Monday, May 16, 2011


Since the Emerging Writers Network calls May the National Short Story Month, I found one of my favorite Stephen King stories online. It's called Beachworld and is in the collection Skeleton Crew.

The premise is simple - a spaceship crashes on a deserted planet. Literally "deserted" - the planet's surface is completely covered with sand.

It was a beach in no need of an ocean—it was its own ocean, a sculpted sea of sand.

I love monoculture worlds like the one in Sheri S. Tepper's Grass, and the beginning is just like those Ray Bradbury stories where a spaceship lands on a planet that seems welcoming or innocuous at first ("The City", "Mars is Heaven", etc). This particular world has no water at all, but that's the least of the two survivors' problems. One of them starts to go insane, and remains outside the ship, staring out over the endless sand.

“One hell of a big beach. Something like this could go on forever. You could walk a hundred miles with your surfboard under your arm and still be where you started, almost, with nothing behind you but six or seven footprints. And if you stood in the same place for five minutes, the last six or seven would be gone, too.”

The other survivor tries to repair the emergency beacon. That's when he finds the sand is everywhere - it seeps into the ship despite closed doors and seals, getting into the machines to seize them up. Or perhaps just to seize the entire ship, to drag it down into the soft shifting depths of the planet.

I would never have thought that something as simple as sand could be frightening, but in this story it's a constant presence that can't be held off or reasoned with. And the effects it has - both physical and mental - on the two survivors is terrifying.

Enjoy it. :)

Image from :


Loren said...

Interesting premise, though I suspect that such a planet would have no oxygen in its atmosphere -- no plants.

Our Solar System has a planet that's something like that: Mars. Its surface is much more rocky, however. But it gets big dust storms every now and then.

This reminds me of when I tried imagining what it would be like to visit past geological eras here on Earth.

Marian Perera said...

True. What if there once were plants (producing oxygen) but the sentient sand gradually killed them all?