Shifting Sands

Sands shift. There should be nothing remotely startling about this statement. You might as well say winds blow, or thunder rumbles. Shifting is a primary characteristic of sand – it gets everywhere, eventually.

A beach on the Caribbean will one day be the dirt of the Gobi Desert – or at least, the individual grains of sand which made up said beach will be.



Jorge watched the sand shifting around him with as close to envy as he could manage. He’d never quite got the hang of envy. Seemed like a waste of energy, to him.

Still, he hadn’t had much else to do these past few years. Being dead and buried put quite the brake on any plans of moving around at all, he found. He had always wanted to see more of the world than this sleepy little town, but now he was stuck here forever, in a little graveyard by the beach with only the iguanas and crabs for company. Oh, and the other dead people. They were better than the iguanas and the crabs, but that was a gold medal contender for clearing a low bar.

And there was the sand, of course.

He’d never paid much attention to sand while he was alive. With nothing to do now but look at it and listen to it shifting around his corpse, however, Jorge was entranced to find beauty in every grain as it jostled for position. Each one was different. Each had a different secret tale in the minute facets and planes of its surface.

The crabs and iguanas were another matter entirely. The crabs and iguanas could go to Hell. They burrowed down and stripped the last shreds of flesh from Jorge’s bones. Jorge had been very much attached to his flesh. They had had a lot of good times together.

Now it was all gone, and he was left with just his bones. His bones and the shifting sand, whispering as it went past.

He wasn’t the only dead person in the graveyard by the beach, but he thought me might be the only one who appreciated the beauty of the sand. The rest of them hated it.

“Buried in sand! Buried in sand! What a disgrace!” Maria lamented constantly. “What can you grow in sand? What can you build on sand? Where is the fertile black soil and strong, steadfast stone?”

Maria’s people were originally from the mountains around Oaxaca and they had been wealthy landowners – at least to hear Maria tell it. Time and circumstance had brought her low, all the way down to the shores of the Yucatan Caribbean. She considered this a major demotion in life and in death. Maria had a very literal sense of the phrase ‘moving down in the world.’

Rodrigo, on the other hand, had a far more practical dislike of sand. He had run the only hotel in town and keeping it clean had been a constant, losing battle against the sand. Being buried in it now was the final indignity of a long, inglorious campaign.

There were others in the graveyard, of course, but they were buried too far away for Jorge to hear them. Their voices were muffled by the sand.

Eventually, Jorge grew tired of listening to the endless complaints of Maria and Rodrigo and simply listened to the sand. It sounded like a thousand whispers as the grains shifted past him…and after some time, he found he was able to understand it. Each grain whispered its story as it passed him, and hearing the stories he was able to live a thousand lifetimes every day. There had to be some advantage to being dead, he supposed, else people would stop doing it.

The sand whispered its stories…places it had gone…things it had seen…things it had been.

Time shuffled on, and eventually the stories were not enough for Jorge. It was all very well hearing about these places. Other beaches on other seas. Deserts and mountains. Green fields and vast cities of steel and stone and glass. Jorge was not a man for regret – it always seemed like a waste of energy to him. Still, he had always wanted to see more of the world. There seemed to be so much he had missed out on. Even Maria had her mountains.

All in all, he would much rather be a grain of sand than a corpse in this little graveyard by the beach, he declared one night, as the wind blew and the thunder rumbled.

“Give it time,” the sand replied.




Sands shift. From beach to desert. From sea floor to mountain peak. Carried on wind and tide.

Eventually, Jorge shifted along with it, with a profound sense of joy and wonder.

There was just so much to see.