The Hopeful Wanderer – Footprints in the Sand

Along a stretch of grayscale sand, swept smooth and clean by the wind, a set of unusual footprints appeared. No one made them. None that I could see, anyway, which was troubling to begin with. But more worrying was how the footprints raised instead of imprinted, moonlight glinting along the outlined relief. As if someone walked upside down beneath a thin layer of the ground.

Walked in my direction. Sedate, even steps. Yet the tranquility of the pace unnerved me. Not quite stalking, but unhurried in the manner of a confident hunter.

Very little nearby could afford me shelter. Just empty desert and scattered boulders. I made for the nearest of these. The footprints turned to follow, steps widening, as of running.

At that, I sprinted away. Yet a glance behind revealed the footprints widened even further apart, stretching more than any person could stretch their legs. Gaining on me.

Just as I caught the boulder’s rough surface, one of the footprints raised beneath the sole of my foot.

Pain seared up my leg as the print fused through the bottom of my shoe to my skin. I screamed as my foot sank into the sand. Keeping my grip on the boulder, I lifted myself and my free foot from the ground, hauling on my trapped foot. The sand pulled back, growing hotter…

…until at last my foot came away with a sickening rip of skin.

I flopped upon my stomach across the boulder, dripping blood. Gasping. The footprints walked around to face me. Staring them down with all the bravery I could muster, I hoped they couldn’t appear on stone.

The mysterious footprints remained there, unmoving, for the rest of the night. Just as dawn touched the desert, pinking the gray sand, every footprint within view vanished.

Including mine.

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