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The Man in the Sand

Inspired by the poem 'Ozymandias' by Percy Bysshe Shelley

By Madi HaywoodPublished 3 months ago 5 min read
2
Image from ArabiaWeather Website

As I stood, a colossal fiend in the centre of a devastating tragedy, I reflected back on the life I had witnessed bustle past over the centuries.

I vaguely recall the day I was created. Carved, so carefully over several years from a mighty rock, I stood watch over a vast city in a most beautiful, thriving country. The men who made me are long gone, though their work was celebrated for many years to come. Upon the last chisel into my face, I awakened inside the stone form, living but not alive.

I was depicted in the face of an ancient warrior. His name, now long forgotten even by me, once stood for strength and prosperity; a figure of safety and freedom.

They called me God. King. Hero to the people.

Of course, I could never hope to live up to the expectations society weighed down on my stone shoulders, yet I couldn’t help but embrace the love and affection it awarded me.

I was worshipped by all who came to our thriving city. Merchants, students, men wise and dim alike. Ours was a landmark, a place to seek out by all. Many a pilgrim voyaged to us, to me, to behold my most revered being.

As such, I was gifted all manner of offerings, to keep the people safe from harm. These ranged from rare fruits to delicate fabrics, even live cattle. They were arranged always inside a circle at my feet, in full view of the glistening night sky. Everything disappeared by morning, each new day an empty space to fill. They believed I was taking them in my sleep but sleep never came for me. It was the warrior, taking his due donations.

I was only an idol, a likeness of the great hero carved from marble to stand as a physical effigy, so the people had somewhere to go to pray. I had no power of my own, no way to change their lives, for better or worse. I was merely a face to look into as they spoke their deepest, darkest desires. I was thanked profusely for all the wonderful things they faced and blasphemed against for each and every misfortune against them.

For a long time, life was good. The seasons came and went, leaving behind soft blankets of snow, or a dance of crisp leaves, leaping and pirouetting over my broad shoulders. I looked on as flowers bloomed at my feet, waving up at me and decorating the fields with every colour known to man.

The familiar faces grew and aged, and eventually were replaced by a younger crowd, who again aged and moved on to the next life. It was a cycle that took them by surprise, it seemed. I took rather no notice of them. I wouldn’t be able to tell you who they were, what they were named. None of that felt important to me, at the time. They were just…

There.

To worship me. To adore me.

And I loved it. Life was good.

***

Somewhere along the road, centuries ago, something changed. It wasn’t sudden, it happened so slowly it took a long time to realise something was amiss. At least, for me.

The crops, fields upon fields of them, started dying out. Drying out. Rain, snow, and any other weather seemed to slow, then cease altogether. All that remained was the burning sun, too hot and bright to keep anything living for long. Too soon, the animals followed the way of the plants, being found dead in their depleting farms.

Then came the people. Sick, dying, dead. A slow, painful descent to the afterlife, I could see it for miles. It was only when the offerings started to change that I took notice, I felt ashamed to admit. Instead of fresh food, it turned to dried up seeds and dead cows left at my bare feet. Then old clothes. Hair, swiftly shorn from their heads as a last resort.

Anything they could spare was unceremoniously dumped underneath me, anything they thought would save them. They begged me, pleaded with my frozen form.

But it was no use. Whatever had been protecting these people for all this time had suddenly decided they were of no consequence. They had been abandoned, left to starve, and fade away in the crumbling city.

And they blamed me. Of course they would. I was there all along, taking what I pleased and giving nothing back in return.

All, from the smallest school child to the oldest monk, were convinced I’d lain a curse over them. That I was no longer satisfied with their work, with their sacrifices, and they were to face a terrible wrath.

The buildings started to break apart in the turning weather. The once fertile soil turned to useless sand. The wind became harsh, whipping it up into a brutal storm that destroyed the beautiful houses stood proudly around me.

***

I could barely remember the feeling of rainfall. All I had was the endless heat of the smouldering sun. My skin wouldn’t tan, wouldn’t burn or wrinkle. I stood, body aching more fiercely than I had ever felt before in the endless sunlight.

The nights weren’t quite as unpleasant. The cold was bearable, though it pricked at my stone skin as I imagined a needle might.

The quiet, though. The silence in the endless expanse I called home since the day of my creation, was deafening. It was so loud, my own thoughts rattled and thrummed in my head against it.

I missed the noise, the liveliness of the city. The few remaining people fled once the storms began, hoping to find shelter elsewhere. Nothing else remained; not a blade of grass reaching through the sea of brittle sand, not a drop of water left in the endless nothingness surrounding me.

My once smooth form had been eroded away by the savageness of the land. With one arm surviving, I balanced precariously on the remaining stumps that were once my muscled legs. Nothing about me was the same, just as the world I watched go by. Day by day, year by year. I was met with none other than my own dreadful thoughts, and the selfishness I had grown used to in the years before. Not another face had I seen since the city fell, I had never felt so alone in the world.

Engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Short Story
2

About the Creator

Madi Haywood

Hi there! My name's Madi and I'm an aspiring author. I really enjoy reading modernised fairy tales, and retellings of classic stories, and I hope to write my own in the future. Fantasy stories are my go-to reads.

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