Alyssum Mound

You aren’t sure what you noticed first. Every thought floating around in your head seemed devoid of a source in time. It was as if your brain had been processing them before your consciousness awoke. The sounds of rolling water surrounded you; the rhythm of the inhale and exhale of the waves helped you pace your thoughts and group them into more digestible, narrow observations. The fine sand beneath drained the remaining heat from your body; the conjured osmosis wasn’t enough to keep you sated temperature-wise. That, combined with the fragrant, salty breeze, forced your body awake, a jolt you hardly had enough energy for. The axiomatic nature of your environment felt like a harsh Mandela effect. Usually, when you’re on the beach, the blazing sun warps the sand into hot coals. This light, however, sat on the zenith, letting the milky microscopic white stones glow as if you perceived its aura. Everything seemed off about your surroundings, and as your senses processed more information, the less it made sense to you. If the ground was glaring, why was it so frigid and numbing? The sun was clearly visible, yet the heat from the rays was gentle. Instead of staring straight up, straining your eyes at the skies for a crumb of information, you look around.

You stood atop an almond-shaped landmass, consisting solely of fine sand that spat out dust at the slightest movement, filling in the holes around your toes. The air danced around you and inside your garments, frictionless. Pacing around didn’t help much either, and the haze-masked horizon isn’t very forgiving to your horrible vision. All you can see in the molten glass ocean around you is the sun’s glimmer in the waves. Beneath that, there isn’t much until the light refuses to penetrate any further. Still, for whatever reason, your gut feeling is that it’s the same powdery sand all the way down.

Assessing yourself, you have on pearl-colored garments that flapped in the breeze but moved swiftly and contrasted gorgeously against your chocolate skin. There wasn’t any abrasion, and the lightness helped imbue the idea that you were at your nimblest peak. Simple, almost primitive clothes that aren’t necessarily tailored for any body size or shape. “As long as it has four holes” is what you presume whoever (or whatever) made this garment was thinking. Turning over your hands and calves revealed few marks beyond what was a common variance between humans. Beauty marks, cuts, and scratches who’ve lost their tale to time, and springy, curl hair all coexisted on your bountiful body.

No pockets or complexities within the clothing left you feeling bored, nothing to fidget with or prod for more information. Internally in your mind, neurons were fighting over whether to flood the body with trepidation or to relax and empty itself of false positives. Without taking your shirt off, you slide your arms inside and flip the shirt around. You’d rather have kept it on than taking it off entirely, as the heat generated by your body rarely lasted for more than a couple of minutes before the gusts whisked it away. Where a manufacturer’s tag would typically be, lay a printed rainbow spiral and nothing else. Having never recognized this logo before, you flip your shirt around again and puff your chest out for a breathing exercise. Straightening your posture and controlling the most straightforward action has always helped you relax. Given the serene environment, it seemed like the ideal spot.

After what seemed like half an hour of sandblasting your thoughts away and following different geometric shapes with breathing patterns in your mind, your curiosity poses a question: Have you really ingested all possible information about your surroundings? It takes a second for you to realize, but you haven’t actually checked beneath the sand. Because it was so cold, you avoided doing so, but that judgment clouded your progression. You knew there had to be more because it was all too simple for your reality. There was more to what you saw than what met the eye.

Digging around in the sand felt excruciatingly inefficient. At first, you tried scooping handfuls of the snowlike crystal amalgam, but the seemingly infinite supply stifled your progress quickly. Watching the sand pour back into the spot you had just caved out before you could even dump your hand nearby shuffled doubt into your mind. You didn’t have any tools that could help. However, you’re a strong-willed person, and a tiny setback won’t obstruct your advances. The next attempt consisted of drilling your feet into the sand. As long as you could get your feet within the sand and gather information, it didn’t matter if the sand replaced the void space, as you still had a tendril beneath it. Working in a spiral-like pattern from the outskirt of the island inwards, you encountered what felt like a curved, smooth stone-like surface. You think to yourself, “Really? An ice-cold structure beneath the sand?” before thanking the higher echelon of reality for guiding you.

While it was exciting to find something new, the original problem of unearthing anything from the fast-falling sand arose. Instead of attempting to mine it, you poke around it some more by sitting down and getting both legs underneath. Despite the sheer amount of sand, you can move your legs relatively quickly through it. Utilizing the curves in your feet, discern the harsh edges of the object. It was easy to picture in your head once you covered every corner of it, but it wasn’t anything you could pattern match it against that you’ve seen before. It had a flat base, sitting atop something that you couldn’t reach to feel, and had a large, foot-wide top. The closest approximation shape-wise is an English comma. With that in mind, you positioned yourself behind the thicker part and pushed along the top end. Instead of moving the object, you instead pushed yourself away from the sand, flopping backward. You should have gradually applied pressure instead of all at once, but you live, and you learn, right? Flipping around and performing the same maneuver yielded more desirable results. Your legs sank deeper into the sand, and your groin quickly filled with tiny ice beads.

With 40% of your body underground, the feeling sensation of friction hits you before the sound. The vast amount of sand that is being displaced due to your action worries you, and you quickly extract yourself from the switch, fearing that it might drag you down further. You scurry far away enough that you’d have time to escape if anything drastic did happen. Fortunately, the change was purely underground. Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a sequoia-colored octagon rise from the sand. You pace your steps to the speed of the monument’s arrival. Eight pillars held up the fire red, pointed roof. When you arrived, you felt a loud thud a couple of feet away, which you assumed was the switch locking back into its original position. You’re wary of the structure; your safety is critical when exploring. Still, you wondered why this sense of urgency for your security wasn’t present when you woke up. Sand littered the dark gray tiled deck. The grout lines were fresh and clean as if they’ve never had pressure exerted upon them. The marbling in the rails reached only up to your waist. It was probably there supplementarily to the design’s form rather than its function.

Shockingly, the floor was warm beneath you. Your best guess as to why was that the structure was far enough underground that the pressure and distance to the Earth’s core created enough heat to keep it warmer than the surface sand. Standing in the middle of the structure, you turned 360 degrees around, searching for anything more interesting than the gazebo itself. You spot two hooks hanging from opposite ends of the ceiling. They weren’t sharp or anything, so they posed no immediate threat to you. Taking a couple of steps back to garner the distance between them, you nearly slip on a thrice folded cloth. Picking it up didn’t shake all the sand and dust off, but violently swinging it around in the air did. This wasn’t a problem because there was already sand around you; it just didn’t need to be on the sheet. After unraveling the cloth, you notice two stretchy ends, like the corners of a typical bedsheet. Connecting one and two together, you stretch each scrunched up end onto a hook and revel in your intelligence. Surely nobody else in the same scenario would have thought to do that, you believe daftly.

Sitting in the hammock, you stare at the wicked gradient the sunset has created in the sky. The cacophony of colors is breathtaking; colors gain adjectives that don’t necessarily pertain to color alone, but deep down inside, you feel like they match up. Mystic blues, royal purples, and obnoxious oranges fight for space in the sky as the sun shines behind them all, leaving a mirror image significantly distorted beyond its original, compact identity. Of course, in actuality, the sun was a gas giant, but without the glare in your eyes, it was as big as the moon, a brilliant illusion. Picking out the colors in the sky has exhausted the last bit of energy. You begin to lie back in the sheets, wrapping yourself in cotton hugs finally brings you the warmth you longed for, and with that, you rest your eyes.