Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
The Riddle of the SphinxSaula rested her back against the giant stone paw of the Sphinx. Her feet had blistered so that the straps of her shoes burned red lines into her ankles. When she breathed in the desert air, her throat swallowed the dry breath as though it were devouring the sand itself. Miles earlier, she had left her brother, sun-maddened and thirsty, in a cave telling him not to worry, not to move, she'd be back.
The Sphinx grinned, dusting the ground below with a fine powder of stone. It fell in Saula's hair, muting the dark strands with a soft coating of sand.
"Child," the Sphinx said, lifting a stone toe and pushing Saula before it "What is your struggle?"
Saula's voice creaked and when she heard it, she did not recognize it as her own. "My brother is injured. I am going to die in this desert. And when I do, my brother will die knowing that I have failed him."
The Sphinx moved it's head slowly, as is the nature of the very old, and when he spoke again, his voice was an echo of Saula's. "I could kill you now, young thing, and I may. For if I perish, how may I aid the next traveler in need of my kindness?" Through hollowed pupils, it looked at Saula. "Your life means nothing to me, nor does that of your brother. If I offer you a chance at life, you will die anyway. Perhaps at the hands of a cruel husband, or as an old woman, sick in your bed. Your brother may already be dead, and if he's not, then his hope in you may be equally expired. Whereas I shall remain."
The great heat of the desert fell upon Saula's shoulders. She was weak. "You are right. The desert is unforgiving. And you, as a creature of this place, are subject to its temperament. Yet if I die, you, too shall die. Your corpse will collect the sands and when travelers pass it by, they may say 'what a lovely work of stone.' Then they will pass. And they will forget. And you will be be forgotten. And that should be worse than death. So ask me your riddles. Should I pass through your gates unscathed, I will speak of you forever and grant you your immortality."
Saula's feet were raw, and sand clung to the wounds. Her brother was a shadow when she returned to him, and when he drank the water she had brought, color began to rise in his face again. He could not recall how long she had been away, and when he asked where she had gone, she said, "Quiet, now. I'll tell you the story."
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