Tabitha trudged through the sandy desert under the cool moonlight, shivering as the wind rose; whipping the sand into little tornadoes and chilling her to the bone.

Sun and moon traded places in the sky with no interval she could discern. The night felt calmer, almost benevolent. The day, with its black sun, was malignant and cruel. It sucked energy from her, it pulled all the warmth from her body and filled her with dread. The strange un-light slowly strangled and extinguished all feelings of hope. The sun had begun rising in the sky as Tabitha found herself climbing the mountain of sand, using her hands to find purchase. As the horizon disappeared, Tabitha saw only the mass of sand before her and the tainted green sky, high above. As the light increased, tiny chittering bugs and minute furry rodent creatures awoke. Ugly faces peeking out of sandy holes, digging little claws into her hands as she scrambled up the hill. Biting her once so sharply she lost her balance; sliding halfway down the hill until she came to rest buried to her knees. She could feel insects making their way into her boots. She tried to remain calm, but the sand was so soft, it would swallow her if she struggled and flailed. Slowly, she pulled one leg free, lying on her side, extracting the other without digging in further. Tabitha shucked off her boots and socks, shaking the unwanted pests from them and yanking bugs free from her socks. Standing up, she shook out her pant legs, wrapping the fabric tightly around her ankle; pulling sock over hem, tucking her feet back into her boots. She thought she looked ridiculous, but it would keep the creepy crawlies away from her feet. The bugs were tiny, but one got under her skin before; she still bore the scar where she’d cut it out with a knife. She’d seen a corpse once, covered in festering boils, writhing with the tiny larvae, she knew the same fate awaited her if she hesitated. Tabitha had been here often enough to know; there was no pity in this place. Each time the portals appeared, Tabitha hesitated to return here but knew Rick was on this side somewhere. If she could find him, they could leave together and begone from this hell forever.

What felt like days passed as Tabitha pulled herself endlessly up the mountain of sand. Hands bitten and swollen, her body was weak from lack of food and water. It would soon betray her and give up. She’d stopped to sit and rest when an awful, bony thing had risen out of some sand at the base of the dune. The size of an elephant, with long ridges of spikes and fierce claws; it quickly scrambled, scaling the steep sand. Tabitha jumped to her feet, climbing up would be too slow, instead she ran along the face of the dune, trying to gain ground, away from the enormous skeletal creature. It gained on her quickly, with long, loping strides and ability dig in its claws on the sliding sands. She ran with every ounce of strength, usually in perilous situations she found somewhere to hide, she’d avoided the desert because it lacked places to do so. Why had she come here? How had she gotten this far into the sand? Nothing made sense? She raced onward, pressing feelings of unease to the back of her mind, just focusing on placing one foot in front of the other. But as she ran the landscape betrayed her, the shifting sand fell away beneath her feet, and she tumbled down the other side of the dune. She landed awkwardly, jarring her shoulder and painfully twisting her neck to one side. Blinking the grit out of her eyes, she saw an enormous tower of rock piercing the sky in the distance, a portal shimmering at its peak. She turned to look up at her demonic pursuer; it was close, but not yet on her. She rolled to her side, pushing herself upright, pain shrieking through her body, she’d dislocated her shoulder. If she could get to the portal, she could escape this place. The light seemed so far off, but nothing was ever as it seemed. She took off in a stumbling run, ignoring the excruciating pain that pulsed through her weary body. The beast behind her let out a roar and she could feel its enormous footsteps growing closer, shaking the ground. She saw the ground was changing from sand to rocks and shale; scraggly trees began appearing, sprouting among the larger rock formations. Tabitha dodged around a sharp outreaching branch and put on a final burst of speed, putting more obstacles between her and the horror’s sharp teeth and claws. She looked behind her, trying to guess how far the beast was, but when she turned, her foot caught on an outstretched root of a gnarled tree, tripping her. The world tilted towards the ground, it felt like falling in slow motion; she turned her head around, searching for the tower of rock with it’s shining portal. They were still so far off. She reached out with her good arm, hoping to arrest her fall and scraped her knuckles on the black rock of the tower. The creature was lost in the distance behind her. The odd perspectives of this place had just saved her. How was that possible? This land had always worked for her destruction. Tabitha sank to her knees, panting, desperate for breath. She looked above her; the portal was still very much out of reach, and she couldn’t scale the rock with a dislocated shoulder. She wandered around the base of the obelisk, staring up, it was so close, contemplating her next move. As she came around to the far side, she saw an emaciated figure slowly scaling the tower of rock. As the figure climbed, its arm slipped and loosed a rock, the plummeting shadow fell, striking Tabitha directly in the forehead…
“Ow!” Tabitha awoke with a start, clutching her head. She was safe in her bed at the boarding house. “Rick?” She spoke softly to herself, wrapping her arms around her knees pulling them to her chin. “What’s happened to you?”