The Sphinx

“It’s impossible to dress for this weather”
We stand, we two, on the crest of a hill
The daylight retreating over the far horizon to our backs
During the day, unbearable heat that examined and re-examined every portion of exposed flesh
Burning red in its penetrating gaze
Now gave way to night that assails our bones,
blowing up like a deep exhale from the unseen creatures in night’s valley below

“Are we ready?” a rhetorical question, goes unanswered

We are, point of fact, hopelessly unprepared.

But this is how it was: only the clothes on our backs, not even the benefit of a proper jacket, the day receding, the night barreling towards us like a pack of wild dogs

If we had spent a day longer
If we had met our contact
If we had run another inventory

The backs of my heels tingle with the desire to turn around and run after the dwindling light

You stood like a sphinx in silence, so long…
I could feel the hags running my thread through their boney fingers, measuring, measuring, measuring my life cord by cord to its ultimate end

You held a hand out to me
“There is only one way forward. We follow the light.” And set off down the valley.

“But it’s that way,” I gasp in desperation. “The light has fled.”

From a small distance ahead, “Then we follow this way until it comes back.”

This was how it would always be: the light at our back, deep darkness ahead, and all manner of unknown and menacing obstacles before us. Nothing to defend us but ourselves and each other. That was the truth of it, until the day the old ladies do cut my string.

So I followed.

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