The girl awoke, feeling her soft tanned cheek against the warm sand. She got to her feet and brushed the golden grains from her face and shook her hair. The little grains flittered and cascaded to rejoin their innumerable golden brothers and sisters below.
The peach sun was high in the cloudless azure sky and the girl squinted and held out her hand to shield her eyes from its gaze.
The girl was young and beautiful. Small, slim, and wearing a thin white cotton dress. Her dark hair flowed like dramatic sleek curtains of liquid mahogany down her chest on either side of her shoulders and drifting down her back. Her eyes were as dark as her hair.
There was history and darkness in her eyes. And a sadness. They had a seriousness about them, yet they once spoke of jubilance and wonder.
She looked around and saw only a sea of sand. Dunes that swept out for as far as the eye could see.
She decided to walk, for what else was there to do but walk? But in what direction should she go? The only path she could take was forwards. So, she walked forwards across the sand, her bare feet sinking with each step.
Fortunately, the sun was not intense enough to heat the sand to make it so unbearable to walk on with naked feet. The sensation of the warm sand on the girl’s soles held her body in an embrace.
The girl walked for miles and miles. She was tired and thirsty. But there was no water to be found.
In the distance, she saw some dark shapes and silhouettes. As she approached, she saw that they were ruins. Ruins of what had been and gone. An old world, now just rubble left to bleach in the sun and covered in sand.
Lives had been lived in this place. Love and laughter. Tears and pain. Memories that would become semi-fictions in time, and then lost entirely. Images that would haunt and fill the heart with longing. Never to be wholly reclaimed.
The girl sat among the ruins.
The golden hue of the sun, reflected in the sand, was replaced by a deep wash of indigo, the dunes turning into a dark unknown ocean, as the sun descended and the silver moon rose to take its place.
The sand now felt cold underneath the girl’s feet so she raised herself up on a grey stone platform so that she no longer had to feel the sand between her toes.
She lay out on the platform and closed her eyes. She surrendered to the night.
When the girl awoke the following morning, she didn’t want to rise. She felt weak and despondent before the day had even begun. But she started by lifting herself up and resting on her elbows. Hard was the stone platform. Then she dragged her bones off the stone and felt the heat rising in the air and under her feet as the sand started to absorb the sun.
She continued on. At times she felt like giving up. She stopped once and considered returning to the ruins. But what was there but rubble and the prospect of another empty day and night? There was nothing to be gained by going back. There was no value in the stories that had been told there. It was a dead place.
Eventually, the girl reached the edge of the dunes. She descended down a hill, feeling a slight thrill as gravity dragged her down, and she came to the edge of a vast and clear sea. The surf licked her toes, cooling them.
The girl felt a sense of clarity there without truly knowing why. The air was crisp and her breath slow and smooth. She observed the rising and falling of her chest in tandem with the waves.
She walked along the beach as the waves rose and crashed and rose and crashed, the sound reverberating like in a chamber in her ears.
The beach was dotted with an assortment of pebbles and rocks of all different shapes, sizes, and colours. Some beautiful, some ugly. Some smooth, some misshapen. Rough, jagged and sharp.
The girl liked the beach and decided to stay. She built a tiny castle from the scattered pebbles and rocks. She based the design of the castle on her memories of how the old ruins had looked when they were standing tall and abundant with life. When it had been a sacred place. When it had been home.
She realised there was still value in what had been and gone. Even though the time in which the ruins had existed had passed, a place for the best parts about what life had been like there still remained in the present. There was value in the stories of old and there were still so many stories to be told.
The girl lived in the tiny castle and filled it with things that she collected from the desert. Rocks and blackened sticks and cactus she had dug out of the sand to nurture.
Not far away from the tiny castle was an oasis of greens and blues. The girl would drink water there and wash her slender body and smooth dark hair.
The tiny castle and the green and blue oasis were her sanctuary. Her cathedral. It was a place where she could always feel safe and free. A chance to begin again.
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Rick Ansell Pearson
Rick Ansell Pearson lives with his beloved and spirited feline companion, Luke, named after the son of Skywalker. His fiction and poetry can be found in the anthologies: Year Five: Dark Moments and Patreons, Love Me, Love Me Not, Grimdark 2, Dark Stars, and in the magazines: Star*Line and The Stygian Lepus.