I awoke long before sunrise with intense fever and chills. Thoughts of the eerie circular fortress continued to provoke my curiosity. Who could live within its windowless walls and glazed exterior? Were they immune to the inhospitable heat and deadly sickness of the barren land; or were they somehow the cause of it?
It occurred to me that the unseen, silent inhabitants of Pandemonium might be long gone. Their unnatural castle could be a morbid monument to the long-forgotten dead; or a warning beacon to the living. I suspected that the truth would never be known for sure.
I woke the others and we gathered up all that we could carry. Slowly we shuffled through the desert toward home for the last time. My stubborn dream refused to leave my thoughts. Thankfully it helped to distract me from how ill I felt. I even considered that Pandemonium’s malignant influence could be the source of my nocturnal visions.
A water droplet splashing into a pool of liquid would temporarily generate a similar profile. Still, I couldn’t imagine the destructive force necessary to cause sand to permanently crystallize into a such a massive monstrosity. It would require power on an order of magnitude; far beyond anything our society knew of. It would even surpass our understanding.
The fact is, we didn’t know much about our ancestors or their level of technology. Surviving accounts of life prior to the new age were few in number, and incomplete. Folktales told of great wars and deadly plagues. Our fledgling society arose from the ashes of their failures. Everything else was just academic.
By the end of the day we reached the edge of the barren zone. The mountains that separated us from our homeland were still rich and green with vegetation. It was quite a drastic and wonderful site to behold after the hell that we crawled through for three days. While death was certain for us; we at least wanted to die at home under our own green hills.
We made it back to our village at dawn. At first we were mistaken for plague-sickened beggars but once we identified ourselves, we were warmly received. With bittersweet reluctance we were told that the day after we left, a stream began to flow down from the mountains. Ice thawing from the heat of the drought was now providing ample water for the entire village. The painful fact was that our deaths were unnecessary.