The next prompt is “sand”. Geri already wrote hers, then she had an idea that was more up my alley, and she sent the seed to me!

I need a few people to read this and see if it makes sense… I shortened it, and I don’t know if I left out too much. This story is unrelated to any others, although fans of Frank Herbert will recognize the names! Bonus points to an commenter who can tell how many will “go” the next week…

Number Eleven     By AmyBeth Inverness

Grandpa was a miner.

He helped settle this planet; a lifeless world with a suitable atmosphere conveniently located close enough to several ore and mineral sources.  Terraforming Herbert’s World made it possible for miners like Grandpa to have a family. He’d spend a few weeks out in the field, chasing his fortune in the airless void, then he’d have a week or two to spend with the wife and kids at home.

We don’t have giant worms, but there is plenty of desert. Sand and rocks and not much else. There are only two oases; named Arakeen and Caladan by the same science fiction fans who named the planet.  Creating those two livable spaces was a major investment on the behalf of the mining co-op, but it paid off in the end.

In my father’s day, Arrakeen and Caladan grew by leaps and bounds, slowly but surely conquering the invasive sand. But about ten years ago, we seemed to come to a standstill. The desert pushed in; we pushed out again. We thought we were making such great progress, turning the lifeless hunk of rock into a slice of paradise…

Then a couple years ago the desert started winning. Most people say it’s normal, the natural cycles a planet goes through. Others say that the oases are big enough, and instead of expanding them farther, we should start a new one.

That’s why I’m out here, me and a dog named Rover in a rover named Dawg. It’s my job to scout the best location.

Rover is good company. Mostly, he just listens to me ramble, and he never complains about my singing. He even chimes in from time to time. Mom wanted me to take at least one other surveyor with me, after what’s been happening, but I really don’t have the time nor the inclination to take on a partner.

No one was surprised when crazy Maud walked off into the desert and got herself lost. A couple more went missing the next month. But a few weeks later, three people disappeared in one day, and that raised some eyebrows. The next week, it was five, and last week seven people managed to vanish without a trace.

If you ask me, that’s good reason to get out of the city for a while! If there’s some deranged lunatic lopping off heads or something, I’ll take the dunes anytime! The sand likes me. People don’t.

I’ve found what I’m pretty sure will be a good location for the new city. Bedrock that frequently pierces the desert surface, just far enough from Arrakeen and Caladan to be self-sufficient, but close enough for commerce and social interaction.

The radio has confirmed my choice of companions for the day. After several days of peace and quiet (albeit the random drunken brawl; that just happens) ten more people went missing today. I’m glad I’m out here with Rover, and not back in the city. I’m looking forward to moving out here.

I drive Dawg out into a shady spot in the lee of one of the larger rock formations. Rover starts barking his head off at something, I’ve no idea what. The only thing that moves is the wind. Somewhere around here I left a data miner; a device to record temperature fluctuations and such. The lee of the stone is a dead space for communications, and it’s part of my job to find out why.

I find it in a deep depression, which is weird because it was perfectly flat sand when I was here the other day. I can understand sand blowing up against it and creating a dune, but a depression? It’s like the sand is trying to eat it!

Rover growls and races around the edge of the hole as I skim my way down.

The miner won’t budge, even after five minutes of shaking and finding just the right leverage. It’s like the sand at the bottom magically turned itself to cement.

…and now my feet won’t budge. I’ve never been so happy for loose shoelaces, and I’m able to pull myself halfway out of the hole before I get bogged down again.

“Home!” I bark at Rover. “Go home!” He looks at me funny, but he runs off in the direction of Arrakeen. He may be slobbery, but he’s well trained. I just hope he can get help before I become number eleven.

By popular demand, I did continue this story. You can read Sand: Prime here.

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