Cauldron Anthology Sphinx - 2 - Page 17

“Before what?” Before what? I have always been me. I have always been a Kalip Woman. “Before you let the world change you.” “The world has not changed me. I have changed the world.” He laughs and steps closer to the bottom step. His eyes look red in the early morning light. “How have you changed the world?” “I have brought peace to people who sought me in their distress.” Why else would I sit here, rocking in the sun every day? “Again with the lies. Do you think they feel any peace when the next day dawns and they realize they still have the same questions?” Again, my back bunches and twists, hot pokers of unease pulling at my skin, but my mouth stays silent. He steps forward again, the toe of his left boot touching the bottom stone step. I have never known a man to do that and I push my feet backwards against the floor, sliding the chair in a screech that seems likely to bring the sky down. But the sky doesn’t fall. We are just two people, me and him, woman and man, truth and fantasy, life and death. “Don’t you remember your before? The days of the gods?” He is no longer laughing. “There is just the Kalip Women. No other gods are needed.” “Are they not?” “No.” My voice is strong, vital, final. “You may go now.” “I have come to return you.” “I have never left.” My red cloak feels heavy, hot, suffocating. “You will be free.” “I am not in chains.” “Of your own making, I’m afraid.” “Now you are the liar.” My laugh is hollow, empty, a shadow of unease. A curse. “You do not remember me.” He sounds sad. As if a man’s sadness has ever had any bearing on my life. “No. And I do not want to know you now.” I am being crushed under the weight of my cloak, the sky, the world, his eyes. “Look at me, Kalip Woman, and remember.” He steps onto the first stone step and a snarl leaps from my throat, more animal than human. His eyes engulf me. I am falling into his eyes. The mist around the great stone house vanishes, replaced by the bright sun of faraway places, of sand, and marble, and plants that perfumed the air long ago. Of rushing water that few crossed willingly, of a multitude of buildings all with their own stones steps, of gods who shouted on high and watched as men made a mockery of all that was great and good. And I remember. With the voices of all the Kalip Women who ever were and who yet hope to be calling out for me to stop, I stand, laughing, from my chair and move towards the ancient-eyed man. My red cloak flies out behind me, caught by a strong wind and carried away to some other place. My wings, so long neglected, spring from my back. My lioness body curls down upon itself, its strength gathering with all that I had forgotten, all I have been afraid to remember. I am no longer afraid. 17