The breeze feels better when he’s standing. It’s a fair distinction, one wrought after days spent on his back while the nomads nursed him back to health, and his bones revel in his upright posture, feet pleased to support his weight once more. From the crest of the hill, he sees dunes spread out in all directions, faded shadows in the distance betraying greater heights, sharper elevations.
“Are they a barrier,” he wonders aloud, “or a form of salvation? A reprieve from this dead, wasted earth. Perhaps.”
“It could be that they are neither, instead simply an illusion cast before us to provoke just such thoughts.”
He looks at her over his shoulder and smiles—a gesture that she returns in kind. The language, he has come to find, is his own. It has been so long since he has spoken it, however, or heard it from another that the sounds and shapes are as unfamiliar as the idea of the nomads’ kindness. He can’t help but feel humbled before it and, for the first time in present memory, clean. The bath was his greatest indulgence, as well as the only time he had requested his privacy. That they had honored such a request so readily, of an unfamiliar stranger no less, was all the more surprising and, he had to admit, endearing.
“I wish to thank you again for both your kindness and your patience, Henya.”
She shakes her head, her claustrophobic robes shifting with the movement.
“Thank my father,” she says, “and offer us your strength. It would be best if our investment in you was not a mere vanity, yes?”
He nods and looks back to the distant shadows, in sharp relief under the glare of the setting sun that falls behind them. His ears perk up as she approaches him, stands just behind him, beside him.
“Do you still not remember your name?”
A shake of the head.
“No. It’s been so long since I’ve needed one that I think it just became as any other unnecessary baggage. Tossed aside and left to rot in the desert sun. If you must call me something, though, call me Uza.”
“Uza…” she lets it roll over her tongue, tests the feel as she looks at him and repeats the name, “Uza… Uza… ‘strength’. ‘Power’. An appropriate name for one who has survived so long on his own.”
Uza grunts and crosses his arms as the sun dips lower and the sky blooms red.