Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.

Old Nightmare.

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I have awoken to an apocalypse this time. The air is hot and stripped of moisture, mercilessly burning delicate tunnels of flesh in the breathers nostrils and turning the caverns of mouths into stone deserts. 
Around me, shells of wheat stalks crack and tear away from the dusty earth each time the wind surges – invisible tsunamis that remake the barren landscape again and again. 
I have found two children, twin boys whose hair would be the color of bleached straw for not the filmy coating of sweat and grit that has obscured what beauty may have lain there. The crowns of their heads would be like the noon-day sun if they were not so filthy. They are living examples of the sky I can no longer see. Their clothes are paper thin, the parched skin beneath endeavoring still on to cover the sharp protrusions of their malnourished, bowed bones. 
I am carrying them. They cannot walk, their flesh has thinned over their cheekbones and split open. Vicious fluid bubbles and dries, layering like rose petals open to obscenely expose the white bone beneath. Neither one of them cries, and they breathe in whisper exhalations and the sighs that dip their narrow stomachs close to their spine. 
I do not know where I am going, but I know I am being followed. Whenever I step forward, I feel the ground behind me grow dense with the intention of pursuit. It is a long time before I finally look over my shoulder to confront the being shadowing my journey. 
But there is nothing to be seen, and even with the dust hovering thick in the air – I know it is no man nor monster hiding beyond my range of sight. It is only with that acknowledgement that I feel the curious urge to look at the path I have been traveling endlessly. 
What followed me, and the dried shuddering children in my arms were my own footsteps. The toxins, the disease, had begun to long ago strip the flesh from the soles of my feet. Bloody prints sank into the earth, speckled chunks of skin and fat. The hot wind could not reduce the blood to dried, obsidian flakes. I stained the earth like virgin blood, and the evidence of our travels could not obliterated. Not by war and not by the pitiful few scavengers that still scraped out an existence hiding under the cool shades of warped stones.
It did not matter that I knew not where I was going, only that the children were starving cherubs of hope and I would not give up and roll them into the yawning caverns of sink holes that mother-earth had torn open in her death throws. I would find them life, even if I had to feed the poisoned terrain with my life to ensure due passage.
I did not look back again.

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