In the morning, he carved what was left of the meat and wrapped it inside a skin. He took a small sliver of tough meat and sucked on it as he walked outside of the cave and looked down the valley. The light was dusty and speckled like a horse he had seen when he was younger. The trader’s camp smoked; the tents lay still.

He took the stone he kept by the skins and spit on it. He rubbed the spit into the dark gray rock, feeling the flat grainy surface. He spit on it again until it was wet and smooth. He took the edge of his blade and scraped it against the stone at an angle. The stone resisted. Old, the sword, it would never be sharp again. He grunted and placed the sword against the ground and sat on the hilt. Taking the rock in both hands, he rubbed along the blade. The rock jerked beneath his hands, giving way only to cuts and occasionally a spark.

When he was done, he took the sword and crawled down the embankment on his hands and knees, scraping his palms against the rough earth; he slid down the steep sandy hill towards the slaughter below. Much would be gone, he thought, but not everything.

At the bottom of the hill he saw the desert with a level eye. His cave sat in the mound above him, but it did not seem as far away from the desert as he remembered. His joints groaned when he stood up straight. He looked at the sky. The sky was there. He walked, feeling the ground crack and give way to each footstep. The top layer of dirt was hard and brittle but gave way to the rough and barren sand underneath with every step. He felt the heat of the desert return to him in a way it had not done in months, but he could not sweat. His lips cracked at their center and he chewed on the dead skin. The dunes rolled away as he approached the makeshift village.