Copyright Notice: All material in the following story is the sole property of the author and may not be used without express permission.


© 2003 Darrin A. Colbourne

Somewhere in the Nevada desert, an old medicine man, dressed in deerskins and the headdress of an American Indian chief, chanted ancient incantations in a language long forgotten on the North American Continent, long forgotten in the world. His voice cracked with age in spite of the steadiness with which he spoke, a frail old voice furthering the timeless purpose of a soul that had lived for millennia. As he chanted he painted, drawing arcane images and figures on the desert sand, using colored sand that had been enchanted by a hundred arcane spirits.

It was his favorite practice, one which he thought he might never get to enjoy again. You see, until recently the old man had been a prisoner, locked in the most secure dungeon ever devised. There he had been kept, brooding for thousands of years, waiting for the opportunity he'd need to end his internment. That opportunity had come a few days ago. In a fever dream the old man had seen a vision...a vision of the key.

He'd used the vision as a guide to help him draw the key to himself, then used that key to unlock the dungeon. It had been so simple, no more complex than the grains of colored sands that he was now pouring delicately over the dry landscape. Once he knew how, escape was easy.

And now, with the help of that same key, he was going to get his revenge on his jailers.

He stopped chanting as the sand painting was completed. He watched the colored patterns on the ground, waiting for something to happen. He was patient, knowing it would take some time and he had eternity for it to work.

His patience was rewarded after only a few minutes. He felt the ground under him begin to tremble as the sand painting began to glow, then blaze with burning light. It shone in his wrinkled face and lit up the desert around him. The winds began to pick up, turning from a light breeze to a howling gale that blew sand through the air around him, though the sand painting remained intact.

Storm clouds gathered from out of nowhere, centering above the old man. They were dark and thick, and seemed almost alive as they coalesced into one giant cloud mass. Without warning, a bolt of lightning struck the ground right on top of the sand painting. The impact blasted a hole in the earth, sending colored sand flying everywhere. A hurricane gale flew out of the hole, carrying within eerie apparitions and accompanied by an inhuman, mournful howling that shattered the quiet of the night.

As the apparitions reached the clouds and expanded across the sky, the wrinkled face of the old man broke into a wide grin and he began to laugh, softly at first, then building to a hearty, almost maniacal crescendo. He was laughing at the joke he'd just played on the fools that had sought to lock him away forever.

The dungeon was now completely empty. He'd just released all the other prisoners.