The Last Grain of Sand

Part One:

The Last Grain of Sand

hourglass 2The room was dimly lit by sunlight that for the moment was partly hidden behind clouds which had, only moments earlier, begun to race in from the northwest. An hourglass sat atop the table, the sand within it moving soundlessly from top half to bottom half, piling there in a slithering slope of gray. I watched intently, as the sand seemed to roll from the tiny hill in slow motion, and wondered how many grains of sand the hourglass might contain.

The hill of sand shifted and then, as if summonsed by the sudden movement, the sun found a break in the clouds and flashed through the window to my right, turning the pile of sand a startling white, and causing the gold pillars surrounding the glass to radiate brilliantly.  Suddenly there seemed to be more to the apparatus than merely a means of telling of time.

I saw it as a guide by which life might once have been measured; power and wealth the standards by which it was able to stand; the fragile glass held tightly in the grasp of the sturdy structure. The grains of sand were all the lives that touched one another as they moved within the boundaries of the solid columns and flowed through the narrow passage in the glass. Trapped, yet able to mingle, and touch, and… that was all.

The grains of sand had no say in their journey, and yet they were a part of something. I wondered what might be the real purpose to their travels; was it simply to show the watcher—the builder—the passage of time? Was it so important He know what was left of each hour? At some point, could he—would he—decide not to turn the hourglass.

The last grain of sand dropped through the passageway, and I turned the hourglass over. As I placed it back onto the table I noticed something I’d not noticed before; it was casting a shadow across the table. The sunlight coming through the window was the cause, and I saw a whole new world in the shadow; a world in which grains of sand flowing through a tiny opening had new meaning. The hourglass and the millions of tiny particles of sand were only players in a much larger production. My mind whirled, as I tried to grasp the larger meaning.

As if sensing my excitement and fearing I might discover the secret of time, the sun ducked behind another cloud—a dark cloud—and I could no longer see the sands flowing. I listened, thinking perhaps in the near darkness, I might hear them. I heard nothing.

I looked down at the luminescent glow of the hands on the expensive watch I’d taken from a bloated body that morning, and realized I’d wasted the better part of two hours staring at sand. Pushing myself away from the table, I laid the hourglass on its side then left the empty shop. Outside, a steady rain had begun to fall.

The streets were empty, and the realization I was totally alone seemed driven home by the acrid smell of the rain. I gagged on the odor, spit blood onto the broken sidewalk then moved around the pile of bodies at the curb and walked between the abandoned cars that littered the street. I cast no shadow.

The taste of sour blood—my own—was thick on my tongue. I felt weak—I’d grown weaker with each passing day—and the thought came suddenly to mind that perhaps I might be the last grain of sand… and I was about to fall. (To read the continuation of this story, click here —> Hope )

Part two: Hope

Part three: Like a Fairy Tale

Part four: Then There Were Three

Part five: Cinnamon

Part six: L. Aliens in the Morning

Part seven: Dearest Wife

Part eight: Dearest John

Part nine: L. Angel

Part ten: The Books

Part eleven: Play Money

( Image Credit: ) Hourglass


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    Oh, my! I didn’t see that coming!! Good story with quite a punch!!

  2. Gigi Ann said

    Hang in there, the sun will come out tomorrow, and it will be a new day.

    • Oh, good golly, Ann! This is a pure work of fiction; the product of an over active imagination! I am, in fact, hanging in there quite well!
      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  3. Becky said

    Sour blood — the last grain of sand — well played my friend, well played!

  4. terri0729 said

    I loved the zinger you put in there Charlie! Great one!! God Bless you and yours, Terri

  5. elegant ending,

    your observation of the hourglass, time is deep and beautiful.


    Happy Thanksgiving today.
    I am thankful for all you do to the communities of poets and writers ..

  6. talented writing, well done.

  7. Chimnese said

    Wow such a profound take on the prompt I was reading this tale so intently to capture the realness behind it sumtin we sometimes take for granted, that knowing many decades,centuries ago the hourglass was how time was measured and the second is this that sometimes we waste precious moments of our lives.

  8. This is just amazing. I took a similar slant to you but approached it a different way. Have to say I prefer your way! A most enjoyable and thought provoking read for which I thank you.

  9. kez said

    Interesting and great twist at the end ….loved it thank you x

  10. Morning said

    creative story,

    excellent plot, thanks for sharing.


  11. Enjoyed your entry. I thought the most powerful was when you laid the hourglass on it’s side. For I too would have chose to do the same. Nice job!

    • I agree, the laying of the hourglass on its side is a provocative move by the character. Time no longer matters?
      Thanks very much for the great comments!

  12. mish said

    This is deep … and such a multi-layered tale…
    You delivered an unexpected & powerful slam at the end!
    You’re right – it’s very good! You should really consider extending this piece into a story… I get the nagging feeling that your MC has a significant story that is waiting to unfold…

    • I agree, Mish. Upon finishing the piece, I immediately thought it needed to continue. I will see what comes of it. Typically when a story or poem gets in my head, it won’t leave me alone until it is written.
      Thank you for the wonderful comments! They are very much appreciated!

  13. Guilie said

    Very powerful–you had me completely. Here I was thinking it’s a nice introspective story, an evaluation of a life, yadda yadda… And then bam! You don’t pull your punches, do you? Excellent ending, wonderful twist. Yes, I like dark 🙂

    • Thanks, Guillie! I’m glad you enjoyed this one! Here’s another one I just posted on Kellie Elmore’s blog for her Free Write Friday: Inseparable

  14. Elizena R Arellano said

    This was a bit dark and intense. While I read I tried looking beyond the darkness and into the sand to see if I might be able to understand time better and for just a second I thought I’d grasped it.
    I love it when I’m able to be drawn into a story or a poem, no matter how sad or exciting it might be. I actually felt like I was sitting there in the room with that character thinking his thoughts in the darkness. You drew me in and made me part of your story.

    • Thank you for the wonderful comments. I’m glad I could make you feel what was happening in the story.

  15. emanita01 said

    Wow, you had every bit of my attention here! The end hit me between th eyes and left me wanting more! Nice job of writing 😀

    PS: I too, once took a wonderful photo prompt down into a darker than expected place:

    Oh, and if I may did you mean to type “their notvs “they’re not” in your intro?

    Thanks for sharing 😀

    • Thank you for the great comments, Emanita!
      And thank you VERY much for pointing out the their/they’re error. I try to proofread these carefully, bu those little sneaky ones get me every time! I really appreciate the heads-up on it!

  16. This prompt beckoned a darker side. I think it was the hourglass; shocking us into the passing of time. I posted this one below for 3 challenges due to holiday time limitations. You may have seen it already.
    Good job on the prompt and … yes … you did leave room at the end for a coninuations. Smart little thinker …!!!
    Well done,

  17. thingy said

    Whoa. Great story with a whopper ending. Well done. : )

  18. Nicely done…makes me wonder if you were not inside the hourglass having an out of body experience…my mind can take me all sorts of directions with this one 🙂

    • Good thought, though not the case. But then, you never know. Sometimes, I think I know where a story is headed, and when I get to the end, I’m as surprised as anyone!
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Susie!

  19. Bodhirose said

    Wow–heavy! No, I didn’t see that end coming either–that’s what makes your story so good, Charles. Excellent job on that prompt!

  20. Elizabeth said

    All I can say is WOW! Actually, there’s more I can say…like FABULOUS, SHOCKING, ELEGANT, SPOOKY, and BRILLIANT! Great tale, Charles. Worthy of Poe himself!

    • Wow! I love wows! Thank you for this awesome comment, Elizabeth! I needed a pick-me-up this afternoon, and this certainly does the job! I’ve never recieved a comment quite like this one! I love WOWs! And all those other words are great too!

  21. Wait a second… **scurries through blog, looking for part 2**…
    Aw, you can’t leave us hanging! What happens next.???? 🙂

    Excellent twist at the end…though, I was hoping it wasn’t the end….

    • Funny you should ask. The continuation of that little story was just completed by yours truly, and will be posted on the blog tomorrow morning, in response to Bluebell Books’ Short Story Slam for this week. Look for it!

  22. dswan2 said

    Wow. That is spooky! The reader is almost mesmerized by the description of sand through the hourglass, then the punch comes. If my eyes weren’t so blurry I’d read the rest of it!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Donna. Maybe you can read the second installment tomorrow! I’m hoping Bluebell gives me a prompt I can continue the story with this week!
      Thanks for the visit and read!

  23. bijaylaxmi said

    Sir, my first read of your story…… I am totally lost in your magical world of profound toughts……..

  24. Mikael said

    Can you say intrigued? Because I certainly can… Can’t wait to see more!
    Must say my favorite part is this: “The grains of sand were all the lives that touched one another as they moved within the boundaries of the solid columns and flowed through the narrow passage in the glass. Trapped, yet able to mingle, and touch, and… that was all.” ❤

    • I’m glad you like part one, Mikael! When I wrote it, I had no idea I was going to continue the story. It just got into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone!

  25. Evangeline Warren said

    Great job! Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I was out of the country with no internet access (YIKES!).

    The sand was a well-executed unifying theme. This story was really wonderful!

    Is it silly of me to say that ‘acrid’ is one of my favorite words? All to often, it is lumped with the other fantastic words that are under appreciated. So, props for using it.

    I’m off to read more! I can’t wait to see what you have!

    All the best,

    • No Internet access?? Were you in a cave? Climbing Everest? Scuba diving? My goodness, I didn’t think there was anywhere you could not access the Internet these days!
      Thank you for your kind comments. I do hope you’ll read the rest of the story, but I know it’s gotten rather long. Most of us don’t have time to read much these days. Except, of course, guys like me who read 1-2 books a week, and a hundred or so poems and stories.
      Your visit is very much appreciated!

      • Evangeline Warren said

        There was minimal access, it just didn’t seem to like my mac very much. I’ll try to get through all of the other parts, but it may take a while as I’m going out of the country again next week to a place sans internet… Perhaps I should pre-load the pages…

      • Print it out! The story would make good reading while your out and about. Then you could follow along if you like it.
        Thanks for dropping by again!

  26. Kirsten said

    Pulled me right in, Charles! My favorite part is when the hourglass was laid down on its side. Like you said in an earlier comment, “Time doesn’t exist?” Or does it mean that for the character time only exists in the moments when the hourglass is being studied? Or does it mean that the character wants time to stand still in this exact moment? Or does the character want to return to the exact moment in time to experience the same sensations? So many different ponderings running through my mind 🙂
    Clever and well written my friend!

    • Yes! When I wrote this it was simply a take on the prompt. I have always been fascinated by the concept of time, and did a little rambling study of it in this short piece. I had no idea it would blossom into a possible novel!
      Thanks for reading, and thanks for the thought-filled comment!

  27. […] the way, if  you enjoy reading, you might want to check out my story, The Last Grain of Sand. It’s actually a novel in progress that I hope to finish one of these […]

  28. Reblogged this on Marbles In My Pocket ~ The Official Blog of Charles L. Mashburn ~ Poems, Short Stories, and random thoughts from the author of "Be Still… and know that I am God" and commented:

    There are times when time seems to stand still, and others when it seems to move much too fast. It does neither.

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