Hey, hey! It’s another Terribleminds challenge. A randomly chosen title was the basis for this one.
The Whispering Sands
A lone figure trudged through the dunes of a vast and unforgiving desert. The man’s scarred flesh was burnt to the point of blisters. His shirt was tightly wrapped around the object he carried. He wiped the sweat away from his eyes. Every thought was for his family, for the farmland he once tended. All of it would be gone if he failed.
The wind was no relief from the sun’s brutal rays. It whipped grains of sand against his face. And with the sand, came the whispers.
“You will die here.”
“When you fail, the world will become this. All the world, sand.”
“Vultures will pick at your bones.”
The man shut his eyes and ducked his head. He thought of his children, and the green land they never knew. He broke into a headlong run.
“I cannot fail!”
The desert laughed.
He pursed his lips, and did not slow. Ten weeks he had journeyed, directed by the wisest counselors of the sultan. A hundred had been chosen for the quest. He alone had survived the trials. He alone had located the orb. And now, he was alone in his search for the temple.
The man stumbled in his run. He tumbled down the dune, curled around to protect the orb. He crashed, face first, into the hot sand at the bottom of the dune. The desert’s mocking whispers rang through the air. He struggled to his feet, and unwrapped the orb.
The wind grew fiercer as he stared at the iridescent glass surface. Just beneath the glass, a ball of aqua blue water. Once he reached the temple, the magic in that water would restore the world. The whispering sands hissed and raged at the sight of it. He checked the orb for cracks. The glass was smooth beneath his hand.
He turned the orb over. It was chipped! The wind whirled around him, and all he could hear was the desert laughing.
“You have already failed!”
There was no leak yet. The magical water stayed contained. If he could only reach that ancient place, he might yet succeed. He tied his shirt around the orb again, and darted west.
He had seen the temple once as a boy. Back when the world was green and lush. It was ancient and abandoned, nothing of interest except to the most serious scholars. Now, the man wondered if he would ever find it. There had once been towns and cities all throughout the land, but he had not seen a single spire or wall. The sands had grown so deep; they covered all of it.
The man ran until he thought his legs might give out, then kept going. He ran across the mocking sands in long strides. Then, his foot slipped on something that was not sand. He caught himself, and doubled back. Brushing away the top layers of sand, he saw tiles. He recognized the green patina. He jumped up, and laughed until his lungs hurt.
“I found it!”
There was a noise in the distance. A rumbling like a stampede. The man climbed the nearest dune, and his eyes grew fearful. Sandstorm. He slid down to the section of roof he had cleared. There had to be some opening. A window he could dig out, perhaps. The wall of wind and sand edged closer. He didn’t have the time to dig.
He stomped the roof tiles with his heel. They cracked and chipped. He thought he heard straining wood beneath that, and slammed his foot down harder. The storm was almost upon him. He moved to jumping on the roof, and just as the storm reached the crest of the nearest dune, he fell.
He plummeted into the main hall of the temple. The storm raged overhead, whispering lividly.
“Give in to the sand!”
The man held the orb to his chest. The shirt felt wet to the touch. He held the wet side up and scrambled to his feet. The back of the temple had once held a fountain. The statue of an ancient goddess stood over the barren, gold tiles of the pool. Her arms were outstretched.
He unwrapped the orb, careful to keep the cracked side up, and placed it in the goddess’s hands. Then, he stood back, and waited.
The sands whispered their victory.
The storm above thundered its approval.
The man closed his eyes. His failure weighed upon him, and he fell kneeling in the dry and forgotten pool. His family, his country, the whole world would soon be buried.
Then he heard it.
A trickle at first, then a stream. He opened his eyes to see the orb shining like a star. The water came from an intricately carved wall behind the statue. It flowed all around him, and for the first time in a great many days, the whispering sands were silenced.