Ethan awoke lying on hot sand.  He lay on his front, as if he had fallen over, and sand was grating against his cheek as he turned his head.  He pushed himself up and back, ending up sitting on his bottom and resting his hands on the burning sand.  He looked around, dazed and confused, and asked himself Where am I?  

            His last memory was of the plane, falling asleep on the plane…  No, that wasn’t it, there was more…  He shook his head.  Where he had been before didn’t matter, where he was now did.

            It was a desert, by the looks of it.  The sun beat down on him mercilessly, scorching skin and sand and stone with its angry glare.  Nothing around him but sand, save for a few rocks and a cactus, looking lonely and lost a few metres away.

            “You and me both, pal.”  He said, and found that his voice was dry and scratchy.  “Where is everyone?  Where am I, for that matter?”

            He stood up, and found that he was naked.  His skin was peeling, so at least he didn’t need to go through the discomfort of a sunburn.  He had apparently been out here long enough to burn and then heal from it.  He had begun to develop perhaps the best tan of his usually pale skinned life, which was quite alright with him.  It was a ridiculous idea; that he could have survived unconscious for so long in these extreme conditions, but he couldn’t argue with the fact.  It was right in front of him:  he had survived, and it all felt far too real to be a dream.

            But that doesn’t mean you haven’t finally gone crazy, he thought to himself.  You’ve suspected it was coming for years, maybe it’s finally here.  Look out, Ethan’s gone off the deep end, everybody out of the pool!  He smiled at himself.  For a delusion, this was pretty real, and he felt too good to be insane.  He didn’t think that crazy people could make fun of themselves, but then again, people didn’t just wake up in the middle of the desert when they were supposed to be on a plane to Vancouver.

            So, where am I, how did I get here, where are the others, what happened to my clothes, where do I go from here, how am I supposed to find water, will I ever find true love, and what’s the meaning of life?  He smiled at himself and rolled his eyes at having asked the last two questions.  Now that I’ve asked all of the questions I can think of, which ones can I answer? 

            He looked around himself, surveying the four horizons for a sign of which direction to travel.  Every direction offered dunes of sand, but on the western horizon he thought that he could see, well, something.  It was blurry at this distance, but a blur was better than nothing.

            Okay, that’s a direction.  Hopefully, water’s not far off.  The other questions can wait.  He dusted the sand off his naked butt and hands, shook it out of his hair, and began to walk.  He stopped suddenly, and looked at the cactus.

            A cactus is a plant.  A plant needs soil, carbon dioxide, sunlight and water to survive.  Water, which I most definitely need to survive.  He smiled, which hurt because his lips were cracked from a lack of moisture.  He strode towards the cactus, bending down to grab a rock that was the size of his fist on the way.

            Ethan struck the spiny plant with the rock, bashing in its side and creating a hollow.  He scooped out some of the moist interior and put the fleshy green stuff in his mouth, sucking the water out of it.  He continued the process until his throat didn’t feel scratchy and his lips had softened somewhat.  He left the cactus a pulpy mess on its upper third, but figured, being a plant, it probably wouldn’t die without damage to its roots.  He didn’t want to kill it, since it had probably saved his life.

            Then he started walking towards the blur on the western horizon.

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