A man disconnected from reality watches in silence as a young boy drowns at the beach. He is too preoccupied to intervene. His mind is distracted by the paranoid fears of what sinister creatures and machines are lurking beneath the sand.


I have a feeling the boy will die.

People are rushing around now he has stopped moving. People are listening now he has stopped shouting.

He was struggling and screaming before, but everyone assumed this was horseplay. I had a feeling he was going to sink.

And then he did.

Nobody shouted. I watched and waited for somebody to shout or run to help him, but nobody knew. He slipped beneath a gap in the waves and then the surfers slid over him, zipping the water shut as they went.

The sea swallowed the boy whole and sloshed him around in its mouth until all his taste was gone.

Then it spat him back up; finished with.

The way he slopped upon the sand, I think it ate his bones.

Nobody can say I saw him. I have my sunglasses on so you cannot see where I am looking or even if I am awake.

I was smiling; would you smile? Would anyone? Would I?

They cannot say I heard him. Nobody heard him.

I only smiled because I heard the insects.

A girl is wandering around with a shell to her ear; I think she knows. She can hear the sea inside that shell, so how can she have missed a boy drowning inside it?

I cannot have heard him. I was listening to the insects.

If you lie on the beach with your head flat to the sand, you can hear them. The insects beneath the sand have tunnels and shafts that go the whole length of the beach. You can hear them, thousands of them, scuttling beneath and chattering.

They take air and sand from above and repair the cave below where the waves collect, the same waves that spewed the boy onto the beach. When the sea reaches beyond the beach, it collects underneath in a vast cavern. Some that know, the children, the ones with the shells who listen for its sound, they can dig to it.

If you listen hard enough and make your hearing go deep enough, deeper than the insect shafts, then you can hear the waves far below. It is very hard to do and you have to tune yourself in, ignoring the children with the shells who are listening to you. But then it bursts through and you can hear the swirling sea in the cavern far below the beach where the waves collect as they wash beyond the beach.

I listen to the waves in the cave far below, but my eyes are still fixed upon the beach, not that anyone can know if I am awake or where my gaze rests.

Surfers continue to ride the futility of the white foam. They cling to waves in the vain hope that they might find the entrance to the cavern, but they never do. They never will. They are crashed back onto the beach; the lines of seaweed mark the border where none shall pass. They pluck up their boards and pluck up new courage and repeat the failed quest anew.

Surf’s up; never giving up.

But what if they did find a way in? There would be no one to hear their triumphant shout. They would simply rot among the shoals of lost fish and the insects would grow fat on a new taste.

And there is even more below the sand than this; there are things that are deeper still.


  • Paperback: 65 pages
  • Publication Date: 30 April 2013
  • Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers
  • ISBN-10: 1849633304
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849633307


The Marvel and Other Short Stories is a collected anthology of six short stories written by the winners of the Austin Macauley World Book Day short story competition. From fairies and long-lost family members to feral children and mermaids, this collection contains just enough to tease the imagination. All proceeds from sales will be donated to Comic Relief.