The sand was cold.
Strange, Sakura thought. This was the desert, and desert sand should be hot. She scooped up a gritty handful and let it trickle through her fingers, which were also cold. It was such a dark night that she couldn't even see the grains as sand as they fell.
This was not like playground sand. This sand felt mean.
There were stars out, though, and they seemed to wink kindly at Sakura. One great wash of starlight smeared across the black sky in a giant arc, and thousands of little stars surged toward it as if wanting to get in on the action.
No moon. Where was the moon?
Her head hurt.
"My head hurts," she tried to say aloud, almost as an experiment, but the words could not make thier way past her lips. And there was something even more important than the hurting, Sakura thought suddenly, something she had to remember. She shook the last grains of sand from her hand and - as if she might help her memory - she touched her face.
Why, she wondered, was she sitting cross-legged on the cold sand in the middle of the night?
And where was all the noise coming from?
* * *
"Oh, my god - that car's completely flipped over. It went right through the barbed wire, and it's smashed flatter than a - did someone call 911?"
"I'm talking to 911 now! The lady says - "
"Shine your headlights over here. I can't see if there's anyone - "
"Don't you get too close to that car. What if it explodes?"
"Did you see that SUV swerve over the center line? Brand-new, too. What in the world -"
"I don't hear any sirens! What's taking them so long?"
"What do the expect? We're in the middle of the desert. Neartest town must be ten miles back, and I didn't even see a gas station there, much less a hospital."
"That was Aguila. It's barely even a town. They have a volunteer fire department, I think, but this looks too serious for them to handle. If anyone's still alive, they'll have to be airlifted to Suna. The 911 woman says we're supposed to see if anyone needs CPR."
"Don't even think about it - Hey! Get back up here! I think I'm going to be sick! No one could be alive in that car, and there's no point you getting killed, too. I can smell the gas from here - It's gonna blow up..."
"I think there's two people in the front seats, but I can't tell for sure. If there're in there, they're not moving. And the back of the car is so smashed up that I can't make out if - can we get more light over here?!"
"H-Hey, I think I see -"
* * *
Snakes come out at night in the desert, Sakura rembered. If she actually saw a snake, and she lived to tell the tale, she could just casually mention it to everyone at school - well, in her class, at least - and pretend that it was no big deal. Ino and Hinata would think that was pretty cool.
'No, wait,' Sakura thought dully, 'I haven't seen them in years.' It was March, and she and her friends were on their way to the race in Amegakure to celebrate something. What was it again?
Her friends decided to make the long drive at night. Well, you just about had to drive at night in Wind when you planning to go through the desert and it was as hot out as it been. Over 110 degrees in Suna, four days in a row! Much cooler in Konoha, of course, but she didn't live in Konoha anymore.
Sakura nodded once in the dark, as if she had just finished adding up all those big temperature numbers in her head. "Ow," she whispered, surprised.
Although they'd left home after ten P.M, Sakura remembered, it was still warm out. That's why they'd rolled down all the car windows. She had fallen asleep in the passenger seat, seat belt fasten.
Where was everyone?
Sakura frowned a little, trying to think. Broken Creosote bushes filled the air with their pungenr odor, so much like the smell of burning brakes, and they mingled with - with something else. What was it? Gasoline?
She had to ask someone. "Sasori?" she said, but the word sounded more like "sury" as she uttered it.
Sakura blinked at the sound she had made and slowly moved her head, searching for her friends. Her gaze settled briefly on an unimaginable scene some distance away, and she shook her head slightly, averting her eyed. "Hurts," she announced again, as if someone else were standing right there. The word came out very clearly this time.
She closed her eyes.
"Sakura?" Soft as it was, her friend's voice seemed to slice though the desert night.
"Gaara?" Sakura said, opening her eyes in wonder.
In front of her, her friend's round white face glowed like the missing moon. His sturdy body seemed planted on the desert floor, as if it belonged there.
Sakura tried to smile. "Gaara," she said again, pleased with the success her mouth made of the word.
"What's the matter with your face?" Gaara asked. He sounded scarded, and his eyes were open wide.
Sakura touched her face once more. Still sicky. "I don't know," she said, puzzled.
"I don't know," Sakura said, louder.
"I can't - I don't understand... what you're saying." Gaara closed his eyes tightly. "Where's everyone?"
Gaara's face was gettting smaller by the second, Sakura noticed. She wanted to reach out to him, touch his cheek, maybe, but she couldn't remember how anymore.
She was very cold now, and people were shouting fire, fire.
She needed to know what was happening. Everything was a blur, but she stood up, and some how ran.
Leaving Gaara behind,she ran toward the fire.
Her entire body hurt, but she kept on running.
"Temari?!" she tried to yell, but she couldn't.
"Deidara?!" she tried again, and once again, she failed.
Her voice was gone.
* * *
Sakura felt the blast from where she stood. The desert floor seemed to lift a little, then settle back into itself.
"No!" Sakura was trying to scream when the roaring stopped. Then there was pain - immense pain. She stumbled backward. Something just pierced through her. It felt like her entire stomach was ripped right in half.
She started to choke. She could taste the awful taste of metal.
Blood was seeping out of her mouth, and down her chin.
There was someone in front of her, but she couldn't see their face.
Everything was so blurry.
Her arms out and her fingers spread wide, as if she was about to count to ten.
One, two, three, Sakura began, her lips barely forming the words, but then she hesitated. What came after that, three?
No, she already said three.
Slowly, she laid down.
She could not remember the next number, so she curled up into a thight little ball on the cold desert sand, shut her eyes and listened to the fire burning everything around her.
The new pain on her stomach, forgotten.
Sakura's smile was tender. 'I wonder whats to come soon for me,' she thought silently.