The traveler had stolen a small flask of water off an ill man many years before. She had been young and he had been lonely, so he took her into his confidence. Their walk together was pleasant enough, but she had other companions and greater destinations in mind. Before very long, she her brisk steps pulled her out of the weaker man's sight. His beautiful silver flask, so precious to a man who moved slowly and found water so infrequently, was selfishly tucked into her coat pocket.
The flask stayed in the pocket day in and day out. She rarely thought of it. It was just a small comfort, something the traveler knew she could count on should her own sources of water run dry. It was never a great concern. She moved swiftly through obstacles - the stinging chill of mountain passes and suffocating scorch of desert sands. During these times she might pat the swell in her jacket pocket - just a little, just for comfort - but never drew the flask out. Before very long at all, she would return to the ample wells and springs she knew so well.
It was on an ordinary day that the traveler finally called upon the stolen flask she had hoarded for so long. The sun was shining, filtered through emerald boughs, before resting warmly on her head. The flowers underfoot filled the hazy air with the sweetest perfume. Before the traveler was a cool, pristine spring. It was her favorite one, the one that was both the beginning and end of all her travels. For one so prone to wanderlust, this was as close to a home as she could know or want.
As the traveler approached her favored water hole, there was a resounding crack. In an instant, caught completely unaware, the traveler was pinned to the forest floor by a massive tree branch. She struggled for hours to remove it, and then called out for help for several more. But this was her favorite spring because not only was deep and pure, it was remote. It was hers alone. There would be no help, not even from the spring itself that she had esteemed so highly for so long.
Finally, lips cracked and throat turned raw from all her efforts, the desperate traveler removed the little flask of water. The bottle was carved as beautifully as the day she had first taken it for herself. It glinted and gleamed in the rising moonlight. She was suddenly very glad she had taken it and kept it all to herself these many years. It might have helped the aging man, but she had so much more to lose than he did. Now the flask would give her the boost she needed to safely pass through the greatest test of all her journeys.
The creak of the cap as she unscrewed it brought a leap of joy and anticipation to her heart. Satisfaction glowed in her eyes as she brought the cool metal to her lips. She inhaled, thankful for this one small reserve. But there was nothing within, save the bitter mustiness of water long evaporated. It was dust, it was the wind, it was as if the water had never been at all.
As the traveler lay there, crushed into the soil, she couldn't help but think of the man she had cheated out of that last gulp of water. He could have done much more with it than her after all. She couldn't help but think this was an appropriate way for it all to end. There wasn't even enough water inside her for tears.