The man that ate sand

Last night I dreamt of a man fallen to his knees on the rocky beach, shirt untucked, stuffing fistfuls of sand into his mouth. So much sand it streamed between his fingers and over his fists, pouring out of his gaping mouth, but he just kept shovelling faster in a mad frenzy to try to eat all of the sand on the beach. 

He eventually ate so much sand he died of dehydration, but instead of collapsing he just kept scooping up more sand. A zombie lumbering up and down the beach consuming all of the yellow sand he could get his cold hands on frightening the tourists. Unaware of his surroundings he wandered too close to the sea, a huge wave grabbed hold of his body and sucked him out into the grey stormy ocean. he became tangled like a seagull in all the garbage and bits of plastic, and wrapped in a huge Persian rug heavy with salt water made heavier still by the sand that filled his body.

When the ocean spat him back out we hoisted him into a shopping cart, wet rug and all, and wheeled him off to the lab to be examined. We identified him as a 24 year old documentary film maker, poet, and activist from Turkey. My colleague turned to me and said “there was nothing in his application video to suggest he would do this”.

I became aware that he had volunteered for an secret experiment we were conducting. He had wanted to die, so he willingly accepted the risk of participating. He had been thinking of commiting suicide for a long time, but he didn’t want his friends and family to feel responsible, so he had waited until he could die for science. There was no one to blame, he had died a hero. Only I felt responsible for his death. 

How many others had there been?