The wind rushed after her, dust devils stroking the desert leaving a weaving line of concentric circles in their wake. Kelly looked around herself for somewhere, anywhere, to hide from the sudden raging sand storm.
She saw an old building. Glass doors had been blown inwards long ago. Kellie stepped inside, careful not to cut her bare feet on loose shards of glass, ran down a hall, and huddled in a corner.
She could hear the storm raging outside, beating against the concrete walls. A racket echoed throughout the darkness of the empty building. The storm outside raged and rose to an angry crescendo—still beating the walls, as if trying to knock them down to get to her—before subsiding just as suddenly as it began.
Bits of sand and dust floated in the murky darkness of the unlighted building. Kellie tried to control her breathing, to calm her racing heart. She choked on arrhythmias between forced breaths, and would have been sick had there been anything in her stomach substantial enough to vomit.
She sat there a few moments, calming down, wondering why she ever left the shores of The Fountain. She had been content there for so long, why leave? She rationalized it was the effect of boredom, or repetition, of having nothing better to do, but she knew better. There was something about The Fountain, about this whole existence, in fact, which just did not sit right with her.
Her train of thought calmed her. She stood and took careful steps. She stepped out of the strange cranny where she hid and looked around. She walked out of the room and into a larger opening inside the building.
A broken skylight overhead allowed ochre light to filter through the darkness. With the storm gone, she was able to see most of the interior of the building around her. She was in a large marble courtyard of some sort. Old tables and chairs were skewered around the room at odd angles, windswept heaps of splintered rubble. A few of the steel and plastic chairs and tables remained unharmed, but in impossibly complex tangles from years of being moved around by the elements.
She saw concrete pots. She imagined they once held fronded plants, palms, or exotic flowers. Now they only held dry dirt, the same dingy color as the rest of the desert outside. In the center of the room was something that caused her to put her hands to her mouth. A feeling of nostalgic despair overtook her.
A merry go round.
It was dilapidated, mostly destroyed, but still recognizable. She walked over to it and ran her fingers down a horse on a rusted pole. Flecks of ancient paint and acrylic came off on her hand as she touched the rough, sand-blown object. She imagined how smooth the horse once would have felt when new, when preserved, when in working order. She smiled as she stepped up into the saddle. She did so carefully, worried the antique might not hold her weight, but it did. She put her hands on the oxidized pole, feeling flakes of rust on her skin, and closed her eyes. She imagined that the horse moved, that she was riding, waving to her parents, looking to her own reflection in the mirrors in the center of the ride, and smiling to herself.
She remembered this food court. Remembered it well.
She sighed as she stepped off the horse and walked down the wide hallway. She looked into one store, and then another. All of the hollow, empty, gutted of anything remotely usefull. A few clothes racks remained, the odd decorative display, but for the most part, there was nothing but litter in each store. Each room smelled more dusty and stagnant than the one before.
There was a cash register by the opening to one of the stores. She remembered the swiping of credit marks, looked at the forgotten tattoo on the back of her own wrist, and felt more homesick than ever.
There was nothing left to buy, nothing left to sell, all that was left was to live, and life had grown stale.
She left the empty shops behind, walked back to the food court—the hub of the ancient and decaying mall—and sat back on the horse. She leaned against the pole and closed her eyes. She had been happy here once, no matter how fleeting. She had once been able to smile.
She looked into a dusty shard of mirror which remained in the center of the merry-go-round. She did not even recognize herself. Her hair was long, thin, and dull grey. Her face wrinkled, her skin seemed to have collapsed in against her face. She shut her eyes, she tried to force a smile onto her face, and remembered what it had felt like to be a child.
Kellie opened her eyes. She looked back into the mirror only to see an old woman scowling back at her.
No. This world was not right. Not right at all…