Winds stirred out of the east, whipping up sand and debris into a colossal gale. Throughout the night, the gale shrieked and the sand-clouds billowed, razored particles darting through the hide of any creature unfortunate enough to be caught in its wake.
Half buried under a dune lay a hut. Inside sat an old man, aged beyond any count of years. Countless times he had heard the squall gasp past his abode, just as he had heard dark whispers from other sources as well. It was all the same to him; an endless cycle of day and night, punctuated by weather but never changing. No, whatever was happening outside did not interest him. Only that which lay under his floorboards.
It was three years ago that he first became aware of the scent. Sweet, fresh, yet leaving a sickly impression, it wafted into his hut from some unknown oasis. It could not have been near, yet it smelt so close that he knew he must be living on top of it. For three years he had been digging, a little every day for he was old and feeble. Beneath the rotted wood of his hut the tunnel now reached for many hundreds of feet, through the sand, earth, and stone, filling now with the smell that grew stronger each day.
Sand and small rocks sprang against the side of the hut, which shivered in the bracing wind. The old man didn’t care. He sniffed eagerly, then, getting up to grab a crude pickaxe, descended into the tunnel. Forward the scent lead him, right until the wall of earth and stone arrested his travel. Here the odor was strongest, with a sweetness to melt the heart of any fair maiden masking the bitter stench of decay.
Trembling with age, he raised the pickaxe again and again, bringing it to bear against his enemy. Mockingly, the wall withstood every blow, letting loose only a few clods of dirt or pebbles. Fiercer now the old man pried away, struggling mightily against the barrier. A glint appeared in his eye as remembered youth kindled by the enthralling scent lent renewed strength to his blow.
Finally, a hole appeared, heralding an end to his efforts. A dim light shone through from the other side, flooding the old man’s already wet eyes with tears. Exhausted, yet unbeaten, he tore down the wall around the hole, finally making it large enough to step through. Here the sickliness of the scent was overwhelming, but never entirely overcoming that haunting, beautiful smell. With his last ounce of strength, he lept through to the other side.
Many years later, in a hut half buried beneath a dune, a corpse of a man was found sitting in a chair, the hands grasping the metal head of a crude pickaxe, the end of which was buried in his heart.