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The Sand Children

The children built them in their image, scooping and shoving wet sand into bulging bodies, thin limbs spread like starfish. They poked holes for eyes with their fingers and gave them mouths to speak.

“This one looks like you.”

“Shut up!” A small foot stomped happily through one hastily hand-crafted face. “Race me!” And so the children raced each other down to the bottom of the beach, their fleshy bodies splashing headlong into the waves.

The girl built of sand, her face an open crater, gawped stupidly up at the sky. The boy, left untouched, mourned silently for his twin, their sand-crafted hands just inches apart. So far and yet… and yet. He scoured the bright sky with his unblinking eyes and waited.

 

Time passed as time so often does. The sun’s glare shifted one tentative degree and then another. Further down the beach, the waves lapped higher. A hefted surfboard blocked the sun as it passed. A flock of seagulls squawked, laughing at each other. A piece of driftwood sang through the air. A dog, all paws and fur, ran heedlessly through the children made of sand, scattering what was meant to be their ankles and feet.

The sun tilted. And then it titled some more.

Umbrellas shuttered. Chairs and towels folded. Bottles clinked. Someone yawned as they shoveled by, sandaled feet dragging through the sand.

Overhead, the sky shifted seamlessly into a syrupy barrage of yellow and orange. Long, red fingers crept in along the horizon. The day closed in on itself. The last seagull flew up from the shore, its belly full of white crabs.

Twilight blistered. A royal purple fervor shifted restlessly and then, tired and drawn, settled down into the night’s indigo, calm and cool. Overhead, the summer triangle flickered wildly in the growing dark.

The sand child dragged his gaze from the stars. He shifted his poorly-made fingers and reached out for his sister. He grabbed hold and waited for the impossible. When she did not grab back, he struggled to sit.

He’d expected what he found: the moon’s silver light filling the maw of his sister’s face. What had briefly been a head was nothing more than a pit, empty and useless.

Despondent, he dug into his chest and filled the hole with sand. He would remake her, smoothing her head round again and poking two holes for eyes. A straight line for a mouth. A pinch of sand for a nose.

“Come back,” he said in the scratching language of sand. Bending forward, happy in spite of the straight line of his mouth, he rebuilt the ankles and feet that had been so unwittingly trampled.

When he finished, they rose together beneath the silver glow of the moon and raced each other to the bottom of the beach, two sand children full of the pleasant kind of knowing that only comes at the very end.

Together, they dove headlong into the foamy sea, dispersing into the parts that had made them, uncountable grains of sand resurfacing the ocean floor.

Published June 2023

The Sirens Call Publications

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