Minds of Stone

Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 3

The cruelty of the sphinx was the cruelty of a thousand ages. The cruelty of wind and sand. The cruelty of stone. She remembered the mighty river that had cut her from the gorge. She remembered the sweeping grit and pebbles that had shaped her face. And she resented the pitiful trickle of dust-robed pilgrims who had come to replace it, treading its long-dry course.

“What,” hissed the sphinx, “goes upon four feet in the morning, upon two feet in the afternoon, and upon three feet in the evening?”

The man visibly quaked as he answered. “It is…man,” he said. “Man crawls on all fours as an infant, stands upon two feet when grown, and uses a stick also in old age.”

This defeat stung the sphinx, but her stone face would never show it. “You may pass,” she breathed, her voice hard as ever.

Many years passed, and the sphinx’s hunger for torment grew ever greater. The winds changed. The sands changed. But minds of stone will never change.

And so when the next traveller came, the sphinx asked again: “What goes upon four feet in the morning, upon two feet in the afternoon, and upon three feet in the evening?”

But this traveller was a scribe, and he carried a tablet of clay. “It is man,” he answered, reading from the tablet, “who crawls on four limbs as a baby, walks on two thereafter, and takes up a cane when he grows old.” But still he shook as he awaited the sphinx’s judgement.

“You may pass,” breathed the sphinx, and the traveller continued on his way.

An age rolled on, and still the sphinx’s hunger grew. Towers of brick sprang forth on the horizon, and spires of rock wore down to dust. But minds of stone will never change.

And so when the next traveller came, the sphinx asked once more: “What goes upon four feet in the morning, upon two feet in the afternoon, and upon three feet in the evening?”

But this traveller was a scholar, and he carried a roll of parchment. “It is man,” he said, and continued on his way.

Anger, as well as cruelty, now coursed through the sphinx’s dry veins, and for another age she watched out over the desert, hungry for torment and thirsty for vengeance. Brick towers fell, glass towers rose, and man sent iron comets to flash across the sky. But minds of stone will never change.

One more traveller came upon the gorge, and the sphinx growled her riddle.

“What goes upon four feet in the morning—”

“Man,” grunted the traveller, who bore the Wikipedia in his palm.

“Son of a bitch!” yelled the sphinx.

But minds of stone will never change.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

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