The Tide Returns
She stood in the shade of a tall tree, sheltering from the bright daylight. Her skin was cracked and sore, her lips were dry. For ten cycles she had survived without water. She was reaching the limit of her endurance, but her ordeal was nearly complete.
Soon the cycle would complete once more, and the long wait would be over. She shaded her eyes, studying the horizon. Was that the hint of something moving in the distance? It was hard to tell.
She stood on a mountain, one of the few areas on the planet not subject to the cycle or permanently submerged. Coming to the mountain had been a pilgrimage, a rite of passage, one she had nearly completed.
Many came to the mountain for one cycle or two. Some for five or six. Almost none came for the full ten cycles. She was proud of what she had achieved, proud and weary. Now it was almost done and she was longing to feel the water once more.
The creatures and vegetation around her seemed unnatural to her eyes. All were variants on those she knew well, but without the adaptions needed to survive the cycle. The tree she stood under had fragile leaves that were always exposed to the elements. The birds circling around had no ability to land on water and no strategy for fleeing to safety. The creatures she saw lived in the trees and on the ground and only sought shelter when they felt threatened.
That, more than anything else, made the pilgrimage difficult. It was the jarring strangeness of this place, the fact it never changed, which wore at her nerves far more than the dryness grated at her skin.