The Sphinx’s Riddle – Courtney Cooper

Theme: Inspired. Inspired by the Greek legend of Oedipus, a prince of the city Thebes. Although he was abandoned as an infant, he returned to his birthplace to save his people from a terrorizing Sphinx and become King.

The Sphinx’s Riddle

The Sphinx. She has the head of a woman, the body of a lion. She is strong. Powerful. She knows your secrets. She knows my secrets, even the ones I do not know myself.

“You killed a man on your way here, did you not, O Oedipus?” Her voice is like a purr, but it sends a chill up my spine. “You broke his circle of life. Who was he?”

“I do not know,” I respond.

“I know,” She whispers. She knows all secrets.

“Tell me what I must do to rid you from this place,” I demand.

“Rid me from Thebes? Perhaps I would like to stay.” Her voice has an edge to it. Dangerous.

“What must I do?” I repeat, standing my ground. I will save this land from the Sphinx’s destruction, and become its King. It is my destiny.

“Why, only one thing. Simple really,” She purrs.

“Fight you?” I ask, placing my hand on the hilt of my sword. “I am ready.”

Fight me? No, no, no. This is not a test of strength, but of the mind,” She says, and another chill travels up my spine.

“I am ready,” I repeat.

“What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?” She asks, her tone suddenly cheery. “Answer correctly, and I will leave. Answer incorrectly, and well, that will be that.” She smiles with pointed teeth, but if I’m nervous, I can’t show it. Her head may be that of a woman’s, but she is a monster. An animal. If I display any fear, she will devour me.

If I answer her riddle incorrectly, she will devour me.

This is no easy task.

I stare into the Sphinx’s black eyes, concentrating on the question. They seem to suck me into their depths, and the world around me fades.

What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?

The sky grows lighter and brighter as the sun rises. It changes color, from black to purple to blue. The horizon is red, but changes to pink, orange, yellow. As the sun climbs higher and higher, it pushes the moon down past the horizon behind me. Me. Just an infant, crawling on four legs, alone through a forest covered in snow.

As the sun moves, I begin to stand. Around noon, I have finally reached my full height, and the middle of my life. For a moment, the sun is high and glorious, and so are my aspirations and accomplishments. But now the sun is going down and my back begins to bend and I become hunched over. I have two legs, but I will soon have one more: a cane.

The sky grows darker and darker as the sun sets. It changes color, from blue to purple to black. The horizon is yellow, but changes to orange, pink, red. As the moon climbs higher and higher, it pushes the sun down past the horizon behind me. Me. Just an old man walking with three legs.

I know that somewhere, there is another world. Another life. Another person is ageing, and soon their day will end. Soon, their life, their time, will come to an end. Just like my time is almost up.

What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and legs in the evening?

“Man.”

4 comments on “The Sphinx’s Riddle – Courtney Cooper

  1. skip heiney says:

    ;But when is old old? How can you tell? By the cane? What if no cane, is one still old?

  2. Bill McQueen says:

    Nicely done!

  3. Monica says:

    Better than Riordan!

  4. Katherine says:

    Very clever and thought provoking! Gave me goosebumps…well done!

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