Title: Desert Candle
Character: Ethan Rayne
#181 : "I've never been anywhere"
He's never been anywhere that was quite as nowhere as this. The Nevada desert stretched an infinity from one small dusty town to the next. When he stumbled into what seemed like a ghost town, tired and hungry, he found people living there. Actual, real people. Not a mirage. They gave him a sandwich and some fresh orange juice.
He keeps going, not sure why he doesn't try to stop one of the cars he sees twice, three times a day. Or why he doesn't try magic.
Oh, he uses magic all the time. He couldn't have survived otherwise. A fire at night, a sheen during the day to replace the sunscreen he doesn't have. And water. He keeps hydrated through magic alone.
He just doesn't use it to stop this continued existence of desert and aimlessness and wandering down the highway.
He drags his feet along the endless road of boiling asphalt into what looks from afar to be two shacks and a petrol pump. Up close, there's a very ornate metal sign claiming this proudly to be a city. Something City. The letters are half rusted off. He doesn't see anyone.
He's never been in a place quite as depressing as this.
Differently depressing, yes. He's been in small, bleak Northern English towns where it rained all the time and everything was grey, from the sky to the roofs to the people who lived under them. He's been locked in a house in Africa once, unable to leave until an attack of some kind of insects would stop. That one may have been partly his fault.
He's been at his parents' house for many years, but that was long ago.
He can go on. It's a long list. He's been, after all, in Sunnydale, California, a hellmouth.
He's been in prison. Not for long, but it was unpleasant nonetheless.
This, the desert, Nevada's vast empty nature, it's different. The clarity is in his brain. The sun in his eyes, the heat in his bones.
He encounters the bleached carcass of... a cow, he believes. He's not exactly a biologist. It's fairly large. Big skull. Empty eyeholes. He wonders what a cow was doing here all alone, walking by the side of the road.
With a short delay, the thought catches up with him and he laughs.
Wandering closer, he discovers the details, the beauty. Small purple flowers grow in the shade of the massive ribcage. A spider has woven its web in one eyehole and down to the jaw. Or maybe it was two spiders, being neighbours.
He's not sure, but he thinks some of the bones are missing. They probably are. There are things
here, howling every night. They would've picked everything they could have, probably.
Two days later he finds the skull of what could be a small dog. He amuses himself with the thought it may have been a coyote, and he'll never know. He continues down the road.
Then turns back.
He takes the skull and carefully puts it in a small plastic shopping bag he took from the last pit-stop town. He'll take it with him. He'll find out, sooner or later, if it was coyote or just a dog.
That's the first time Ethan thinks about leaving this desert. About ending this journey. Returning to civilisation. He's tired of nowhere, of being a nobody in the middle of nothing.
Time to go back.