One day in August a man goes to a three-day vacation to supplement his collection of rare insects species that are found in the sand. He gets on the train to the station of the S, than gets into bus and getting off at the last stop goes on foot. He passes the village and goes along a sandy road towards the sea. The road becomes steeper, and nothing can be seen but sand. Man reflects on the sand: being interested in insects that are found in it, he studied literature on the sand, and made sure that sand is a very interesting phenomenon. Continuing his way he suddenly appears at the edge of a sand pit, on the bottom of which is a shack. He sees an old man and asks him where he can spend the night. The old man, having ascertained beforehand that the visitor is a teacher by profession, not an inspector from the prefecture, leads him to one of the wells. The man does down there on a rope ladder. He is friendly met by a young woman - the mistress of a miserable hovel. She feeds the guest, but the question whether it is possible to wash, says that the water will be brought only the day after tomorrow. The man is convinced that the day after tomorrow he will not be here. The woman is surprised.
The shack is buried in the sand, the sand gets everywhere, and the woman is holding above his head a paper umbrella when he eats so the sand did not get into the food, but the sand is still felt in the mouth, squeaks on the teeth, then soaking, sand sticks to the body. The woman said that during last year's typhoon her husband and daughter have been covered with sand, so she is now all alone. At night, she has to shovel the sand, so the house is not filled up with sand. People upstairs know that there is a man in her house: they bring one more shovel and cans. The man still does not understand anything.
The woman collects sand in cans, pours it out around the place where the rope ladder, then hanging baskets are lowered, and the cans are raised up. It is easier to shovel the sand at night when it is wet, at day is is so dry that immediately collapses. The man helps the woman. The woman says that the sand does not rest and does not give to rest. The man is outraged: the villagers live just to shovel the sand. He thinks is absurd to live like this, this way of life does not even cause sympathy with him, because they have chosen it themselves. For a long time he can not sall asleep, thinking about the sand and hearing the woman shoveling it. Waking up, he discovers that the woman is sleeping by the fire completely naked, only her face is wrapped with a towel to protect from sand.
The man wants to leave quietly, but sees that the rope ladder is gone: those who came at night to lift the sand, took it away. The man feels trapped. It seems to him that there was some kind of a mistake.
The man starts digging, but the sand is showering. He continues to dig and suddenly avalanche of sand rushes down and presses him. He loses consciousness. The woman it taking care after him. He has spent in the well a week, and thinks that colleagues probably are looking after him. He presents himself as they discuss where he could disappear. The man pretends to be seriously ill: he wants the woman and those who put him into this pit, understand that he is not an assistant for them, and a burden, and would have tried to get rid of him themselves. He cannot understand the meaning of a woman's life. He tells her how nice it is to go for a walk, but she does not see this joy.
The man decides to make another attempt to get out of the pit. At night, when she shovels the sand, he suddenly pounced on her and ties her up. When people come with the baskets and lower them into the pit on the rope, the man grabs it and demands to be picked up, if they want to help the woman. They begin to raise him, but soon let the rope go, and he falls to the bottom of the pit, and they meanwhile pulls the rope from his hand and leave.
The package with three packs of cigarettes and a bottle of vodka is lowered into the pit. The man hopes that thisis a pledge of his soon release. However, the woman explains to him that all men once a week are issued with tobacco and vodka. The man is curiosity, whether have not wandered into the village people like him. The woman says that some people accidentally run in the village, one died soon after, the other still lives here, no one managed to escape. "I'll be the first one!" - the man says. Peering into the tank, he man sees that they have ran out of water. He understands that it is not brought to break his resistance; woman’s suffering does not bother anybody. The man frees the woman under the condition that, without his permission, she will not take a shovel in her hands.
He grabs the shovel and hits the wall: he wants to destroy the house, to make the ladder from the wreckage. Seeing that the wall is rotten (it turned out that the woman was right when she said that the sand makes tree rot), he decides to use for this purpose not boards but cross beams. The woman hangs on his arm, trying to pull out a shovel. The fight for the shovel ends with a love scene. The man understands hostility with the woman is useless, he can achieve something only being good. He asks her to contact those who brings water, and say them to bring it at once. The woman says that as soon as they start working they will immediately bring water. The man takes up the shovel. When the bucket with water is lowered, he said to the old man standing at the top that his colleagues must have already announced him in search and then those who keep him will be in big trouble. But the old man argues that if he had not been found in ten days, he won’t be found at all. The man promises to help to alleviate the situation of the local people, he has some connections, and can launch a campaign in the press, but his words do not make any impression, the old man goes, without listening.
In his spare time the man is making a rope. After finishing it he, instead of the hook, sticks to it scissors and in the evening, when the woman slept the night before the operation, throws a rope to the bag, which serve as a pulley during the descent of buckets with water and lifting the baskets filled with sand. Scissors stuck into the bag, and the man manages to get out of the pit. This happens on the forty-sixth day of his "imprisonment." That he is not seen from the fire tower, he decides to hide and wait until sunset. Once the sun goes down, he needs to pass quickly through the village - before the carriers of baskets will start to work. The man gets off the road: thinking that he had passed the village, he suddenly finds himself in front of it. He in fear runs through the village. Dogs race behind him. To protect himself from them, the man turns the rope over his head with scissors at the end and touches by accident some children.
The villagers rush after him. His legs suddenly grow heavy and start to link into the sand. Immersed in the sand almost to the hips, he begs his pursuers to save him. Three men attached to the soles of the board, approach him and begin to dig up the sand around him. Pulling him out, they get him back into the pit. everything that has happened before begins to seem distant past.
October comes. The woman threads beads and saves money for a payment for a radio. The man has built a small canopy of polyethylene that during sleep they are not covered with sand and came up with a device for cooking fish in the hot sand. He no longer reads newspapers and soon forgets about their existence. The woman saay that the villagers secretly sell sand to the construction side for half price. The man is indignant: when the foundation or the dam collapses, it will not matter that the sand was cheap. He is trying to negotiate with the carriers of sand to let him go for a walk, they instead require that he makes love with the woman in front of them. The woman refuses to do it in front of witnesses, but the man is so eager to get out of the pit, that pounces on her and tries to rape her. The woman resists. The man asks her to at least pretend, but she hits him strongly.
The man notices that at the bottom of the barrel, which he wanted to use as bait for crows, water is accumulating. Again and again he reflects on the properties of sand. After a long harsh winter comes spring. In the house appears the radio. In March the woman feels that she is pregnant, but two months later miscarriage happens. She is taken to a hospital. The rope on which she was raised out of the pit remains hanging. The man goes upstairs, looking after the car carrying the woman away. He notes that in the pit on the device made by him to collect water the bar has moved and he hurries down to fix the damage. Rope ladder is at his disposal, so there is no need to rush to escape.
Seven years after the disappearance of the men appears the announcement of his search, and since nobody responds, six months later the court issues to consider him dead.