The Man of the Sand
by Rachel Handley, 3.49am May 10th 2022

Each year the man of the sand would rise to life. We children would go to see him and make a wish. More sweets. Better dads. If the earth beneath him growled this meant it was ready to take him home and our wish would soon come true. We had to be careful, the ground would rather eat a child than take back the man of the sand. Ever since Nell was taken one of us would be on stand-by, ear to the ground, to shout run.

My mam forbad me from visiting the man of the sand. He’s just a statue, she would say, dismissing my insistence on visiting him. If he’s just a statue, then why can’t I see him? Hand on hip. She would look at me for a few seconds, open her mouth, close it, then tell me to go play with my sister. No, I want to play with my other sister, I’d say, which always made Mabel cry. But she’s only eight, she doesn’t know what it’s like to be really sad. She cries over anything. Your other sister isn’t here, mam would say, and I’d nod and whisper about how I missed Nell and wished my mam could say her name. I snuck out of the house when the man of the sand next emerged. I walked to him slowly, hoping my feet would feel, before I did, that the ground was hungry.

Bring Nell back.

The man of the sand was still. His stone arms, the same arms which had grabbed her with an electric screech and dragged her underneath, lay dead on the wet sand.

Thunder rang in my ears as the sand moved under my feet, I turned around quickly. The man of the sand opened one eye and stretched out his arm.

I moved closer. Where is she?

A second eye opened. I stamped hard on the ground.

Where, is, she?

I ran at him until there was nothing beneath me.