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For now, I drink in the peace of the brilliant dawn. As Ceti rises, the sand crabs—at least creatures that approximate sand crabs--will begin their chorus. Their staccato clicks will fill the canyon and provoke the dust stingers to take flight. Once the crabs creep from their burrows, they will visit me, as they always do. The crabs are curious and intelligent. In my first year of exile, we reached an understanding. They will not rob from my food supply and I will not roll boulders into their hive. The crabs have respected our treaty ever since.

There is so little I can recall these days. My past is irrevocably fading. When Mary first appeared to me in my twentieth year, She announced that I was condemned to this place for the murder of a family. I buried my face in the pink sand and wept in shame at Her feet. Thank God I had been spared the hideous memory of what I had done. I am eternally grateful to the Blessed Mother for wiping that nightmare from my mind.

Thankfully, I can still remember the moment when She placed her radiant hand on my shoulder. The pain of being connected to such sinless purity nearly shattered my soul. I shrank away with a scream. “Do not be afraid,” She said. “There is hope yet. You are abandoned by humanity, but not by me.”

She fulfills her promise to feed and nourish me, but it has been at least 10 Ceti years since I have looked upon Her Blessed Face or heard Her soothing voice. I have gone gray in Her service and the relentless wind has scoured my features. It would be wonderful to glimpse Her beauty again, unfaded by time. The visage I see in my grotto pool is that of an aging man, well beyond the summer of his life and slouching into autumn.

After my Rosary I believe I will climb to the top of the mesa. As I was falling asleep last night I heard the rumble of the triadons. They are migrating north and it is always a treat to see them. Their long necks wave like a field of impossibly tall grass and their scales flash in myriad colors. I can see their wide mouths inhaling clouds of dust stingers, continuously feeding from air. It will be a week before the last stragglers of the herd pass the mesa and vanish over the horizon.

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