A Cabin In The Dunes

A scene from the movie “Beau Geste”, the Algerian desert is the setting for my story.

The prompt for the Sturgis Library Writing Group was “A Cabin In The Dunes”. I set my story in the Algerian desert before the start of World War I. My characters are in the French Foreign Legion.

The Cabin In The Dunes

Sergeant Dagineaux lowered his binoculars, wiped the perspiration from his brow and passed them to the man lying on the ground next to him.  

“Between those two sand dunes, Corporal Reynaud, at about one o’clock, tell me what you see.”

Reynaud peered in the direction Dagineaux had pointed to.  He pulled his head back, blinked several times, and peered through the binoculars again.  He passed them back, a puzzled look on his face.

“I see a bloody cabin, Sergeant!  It’s not a mirage, our eyes aren’t playing tricks on us.  What’s a bloody log cabin doing in the Algerian desert?”

“Well Corporal, we need to find out now, don’t we?”  

Dagineaux and Reynaud stood, unslung their rifles and cautiously approached the cabin.  As each step brought them closer, the strange building became clearer in the shimmering reflections of the sun off the sand.  It was indeed a log cabin.  Nestled as it was between the two dunes, they hadn’t seen the well and small garden flanking the cabin with the binoculars. Vegetables were growing in the garden.  Standing exposed, there was no place to hide in the desert, but they didn’t sense danger.  It was surreal, Dagineaux felt compelled to knock on the cabin door.  He and Reynaud were startled to hear a voice croak, “Come in.”  The Sergeant slowly opened the door, its hinges squeaked in protest.  An ancient looking man was seated at the head of a table.  A broad toothy grin appeared in his bearded face.  “Ahh! My relief has arrived!  Sit gentlemen, sit!  We have much to discuss, and very little time to do it in.”

Completely baffled, Dagineaux asked, “You were expecting us?”

Pointing to a thick book on the table in front of him, the old man replied, “Yes, of course, the manifest states Sergeant Claude Dagineaux and Corporal Victor Reynaud, of the French Foreign Legion, will arrive to assume my duties on the ninth of May, 1905.  That is today gentlemen.”

“But we must return to our fort in Adrar, sir.  A member, or members, of our patrol drugged the Corporal and I, then deserted. Taking six camels and all of our supplies.  We have to report this to our commander.”

“None of that is necessary now, Sergeant.  A higher power has deemed you’re needed here.  It’s all in the manifest.”

“Umm, what is it we are expected to do?” asked Reynaud.  He thought he would humor this man, who was obviously daft.

The old man stood, every joint in his body cracking with the effort.  He motioned for them to follow him to a desk in the corner of the cabin.  An even larger book sat on it.  Books of similar size were arrayed on shelves lining the wall.  Each book had what appeared to be a range of years stenciled on the spine, 1875 – 1900, and so forth, back to the 1700’s.  He opened the book on the desk to a marked page.  “From time to time, you will have visitors, seeking to go through that door,” he pointed to a padlocked door on the wall opposite the desk.  “You must ask them their name.  If it doesn’t appear in this logbook, they can’t go through that door.  Send them on their way, no matter how much they protest.”

Dagineaux and Reynaud looked at the names listed in the columns on the open page.  “Parks, Robert”, was the last name in the column.  “That’s me,” said the old man, “When I am done here, you will unlock that door and let me pass to the other side.”

“And where does that door lead?” asked Dagineaux.

Before the old man could answer, the door to the cabin swung open.  Another legionnaire stumbled in.  

“Gastineau! You bastard!” howled Reynaud, “You left us to die in the desert!”

The old man put his hand on Reynaud’s shoulder to calm him.  Gastineau had a bewildered look on his face.   “I’m sorry.  Something went terribly wrong, Berber tribesman ambushed us…,” looking at the locked door he continued, “I assume I pass through there?” He took a step towards it.

“No! You’re not in the register.  Run along now, go back the way you came.” ordered the old man.

Gastineau sobbed, dropped his head and shuffled back out the front door, closing it behind him.  “It’s as simple as that,” said the old man.  He pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to Dagineaux.  “Unlock that door please, it’s time for me to go.”  The Sergeant complied.  When the door was open, a bright, golden light bathed the room.  There was a stairway on the other side of the door.  The old man stepped into the light.  He was no longer old!  He appeared as young and robust as the two legionnaires.  “It’s the stairway to Heaven, my friends, guard it well.”  He paused for a moment and smiled, “Stairway to Heaven, I envision someone writing a song about it someday.  Goodbye my friends.”  And with that he dissolved into a cloud of golden dust, the door slammed closed.

Dagineaux reattached the padlock and turned to look at Reynaud, “Bloody h….”

“Don’t swear Sergeant!  You sure don’t want to scotch this sweet assignment.”

Ernie Stricsek

The Sturgis Library Writers Group

May 9, 2023

12 thoughts on “A Cabin In The Dunes

    1. Thank you Nick! I believe the prompt was based on the National Park Service leasing the 19 remaining cabins along the National Seashore in Provincetown. Google the Provincetown Beach Shacks. I am glad you enjoyed my story.


  1. . Thanks for sharing, Ernie. . This movie had an oversized impact on my life when I saw it as a precocious pre-teen. . The caption under the photo you sent out is misspelt; It’s two words, Beau Geste. . In the version I saw, Beau was translated as Gallant. . It set me off gallivanting for the rest of my life looking for opportunities to be gallant. . Don’t remember finding any. . Thanks again for sharing. . Effectionately, . Bob . This is a Love Geste . [image: 5 10 23 21.jpg] .


  2. Thank you Nancy! The Sturgis Library Writing Group has set a max word count of 500! Even trying to compress my story, I have yet to produce something that short. That being said, it is a great challenge and exercise to focus on what is really germane to the story and avoid extraneous things that don’t really contribute to the plot line. I am pleased you enjoyed my story.


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