Of Castles in the Sand

Fireside Tales

Fireside Tales

The moon shone brightly as would a freshly minted silver coin, polished and valuable. He could feel the many pairs of eyes on him their silent plea almost palpable. He stoked the fire they were all gathered around, then cleared his throat as if he was about to speak but settled back into his ancient rocking chair. The chair creaked like a dying creature of the night. “Please sir” a little voice piped ‘Tell us a story” another chimed in. He looked around at the heads all nodding in agreement. This was part of the ritual on nights like this, he told stories, sometimes they had meaning, the value of a story without meaning you ask, why that’s the best kind of story, told simply for the telling.
“Very well” he finally acquiesced he took a long deep breath and let it out slowly “I will tell you the story of the day I died.” There was a collective gasp and a young voice asked “But grampa, if you died how come you are here with us?” He laughed then replied “Well maybe I am a ghost, anyhoo, I am the storyteller and the storyteller reshapes the tale but never lies.”
“Where to begin, where to begin” he muttered almost to himself. “Start at the beginning” someone yelled “The beginning is always a good place to start” another agreed.
“Very well, let me start at the beginning. On a moonless night, unlike this one I was born__” A voice cut him off just then, “But grandpa isn’t that too far back? Ma says we mustn’t stay up too late and you mustn’t tell us scary stories some of the youngins are scared of the dark.” “Child are you not afraid? You should be, witches are abroad this very hour” “Grandpa you mean the witches are overseas? Did they fly by aeroplane?” The old man laughed then replied “Remind me to never send you to law school.”
“I was born at precisely midnight on a moonless night unlike this one many moons ago. I was delivered by a half blind midwife in a hut without lights on the darkest night of the year. They tell me I never cried, not until sunrise and some said it was an omen that the darkness walked among us as man that day, marking souls to reap. I grew up knowing that the night was simply a shadow of the day and the time would come when I had to face the one who walks in the shadows, planted in the desert sand just like a root___”
“That’s when you died grampa, am I right?” a voice cut in again “No silly, he didn’t really die gramps was being metaflolyric” another answered.
“The word is metaphoric, now hush, as any man, I cared not much for darkness or being planted, so I went to see an old man, who knew many secrets, and is said to see more kneeling down than someone standing on his tiptoes on top of the highest mountain and that is metaphorically speaking. He told me, this man, that my destiny was to walk and find the secret at the heart of the desert. Many men attempted this journey, never to be heard of again but I knew I was different, was I not born on a dark night feared by wise man. I set out with only the clothes on my back, some sensible shoes and not much of common sense, because after what seemed an eternity of walking, I grew thirsty and had no water. I asked myself if anything could possibly get any worse, the desert accepted the challenge and conjured up a sand storm. Sand blown all over the place, howling as if the gate keepers of the beyond had come for me. I kept walking, by then rather, I think I was crawling up and down the massive dunes that seemed to pop up from nowhere. The storm passed, as all things do, nothing lasts forever, not even the bad things more so the good, the irony of balance.”
“After the storm, I had sand in my eyes, my clothes, sand in places you do not even want to know” Some giggling broke out, he waited for silence. “I was at my lowest my dreams crushed, lost and waiting to die, the desert does that, destroy dreams and kills flowers, it is a desert after all.” He paused to stoke the fire and to shift his position, the chair he sat on groaned as if in sympathy. “That is when I saw it, the oasis. A perfect island of lush green on a sea of sand….. and a castle. A castle in the desert, with a fountain in its courtyard I could almost taste the water that sparkled more precious than diamonds, diamonds to a man in the desert mean nothing but water, is life, and here was a fountain full of it, life. I descended from atop the dune tumbling, crawling and clawing my way with a purpose of singular intent, water. I dived into the fountain and that’s the last thing I clearly remember. I am told that I must have gotten lost and went round in circles till I ended up diving into the ancient well next to the old man’s house. I was found days later, dead they thought but miraculously I was still alive and recovered. They say castles in the desert are simply sand dunes and mirages of thirst addled brains but I know what I saw, now off to bed all of you us old ones never sleep because the story never ends, that’s immortality for you. When everyone was gone, he was the only one left, such as it is with all things. From underneath his tunic he brought a bottle on a silver chain, with water that sparkled beneath the silver moon, poured a drop on the ground and took a small sip.
The End.

On a whim I decided to dabble in a #blogbattle hosted by Rachael Ritchey and the theme: Oasis. This feels like my first night at Fight Club 🙂

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54 thoughts on “Of Castles in the Sand

  1. Pingback: #BlogBattle Week 23 “Oasis” Entries & Voting | Writing Rachael Ritchey

  2. Did he die? Did he really see a castle? I think he did see that castle!! Loved this tale. Loved the interaction between grampa and the kids. Was fantastic. My favorite word picture was this, though: ” He paused to stoke the fire and to shift his position, the chair he sat on groaned as if in sympathy.” I don’t know why, but I guess I could just hear the creaking of the chair in my head so well by that point in the story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome to Fight Club,! Alas you CAN talk about this club 😉 This story, your way with words is beautiful. They are smooth and your description is flawless. One section really stuck out for me:“I was born at precisely midnight on a moonless night unlike this one many moons ago. I was delivered by a half blind midwife in a hut without lights on the darkest night of the year. They tell me I never cried, not until sunrise and some said it was an omen that the darkness walked among us as man that day, marking souls to reap.” Although I enjoyed the entire piece, this right here took me in an entirely different imaginative route. I imagine an ominous being, an anti-hero, beginning his tale, here, at that moment and then his world and his quest, whatever that would be unfolding in first person. I kind of think of Doro from “Wild Seed” but a “doro” readers would love. If you haven’t read “Wild Seed” by Octavia E Butler, DO IT! Great story! So glad you participated 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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