The sphinx lay quietly atop the hill, its wings folded back against its sides, watching the setting sun with gentle oxen eyes. The heat rose from the desert and made the air dance. For six hundred years the sphinx had sat thus, watching the earth move ponderously beneath its great cynosure. The seasons had touched the desert plants, brought drought or flood or riotous blooming, and the greater glacial Year had moved past, drawing the green ocean waters farther north and west, shaping the sands, carving the dunes. It absorbed utterly the concentration of the sphinx.
Men and women came and went between its huge calcined paws, or climbed upon its broad bullback, or stared from below at its androgynous, beautiful, fierce face. It ignored them, or, rather, was only peripherally aware of them. To the majestic sidereal cycles of the desert they were motes in the sunshine. Their little wars raged around it; what were territories and gunfire, bloodshed and rapine to the desert? The winds blew; the sands shifted; like water the damage was absorbed; the desert endured.
The sun set beyond the dunes, the lost ocean rising to cover it. A cold wind blew across the sphinx, anamolous and unsettling. ‘Move,’ said the desert to the sphinx, at last. With the pad of empires the sphinx shook the sand from its back and moved westward, following the sun, chasing the receding ocean.