Days of Sand
Chapter 2: Running the Sands
Kyle Hunnigan sat in the Dragon's Nest studying the golden pint in front of him. He was becoming increasingly convinced that his drink was steadily evaporating into the air. The world always seemed to rush by him and as of late it had become a bit more noticeable as today, the world had quite literally sped up. People were walking and talking twice as fast so he had to write his order on a piece of paper when he sat down at the bar. The most annoying part was having to spend half an hour to cross the road. For a thirty mile an hour zone it seemed that someone had put a one in front of the thirty sign. It felt like the world was slipping away from him and had he seen his reflection he would have realised just how right that feeling was.
This morning he had short dark hair with his fringe dropping over his left eyebrow. However by the time he had got to the pub it was white and a small bald patch was starting to develop. He took another swig of his pint before noticing the strange fellow that had just sat down beside him.
"Allo there mate. Name's Kyle. Pleased to meetcher. You musht be as sloshed as I am to be making shense to me right now."
"No." Chronos answered him "I'm afraid I am quite sober. As are you. What you are suffering from is purely psychological; as any alcohol you consumed would be burned up the moment it entered your body." Kyle paused for a moment.
"Oh so I am. That's weird. How did you know I was sober? Who are you anyway?"
"My name is Chronos."
"Never heard of you. Is that even a proper name?"
"How about Father Time?"
"How about Chris?"
"No. My name is not Chris. Just call me Chronos OK?"
"Chris F Timeonos." Chronos gave Kyle a hard stare. Kyle went on the defensive.
"What? It's an anagram for Chronos is Father Time with the word father remaining as an initial."
"Hmm maybe you are still drunk. What are you drinking anyway?"
"Apple juice." Chronos slapped his forehead.
"I have a feeling I'm going to lose this time around." He thought out loud.
"Lose what?" Kyle enquired.
"My mind in a minute. Aren't you even curious as to my appearance?"
"You're in a pub. I kind of figured you came here for a drink."
"Fair point but no. I am here to inform you of a challenge that you have to take part in."
Chronos proceeded to turn Century until it was horizontal and the sands stopped running. The bar and everything in it ceased moving.
"What's all this then?"
"Time manipulation. The bar is at a standstill so we are not interrupted while I explain this to you." He flicked his wrist and in what was once an empty palm there now stood a broken hourglass. Chronos set it on the bar."
"Oh dear" Kyle said, "Henry there isn't going to like you spilling sand all over the place."
"Never mind Henry. It's you that should be worried about it. Read the plaque." Kyle picked the hourglass up putting his thumb over the bottom. His eyes widened.
"Oh crap that's me. This is my life isn't it?"
"He's catching on."
"This is why I have been going so slow lately. Wait you mean to say my challenge is to keep it full?"
"Bingo. I wasn't sure you were going to get there but yes that's essentially it."
"I can't do that forever."
"No and you won't have to either. By the look of that hourglass I'd say you have little time left. Your challenge is to bury the hourglass somewhere so that the sand will never run out unless you choose for that to happen. The players are Death and myself. Each one of us gets up to three chances to participate. She aims to kill you and I aim to keep you alive. Either way your life as a normal person is over and as I am sure that Death's lackeys are not as far away as I would like I suggest that you get moving as soon as you finish your pint. Before you go you should know that your hourglass can affect your passage in the time stream. You can slow and speed up time for yourself but you cannot go backwards. Good luck Kyle. I hope you live to see the finish line. Goodbye." Chronos casually walked out of the bar after which time resumed its normal course.
Kyle kept his finger in the leak and finished his pint before thinking of a plan. He didn't get to stay long as Henry chucked him out for spilling sand on the bar. 'I'm better thinking on my feet anyway.' Kyle thought to himself. 'Ok so first things first I have to find somewhere that sells sand.' Kyle walked quickly towards the nearest brickyard. On the way he bought a rucksack so he could store the sand while he walked about. He didn't run for fear that the sand would spill out. He wasn't too worried about the strange looks he was getting for carrying an hourglass in his hands.
When he got there the brickyard was buzzing with activity. It was not long before he saw what he was looking for. A pile of sand lay on the ground. Beside it there were some bags, a scoop and a weighing machine. Kyle carefully scooped some sand into his hourglass and then proceeded to shovel more into the rucksack. Focusing on the job at hand Kyle failed to notice the truck full of bricks backing up towards him. The skull tattoo on the driver's arm would probably not have meant anything to him.
Selina tried to be as stealthy as possible while she backed the truck up. She stopped about a metre from him. Kyle continued his task oblivious to the truck. He became slightly suspect whenever a brick fell into the sand close to where he was crouching. Kyle looked up to see that the truck's grabber was hovering precariously above him with a load of bricks in its grasp. He stuffed the hourglass into the backpack and tried to dive out of the way. In that same instant Selina hit the release button. The bricks crashed on top of him making dull thuds whenever they hit him. The sand started to change colour as Kyle's blood seeped into it.
Frederick came over to the truck with a broom. He poked Kyle to see if he was still alive. Kyle groaned and swiped the broom shaft away. Frederick dropped it and ran to Selina.
"It didn't work boss. We'd better leg it."
"Fine but we should keep a close watch on him. I have a funny feeling I know where he is going next."
The bricks made stony grating sounds as Kyle got up. People had started to crowd around him now with stupid comments like:
"Wow man. I don't know how you survived that. Are you ok?" Kyle didn't know how he survived it himself. He assured the onlookers that he was fine. He even got to keep the sand for free when he promised not to sue the brickyard in return. The driver was nowhere to be found. Kyle poured some of the sand in his rucksack back into the hourglass. To his amazement his hair had grown back and was now its original colour. His wounds had also healed a great deal. 'Wow. Weird.' He thought. Getting knocked on the head was not such a bad thing altogether as he got an idea as to where he could bury the hourglass. He called a taxi and made his way to the City Airport.
He stepped through the doors thinking to himself how clinical it all looked. He had stashed the hourglass inside the rucksack making sure it was at the bottom so that the sand would pour into it. The airport was bustling with people of all backgrounds. He wasted no time in purchasing a return ticket to Cairo. He made sure it was first class as he thought he could afford himself a little luxury. He ran towards the customs security gate as the plane was scheduled to leave in the next twenty minutes. A customs officer stopped him there. He had strange white tattoos poking out of his shirt collar.
"Excuse me sir could you step this way please. I'm afraid you are going to have to be checked just like everyone else. If you'll just give me your bag and any metallic objects on your person you can go through the gate up ahead."
Kyle handed his bag and personal effects over to Frederick without a seconds thought. The customs officer grinned widely as he walked away. He was about to start running when a loud voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Hold it. Where are you going?" It was a short woman that looked a little bit like Selina although the nametag read "Julie."
"Didn't you hear me? I said where are you going?"
"Is that you boss?" She rolled her eyes.
"Rookies. Here." She snatched the bag from him.
"Give me the bag and go make yourself look busy somewhere else." Frederick lowered his head and walked off towards the nearest café while Julie went to put the luggage through the x-ray machine.
Selina was watching from the crowd of travellers. "Idiot," she muttered to herself before following Kyle through the security gate. Julie's eyes widened when the x-ray machine showed her exactly what was inside the backpack.
"Ah Sir?" Kyle gave her a lopsided grin.
"I suppose you are wondering about the hourglass. Well it's a present for a friend of mine."
"Right because hourglasses in bags of sand are all the rage these days."
"It's rare. This is the sort of thing they go for except they will have a display case for it."
"Hmm. Ok. Good luck with that." Kyle picked up his bag.
The seat on the plane was quite comfortable and would have been even better had there been room to fit his bag in the overhead compartment. Thankfully during the three hours they had already been in flight no one had needed the toilet too often. He caught sight of wrinkles forming on his hand. He looked inside the bag and sure enough the hourglass was near the top of the bag. He forced it to the bottom again and looked out the window to see an ocean of sand below.
"Nice view isn't it?" said the woman beside him.
"Hi I'm Selina. Is that an hourglass I saw earlier?"
"Yeah. It's for a friend."
"Pretty weird. Mind if I have a look?"
"Umm ok but you can't hold it. It is quite fragile."
"No problem." Kyle rummaged in his backpack and produced his hourglass.
"Ha" Selina yelled as she snatched the hourglass from him and scrambled over him to get into the aisle.
Kyle lunged after her but her leg slipped through his grasp. She sprinted down the aisle pushing a startled stewardess out of the way. Then standing by the airlock she gave a small wave before pushing the release lever down and jumping out.
"No." Kyle yelled. He hesitated for a moment before jumping out himself. The passengers on the plane screamed as they held on to their seats for dear life. The cabin crew rushed to the door and with great effort they were able to shut it again.
Kyle used skydiving techniques that he had seen on television to catch up with Selina. Selina wasn't worried about the fall, as she would just end up back at work. She was trying to empty the glass of its sand when it slipped from her grasp. Selina flailed wildly in the air desperately clutching for the hourglass. Her fingers just touched the wooden base when Kyle swooped down in front of her like an eagle. He grasped the hourglass and continued his speedy descent leaving a puzzled Selina in his wake. She copied his movement and followed in hot pursuit. She caught up with him in seconds. They fought with each other twisting and turning like a snake being held by its tail.
In a desperate bid to win Kyle turned the hourglass until it was horizontal. They stopped about seventy feet from the sand. Selina grabbed tightly on to Kyle's chest. Kyle looked into her eyes with a wicked glare and smiled.
"There are two ways that this can happen. I can turn it one way and we both die. If I turn it the other we float softly to the desert floor. The second one isn't going to happen as long as you're trying to kill me." Kyle didn't know what to think when she smiled back as if she had the upper hand.
"There's one fatal problem with your plan."
"I'm already dead."
Selina turned the hourglass and sped up time so that they rushed to meet the sand with breakneck speed. A plume of white sand flew up around them. The sand filled every space it could choking Kyle as it started to fill his lungs. He could feel Selina's cold arm still clutching on to him. He wondered if she was still conscious. It was not long before Kyle himself slipped into the peaceful darkness of sleep.
He woke up coughing and spluttering. He tried moving but found that he hadn't the strength yet. He took in his surroundings. It was a place full of moving sand. He was sure that he could hear water somewhere as well. He couldn't see Selina or his hourglass.
"Good morning." Kyle looked over to his left.
"Hey I know you. It's Chronos isn't it?"
"Correct. How are you feeling Kyle?"
"Like I just fell out of a plane. Where is the hourglass?"
"Oh its safe in one of my statues. The game is over.
"How am I still alive?"
"I took one of my turns. I made the desert beneath speed up its erosion process so in effect it swallowed you and slowed your descent. Now you are here and the hourglass is in a place where it will never run empty."
"So I won then?"
"In a manner of speaking yes. Listen I have an offer for you. Would you be interested in becoming my assistant?"
"What would that entail?"
"Mainly just getting back lost time for people."
"Do I get any of my normal life back?"
"Sure. You can make time for yourself. Literally."
"Ok sounds great. Can I rest now?"
"Certainly. I'll see you later."
Chronos walked out of the room and met Death in the hallway. She stood with her hands on her hips.
"Well aren't you going to gloat?"
"No. Not even a little. It was a good game I enjoyed it. Didn't you?"
"I suppose so. I would have liked it better if I had won though. I think I will stick to chess next time."
"That's fine with me. I was surprised you didn't use more turns though and what about your assistants?"
"They were my turns and they'll be cleaning for some time to come."
"Just don't go too hard on them they tried their best."
"I know. I'll give them a vacation after they finish the spring-cleaning. I doubt anyone else in the realm would have gotten as close to winning as they did. Don't tell them that though. Well I'm terrible with goodbyes so I'll see you next century." She smiled and waved goodbye before walking off. Chronos waved back.
"Cheerio. See you soon." Chronos wandered back to his room where he stood in front of a statue whose mouth held Kyle's hourglass. He rubbed out the death date on the plaque. He felt it was a good way to start a new century. He walked out of the room; the light fading as he went until the only thing left there was the sound of running sand in the darkness.
End of Story
Well I hope you enjoyed that. I dont know how long it will be before I put something new up. Thats down to my muse. Drop me a message if you want me to look at anything. TTFN.