This week’s challenge is to select a random song and use the title for a 1000-word story, any genre. My song is “None” by Southwire, which is a rather cool tune. If you listen go and listen to it though, don’t expect it to relate at all to what I’ve written!
Walking. Forever walking. The cracked skin of our feet no longer bled, and hurt hardly at all, the blood in our bodies slow and thick and ill. We were beyond weary, our bellies just hollows of solid pain, an acidic ache with no promise of easing.
No one knew the number of days we’d shuffled, the parched peaks of sand all the same, and though only one mentioned we might be lost, we all knew it to be true.
Each day a shard of sun split open our shivering, broken sleep and we would look up, blinking, into its blinding fury. And each day we slid forward, our toes in fine grains whose glistening prisms gave up ripples of heat so thick we had to lift our hands and push to pass through them.
And the dying. Only old ones in the beginning, because they didn’t want their ration of water, and became too weak. But soon sips of water weren’t enough for anyone, and many could scarce keep upright. So we left bodies every morning and often in the afternoon, and none had strength enough to conceal them.
The water wagon left tracks, at first a concern, but we learned not to worry, for each evening brought wind, and by morning the blown, brown banks had changed, and we knew we’d moved the day before only by some footprints and the fresh coat of sand we wore.
On a dawn such as this, one came to me and tilted to his knees in the sand. His swollen lids shielded bloodshot eyes, and his cheekbones looked wont to split his skin.
“I had a dream last night.”
Our sage’s voice was long unused and hard to understand. I reached for his shoulder and my hand looked alien, a roasted claw upon on his dirty shirt.
“You must tell me.”
“The desert has an end, and the end can be reached.” He paused to catch his breath and I saw others gather, drawn to the sound of speaking. “The stones are calling, and we must answer. Any who find them are saved.” A fit of coughing struck the sage and as his wiry throat worked the others shifted, and a horn of water appeared in outstretched hands. The sage drank, not a drop wasted, and sat back on his heels. All were quiet, waiting.
“Where? Did your dream tell us where?”
A worn gaze met mine and the sage nodded once. “The call comes from under, within the earth, a space without equal.”
Again the others stirred, and whispered now too, and I could not remember when I’d last seen us so aroused.
“Then we continue,” I announced, and pushed to my feet. “We go until we find this place, and we will be well.”
Faces turned toward one another, and voices mingled and rose, and I thought I heard a sob. We swirled the news in our minds, and as the others talked and touched I felt a softening of all pain, and for two mornings and nights all was fine.
I know, for I had counted from when the sage told his dream and during day number three they shattered. The young other was first to go.
“I cannot do it anymore,” he barked in a hoarse voice as we shambled. “I will not go on.” He flopped forward in the sand and we all heard as he started to choke.
“No, no! Do not do this!” One I believed to be his father had stumbled to his side and tried to lift the youth’s mouth from the ground, but the elder’s grip was feeble and at every opportunity the son plowed his head and sucked in more sand. The end was not long in coming.
With a wail the father staggered up, sickened gaze striking each of us, and we looked away from his sunken eyes. Some glanced at me but I had not moved and nor did the others, not even when the mourning man threw his body on a water cart handle. The end was round and smooth, but the wood was strong and the father screamed as he pummeled his belly again and again. Half a dozen strikes and at last he could not rise. I watched the others move to stare down at his moaning form.
“You must stop this.” The sage was close, his withered fingers upon my arm. “The stones still call, and they are near.”
The words I had been waiting to hear.
“Do not worry. They will be found.” I called the others and they turned, almost at once, and followed. We left the youth and the father, and knew the dunes would swallow them whole. By night we’d lost three more men to their final sleep and as we finished our evening rations of water, another lost his mind.
He spilled water over his chest while taking his sips and as the others expressed stunned and muted horror the man dropped the drinking horn, ran to the drum within the cart, and with two hands clasped like an axe, split the overwrought skin. Silence fell as gallons of liquid splashed forth and vanished, every drop devoured by sand.
And the others went crazy.
Fingers stabbed, feet kicked, arms and legs slapped with viciousness intensity, and before me people turned to animals as blood flew and bones broke and the men tore each other apart.
I had only to stand clear and eventually they were finished. But someone crawled out then, from under a body, and merely the sage and I remained, scrawny forms facing one another across a mound of clawed and bitten flesh. The sage was covered in the blood of others while I bore a single watery spray. He was crying, I saw, and the tears turned to pink on his cheeks, but I did not find it moving, and when I went and wrapped my hands around his throat he hardly struggled, and seemed given over to death, which I delivered.
Easing down the sage’s body, I looked right a short distance away, to the pile of rocks unnoticed by the others, and I walked slowly, and saw the hole. I slipped inside, into the cool, and the dark of the cave and then I understood; the stones called for me alone. My name was spawn for legends and my story would fall from the mouths of children. The others could have told the truth, and spoiled the stories, and when seeking to be a marvel, of spoilers and naysayers there can be none.