“Professor, I’m getting a really strange reading right here. The instruments must be malfunctioning.”
“There shouldn’t be any problems. I just recalibrated this last night.”
For ten, long, hot days Doctor Alexander Night and six incredibly resilient student volunteers had been climbing the 400-foot sand dunes of Death Valley, California. The blistering sun and violent wind were the only added encouragement as the group clumsily slid down the hill precariously protecting the fragile instruments used to record their findings.
For decades, scientists studying the sonic phenomenon had dismissed the cello-like music that resonated from the dunes as mere friction. Not Dr. Night. He was determined to solve the mystery behind the musical dunes.
The conditions over the past days had been ideal for capturing the eerie, yet beautiful tones of the mysterious singing dunes. Not that it mattered, for if anything was a constant in Alexander’s life, it was his attraction to bad luck. Every day it was something else. A broken microphone, a shattered laptop screen. Hell, someone had even eaten the best part of his lunch the other day. His patience with this study was running thin, his budget was running out. Not only had he sunk every last penny of his own money into this venture, but he had scavenged every grant and called in every favor. On campus, Professor Alex Night was becoming a laughing stock, and he was close to losing his teaching position and his credibility.
As he readjusted the broken recording device for the thousandth time, he couldn’t help but think he was wasting his time, his money, and his expensive education. It’s just that he was so close, a mere calculation away from uncovering a phenomenon that Charles Darwin himself had found interesting enough to document. In truth, the professor was no nearer to cracking this mystery as were the scientists who had come before him.
Mindy, a small, sweet girl with innocent sky-blue eyes and an IQ verging on genius hung her head as she approached her mentor with yet another broken piece of equipment. Smart as she was, she was still a young woman ruled by hormones. Though she would never admit it, she had only signed up for this hellish internship because she had a major crush on her professor, and who can blame her. Six-foot-two, cinnamon skin, a perfectly sculpted body, and deep brown soulful eyes. Though he carried the brunt of his father’s genes, his mother’s elegant oriental features dominated his gentle face.
“Excuse me professor, but I believe we have lost our last microphone,” Mindy said, knowing this may very well be the last straw.
“Of course it’s broke. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, that for once, you could have come to me with good news? I mean, tell me, is there anything here that does work? For Christ’s sakes, what am I doing here surrounded by all this junk!” he shouted, kicking at a crate of delicate instruments. “I am so sick of all this goddamn sand!”
Alex fell into a crouch, head in hands. What was he doing here? What was he doing with his life? Ashamed of the temper tantrum he had just thrown, he took a deep breath and stood to face his students. “I’m really sorry, Mindy. None of this is your fault. It was wrong of me to lash out like that. Come on everybody, let’s pack it up. We’re going home.”
After a much-needed shower, Professor Alexander Night sat at his desk to take inventory of his life. This wasn’t the first time he had considered giving up this fool’s errand. The long and short was, even if he could explain the science behind the mysterious acoustic dunes, who would care? At most he would get an article published, at best, tenure. The truth was, his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Unfortunately, when he had inherited his father’s black kinky hair, it came with a side of stubbornness. How could he quit now when he had dedicated so much of his life, his money and his career? Having sold all but the bare essentials he concluded the only thing left to do was to move forward. Rummaging through his desk drawer, he pulled out an old, red handkerchief. A fragment of his past. Something he knew would change his fate for the better or for the worst. Something that up until now he had all but forgotten about. But now, at his most desperate hour, it called to him. And he was ready to answer.