Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Snowman in the Sand

by Tim Tobin 

Everywhere the Snowman looked he saw sand, infinite sand. The sand surrounded him, 360 degrees of sand. The sand shifted under his feet making walking difficult and running almost impossible. Sand blew into columns and pillars as high as the sky. The wind carved canyons half way to hell. And then they were gone, replaced by some other grotesque shape. The wind was the Great Sculptor, whimsically carving the desert into camels and oases that were real and then illusions.

Far, far to the west the Snowman saw the peaks of mountains. A snowman in the desert doesn’t have a hundred years, but even if he did, the Snowman could never reach the mountains. To the north lay a great ocean. An ocean where the wind does to ice what it does to sand in the desert. He would be safe there but the ocean was also unreachable in a snowman’s life time.

The Snowman peered eastward. Green pastures lured him, meadows of flowers called to him and cool streams tempted him. He would last longer there but only marginally. Finally he look to the south. The Snowman couldn’t hear them yet, but his pursuers couldn’t be far behind. He was on foot; they rode in vehicles with immense tracks that floated on the sand like hovercrafts on water.

If the Snowman stopped here to rest they would catch him and he would melt. The sand would become wet with his blood of water.

Just then the Snowman heard a sound on the desert breeze. A mechanical sound prodded him to resume his flight into desperation. “Hide!” the Snowman told himself. Behind a dune, in a valley, up a pillar, anywhere the Midgets couldn’t see him in the desert.

His charcoal eyes scanned the vista seeking, searching, for … anything. There was nothing. The sun poured liquid fire on him and he already felt loose. He was melting, alone, desperate in a foreign world. The Midgets were only minutes away. They would howl in glee as the sun reduced him to two pieces of charcoal, a carrot and a pipe.

First came a brief salvation. The breeze turned into a wind and then into a hurricane-force gale. Hundreds of tons of sand blew across the arid landscape. Valleys filled with sand and towering sand sculptures turned into gentle ripples in the sand. The hovercraft became engorged with sand and then stalled. Victims of the desert, just like the Snowman.

The storm momentarily, at least, blotted out the yellow and orange sun. The Snowman survived a little while longer. Like him, the Midgets were now on foot. The odds were almost even.

Except they had blowtorches. Fiery hot, the torches could melt metal. The Snowman would be a memory in seconds. Again his fear turned to panic. But the storm had leveled his hiding places. He was three hunks of snow standing in a desert. Even a scorpion could see him.

And at last the Midgets did see him. The Snowman ran for his life. The Midgets had him so they no longer hurried. There were five of them and each carried a smoking blowtorch, its flame struggling to be free to search out the Snowman and melt him into the sand.

As the Snowman struggled in the sand, the five Midgets surrounded him, blowtorches at the ready. The Snowman spun in a circle, watching the horrible mouths of the torches, waiting for the spray of fire that would finish him. Would he hear their glee, he wondered? Would the fire hurt?

The Midgets rejoiced in the Snowman’s capture. They taunted him by firing a blowtorch close to his head. They tortured him by burning holes through the huge chunk of snow that was his torso. They knocked the hat from his head and burned it to ash. The carrot was cooked well done.

The Snowman had been hit five times and lay melting in the sand. The sergeant looked down at him with his torch still smoking. Why a snowman would volunteer for an army of snowballs in the desert, the sergeant would never know. The relentless sun had begun to drive the Snowman mad almost immediately but he would not quit the service. His eyes were the worst problem and no thickness of charcoal ever soothed him. When he had finally deserted, the sergeant had no choice but to bring him back. Too bad the Snowman had resisted.

When the snowman had finally melted into the eternal sand, the sergeant gave the order, “Forward, Roll!” and the snowballs returned to their base.


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