Writing Competition Submission - Rite of the Sands

Rite of the Sands

Written by Tobias Bishop


For hundreds of years the Martians have defended their world from the outsiders, the Terrans fleeing their dying world, but a new arrival threatens to change everything, by claiming… The Rite of the Sands.


2322: Earth lies a desolate wasteland suffocated, exhausted by the very life that sprang from her once blue oceans. And the Terrans that remain look to the stars for a refuge, to Mars, for a new home. They land upon her sands in their ships, at peace, or as invaders, but time after time, their bodies fall upon her rocks, and their blood flows upon her sands.

Mars, settled generations ago, had long turned her back on Earth. The first colonists had looked back to their past home, and their brothers, and had sworn that such a catastrophe could not be allowed to befall their world. And thus for a hundred years, no Terran that had set foot upon their sands had lived to breathe.

But the sands can have a will of their own, ever changing in the wind…

Habitat 1112, one of the many underground settlements, bunkers under rock and stone, spread across Mars, lies home to a thousand Martians, and one woman in particular: ARIA (30s), a fierce and strong woman of the warrior caste, forbidden to bear children, and whose every action is scrutinized by her mother, NORA (60s), the chair of the Red Council, the government of the habitat. And for her whole life, to expectation, she had done her duty, without mercy, without question, until one fateful day…

In the cold night, a single craft, a single pod, for a single person, lands upon the sands, and it is she who is the first to lay eyes upon it, and its occupant, and for all her training, she discovers something she could not be prepared for – a baby, a boy. She had fought off soldiers and armies, but now she faced a child sent from another world, alone, without protection, and whose destiny now lies in her hands…

3554 SOLS LATER… (10 years)

The ships continue to land; the Terran bodies continue to mount; and Aria continues her life as expected, or at least as she would have her mother, her colleagues to believe, for she now has… a secret.

At any opportunity, she sneaks off into the desert to an abandoned habitat once used by the first colonists hidden deep under rock – Habitat 1. Within the confines of the habitat, the baby she had rescued had grown into a young man, who she had named Leo. She had raised him as if her own son in secret, and while she could not offer answers to his past nor his future, she had taught him, fed him, and up most of all, kept him safe, at least… until now.

One night, she is tracked – her suspicious behavior, unaccountable absences, leading her to draw watchful eyes. And without warning, the Martians descend upon Habitat 1, seeking Terran and traitor. Leo, still too young and untrained, can only watch as Aria fights to protect him. But faced with overwhelming odds, she and Leo take to the sands, seeking an escape.

In the shadow of dune and rock, Aria leads Leo across the desert, trying to shake their pursuers from their trail, but for Martians, a hunt never ends… Supplies exhausted, Aria decides to do the only thing that she can – stand and fight. And for the ground of the battle, she chooses Mount Black: a towering rock formation with smooth sloping walls lashed by Martian winds and sands.

Aria and Leo scale the cliffs, and at their summit, they await the Martians. As a sandstorm swirls about the black rocks, Aria mounts her defense: using all her training, her skills born from the red sands, she sends one Martian after another tumbling to the rocks below, but the odds finally catch up to her, and both she and Leo are captured and escorted back to face their judgment.

Aria and Leo are hauled before the Red Council. For her actions, for forswearing her oath, she finds herself stripped of her position, condemned to serve as a tunnel laborer for the rest of her days, and to never again freely roam the sands. But she concerns not for herself, but for what they will do to Leo, as she knows that he will face a far greater punishment: death. Anticipating their judgment, she makes a plea to save his life, arguing that he be allowed to prove himself, to prove himself Martian, by allowing him to undergo the Rite of the Sand.

The council in their wisdom accepts, knowing that, alone, no man or woman can survive the rite.

As the first colonists had once survived the sand, any who claimed to be Martian had to earn passage through the Rite of the Sands: to be buried in the Shifting Sands at the sun’s setting, and born again from the same sands at its rise. Aria herself had survived the passage when he was only fourteen, but she was not alone, not like Leo; there would be no one to save him other than her, to dig him up, before the sun rises and boils the sand where he lies.

And thus, under the eyes of all, Leo is buried upon the Shifting Sands and left to take his course, wherever it shall take him. As the sun drifts over the horizon, the Martians flood away, leaving only one person remaining – Aria: his only hope, who stands unwavering.

At the glimpse of the sun upon the horizon, she sets out upon the Shifting Sands, and racing against the light, she searches for Leo on hand and knee. And with the sands burning under her, and with all hope lost, another joins her side – her mother. And by her lead, by her example, one by one the other Martians join with them.

Together, with their many hands, they turn over the sands, and finally, Leo is found, and he is raised from the sands by Aria, and born again a Martian – the first Terran in generations.

And perhaps, now, not the last…

Main Characters

Aria VI (30s)

A fierce and strong woman of the warrior caste, forbidden to bear children.

Leo I (2/12)

A mysterious child, a Terran boy, sent to Mars in an escape pod – alone.

Nora V (60s)

Aria’s mother and chair of the Red Council, the government of the habitat.

NOTE: The number after each name is a reference to their generation and a naming convention of Martian society.

Setting Descriptions

Mars: the Red Planet itself.

Habitat 1112: an underground settlement, a bunker under rock and stone, which lies home to a thousand Martians.

Habitat 1: the settlement of the first colonists of Mars – abandoned, outdated, but still habitable.

Mount Black: a towering rock formation with smooth sloping walls.

Red Council: the largest chamber within Habitat 1112 – houses the government.

Shifting Sands: a lowland ancient river bed, a vast ocean of sand capable of carrying people away.

Episode Summaries

Ep. 1:

Voice-over monologue (Aria): Terrans land on Mars and are killed. A day in the life Aria at Habitat 1112; Nora grooms her daughter; Aria’s called to duty as a Terran pod lands; Aria discovers the baby.

Ep. 2:

Aria keeps up appearances; she sneaks away; Habitat 1 is revealed; Leo, the baby, now a young man is revealed; Aria and Leo bond… and argue; Aria raises suspicions.

Ep. 3:

Aria is followed to Habitat 1; the Martians storm Habitat 1; Aria defends herself and Leo from the Martians; she and Leo escape to the sands.

Ep. 4:

Aria and Leo are pursued; they battle harsh conditions; the Martians close in on them; Aria and Leo make a final stand upon Mount Black; they are both captured.

Ep. 5:

Aria and Leo are returned to Habitat 1112; they receive an unwelcome greeting; they are bought before the Red Council; their fate is decreed.

Ep. 6:

Flashback: Aria’s rite of passage. Aria prepares Leo for the rite; they are taken to the Shifting Sands; Leo is buried; Leo is saved; a Martian is born.


“Dune” meets “The Mandolarian” meets “The Martian”.


Life, truth, and courage: this is a story of a woman who has the will to stand up her to elders, to break the very code of her society, in order to bring life to the world, a right she herself was denied, instead of taking it, and in the process reveal a greater truth to all, and perhaps, perhaps, change their world for the better.

Contact Information:



I wish I had more time, but I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring. Sorry for the duplicate post, I messed up on the formatting.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!

1 Like

I removed the duplicate for you.

Great submission! I love the theme of perseverance and the martian society.

Who is Cassie? They seem pretty important but appear out of nowhere in the third act. They are not listed in the main characters either.

Forgive me, it was a leftover placeholder name. I don’t know how I missed it. I’ve edited it now. It’s been a bit of a rush to meet the deadline, sorry.

Turned out great! Simple story, rich world, and a full arc.

Thanks for the responses and for reading. It’s much appreciated!