Week 31: The Dune Sea (Prompt: A story set at sea)

I didn’t know why they called it the Sea, because there wasn’t anything wet about it, in fact, everything but.

The Sea lay beyond the borders of the town, behind the electric fences to keep any wanderers from losing their way. Rolling, endless waves of sand, ever creeping in past the fences no matter how diligently we tried to sweep it away.

I only knew of a few people who lived out there, though why was beyond me. I guess some people still had wild hearts, spirits too big to live within a fence, and so they had to spill out into the Sea.

The only one I’d ever met was Jacky, the one who always came to the gates to barter for supplies. He came with strange things in return, but always useful somehow. Tough little plants whose fiber made strong thread, things like that.

I was a little afraid of him when I first started working on the fences, but not a little curious either, and with time we got to talking more and more.

Jacky talked about the Sea like it was a living thing, something that breathed and thought. Most of the time his voice was the kind of rough sort you’d expect from someone who lived out there, but when he talked about the Sea there was a kind of reverent tone in his voice.

“The Sea is harsh,” he told me often, “but if you respect her, she will care for you.”

“But there’s nothing out there,” I used to protest. “It’s just sand.”

Jacky would just laugh and shake his head, pat me on the back like I’d missed a really good joke, and head off into the wastelands.

One day I asked him why he kept calling it the Sea. “The sea’s water,” I said. “There isn’t anything out there like that.”

Jacky considered that for a moment, then he said, “Come with me and I’ll show you.”

The idea of going out there was pretty scary, I’m not going to lie, but I was at an age when I wanted to show that I was never afraid, so I agreed.

We walked in silence for a long time, the town quickly swallowed by the dunes. It was hard-going and slippery, but I didn’t say anything.

After a time, Jacky stopped at the top of one of the dunes and waved a hand around. “Take a good look, son,” he said. “Take a good look.”

I did. The sand rippled around me as far as the eye could see. On the horizon, wind was sculpting the tops of new dunes, and if you looked long enough and unfocused your eyes, you might think the dunes themselves were moving, in slow, stately waves. I don’t really know what I saw, but I definitely saw it.

“Okay,” I told Jacky. “I get it.”

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