This photo prompt is a little out of the ordinary, not the usual atmospheric rock formations and moody moorlands what I have come to expect from Sue. Tough one.
They rode their horses hard, got the last miles out of them before they fell. There was no way they were going to share their water, and horses just drink too much. They left the carcasses where they dropped and plodded on on foot, swearing at the relentless sun, and the dune that stretched forever, and their own stupidity in leaving the trail with no clear idea of where the coast lay, just Joe’s say so.
“We should’ve brought supplies with us,” Will murmured and licked his cracked lips.
“Yeah, an’ a few pack mules an’ tents an’ a bunch of sixteen-year-old virgins to keep us company at night.” Chas would have spit if he’d had any to spare.
“If your Tilda hadn’t woke screamin’ we could ’a done,” Will snarled.
“Well, she did, an’ we had to get out while we could.” The third man, Joe, gnarled and scoured as a piece of driftwood, glared at the sun and plodded onwards.
Chas turned and looked back the way they had come. Birds hung lazily in the air, rising and falling. Squabbling. Vultures. He wondered vaguely if they were after the horses or the caravan, if Tilda… He shrugged and ploughed up the dune behind Will and Joe.
It was Joe had spotted the horsemen following the caravan. It would have been suicide to wait around. They were too few men, with too many women and children to defend. Joe didn’t care. None of them were his. Will didn’t care either. He’d been banned from eating with any of the families after he raped that girl a few days back. They could all go to hell for all he cared. But Chas had been sort of fond of Tilda. He told himself, he was being sentimental. They’d only been married a couple of weeks. The novelty hadn’t worn off. She’d woken just as they were slipping away. Screamed, probably when she saw Will. Will had shut her up, but they’d had to take the first horses they could grab, and Joe was the only one who had thought to bring any water.
They’d run the horses to death and Joe was the only one who believed the coast lay just over the next rise. Chas scowled at the wiry silhouette on the brow of the dune. He froze. Joe was waving his arms and shouting. He turned, racing back down the dune, back the way they had come. Chas tried to grab his arm. Joe wrenched it away, his face beneath the tan, the colour of bleached wood. He garbled something incomprehensible and stumbled on. Will was next, immobile on the ridge for a moment, his reactions dull and sluggish with the heat and weariness. Then he too turned and fled.
A shadow fell across the sun, across the baked glare of the dune, a huge, black shadow that ran, or rolled across the sky, over the sand, like a giant spider. He heard the click as it turned, a familiar sound. The thing reared over the dune, gaunt and metallic, and he recognized the shape at last.