*Wordcount: 1005 words.
An old one, but one of which I’m quite fond.
The sand stretched out as far as he could see, in all directions. He could see no hint of civilisation, only heat waves distorting the dry distant dunes and even drier dire hopes. He fell to his knees and sunk into the sand. He looked around, his face caked with sand and his lips cracked and bleeding. A slight gust of wind kicked up some sand into his eyes, and rustled his unbuttoned Aloha shirt. He cursed and rubbed the sand out of his eyes, which were constantly red lately and used up precious hydration by watering more than he thought necessary. Once his eyes were mostly clear; he took off his sandals and tried to brush the sand off of them and his feet. A futile task, but at least it keeps me busy he thought.
How did I end up in this mess? He wondered once again. No matter how many times he thought it over, it just never made sense. He had been on holiday, that much he remembered. He had been on his way to the beach, and his daughter had been so excited about the sand. He didn’t know how long he had been here – time quickly came to mean nothing – but he still missed her desperately. Maybe she would’ve appreciated this sand? He thought, uttering a short, bitter laugh. He shook her from his mind and tried to think of what happened next. They made it to the beach, and he got out the car. When he turned around to close the door there was nothing but sand, and when he looked the other way there was only more of the same. Nothing but the view he soon became very accustomed to. It made no sense, but that’s what happened. He was about to enjoy a day out at the beach with his daughter, and then he was here.
She had stayed on his mind every minute, and for a long while he looked for her. He shouted her name until he could no longer talk, and walked until his feet blistered and bled, but he never found even a hint of her or anyone else. Just sand. Laura was only 12, and this was their first holiday since her mother… He shook that out of his head too, that was the last thing he needed to think about. He had to focus, prioritise. Stay alive; find Laura; find a way out of here (wherever here is); get a cold drink. He couldn’t give up, and looking for relief from the sun was pointless – as far as he could tell, it never set. It just sat in the sky and watched him, bigger than he ever remembered. So he got up, and started walking again.
When the flash first caught his eye he dismissed it, his eyes had played plenty of tricks on him since he arrived. The second time he saw it he stopped, the tricks generally didn’t repeat like this. It even came from around the same place. He stayed in place, and waited for it to happen again. After a few minutes; he was about to carry on walking, but then an idea struck him. He started walked backwards, watching the area it came from. There! It happened again! He walked forward this time, and again it flashed! This couldn’t be a trick, this was real! He cracked a crooked smile, opening a few new bleeding sores on his lips, and took off running in the direction of the flash.
By the time he reached it he was out of breath, and his feet were bleeding again. It came from here, he was sure. Yet he saw nothing, and despair and panic shot through him, and knocked the wind from his already breathless lungs. He fell to his knees again, but he didn’t think he would have the strength to get up this time. This antique land had claimed him, it had won. He just could not go on. He collapsed onto the sands completely, and rolled onto his back. He stared up at the barren blue sky; there wasn’t even a bird to be seen. This place bests everything, he thought. I was stupid to think I could get out of here. Then he felt the thing digging into the back of his head. He barely registered it, but it was there. He slowly sat up, and looked at where his head had been. Suddenly he lit up, it was metal! A piece of metal out here, there must be people! They could help him, give him water and shelter! He sat up on his knees, and started dusting away the sand around it. It was small, maybe a bracelet. Anything would give him hope though. He pulled at it, gently at first, and then a little rougher when it didn’t give way. After some rough tugging, he pulled it out and sent sand flying. He shielded his eyes from the sand, and then inspected his prize. It looked like a necklace, with a plain piece of metal in the centre. It metal didn’t feel smooth though, perhaps it had writing? He brushed the sand off of it, and saw the words clearly. The despair came back, stronger than ever. His eyes stung from another attempt to cry, and his vision blurred. He sat there for a few minutes, staring at the necklace in his hands. He slowly came back to focus, and finally noticed that his tugging had unearthed something that made him feel sick. He saw the few bleached bones sitting in front of him, in the shape of a neck and the underside of a jaw. He looked at the necklace again, and fell back down to the ground; beside the bones. He couldn’t bring himself to look at the necklace again, and he already knew what it said off by heart. He had had it written, after all.
“Laura,” it said in bold, neat calligraphy.
“Our dearest,” underneath, in small elegant lettering.