In the sun-bleached heart of a continent, where few men dare to go and fewer still return, there sprawls a desert. Miles of scorched white sand roll from horizon to horizon, punctuated by a half-buried shell of a car or the gnarled arms of a long-dead tree; the abandoned remnants of an age no one can remember. It is a dead land. It is a land of the dead. Those who survive, who stumble into a fringing village with peeling faces and bloodied lips, babble about ghosts, about voices, about whispers in the white blaze of noon. They are not as crazy as they seem. The desert does whisper; the dunes ebb and grate with the wind and fill the heavy space beneath the sky with a low hissing, like a nest of snakes. It is the sound of the motion of sand, of the slow roll of time.
Every hundred years brings a storm, a shrieking wall of wind and swarming cloud that darkens the sun and whips the sand into a frenzy that can flay off the skin of a man, scratch his bones to dust. The desert heaves and gasps and swallows villages whole, only to release them centuries later in the next storm; dead towns full of spirits, sand.
The storm will pass. The sand will slide and hiss and the sun will bake the desert that is the same desert it always was: just as endless, just as white, just as blindly harsh as millenniums past. The dunes will shift and the bones of civilization will be buried or revealed and, across the planet, wars will erupt and escalate as the world stirs and the sand flows on through time, for history only ever changes the details.
And every grain of sand is a human life.
(Here I plan to introduce a character, sex unknown; a grain of sand in this metaphorical desert. They'll find themself in a universe that doesn't follow the rules they thought it did, much like the worlds Neil Gaiman loves creating. All I know is at some point building towards the climax, they'll hear a soft hissing, and cautiously investigate to find their kitchen full of sand.
There may be a small child making sand castles involved. Just to mess with the metaphor-minded among you.)