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The deep orange color of the sun was fading behind the never ending plain. Form the top floor of our balcony I could see the vast dry desert.
I was still dazed by Jace’s luck. Jace and I have been best friends since first grade. Now for our graduation we’re in Australia. He recently won a contest for a trip for two.
“Big day tomorrow,” Jace stated, referring to our tour of the outback.
“I bet you just want to see some kangaroos,” I snickered.
“You know it!”
The high sun was scorching the next morning when were loading our backpacks in the tour van. The tour guide, Riley, was about 35 years old and had a heavy Australian accent. As we passed the signs of civilization, I noticed that Riley’s hard grey eyes were darting towards us and then back out towards nothing.
“Charlie!” Jace exclaimed, upset that I wasn’t listening to whatever he was ranting about. I ignored him and turned to Riley.
“Where exactly are we going,” I questioned him.
He kept his eyes in front of him when he answered.
“Out to the mountains, then the oasis.”
We traveled in silence for about two hours, making turns that seemed useless. All we could see was dust.
Riley slowed and brought the van to a standstill.
“Why are we stopping?” Jace inquired.
“We’re a little low on gas,” Riley answered, heading towards the back of the van. I figured that’s where he kept extra gas tanks
“Let’s get some air,” I suggested to Jace.
I hopped out and turned to face Riley, but he wasn’t there. I spun around, not finding Jace, but a shovel coming at my head. I held up my hands in defense, knowing it was meaningless. I crashed to the ground; the last image that I saw was Jace, helpless with red liquid flowing from a gash in his forehead.
“Did I die?” I wondered. No I could still feel pain. I tried to sit up. My mouth and nose were filled with sand and the aching in my head was excruciating. I had to find Jace, to see if he was still alive. I crawled on my hands and knees searching blindly. Riley could have taken him anywhere.
Riley. When I get my hands on that vile man I’ll kill him.
I finally found Jace lying face up, dried blood coated his face. I scurried towards him.
“Jace,” I shook him .C’mon man, wake up. I prayed that he was still breathing. “C’mon, get up!”
He stirred, his eyes fluttering open. Oh thank God. It took a while to get him into a sitting position.
“Charlie, what happened?” he coughed out. I didn’t want to worry him, so I changed the subject.
“Are you okay?” I asked, hearing him wince as he stretched.
“Fine,” he answered. “Just thirsty.”
Even though Jace is a couple of months younger than me, I think of him as my little brother. I look out for him and he trusts me with his life.
My eyes, dry with dust, scanned the open area. A few yards away I spotted our packs that we brought on the trip. Running over to them, I became aware of a strange vibe. Why would Riley leave us stranded in the outback to die and let us keep our supplies?
I tore the bags open and found everything still intact. Taking out two bottles of water, I found a slip of paper.
Congratulations Charlie Locke and Jace Adams. You have been selected to compete in Survival, a new game show that measures your ability to survive. You have been left food, water and a map, but be aware, that’s all you have. Best of luck.
Creator of Survival
What! I turned back to Jace and handed him the water.
“Is this yours,” I asked, showing him the paper.
“Nope. Where’d you get it?”
“It was in the bag along with all of things.”
“You think it’s true?” He looked up at me. I thought for a while.
“I don’t think so, I mean, we have a map. We can navigate our way to the nearest town.”
“What about this Maxwell guy?” Jace questioned me.
“I don’t think it’s legitimate,” I repeated.
“What should we do now,” Jace whispered.
I took out the map. I’m pretty good at directions and using the sun and stars to find my way.
“We should start heading East,” I said pointing in the direction opposite of the sun. “That’s were the next city is.’
I took the remaining water from his bottle and washed the dry blood away from his face. Taking responsibility of Jace isn’t a burden to me; it’s what I want to do.
“Can you walk?” I asked him.
He stood up, wincing little, but was able to stand straight.
I calculated the distance to be about twelve miles, but once we started walking it felt as if we were past the twelve mile mark.
“Are we there yet,” Jace whined playfully.
I took another look at the map. This should be the right way.
“Charlie, look,” Jace exclaimed, pointing to nowhere in particular.
“What am I supposed to be seeing?” I questioned, confused.
“Can’t you see? It’s just what we need to get out of here,” he started to get excited.
I still couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing.
“It’s right in front of you!” he shouted, getting worked up.
I recalled that in intense heat people experience mirages- an illusion.
“Jace, it’s not real,” I explained softly. “It’s not there.”
“What do you mean?” he screamed at me. He didn’t wait for an answer and began to run further out to nowhere.
“Jace come back,” I shouted.
“A car is right there,” he yelled back, not stopping. I chased after him and knocked him to the ground. Struggling with him, I managed to set him upright and slapped him twice across the cheek, like they did in the movies.
“Jace?” I asked hesitantly, not sure if his sight had returned.
“Charlie?” he said dazed.
“Dude, you nearly made me go crazy,”
“You just had your first mirage, congrats.” To me there was no other way to treat the situation but to joke about it. We continued to head toward the town.
After about three hours of wandering, it started to get dark. The sunset reminded me of that evening on the balcony before any of this happened. We had granola bars and water for dinner.
“ Whoever Maxwell is, he’s right about one thing,” I commented. “We have to save our food.”
“I’ll take the first watch,” Jace volunteered out of the blue. I was surprised.
“Are you sure?”
“Wake me if anything happens,” I instructed him. Lying down on the cold, hard floor of the desert, I propped my head against my backpack. I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep.
“Don’t worry Charlie,” Jace whispered. “I know you’ll get us through this”
I wasn’t sure if I was conscious or if that was part of my dream. But one thing’s for sure, that comforted me.
I traded with Jace about three in the morning do that he could sleep. During my watch I had another granola bar. As of now we have four granola bars, and three bottles of water left. I shook Jace awake and we headed off again.
The sun was beating down hard on us. We took our T-shirts off and kept hydrated, using only half a water bottle. Farther in the distance I could see a building. I prayed that I wasn’t seeing a mirage.
“Jace,” I asked. “Do you see what I see?”
“Yeah, it’s a building. We’re saved!”
We ran forwards, not caring if our legs would fail us.