,” he said.
“Lisa Hayes,” she said.
“So how did you end up out here?” he asked.
“I was going to ask you the same question,” she said. “You look thirsty, want some cold water?”
“Yes please,” he said.
She handed him one of her flasks. John drank to his heart's desire, and the coldness was felt throughout his body as it went down his throat.
“Wow, how did you manage to keep the water cold in this heat?” asked John.
“It's a special flask,” said Lisa. “It's designed to keep whatever is in it hot or cold for twenty-four hours."
“Wait, so you've only been out here for less than a day?” said John.
“I believe so, but I can't remember really,” said Lisa. “How about you?”
“I can't remember a thing other than my name,” said John. “I've been trying to jog my memory.”
“Same,” said Lisa. “So far my instinct tells me to go that way.”
“I've been going east myself,” said John. “We might as well go together.”
“Well beats traveling alone,” said Lisa. “I could use the company.”
“Me too,” said John. He smiled with relief.
They continued to trek through the barren wasteland, and hoped to find whatever it was that they were looking for. It seemed, that the only thing each of them knew was to go towards the direction that beckoned them to. There were no other life forms except a few dry shrubs that may have flourished at the time when the land did not lack the provision of water. Unfortunately, nature has irrevocable reasons of abandoning its disposition.
John and Lisa perspired profusely from the exertion of the travel, and their rations were running low. They began to take smaller sips of water in an attempt to manage it throughout their course. But, eventually, they ran out and thirst began to torment them.
“My mouth is so dry,” said John.
“Try not to talk,” said Lisa. “Save your energy.”
“I'm feeling lightheaded,” said John.
“Ditto,” said Lisa.
“I see something up ahead,” said John.
“I don't see anything,” said Lisa. “Don't talk unless you have to.”
“But I'm telling you there's something up ahead,” said John.
“I think you're seeing things,” said Lisa. “Maybe a mirage.”
John paid no heed to what Lisa said, and he was invigorated by the vision. Enthusiastically, he ran towards it. Lisa yelled something, but John had already distanced himself far enough that her words were muffled by the whistling of the desert wind. However, as John pressed onward, it seemed as though something had prevented him from ever reaching his destination. He could never get any closer. The physical exhaustion forced John to reconsider going any further and stopped running. Lisa caught up to him, John looked at her then he fainted.
When John awoke his vision was blurred at first, but he began to see clearly after a few minutes. He was in a room lying on a bed. There were various medical instruments attached to him while another equipment monitored his vitals. He was disoriented, and had no recollection as to why he is there, but he does remember the desert.
“Lisa,” he said, underneath his breath.
The sound of footsteps alerted him. His eyes gazed at the gap between the door and the floor as the motion of shadows drew closer. When the door slid open he immediately recognized one of his guests.
“Hello John,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
“I'm afraid not,” she replied. “You must have me confused for someone else. But I am your assigned doctor, and my name is doctor Lina Rosenberg. You have been in a simulation which is programmed to emulate extreme weather conditions. It is part of your physical and mental training.”
“Training?” John was perplexed.
“Yes, you have enlisted to be one of the Soldiers of Resistance,” said doctor Lina. “And by the looks of it, you pass.”
“What is it John?”
“There was a woman in the desert, and she looked just like you,” he said.
“Sorry John, each simulation was designed for a single conscious mind,” said doctor Lina. “So anything you saw during the test, was a figment of your imagination induced by the simulation.”
“But she felt real,” said John.
“It's suppose to,” said doctor Lina.
“No I mean her very essence felt real,” said John, brows furrowed. “I can believe the rest was fake, but Lisa was real.”
John began to show signs of agitation that the guards readied their weapons, but the doctor suggested otherwise. However, they remained vigilant like sentries that stood at the gates of a Buckingham Palace. Doctor Lina and John engaged in a deep conversation until he accepted her reasoning. John was administered Valium to help him relax, but he could not disregard his suspicion about what had been divulged. When John was deemed to be copacetic, the doctor and the two guards began to walk out of the room.
“Thanks for the pep talk doc,” said John. He gave half a smile. “I appreciate you.”
Doctor Lina turned around and smiled back at him, and then she said, “Ditto.”
The word triggered a recollection, but before John could say anything else, the door slid shut. He immediately got out of bed, but drowsiness was about to weigh in on him. He staggered towards the door, and he tried to stay focus. John noticed a biometric reader, and assumed that only an authorized personnel with the proper credentials would be granted access. Nevertheless, curiosity urged him to place his hand on the scanner which resulted in the proverbial response “Access Denied.”
I swear that was Lisa, thought John.
John's vision blurred more rapidly as fatigue was beating him to unconsciousness. He tried to return to bed but fell fast asleep onto the cold, hard floor.
The sound of the waves crashing, and the cawing of the seagulls had rouse John from his recumbent bliss. He found himself in the company of sand again, but this time, he was at a beach. A cool breeze carried with it sea spray from the ocean which he welcomed with delight. There was a particular scent that permeated the air that he could not make out at the time, but it did induce déjà vu. After he gathered himself, he took a walk along the shore. John could not remember how he got there, but he did not mind. He noticed that there were no other people around.
Where is everybody? thought John.
He kept on walking. He walked east until nightfall. The high tides forced him to seek higher grounds. He was without any food or shelter and took refuge in a cave. It was dark, and he stumbled around as he tried to make the most of it. The only source of light was the faint shimmer of the moon reflecting on the water. He thought he was safe, but the water never ceased to rise. He left the cave in a hurry and had to walk through the cold, waist deep water. He walked towards a steep sea bank and began to climb the treacherous terrain until he reached its summit. John was exhausted, and he laid on the ground free from the anxiety of being drowned by the force of nature. He looked up in the night sky to admire the luminescent stars. The chirping of crickets, and the roaring sea composed a serene ambiance.
A thought began to seep out from back of his mind and demanded attention. John dwelt on it, but could not remember the significance. He vaguely remembered being in a room and with people whose faces were blurred from recollection. He tried with great difficulty to remember, but the thoughts were incomplete. And although they were surreal, John felt a sense of familiarity with each fragment. When he came within reach of reconstructing that memory, he heard someone or something that drew near. Startled, he quickly got up and realized that there was no place for him to hide. The thought of the unknown induced a sense of horror similar to that of someone who stood on trial anticipating his judgment after a guilty verdict. John had no choice but to face the reality which was to meet the unexpected, and hoped that the approaching visitor was a benevolent entity. As the shadowy silhouette became apparent to vision, John sighed with relief when a beautiful woman appeared out of the darkness. She wore a summer dress that undulated by the current of the ocean breeze. She had on a straw hat that she held down with her hand as the wind blew, and her long hair also swayed in the direction of the passing zephyr. Their eyes locked in a gaze which prompted a cordial smile, and a sentiment was exchanged.
“John?” she said.
“Lisa . . .”