Shifting Sands

I have been working on a novel length historical fiction, and Shifting Sands evolved from a piece of experimental writing into the essence of belief systems and divinity, as part of this longer work.

I released it via Twitter one sentence at a time.  To focus on each sentence in isolation was a revealing exercise. There weren’t many I did not edit in the process.

I added each sentence as they were tweeeted but I have left a few sample paragraphs here. Thank you to everyone who read and gave me feedback on the piece.


The wind howls through the pillars of rock, shifting the sand and releasing my mind. Sparks leap across the space I encompass, vaporising the air, leaving a stench of ozone, and the memories of an age engulf me.

Trees stand tall on this once desolate escarpment; their roots have foraged deep for the cool water in the enormous basins beneath me. The sand I watched with indifference, a moment ago, I now remember as rocks burst asunder—the earth erupting—their fragments ground together and then building up in the hollows of the land.

I wonder, how long I wandered empty and alone? Already I feel drawn away, and I turn my attention back to the sand, to counteract the pull. A caliginous vision of a woman’s face takes shape. She turns toward me and smiles; providing the anchor I need.

The roar of an approaching wind wrenches my attention back to the present, and a sickening crack reverberates through the air. High up on an exposed ridge, a tall trees has succumbed to the cyclonic wind. Its trunk splinters, shooting shards of heartwood through the air like spears. The howling wind mocks me but I steal one last glimpse along the threads. The woman frowns and turns her back. The full blast of wind pummels me, leaving only a smouldering void. I cling to this pain. And then there is nothing.

I watch the sand. I watch rocks and water and sand, and wait…for something I cannot recall.

A boy stands on the sand. He looks up. ‘You’ve been here a long time,’ he says.

A boy looks about at rocks and water and sand. ‘What you waiting for?’

One day while the boy is hunting, I will the wind to blow anew. The boy spears an animal and we watch its faltered passage to the ground.

‘I do not want to leave my people,’ he says and then moves closer to where the creature lies. He places his palm on the fur above its heart.

The creature exhales one long last breath. Its lifeless eyes mirror the horizon and its once strong legs quiver. We listen together as the silence between each heartbeat expands. Soon it is infinite. The boy swings the now flaccid body over his shoulder and looks about. By midday, strong wind gusts lift sand into the air. He turns away and the sand lashes against the skin on his back, urging him onwards.

I slip further away and a sense of powerlessness grows in me until I am buffeted by the realisation that this boy and his people may pass. I will be left alone—isolated even from myself—to watch the rocks and water and sand; unable to comprehend their beauty. For what thing can be beautiful if you can hold it in your mind no longer than a breath? Before this people, a century would pass me by as moments of disjuncture; each thought slipping from my grasp before I could apprehend it.

It begins as an annoyance, something scratching away at the back of my mind but as the last of it drains from me I remember forgetting these same things so many times—so many little deaths I do not wish to count the number.

I watch sand and coloured ochre stuck to a rock. It tells a story I know—but cannot remember. The black void where my memory once dwelled is immense. I tarry on its fringes while I can still discern its form.

I wonder why there is coloured sand on a rock wall.

On a sunny day a boy looks up to me, and I flounder in the wake of forgotten things.

‘You comin?’ he exclaims.


Sincere thanks to everyone who read this story and all my followers on twitter and readers on WordPress!

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