The first time, Claudia wakes curled up in the dirt. It’s not quite dawn, light still shadowed by the mountain, the one everyone says looks like a woman on her side. They say, if you tilt your head, if the light is right you can see—there, the curve of her spine. Her knees. Her arm, the shadow of the valley.
Claudia doesn’t remember shedding her blankets, leaving the spare bedroom in her father’s house and the twin bed she’d outgrown, lacing her shoes. She can hear the faint woosh of I-19 in the distance, indicating she didn’t get far. She doesn’t remember walking into the desert, collecting burrs along the hem of her pajamas. She doesn’t know how the reddened clay got under her fingernails, or why her legs are prickling with soreness, or why there is a strange ache on both sides of her skull, twin points of eruption.
She does know that recently her body has decided she is unfit to sit at the helm. It has wrested control from her before: jerked her into fistfights, bared her teeth in argument, sharpened her tongue for her. But it had never acted while she was asleep, never dragged her legs through the brittlebush. There is a pure fear, in waking somewhere you have not lain down. It’s a lot like rage; both fill Claudia with a terrible blankness.