“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, September 9, 2002:
Woman in the Dunes
When I was a kid I was fascinated by ant lions. Those are the little bugs that dig pits in the fine, loose sand around the forgotten spots… maybe behind the garage or under the old tree.
They did these perfect conical traps, like a negative volcano, and wait hidden in the bottom ready to snap out with huge pincer jaws and gobble down their unfortunate meal. Dried husks sometimes litter the edges of their lair.
I’d watch an ant or gnat stumble down the slope, slide on the angle of repose, until the ant lion would attack, throwing bits of sand first to confuse and stun, then to grab and eat. I would take a piece of paper or index card and scoop up the sand, the entire area, and blow away the dust until I found the ant lion itself. It was a marvel of tiny death, all jaws and squat, powerful, flicking body.
I would always replace the insect unhurt and watch him begin to construct a new trap, digging the pit by bending and snapping his body – flicking bits of sand away.
I stopped by the video store and rented a Japanese film, Woman in the Dunes. I read the book (by Kobo Abe) decades ago. Actually, I rented the movie once before too, surprised to find in an otherwise pedestrian rental shop. It was a bad copy, though, so bad I could barely make out what was happening.
This time, it has been re-mastered and re-released, clear as a bell. The photography is stunning, incredible black, white, and gray images of sand and human bodies.
It tells the story of a lonely man, wandering the dunes of a forgotten province, looking for insects for his collection. Or maybe, his main purpose is to simply escape the bureaucracy, avoid the avalanche of paperwork, forms, and official stamps that flow across the movie’s credits.
At any rate, he bites off more than he can chew – ends up trapped with a widowed woman in a ramshackle house at the bottom of a wall of sand, trapped, forced to shovel to survive. There is sensuality in the sand, desperation, and resignation.
“Do you live to shovel, or shovel to live.”
And today’s flash fiction:
from Flash Frog