A beach of garbage and sand. And the man who roams it.
Back to Dust
The sea was calm and the water undulated gently in frothy waves. Near the shore, the sand was firm and wet, but further out every square foot of dry sand looked as if it was frozen in some chaotic motion of time, mimicking the turbulent choppiness of a stormy sea. Strewn about and buried in the sand for miles was debris: water-smoothed glass, rusty bits of aluminum, seaweed, crusty torn lengths of cotton and burlap, one half of a barely recognizable tire, driftwood, and countless amounts of shattered shells of creatures long-dead. The ever-present minefield of flotsam was deposited by the diligent waves of the ocean. Why here and not in any of the hundreds of other beaches, only the water that has done the deed knows. The fiery sun beat down its vengeance on the trash, as if it were muffins being baked in a great oven of sand. The garbage that littered the expanse of sand warded off potential beach-goers like talismans of misfortune. And not just people, but animals too. This set the beach apart from the others - no crabs scurried sideways into their holes, no seagulls made their customary sounds, not even the flies, so prominent everywhere else, were present on this beach.
From horizon to horizon, only one sign of life could have been observed - if there was anyone to see it, which there wasn't. A solitary figure struggled through the dump: an old man, spindly and broken. He stepped with bare feet between the garbage, unwilling to disturb its bliss. His legs were shrunken bone and skin, spotted with the dark scars of time. His knees were knobby things, but larger than the rest of his leg. They bore the exact resemblance of a joint and knee cap unadulterated by the nuisance of life. The one difference was the color, for while bone is stark white, this man's knees were dark brown with tan. The man's gaunt, hairless thighs were about the size of any normal person's forearm. Partially covering these were the tattered remains of shorts or pants - presently, they were certainly shorts. Holey and ragged, he might have found them amongst the other bits of cloth on the beach. An old, but formerly nice shirt billowed out from his thin body by the strong beach wind. The stripes on it were now a faded blue on a dingy light brown and three buttons held the clothing together; a fourth dangled from a little thread. Through dilapidated sleeves shot two sticks for arms. His stiff hands clutched a dull glint of rounded metal - a golden ring that had slipped off his shrunken finger ages ago. He would not part with it, so he carried it. His bony digits seemed to be plastered to the ring - they never moved, but dutifully did their job. How many years had he lugged the weight of the ring with his depleted strength across the sandy graveyard? The old man remembered nothing, but every day he passed along this stretch of beach, some unknown purpose driving him.
Tendons masked by skin somehow supported his head. His bald crown was patched with black, as if the skin had fallen away and exposed his rotten skull. He drew rasping breaths from the angular nose that jutted over his toothless mouth; cheeks and lips recessed into the mouth cavity, his chin was pulled up to aid in filling it. The weight of his skull pressed his brown lips together, a seal that hadn't been broken in ages. Unused skin hung like drapery at the sides of his jaw and neck and great furrows of wrinkles dug into what was left of his impoverished cranium, where dust collected, carried by the wind. His sunken eyes were dry, pitiful things; his body had not enough water to spare for tears. They were pink from years of over-exposure to the harsh sun, and they relentlessly searched the sandy debris field for nothing.
He took another feeble step and his knee buckled. His defeated body crumpled to the sand and lay still, indiscernible from the rest of the debris.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. Please keep in mind that I wrote this as an exercise in description and emotion. It is not meant to be a full story.