The buildings in this town looked as though they were reverting to, or already on the way to being claimed back by, the desert - sinking slowly into the sand. One day the Barrens will cover them, either burying them or scouring them down to sand, indistinguishable from everything else. Then the whole town will be gone too, becoming just another range of dunes. Everything will be dust.
Already, by the time I arrived in this nameless town, the scraggly desert plants were laying claim to any crack or niche they could find that gave them some relief from the heavy heat. The rest of the town was slowly being buried under the shifting sands, becoming just a few more featureless dunes where once there had been shops, houses, factories, warehouses and all the other monuments to that fading, lost civilisation. It seemed as though the desert was mocking us, mocking mankind, by showing how effortlessly it could destroy all his works.
There were skeletons in the buildings at first, of course, wearing the tattered rags that once were clothes. Many posed in the positions where they had fallen and died when they gave up their own personal battle against the encroaching desert. Others had crumbled to a pile of bones and rags in corners and other shadowed places.
A few days after I arrived, Geep turned up at the door of the cinema. He stood there, in the doorway, smoking one of his foul home-grown cigars.
“You moving in, here?” he said, wandering into the foyer.
“For a while, maybe. If no-one minds,” I replied. “I don’t want to cause any trouble.” I looked around the abandoned cinema as we strolled together into the cooler darkness of the auditorium. “If anyone has a prior claim, I mean. Or, anything like that?” I shrugged.
“Not as far as I know, son. As far as I’m concerned, it’s yours.” He too looked around as we stopped in front of the low stage that once held the screen. “Hardly the Ritz, is it?”
He stepped right up to me, narrowing his eyes as he stared into my face in the gloom. The wrinkles and folds in his face were deep, much deeper than any I’d ever seen before. We all had wrinkles and furrows burnt deep into our skin by the sun and wind-blown sand, but these days most people die before they get old.
“Sometimes,” Geep said, after a long pause while he studied my face carefully. “Sometimes, I forget just how old I really am. Sometimes… it feels like I can’t die.” He looked around the cinema. “The Ritz was a hotel. Last century, or even the one before… I forget. Big, posh, swanky.”
I nodded. “Yes. I know about hotels.”
He nodded too. “Good.” He turned to go. “Oh, by the way,” he turned back to look at me. “If you need food: meat, vegetables and so on… then I’m your man. Just ask for my place and someone will point you in the right direction.”
“Right. Thanks. I will,” I said.
He turned to walk off.
“Oh, hang on,” I called after him.
He turned back, head cocked to one side.
“What’s your name?”
“Name?” he said as though unfamiliar with the concept. “I… I don’t remem…. Anyway, everyone here just calls me Geep.”
“Oh, right.” I nodded. “Thanks… Geep. I’ll see you around.”
He nodded, turned and waved without looking back.
I can’t remember exactly when the lizardman first turned up here, emerging out of the desert sand storms like a creature emerging from out of some half-forgotten nightmare. It must have been several weeks after I first arrived, because I remember Jan asking me what I knew about him, and she never talks to strangers.