Prime by AmyBeth Inverness
I pound my fist into the yielding sand, one powerful blow of frustration. Is this was happened to Maud? I pound twice, angry and scared.
I pound my fist three more times. And Elod, Erno, and Ince? Did they face the same fate?
I can’t remember the names of the five you disappeared next, but I pound my fist five times anyway.
The sand lets go.
I scramble backwards, but it grabs me again. But somehow it seems like a tentative grip, expectant…
What had I done to make it release me the last time?
I wail away with my fists, and the sand grabs me even tighter, almost cutting off my circulation, so I stop.
I think of Maud again, and pat the sand once, firmly. It vibrates expectantly.
Then again, twice.
I think of Elod, Erno, and Ince, patting the sand thrice firmly. It loosens, but does not let go.
I pat the sand five times, pause, then seven… the last disappearance was seven people, right?
The sand almost lets go as I pat it ten more times. Didn’t the radio say ten people went missing just today? The sand quivers expectantly, but then begins to gently tighten again.
Walter Tango Foxtrot? What did I do wrong? Should be it eleven? Should I count my own near abduction?
I begin again. One pat. Two. Three. Five. Seven. Eleven… and then it hits me. I tap thirteen times and the sand lets go completely.
I make it out of the pit, but the sand grabs me again when I’m safely out of the depression. It gently releases one foot while holding fast to the other, and then it switches and lets me adjust the other foot. It’s like the sand wants me to be comfortable, but it doesn’t want to let me go.
I start the pattern again, wishing I was better at math. Prime numbers; one,two, three, five, seven, eleven, thirteen, seventeen. The sand does a little dance, pleased, but it does not let go.
I decide I’m better off restarting the pattern each time. I don’t want the sand to get frustrated with my performance and suck me back in. I go up to nineteen, wait for the happy sand dance, then go up to twenty-one.
Oops… twenty-one isn’t a prime… quick… um… twenty-three.
The sand is percolating. It is distinctly different from the happy dance. I’m actually sinking a bit, like a raft caught in a sudden rush of bubbles. I restart the pattern quickly, ending at twenty-three, and the sand freezes, expectant. I start the pattern yet again, ending at twenty-seven. Help had better come soon. Math is not my forte.
I really hope twenty-nine is a prime number. I get the happy sand dance again, so it must be. I make my next series of thumps long and drawn out, giving myself time to think. I don’t want to lose track. I don’t want to start sinking again.
The thirties aren’t too bad, but the forties challenge me, and I make several mistakes in the fifties and can’t find a way to apologize for my mistakes. When I took tests in school and I got frustrated, I’d just give up. It’s not like it really mattered if I passed. I’ve never been faced with a life or death math test before.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, I sink when I mess up, but rise again when I figure it out and correct myself. I sweat in the heat, and at the thought of what to do when I pass 100.
The sound of a flier in the distance makes my heart leap, but the sand is agitated. I panic as I sink a whole meter suddenly, but instead of being covered in sand, I’m sitting in a newly formed depression.
The flier finds me, throws me a line, and pulls me up.
Rovers barks furiously the whole time.
I’ve never been so happy to be so slobbered.
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