My meager party of three marched north, not in search of anything, just to escape the south, going up in flames of change. The sun was both our tormentor and guide. At night, Polaris still beckoned in clear skies, mocking us with our brevity. Green-tinged clouds taunted during the day, but rain never fell. Not sure the drifting masses weren’t poisonous vapor, I’d decided it was better that way.

We’d left the burning cacti behind. A few trees with dusty leaves survived at a kilometer inland along the coast of an acidic sea. Oceans had risen before the “seas caught fire” although stars still walked as for ancient mariners. The water evaporated in the heat, leaving salty scum on desolate shores, the bone yards of dolphins and whales.

My horse hung her head as she plodded behind, too spent to wander but still good for bearing my dwindling pack. Dust rose from her hooves in puffs. In the evenings, I cut branches for her to eat and picked ticks off her coat. A tick can live eighteen months without feeding. My mare, about three more days.

We crossed a dry, river channel once swelling the western sea. Boats littered the ground near a dock, ten meters above. One, secured by chain too dry to rust, hung vertically. I rummaged for plastic water bottles among the craft, but they’d been scavenged. As I disturbed the fiberglass corpses, paint flaked from their hulls and wafted like confetti on the searing wind.

My bitch, when she stopped scratching a flea, nosed lazily for scraps to eat. I’d found her in a drainpipe as a puppy and named her Luck. Figured she was my best chance at ever having any. Should have named her Hope.