Cauldron Anthology Sphinx - 2 - Page 14

“Who do you want me to be?” The rocking of my chair falters, ever so slightly. A cloud moves in front of the sun, casting us into shadow. A sparrow lands on the back of a stone lioness, cocking its head at me as if it, too, is waiting for the answer. I have no answer. I have only questions. Questions for him. Questions for myself. It has been a long time since a Kalip Woman was the question instead of the answer. “Why are you here?” It’s the barest whisper from me. My voice, always so strong, fails me. He begins to smile, his lips stretching back over white, even teeth. It is a smile of flowers and rainbows after a storm, of earthquakes and nightmares where I wake up in a cold sweat not knowing where I am. “Why are you here?” I don’t see his mouth move, but I hear his words (my words) just the same. Different emphasis. Different meaning. I find my rhythm again, creaking wood, back and forth. Back and forth. “I am here to answer your questions.” My voice is stronger now. “And if I have no questions?” Still that smile from him, all rotting flesh and roses. “Then I can give you no answers and we are at an impasse.” His smile widens. “What about the answers to your questions?” “I have no questions in need of answers.” Ice begins to churn inside me. Where has my fire gone? “Then you are a liar.” ~ A baby’s wails are carried to me through an open window, reaching my heart as well as my ears. I jump at the sound and the man’s smile fades. His boots turn up little clouds of dust as he takes a sliding step backwards in the gravel. “I will return another day and we will finish our talk then.” O! Those eyes. Those eyes never leave mine as he backs his way down the path to the road. Only when he is at a distance does he turn away from me and disappear as if he never existed at all. My rocking slows, then stops. The crying of the newest Kalip woman fades into happy little hiccups. Though the sun is still at its zenith, I rise. As if it will somehow lend clarity to my situation, I squint off into the distance, my eyes trying to trace the path left by the man. I cannot see it. Was it all a dream? Was he just a figment of my mind? I leave my perch at the top of the stairs, touching the stone lionesses as I pass, their skin rough and warm under my fingers. I cannot remember the last time I left my chair while the sun was still in the sky. My foot, outstretched, hangs in the empty space, waiting to take that first step down. For a horrible instant, I consider moving my feet down the stone steps, following after him, trying to see what he sees in this world. But I am a coward. My body quivers as I sit back in my chair, reclaiming my position. No one else comes to seek 14