More Riddles than Oedipus Knew

There was a sphinx crouched at the crest of the hill watching the sunset, bloodless androgen’s face quiet and still. Ben sat down beside it, his legs hanging over the edge, and watched the day end. When the third star had come out, the sphinx stirred and rasped, “It was a beautiful valley once.”

“It’s still beautiful,” said Ben.

The sphinx turned its head to him. “Yes. But different now, and faded.” Its breath was sharp with sage. “It has forgotten itself.”

Ben turned this idea over in his mind, wondering what it might mean. “It looks like it always has.”

“And yet you are young,” said the sphinx, “what do you know?” And then it was gone and the moon risen. The grass where it had crouched was thick with night-blooming flowers and warm when Ben laid his hand on it.

Years later, as he lay dying, he felt the sphinx’s hot breath upon his cheek. “Have you guessed?” it asked. “Have you seen?”