Sandcastles April 9th, 2018

Mr. Larson stood on the 17th fairway, staring sternly at the outrage constructed in the greenside bunker. He let out a deep red-faced puff. This would not do, he thought. The Ocean Vista Golf Links had some of the finest greens around. They prided themselves on their beautiful landscaping and exquisite ocean views. Mr. Larson had kept their fairways in immaculate condition for almost ten years now. Not a single blade of grass escaped the care of his scythe. Each one trimmed to absolute perfection.

He was fuming. He'd spent weeks last year carefully reseeding everything, after all that messy business when that dragon had come grazing. He'd finally cleared out that gnome infestation who'd settled inside the 11th hole. And now this. No, he thought. Not this time. Not on my watch.

He pulled a small dog-eared book from the pocket of his tweed jacket. The Compleat Guide To Fielde Wildelife, fifth edition. He flicked through the crumpled pages looking for guidance, pausing occasionally to moisten his thumb, until a familiar picture caught his eye, and he read the description underneath:

cancer castellum eximius, or The Superb Sande Crabb.

A natife of sandy shorelines, the Superbe Sand Crabb can be found most commonplace alonge the west coast. It maketh its dwelling amongest the sand, building small edifices in order to Impress and Attract A Female.

And there it was. The drawing in the book didn't nearly do justice to the example that stood before him. For in the middle of the sand bunker, stood an overly large and detailed sandcastle, perhaps three foot high. It had turrets, watchtowers, parapets, the full works. While the one in the book had a decorative seashell trim, this one had substituted with golf tees instead. A tiny moat even, bridged with an old discarded cigarette packet as a drawbridge. There may even, he thought as he inspected it, have been crenellations. Certainly things of a crennellish nature at least. He'd seen castles built down on the beach before, of course. He'd always just assumed the children built them. Well then. He closed the book sharply with a thud.

Taking a second to adjust his waistcoat, Mr. Larson scrambled his way down into the bunker and waded with difficulty through the sand, until he stood right next to the castle. He leaned forward, trying to get a good look inside.

Sure enough, in the middle of the keep, there was a small brown crab looking back up at him.

"Well now, my little fellow," he said to the crab. "Can't be having you here now, can we?"

The crab watched him warily. It raised itself up and angrily menaced its claws at him, trying to make its tiny legs look as threatening as possible.

"Now don't get all grumpy," said Mr. Larson as he straightened back up. "Let's see if we can't move you along."

He went looking in the rough and came back armed with a suitable poking stick. He leant over the castle battlements and tried to give the crab a prod. Twwaangggg!. A golf pencil launched into the air, arcing over the castle walls and stinging him sharply on the hand, causing him to drop the stick and step back.

"Ow!" he said as he shook his hand. He peered back over again. The crab was standing next to a small makeshift ballista, built from driftwood and strands of twisted seaweed. The crab waved its claws again.

"Fine!" exclaimed Mr. Larson, stamping his boot in anger. "If that's how you want to play it!"

He clambered back up out of the bunker and waved a thick grubby finger at the castle and its occupant.

"This won't do, you know!" he said, his cheeks turning a bright red color. "This won't do at all! This is a club for gentlemen! Not ruffians!"

He turned away and stormed furiously off to the groundsman's hut.

Nit stood guard in his castle. It was a good castle, he thought. He'd worked on it non-stop, from the very start of the darkening until the sun came back again. It was magnificent. It had an Ornate Cornice. It had Parapets. A castle of this splendor was sure to attract a good mate.

It had been a journey of much hardship. He'd trekked for what had seemed forever, lost in the grass wilderlands, until he'd found the shelter of the sandy haven. He'd gathered shells and things from far afield and brought them back here. He'd discovered the white dimpled boulders. He'd fought off the monstrous giant that had tried to steal his castle. And he had won. And he was the Best Crab.

He looked out over the battlements he had built. This castle was mine, thought Nit. This sandy pleasant land. This sculpted isle, set in the green sea. From nothing but lowly grains of sand he had formed himself a fortress fit for a king. And a queen, no doubt. He wouldn't have to wait long. Soon a passing lady would see what he had built, and she would realize he was the Best Crab. And perhaps she would come inside to look, and he would show her around the castle. And she would be impressed.

He had the Best Castle and he was the best.

Nit scuttled up to the top of the gatehouse. The wind carried the smell of the sea air over the lands. His lands. But far out across the sand, a movement caught his eye. Something approached. He raised his eyes to get a better look. The distant blur was hard to make out, but he recognized the silhouette.

It was another crab. Had it finally worked? My queen, he thought. My queen approaches.

He turned and inched down along the sandy ramps until he reached the ground, each step spilling tiny rivers of sand down to the floor. He sidled his way across the courtyard until he reached the drawbridge, where he would await his guest.

But something wasn't right. As the lady approached, he began to get a clearer view. And then he realized the horrible truth.

This was no lady. This was an invader. A thief. A blaggard. Another would-be suitor was encroaching on his lands.

This crab would steal his castle, he realized. He would invade, and take my castle from me.

No, thought Nit. No castle of mine will be lost this day. He turned and made haste back towards the battlements. It was time for war.

Dut stared up at the mighty castle. It dominated the surrounding landscape, towering high above him. He'd never seen anything as impressive before in his whole life. He looked through the gateway. There didn't seem to be anyone inside. He cautiously shuffled his way across the bunker, stopping once he arrived at the splendid drawbridge.

The castle seemed empty. Perhaps the owner had gone looking for more seashells, thought Dut, as he studied the decorations that adorned the entranceway. Then an idea struck him:

This is the Best Castle, he thought. If I had a castle like this, I would be the Best Crab and attract the Best Lady.

I could steal this castle, he thought, and it would be mine.

Dut inched his way forward. The drawbridge was still down. He shuffled across and entered through the gatehouse.

Suddenly, there was a ponk! and he felt an immense sting on his back. From high above, a barrage of pebbles rained down from holes in the gatehouse ceiling. Dut was forced flat against the floor, pulling his legs in tight as he waited out the onslaught. The impact of each pebble was almost unbearable, but he held his ground.

The pebbles ceased, leaving only the faint sound of sand trickling down from above. He cautiously unfolded himself from under his shell, and looked up at the other crab that was peering back down through the murder holes. Is that all you've got, he thought? Mere pebbles will not stop me, for I am the Best Warrior.

He started forwards again, but his celebration was short-lived. A movement in the shadows made him look up again, just in time to see the giant dimpled boulder plummeting down towards him.

The golf ball caught Dut smack on the head with a loud crack. His whole world suddenly turned black, then purple and green. He staggered backwards, reeling in shock. His head pulsed with agony, and he felt his legs go from under him. He slid sideways off the drawbridge and tumbled uncontrollably into the moat.

The blackness closed in around his vision. It was as if the darkening had come early. He struggled to turn himself over, but his legs failed to find footing. His body sank down to the sandy floor, and his hopes with it. He lay still on the bottom, waiting for the world to stop spinning. After a while it passed, and he wriggled around until he was able to flip himself over.

Dut dragged himself up out of the moat, still groggy from his encounter. His vision was returning, and though indistinct he could make out the other crab high up on the battlements, waving its claws in victory.

The other crab was the Best Crab, he thought, and I have failed. He slunk off across the fairway with, as it were, his tail between his legs.

Nit watched him go from high up on the gatehouse walls. He shook his claws in the air once more, just to rub it in. My castle will not be taken, he thought. For I am the Best Crab.

Dut crawled his way through the rough, leaving the castle far behind him. I have been shamed, he thought. The other crab has defeated me in battle, I have no castle, and I am an Unworthy Crab.

He pushed the blades of grass aside as he skulked around in the rough. It's fine, he thought. I didn't want it anyway. He'd find his own sandy paradise. He'd build a better castle. One with a flag. He'd seen the impressive flags the giants used. Maybe he could steal one.

He thought ahead to the work it would take, and his heart sank even lower. He'd never been much good at castle building. He'd always been a fighter. I should have stayed on the beach, he thought. He'd never meant to stray into the endless green forest. There didn't seem any hope of getting back there now. Dut kicked a small ant off its leaf of out spite, and trudged aimlessly forward.

The rough grass opened up onto a patch of clear fairway. Dut stopped suddenly when he say what lay in front of him. The answer to his prayers. The solution. The morning sun glinted from its corners, highlighting the towering beauty that reached into the sky.

The giants had left some sort of war machine behind. On the grass ahead, stood a colossal red siege tower, mounted on wheels and reaching easily as high as the castle itself. Dut's gaze followed it all the way up to the top, and a new idea ripped through his mind like fire.

I could use this weapon, he thought. I could return to take the castle once more, and be victorious. And I would win, and be the Best Crab Once More.

Dut positioned himself beneath the wheel of the siege tower, and with a mighty heave he pushed. Slowly, with a creak, it began to roll forward.

Mr. Larson ambled across the fairway, a large metal bucket in one hand and a spade in the other. Right, he thought. Let's sort this out now before the guests start arriving. The Ocean Vista Golf Links was not some kind of playground. And certainly not the place for--he shuddered at the thought--sexual activities. No matter the species. The club rules were quite clear.

A movement ahead caught his eye. Up by the bunker, a bright red golf bag seemed to be slowly wheeling itself along across the fairway. He stopped briefly to raise his hand to his eyes, while he squinted to see what was happening. There was something possibly...crablike... at the base of it. His mouth dropped open in shock.

"Come back 'ere with that!" he shouted as he ran to stop it. "That's a Hodgekiss 400, that is! Gold members only!" He bumbled his way forward, causing his hat to fall off which he then had to go back for. The runaway golf bag continued its slow march, paying no attention to his calls.

He stopped to catch his breath, his face bright purple from over-exertion. The spade provided support while he regained himself. A line had been crossed, thought Mr. Larson. The club would not tolerate this. And nor would he. He picked up his spade again and forged ahead once more, a burning rage within himself. One does not flout the rules of the club. This menace had to be stopped.

Nit watched as the siege tower approached. A twinge of fear ran down his spine. This is it, he thought. This is the final test. He dropped back down to the floor and readied for battle.

The golf bag came crashing against the castle wall, breaching a massive hole and throwing sand everywhere. Nit was ready on the battlements. The bag had sliced a chasm through the top half of the eastern defenses, forming a bridge over the moat and into the courtyard. He positioned himself next to the breach, and heaved another golf ball in preparation.

Dut began the climb up the side of his siege tower. It was a steep slope, and the strange red ground gave little grip, but he pressed ahead. As he reached the halfway point, he saw his nemesis peering back from the top. Not this time, he thought. I will fight you and I will win.

A dimpled boulder appeared at the top of the slope. But this time Dut was ready. As the golf ball tumbled down the bag, Dut managed to step sideways out of the way and let it roll past. It bounced off a buckle and landed in the moat below with a small plop.

Nit turned around to ready his final boulder, but it was too late. Dut came leaping over the wall and landed right on him, sending them both hurtling off the battlements. They tumbled together through the air and fell down to the castle's sandy floor.

They landed with a soft flump sound. Nit tumbled over again and regained his footing, while Dut landed hard on his back. As Nit turned to face his enemy, Dut righted himself and moved into position.

The battle was fierce. The forces of good and evil struggled together in mortal deadlock. They snapped at each other with their claws. They circled around, each trying to get a better angle on the other.

This castle will not fall, thought Nit. I am the Best Crab. He could see Dut was strong. Perhaps too strong. He kept circling, waiting for the moment to strike, waiting for a window of opportunity to open up. Dut made a grab, but Nit dodged it, and went right back with a counter attack. He pushed himself forward with all his bodyweight.

But his attack failed. Dut pushed his claw up from underneath and got leverage on him. Nit went tumbling backwards and landed prone on the sand, his soft underbelly exposed.

Dut felt a fire inside him. I have won, he thought. He raised his claw, ready to inflict the victory blow and sink a deep wound right through the rival's weak heart. Nit stared back at him, frozen in terror. Time seemed to stop for a moment, and it seemed like he couldn't move at all. But a strange shadow formed above them both, and the world grew increasingly darker. Nit glanced up as the sky turned a darkest shade of black.

Mr. Larson brought the spade down hard. Nit watched as Dut took the full blow, his claw ripped straight from his body and his shell crushed. Both spade and sand were flying everywhere in fury, and the last thing Nit saw was the northern defenses crumble and fall, before the world went dark as he felt himself buried under the rubble.

Mr. Larson lifted the spade and drove it down again like a sledgehammer. "Aha!" he shouted. "Let's see how you like it!"

Dut tried to stand again with his last ounce of strength, but the giant struck once more with its final blow, sending shell fragments whirling afar. Dut was dead.

Mr. Larson stood panting, barely holding onto his spade. Well, he thought, that should do it. The castle was completely flattened, leaving just a messy pile in the middle of the bunker. He pulled the bucket over and started scraping the debris into it. Bits of dead crab, seashells, the empty cigarette packet, all mixed in as a sandy pile of rubble. The remnants of a once proud empire.

"No more castles for you, Sonny Jim." he said. He clambered back out of the bunker, and went to dump the mess back behind the nearby dunes.

Nit awoke and dug his way up to the surface. The bones of his enemy lay scattered around him. But there was no victory to be celebrated this day, no tales to be told.

My empire, he thought. My castle. My Queen. All gone.

Nit stumbled around the strange dungeon he found himself in. The giant had trapped him here, surrounded by these cold metal walls. He gingerly tried to climb them, but the slopes were too smooth and he fell back down.

I will die here, he thought. This giant's prison will be my tomb. He settled back down on the rubble and closed his eyes. The war was over. The kingdom had fallen.

Mr. Larson tipped the bucket upside-down and emptied it out onto the beach. "There we go," he said to himself. "That's that sorted out." He left and went back to rake the bunker. The guests were already starting to play on the 1st tee. He had just enough time to get it all leveled back out again. And after that, he thought, perhaps a moment for a nice cup of tea. He whistled happily to himself as he walked away.

Nit pulled himself from the debris and tumbled down the slope of loose sand. He lay flat and motionless, not even trying to lift himself up. He had no strength remaining, no energy left inside himself. Tatters of his empire lay crumbled around him. What future was there now, he thought, when everything was lost?

Nit watched the giant leave. A feeling of hopelessness pulled him ever further down. The giant has won, he thought. He is the Best Giant, and I am an Unworthy Crab. He started to dig a small hole to hide himself in.

As he dug though, he saw something down by the waterline. A distant crab-like shape. He stopped to look, wondering who this new onlooker might be, no doubt come to revel in his defeat.

The other crab came a little closer, taking a cautious zigzag route slowly up the beach. It was a lady. A lady crab, of the most stunning beauty he'd ever seen. She studied him from afar with mild curiosity. She seemed intrigued by all the golf tees and shells that lay scattered around him.

Nit gave a heavy sigh. My Queen, he thought. My Queen is here.

He felt a little strength return to him. A lady this fine would require the Best Castle, he thought. The hole could wait; there was work to be done. He scouted around the beach to find a good spot, where the sand had just the right consistency. With care he selected a suitable seashell, a strong one with a big scoop area. Nearby, the waves washed up and receded back again. The dune grass rustled as the wind blew the salt air inland. In the background the giants began to launch boulders into the sky once more, and slowly, as the other crab shyly watched, Nit began to build a new castle.

Written by Richard Mitton,

software engineer and travelling wizard.

Follow me on twitter: