Pauley woke suddenly. His father's voice was in a dream. "Cross the sand dunes at night so you won't burn your feet." He rubbed his eyes and struggled to sit up. His back was stiff, but a bit of stretching made it flexible again. He smiled as he looked up at the mountain that was a lion. But, quickly he became earnest as he saw the shadows falling long and dark on its face and the trees growing darker. He twisted around to try to judge the distance to what he believed were the dunes—the tan colored hills he saw beyond the trees. He quickly put on and laced his shoes, not taking time to admire the short line of ladybugs walking on a large blade of grass. He stood facing the mountain, took a deep bow and stood upright again. Then with a loud voice he proclaimed, "Thank you!" Pauley then turned and trotted in the direction of the dunes, tucking in his berry-stained shirt tail on the way.
The sand was warm even with his shoes on. He was glad his father told him to cross these at night. Soon that night would be upon him. He scanned the dunes back and forth constantly looking for the best path through and over them. It was getting harder to see and a warm wind started to blow in storm clouds, which quickly gathered and began to grow stern and serious in delivering their load. Pauley could not imagine a pleasant night ahead for himself. The wind started to pick up and sand began to tumble in streams in the wind’s demanding direction. His clothes began to slap furiously in the wind demanding to be free of his frame. But his face and hands informed him of the stinging bite each grain could deliver. Pauley stood at the base of the first dune. He imagined that on the other side it would be calm, like the lee of an island. He struggled to the top of the dune, his large feet providing no secure footing on the shifting sand. He covered his mouth and nose trying to keep the grit from lodging into his skin. All the while it tried to infiltrate his ears.
At the top of the dune his heart became dismayed. The dunes seem to grow larger and they were all he could see. Sand clung to the tears brimming in his eyes. He thought if he sat down on the peak of the dune the wind would sail over him. Instead it pressed him harder, pushing sand into his pockets and between his fingers. The sand was at least cooler as the sun grew dim, but it seemed all the more insistent to overcome him. He lurched down the steep face of the dune, believing that the backside would be calmer, but the wind chased him. He pushed onward and upward into the next dune, crossing sideways to get to the top of its peak. He stood this time knowing that the sand raced closer to the ground. He could at least protect his face because his height kept him above its driving train. He felt the sand building up in his shoes. Pauley trudged onward and up and down for several hours. His throat was parched from the furious wind forcing itself upon him, but he dared not open his water because the sand would drink it up.
He finally stopped at the top of the highest dune. The wind suddenly surrendered. The clouds quickly followed in retreat and the moon made itself known. Pauley made several swipes over his face, raking sand off and scraping it out of his eyebrows. The moon was full and bright. "Oh, thank you!" Pauley gasped. He paused a moment to make sure the wind and sand had finally bedded down, then greedily drank water as if it was his first and last. He splashed some of it over his face and especially his eyes. Blinking several times he saw in the distance the moon reflected in a vast lake. There were several more dunes to conquer, but his heart was rejoicing that soon he could rest at the edge of that beautiful lake. He glanced up at the moon again. "Thank you," he said quickly and then he loped down the steep edge of the great dune, glad that he had made it so far in one long and windy night.
Copyright M.R. Hyde 2012