flume of desert sand

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Senior Member
Evie had seen dinosaurs; she had looked down upon the great forests of America from the eyes of a passenger pigeon. She had surfed into Cleopatra’s sarcophagus atop a flume of desert sand and caressed the glorious queen’s dead face with beetle legs.
Source: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King
Context: There was talk that the beautiful woman in the soft cell Evie was either a sorceress or a demon.

All the flume photos that I googled were watery. How would you have a flume of sand? What does it mean? Is flume another term for sand dune?

Thank you.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I've never seen the word 'flume'. I can tell it's from the Latin for 'river', so it's some kind of flow of water (and now I've looked it up). It seems okay there: I believe the fine sand of the Sahara can flow if it's caught up in the wind; a 'river of sand' would also make sense in a literary (non-literal) context.


    English - British
    Indeed, flume is term used to describe water. More specifically, a flume is channel of water used for transport.

    A term like a flume of desert sand is called a metaphor. It's basically where a writer says that X is Y to help describe something, even though X isn't really Y.

    A blanket of snow --> the writer is saying the snow is a blanket. We know that this can't be true but we understand that he means the snow is thick and covers everything (like a blanket).
    A flume of desert sand --> the writer is saying the sand is a flume. We know that a flume cannot be made of sand, but we understand that he means the sand directed her into the sarcophagus (like a flume).


    Senior Member
    British English
    However, it's impossible to surf anywhere on a flume, and equally impossible to surf into a sarcophagus. Figurative or not.

    This seems another example of the King family's idiosyncratic use of English.

    "River of sand" is, of course, a well-known figurative usage.


    Senior Member
    English - British
    She apparently got into the sarcophagus in the form of a beetle.

    This suggests that its lid had been shifted (doubtless in an earthquake) and a sandstorm had carried the beetle into it.
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