part VIII

The desert had nearly swallowed up the bones of the old homestead, so it was difficult to know how old it was. Untold time and winds had ground away and buried large parts of the small modular home unit, the two greenhouse tents, and the single storage shed that had saved them from the storm.

A sense of unease, an emptiness, filled the pit of Roe’s stomach, as she looked out over the abandoned structures. There was something sad about them. Ruined when they once were whole. Maybe they reminded her of home? Of Grandma Bell? She wasn’t sure.

“Come on,” Ari said, beckoning to her near the house.

Roe hadn’t realized that she’d stopped some ways away and was staring at the jutting metal rib cages of the greenhouse tents, like the skeletons of some ancient giants buried in the rust earth.

“In here,” Ari motioned before trudging through the dune of sand against the house’s cracked front door and squeezing inside.

Unsurprisingly, Roe found thick layers of dust coating everything in the house, and the floors were nearly indistinguishable from the desert outside. She followed Ari’s footsteps through the deserted kitchen, its appliances and cabinets emptied long ago, its skylights tinged in red, then into the adjoining room.

It was nearly pitch black. “Ari?” Roe called into the dark.

“Yeah, sorry--W0RM?” Ari’s voice replied from the shadows.

Roe knew what was coming and rightly shielded her eyes just in time, as a blinding light suddenly filled the room. Her vision adjusted, and she smirked seeing W0RM perched on Ari’s shoulder, the bright beam of light emanating from the metal bird's open mouth. “Pretty convenient, huh?”

“It’s a lifesaver,” Ari effused, “I was searching the house with him yesterday and said something about wishing I had a light and, low and behold, there it was.”

Roe looked out over the sand-covered room, and, like the shed, there were a few overturned shelves and a couple of piles of junk. And, at one end, there was something that looked like a gate or door behind some scraps. Must be the garage, she thought. Her gaze returned to Ari who she found digging in a large mound of sand up against one of the walls, “What are you--”

“Over here--grab this.”

Ari held an edge of a tarp in her hand and motioned to Roe to grab another exposed corner a meter away.

“I found it yesterday and--yeah there.”

They slowly began to pull the tarp and the pile of sand with it.

“I covered it up a bit just in case--I don’t know--but I thought we might be able to use it.”

And, after a few steps backward, the bulk of the sand came tumbling down along with the tarp, revealing a large dust-covered piece of machinery. Roe squinted, stepping over the tarp and sand to get a closer look. She grabbed it, “What is--” then her eyes lit up.

“Holy shit!”

She wrenched the hunk of metal upright, immediately bringing it into recognition, “It’s a dust devil!”

A tentative happiness waited on Ari’s face, “Is that--”

Roe saw her confusion and followed suit, “Sorry--a, uh, sand speeder, a hoverbike--yeah! We just--called them dust devils as kids.”

Relieved excitement washed over Ari, “Oh yes! I thought so--but--I didn’t know--but... does it work?”

Roe looked over the devil, “Looks like it’s missing some parts...”

“Ah,” Ari’s excitement cooled, “I was afraid of--”

“--But,” Roe cut in, “I’ve fixed worse.”

Roe turned back to Ari, a sly smile on her face.