A sandy puzzle
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The Picture in the Sand. By J.B. Pick.

For one hour of one day in every seventh year in a secluded cove on a rugged coast in a far country there appears a simple drawing in the sand. Any visitor who chances upon this drawing attains at once to the privilege of seeing himself and all things as they really are. For this reason the cove has come to be regarded with fear and loathing by the people of the district.

Long ago the period during which the drawing might appear, and the effect of seeing it were generally known, and the meaning of its periodicity understood, but as the years passed all that could be offered the enquirer were theories as to why that particular cove should be held in such dread. Professor Peter Palalda, who investigated the question, found only one intriguing informant, an ancient gardener who said, "The stranger comes, but says nothing." He wouldn't add a word to this.

In the very year in which I write, a scientific expedition led by Professor Palalda went to the cove to explore the mystery of its peculiar reputation. The three young men and one young woman set up intricate and expensive instruments for measuring temperature, light and sound, cameras to photograph visible events, and ingenious electronic traps to detect intruders.

At first they spent their time tending these instruments and making detailed notes of observations in little books, but later turned increasingly to bathing, idling and reading thrillers. The young men made suggestions of various kinds to the young woman, who explained that she preferred swimming.

During one hour in this particular day in this particular year the young woman, having grown weary of swimming, was walking alone in a distant part of the beach when she chanced to take up a stick which had been washed in by the tide, and without a thought in her head drew in the sand an outline which resembled an eye in a circle beside a single frond of bamboo decorated with three delicate leaves.

"Why did you make this drawing?" said Professor Palalda, approaching silently and suddenly.

"For no reason," the young scientist replied.

"Then it's for no reason that we must pack up and depart," the Professor said, for he had begun to see himself and all things as they really are.

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