The red-dirt scrublands of West Texas had been blasted flat by the sun long ago, until there wasn’t so much as an anthill as far as the eye could see. Gnarled mesquite trees and tufts of desert grass clung to life wherever they could, adding a gray sort of green to the endless expanse of reddish-brown, but the scrubland and everything in it was dwarfed by the monstrous bowl of the sky overhead. The sun hung high, a tight ball of searing white light that roasted everything below to a crisp. There were railway tracks running on forever into the distance both east and west, the crossties a sullen, rusty black too hot to look at, let alone touch. A man could stand by the tracks and watch the train approach for hours, slowly growing larger without getting any closer at all, just swelling on the horizon like a fattening tick.