He stretches his tongue out of his mouth and rubs it against his upper lip. His tongue is so dry that every bud on it feels like a glass bead falling into the cracks of his parched lips. For a place so moist and humid he never thought he could be so deprived of water. His tongue, being nearly useless, slips back into his dry mouth. The lick probably made his lips worse instead of better.
Slowly he lies down on his back, the gravel digging into the back of his head. He wants to brush the gravel smooth but his hands are already so dry they ache. Getting them dusty would make them worse. Instead he just lays there shifting his head from side to side hoping the gravel will magically move or that he’ll find a more comfortable position.
The dark, thick, heavy clouds are moving overhead. He breathes in the sweet air and is grateful that at least the air is not as dry as his swollen lips. The same wind that pushes the clouds also pushes on his cheek. It is a cool, dry wind so full of deceit; even as it cools his warm skin he can feel it pulling precious moisture out of his cheek. He turns his head to face the wind, the coolness is a relief on his flaming skin but in an instant any moisture his tongue had put on his lips is wicked away.
He pulls his hood up around his face. It provides some protection from the cruel wind. Even through the thin fabric he can feel the sharp gravel rocks poking at his skull. Cloud after moisture laden cloud move through his view, none are willing to share their abundant water.
He closes his eyes and fills his lungs once again with the sweet air. It smells like rain, that pleasant, sweet almost dusty scent. Somewhere, someone is getting rain. He hopes they are enjoying it while he is dying like a tropical plant in a dry desert.
His eyes fly open. For one single, fleeting moment he felt the gentle tap of a tiny drop of water on his lip. The lip so relieved that it now ached at being reminded of what it has been missing. His eyes dart across the sky. There is no sign of more rain. The memory stayed with him though, like a fleeting kiss from a lover that will never be seen again.
Minutes passed with no more moisture. The clouds continued to move along too proud and mighty to pay any attention to him. As the aching in his lip died down he began to question the moment. Maybe he just imagined it. Maybe his lip was tingling from a momentary lapse in circulation.
The clouds were getting darker as they rolled over head. Instinctively he reached his tongue out once again, his lips so dry that his tongue had to push them apart. He dragged his tongue across his upper lip like sandpaper across rough stone. Once done pretending to deliver moisture to the upper lip the tongue navigated down to the lower lip.
There was no pretense of moisturizing; the tongue was here to investigate the damage. He could feel the cracking and splitting, it was more extensive than it had been when he first laid down. But what was to be expected; at least there was no blood. But there was, it just took a minute for enough moisture from his tongue to raise the blood for a taste. The bitter, acidic taste of the blood repulsed him as he started to wonder if it were possible to bleed to death through one’s lips.
He looked over to some nearby trees and began to wonder how much moisture he could get out of them, if they could possible sooth his aching body and bring much needed relief. The effort would be too much. The leaves were tiny and frail, the dry autumn winds had already started to pull the moisture from the leaves and the bark was sure to be dry.
He looked back to the clouds, longing for just a few drops of their bounty. Still, they would not yield.
He could hear the distant sound of thunder. Somewhere, someone was definitely getting rain. He pulled his hood tighter and slipped his hands into his pocket as he continued to watch the clouds go by. As his body settled he could feel more pieces of gravel digging into his flesh reminding him how uncomfortable he was.
Then there was new pain, something being pushed into his thigh. He pulled his hand from the warm fleece pockets and pushed into his pants pocket. Deeper and deeper it went until it struck a small smooth cylinder. His finger wrapped around it and retreated from the pocket. His hand held the cylinder above his face for inspection. As his eyes stared at the small white cylinder a smile broke through his cracked lips, of all the things to have forgotten, why was it this one simple thing.
He retrieved his other hand from the fleece pocket. Gripping the top and bottom of the cylinder he pulled splitting the cylinder in two to reveal a glossy pink substance. Deliverance had been in his pocket the whole time. His mouth cracked open as his hand guided the cylinder across his lips, first the top and then the bottom, then his lips closed again. Cap met body and the cylinder was carefully placed again in his pants pocket.
The smile returned to his face as he rose and brushed off the dirt and gravel, all remnants of his recent brush with death. He looked back up at the dark, think clouds once more. There was no more longing in his look, he was satisfied and didn’t need their cruel teasing anymore. His tongue stretches out once again to rub his lips, but instead of blood he tastes the faint essence of cherry.