Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
I awoke lying face down in cool, black sand. The air smelled strongly of ocean, yet when I sat up and wiped the dirt from my face, there was no shoreline in sight. Instead, what I saw was an endless horizon of black desert. Every direction was the same; a flat plain of nothingness. I felt the warm heat of sunlight, yet saw no sun. Oddly enough, I couldn’t even tell whether or not it was daytime. The sky was grey, but not filled with clouds; almost as if it had always been this way.
I stood up, picked a direction to walk in, and set out to find anything resembling society. This is when fear began to set in. Before this moment, it was like my mind was in a haze. As if waking up in such a bizarre place was somehow a normal occurrence. Now, I was scared. Where am I? How did I get here? And most frightening of all; Who am I? As I walked, I tried my best to remember anything about myself. Favorite food, color, where I was born – but t I could conjure no memory from the depths of my brain.
How long I had been walking was impossible to tell. The sky never grew darker or lighter; just an unchanging grey overcast. I guessed maybe nine or ten hours, but it was an utter stab in the dark. My stomach began to grumble. Am I starving, or just a little hungry? Even this question was difficult to solve. Since I had awoken, my body felt numb and cool, despite the heat that radiated from a hidden sun. I have to find food, I thought. Or maybe I spoke it aloud. It was becoming hard to tell if my dialogue was internal or if I had just been talking to myself the whole time. I can’t quite recall one way or the other.
After what felt like a day of wandering, I finally stumbled upon a small pond. Red lily pads were clumped together on half of its surface. I dropped to my knees on the edge of the water and drank, spilling more onto myself than what I managed to sip from my cupped hands. I let my arms dangle as I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. The water, like the sand, was nice and cool. It may or may not have tasted awful. I struggle to remember that as well.
I decided I would stay by the pond for a while. Perhaps someone would wander by and aid me – perhaps I would die. Either way, I didn’t have many options to choose from.
It wasn’t ideal, but to satiate my hunger, I decided to pick at the red lily pads. This I recall very distinctly, for as soon as I swallowed my first mouthful, I vomited. I watched in both shock and horror as the black sand seemed to devour my spew. The sand crawled up over the mess and sucked it down into its mysterious depths before returning to its perfectly flat state. Seeing this made me wonder about something. I turned around to look for my footsteps, but they had vanished. The black sands covered my tracks as if aiding me in an elaborate theft in which no trace would be left behind.
At some point, I managed to doze off, one hand touching the water’s edge. When I awoke, a creature at least two stories tall sat on the other side of the pond, staring at me. Panic flooded my body, and in an instant, I was on my feet, but the creature didn’t move. I stood there for a long while, frozen in place. I determined that if it was going to harm me, it would have done so by now.
The creature had three, long, slender legs that moved like tentacles; all complete with massive claws that dug into the black sand. Behind it, a large half-shell that extended slightly past its face and curved backwards, down and to a point. It had three glowing, white eyes in the center of its head – a grotesque face I can only describe as an abyss of shadow and darkness. As it stood up, a great number of long, thin antennas floated about, protruding from a boney plate atop its brow.
It stared for an eternity, its stance never wavering, its antennas dancing about as it looked down at me. Its upper most eye slowly changed to a dim, yellowed white and let out a low, bone rattling sound. It was a sound that was more feeling than noise – so low, it made my eardrums buzz. It turned its massive body and strode off away from the pond. Its antennas seemed to motion me to follow, or perhaps that part I just imagined. Regardless, I followed the creature. It wasn’t hard to catch up. It moved slowly, almost sloth-like in its motions. I managed to walk at a steady pace alongside it.
It seemed like another eternity had passed since the creature and I had been at the pond. I wondered if this would be my life now. Aimlessly wandering a black landscape, side by side with a monster, searching for food and water; a primal, animal-like existence. A state where nothing but those two objectives mattered. Is there anyone missing me? Anyone looking for me? Questions I know I hadn’t the answers to. The wrong questions. A voice in my head spoke, firmly. A voice that was not my own.
On the horizon, a tree with white and pink petals came into view. Its trunk thick and tall, slightly leaning to one side. The mighty creature stopped. One of its antennas seemed to be pointing to it. I made my way for the tree, the creature remained behind in its place. I looked back as it curled its legs underneath itself, making a make-shift seat. Closer to the tree, a hollow became visible in the trunk. It was about eye-level and shaped like a hand. Cautiously I held my own hand up to the void. My hand would fit perfectly. I took a step closer to inset my fingers into the trunk. As I drew closer, the sound of singing became audible. Quiet at first, but as my hand passed the hollow’s threshold, it was deafening. My vison then left me. My breathing stuttered and my knees felt wobbly. Images flashed through my mind.
A woman and a man with his arm around her waist smiling at me. I looked down at myself and saw I was wearing a blue gown. Graduation; the word surfaced from my subconscious. This is a memory. This is one of my memories! I felt a tear roll down my cheek. And these people are my parents! How could l forget their faces? I felt angry with myself. These people who had raised me had vanished from my brain, and I couldn’t help but feel the need to blame myself for it happening.
My vision returned. I pulled my hand from the tree’s hollow. Had I forgotten to breathe? I panted as if I had been held underwater a little too long. I felt dizzy and nauseous, like I was going to vomit again. I turned toward the creature. There were more of them now. Too many to count. It was like an army of them had risen from the depths of the cool, black sand. I felt afraid, and this time the feeling wasn’t subsiding. They began approaching me. I placed my back to the tree. My breathing got quicker and shallower when a cold, dark hand extended slowly past the left side of my head and planted itself on my face, suddenly pulling it backwards.
What happened next, I can’t recall, but when I came to, I was lying in a hospital bed. My brain felt as if it was being stabbed repeatedly by a hot iron. Although the pain was insufferable, and my movements were restricted by the various tubes and wires attached to me, I managed to sit up. A small metal table on wheels sat beside me. On it, damp, bloody gauze, scissors, medical tape, and a glass of water. I looked down at my arm. It was numb, but I felt a stinging sensation coming from its backside. I slowly turned it over, shaking as I did. A few words had been carved into my skin in clean, precise cuts.
The black sand devours all in time.
WRITTEN BY: R.L. Rogers
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