Into the Desolation
by Catherine Wells
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I know when I see her that she's headed into the Desolation. I mean, why else would a middle-aged woman carry a single, huge backpack and check into a run-down motel on the edge of the
Event? Probably put all her money into a fancy dunerunner with all kinds of equipment that
won't do her much good once she crosses the boundary. I glance out the front window, but I
don't see any dunerunner.
Her look says I'm right, though: that unwavering, even look of someone with their mind made
up. Someone whose family tried to talk her out of this. I watch her come up to the desk, make
one sweep of the lobby with her eyes, then fasten them on me. "I'd like a room, please."
A low, strong voice. Polite, but not deferential. Lines around her eyes, a couple from her nose
to her mouth , all soft. Mousy brown hair with strands of gray. "One night?" I ask.
"Fifty-three dollars, cash only."
She sheds her backpack and looks down at the index card I slide across the desk. One eyebrow
goes up. "No computers?"
"Not this close to the boundary." The Desolation screws with magnetism and makes computers
unreliable. At least, the kind of computer we can afford.
"Ah." She fills out the card, hands it back. Imogene Glass, someplace in Nebraska, phone
number that probably doesn't work here. But my mom insists we get one. Then she fishes in her
backpack for the cash.
"Second floor okay?" I ask.