The Ocean Arc
Part Two: Interlude - Sandcastle
by D.C. Logan
He was back on his beach again. The waves were soothing—slowly erasing the evidence of the previous tide. Slowly eroding the surface of the world.
He sifted his hand through the loose sand, and held his hand close to his face—dust crystals clinging to the surface. What had they been before coming to this end? Castles, men's bones, ruined cities, ancient fish, dead stars? Over the millennia they had been reduced to these tiny particles gloving his hand with light silt in the glow of the setting sun.
Would anything he accomplished during his short lifetime amount to more than this?
He had company on his beach today. Two children, he aged them at five and eight, and more innocent at that age than he had ever been or could hope to remember.
The ocean was too cold in October for swimming—so they were applying themselves with all of their youthful energy to construct the best and largest sandcastle their young minds could design. Like thousands upon thousands of children before them, they were building a castle of dreams—high turrets, long serpentine walls, and the older boy was industriously digging a deep moat around the perimeter of their creation.
Duo sat, fingers interlaced, locking his arms around his bent knees, and quietly and unobtrusively observed their progress.
They argued loudly and with the abandon and lack or reserve in public that was the prerogative of extreme youth: how high to build the walls, how deep the trench, where to place the small army of figures they'd brought from home to transplant into this foreign landscape.
And he delighted in their joy of discovery. The younger of the two found that he could decorate his portion of the castle with liquefied sand—dribbling long chains of droplets over his creation. The water slipped away between the porous grains—leaving a 3D impression of the fluid sand as evidence of his skill.
Duo sat with his back to the coastline—watching the ceaseless rhythm of waves lapping at the edge of the coast. And he waited and watched, as the sun rotated down on the horizon, as the children grew tired of their masterpiece and, collecting their toys, abandoned their fortress to the elements in favor of other pursuits.
He sat and watched with quiet fascination the inevitable creep of the sea towards the castle. Like so many things before—if he watched for the movement, it became invisible to him. Progress and change was only detectable by the lack of constant watching. He alternated watching the surf with intermittant glances over to the castle—measuring the ocean's progress in minutes, not seconds.
And then it happened. A particularly ambitious wave ventured far up the beach. It raced towards the moat and spilled into it. The rush of saltwater raced around both sides to crest at the meeting point on the reverse. The water melted what it touched—dissolving the parts of the structure, reducing it instantly into its individual particles of sand.
The encroaching waves took down ramparts, washed over the walls, and pulled apart more and more of the castle as the tide moved in towards the coast. Depositing its new wealth of detritus on the edges of the continent. He watched the water creep over the dryer sand—rendering it flat, dark, and hard.
He thought about how the water bonded the individual particles together—making them strong enough to support the weight of a grown man, the weight of water, and the enormous mass of a continent. And he ran his fingers with renewed awareness through the loose sand by his side and considered. There was a lesson to be learned there, if he could just figure out a way to apply it to his own life.
He wondered how many citadels, how many empires, had been built on the shores of this world—and how many of them comprised the subtly shifting matrix under his hand. And thought anew about what he could do to change the outcome of a war.