The Dust Devils - Cover

The Dust Devils

by normist

Copyright© 2015 by normist

Science Fiction Story: This little offering is intended to be part of the opening chapter in the forth volume of the Bill Axon tales. I am posting now because I have been reposting a revised and corrected version of 'Per Ardua Ad Astra'. I would ask that you please read the new version and review it, either through the Finestories review system or send to me in via a feedback comment. Thank you.

Tags: Humor   Space   Near Future  

Bill Axon cursed the weather for the umpteenth time that morning. He was somewhere near the canyon he intended to explore, and now he could hardly see his hand in front of his face. Visibility had been good when he started out. The walk had been pleasant when he left with his large specimen satchel draped over his shoulders. The weather had only deteriorated after he had reached the top of the hill. He had been parked the other side of the hill that was now behind him.

Bill was taking a break on his own while his Bride was engaged on a university tour. It was the first occasion that they had been apart for any length of time since they had been married, and Bill was feeling slightly lost. Over breakfast, he had considered what he would do this morning. On his way in he had noticed a branch of the canyon which had a climbable slope. Elsewhere, the sides were sheer.

There had been something about that canyon which puzzled him as he passed it on his way in. For some reason that he could not understand, he felt an irresistible attraction which was now pulling him through the murk of the dust storm.

He paused as he thought he saw someone approaching. The figure appeared to glide towards him with arms outstretched. As it got closer, he laughed at himself for letting his overactive imagination get the better of him. The figure proved to be a dust devil, and as it whirled past him, he felt it tug him to his left.

For a moment, the view cleared and he was shocked to see the edge of the canyon and its three hundred foot drop only five feet in front of him. He turned to his left and headed slightly away from the edge so that he could reach the canyon entrance. Two more dust devils swirled passed him on either side, seeming to hug him as they did so.

Another hundred yards further on and the ground dipped slightly at the canyon entrance he sought, broadened out at its top. He turned right to follow the slope, walking cautiously as the slope steepened. Bill slowed as dust and pebbles jumped out from under his feet and rolled down the slope in a minor landslide.

Suddenly his left foot shot out from under him and he fell backward sitting on the shifting pebbles. He slid for almost ten yards before one of his feet caught in a well embedded rock, bringing him to a sudden halt. That was nasty, he thought.

He sat for a moment, examining the remaining hundred feet or so of the descent, and considered how to tackle it. At last, he got up and carefully putting one foot in front of the other made slow progress down the slope. There were more patches of loose shale and sand which he mainly managed to avoid. Where these could not be avoided, he proceeded with considerable caution.

At last, he reached the bottom of the canyon and stood for a moment wondering which way to go. The wind was less down here and there were fewer dust devils. They seemed smaller too. One of them must have been in a rough updraft for a part of was flailing of the main swirl giving the effect that the devil was beckoning him.

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