In the Shadow of The Lion

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A quick, somewhat absurdist short story about a boy who finds escape from his world with a girl and a lion. But he quickly realizes that he is not the only one who has traveled back.

Submitted: October 14, 2018

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Submitted: October 14, 2018

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The jazzy notes of a Billy Joel song carried through the lush green leaves of the forest trees and resonated across the small grass covered hills that surrounded the open field. In the middle of this area was a rectangular, grassy plain, cut into the earth, causing it to be walled on two sides. Centered in this spot was an enormous statue of a lion, carved out of limestone, sitting on the ground, its front legs and paws stretched out in front of it, staring majestically out over the river, towards the east. It had been carved with immaculate detail, with strong, piercing eyes and closed mouth, its full mane surrounding its neck and flowing down to the ground in front of its chest. But the statue was very old, and some of these details had begun to wear. Beneath this dominating figure a young couple was dancing along to the music. Neither truly knew how to properly dance, but both were doing their best and were simply enjoying themselves and each other’s company. They allowed themselves to be carried away with the music; and there seemed to be nothing else in the world but themselves, the music and the lion.

“What’s this one called?” the girl asked with her soft voice.

“Stiletto,” her partner replied.

The girl spent a few seconds trying to form the word with her mouth; it was unfamiliar to her.

“And the one from before?”

“Zanzibar.”

The girl laughed and shook her head, “I still don’t understand. But the music sounds very lovely.”

“I’m glad you like it, Zyenya,” the boy told her.

They danced for a couple of minutes more, taking in the sweeping view of the surrounding hills and meadow, and the bright green of the forest on the other side. Above was the cloudless blue sky, with the tall statue looming over them, like a protective guardian. Quite suddenly the delightful sound of the music stopped, and annoyingly the same note repeated over and over again.

“What’s that?” Zyenya cried, giving a slight jump and removing her hands from her partner’s shoulders.

“The record’s skipping, darn it. I’ll fix it.”

The boy, Sim, rushed over to the space between each of the lions paws. Here a stereo had been set up. He gently removed the needle from the record, causing the sound to stop, replaced by that of a gentle breeze that blew through the forest.

“Uh, I don’t think I can get it back in the same place,” Sim told her.

“That’s okay. We’ve been out here for a while anyway,” Zyenya said to him.

“Well, I’ll just start side two over again.”

“Wait,” Zyenya held up her hand, which she had previously been running through her long black hair, “I hear it again!”

“Again?”

Zyenya nodded.

“Back in the trees,” Sim dropped the record, grabbed her by the arm and led her back into the cover.

“I thought they were gone; it’s been two months,” she said to him as he did this.

“I guess you were right, then. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you before.”

“That’s alright. Nobody else believed me either, but you were the only one who even listened.”

“It looks like the pyramids were built by aliens after all,” Sim laughed.

“The what?” Zyenya looked at him, her black eyes full of curiosity, not understanding.

“Nothing, that’s not important right now. Do you think we’ll be able to see them?”

“It is unlikely, they only ever stay out over the plains. But the last time they did come quite close to the edge. I only saw them for a few seconds, and even then I didn’t get a very good look.”

“I just don’t understand how they can be here. I’ve heard so many theories, but I just never believed any of them. Now I’m starting to wish I had payed more attention.”

“Finally, something even you don’t understand.” Zyenya laughed softly.

“Shhh,” Sim told her, and they stepped a ways back into the trees, hidden from sight of the field, but still having a good view of it. The lion could be seen above, still looking out over the river.

They both huddled together for several minutes, the only sound being that of their breathing and the soft breeze that was still rustling the leaves above. The girl was tall, thin and had somewhat fare skin for her dark features. The boy, in contrast, was slightly tan and sand blond, with light gray eyes, white teeth and a perfect smile, but now his face carried only a look of panic and curiosity. Both were young, in their early twenties perhaps, and attractive. They trusted only each other.

After a few minutes of silence, Zyenya whispered, “Alright, I think it’s okay now.”

Just as Sim was about to step forward, he saw a form come out from around the side of the statue. Zyenya gasped, and Sim quickly put his hand over her mouth. They both ducked down into the brush, and made themselves completely hidden from view. Both remained as still as the statue, not daring to make a single movement, lest they be discovered. Sim very gently pulled aside a leaf, allowing them to see out into the field.

The figure had the form of a man, but was entirely covered in some strange, bulky metallic gray armor that surrounded itself like an exoskeleton. Its face was covered completely by a black visor. It stood nearly six and a half feet tall, and walked with a slow, deliberate movement. It was slightly stooped over, and seemed to be intently examining the lower part of the lion; where the bottom of the statue met the ground.

“Our footprints in the grass,” Sim muttered softly.

“Shhh!” urged Zyenya.

The figure was following the base of the statue, walking along one of its legs, and then around the paw. In between its front two legs, sat the stereo, and Sim realized this just then. It was on, but not playing, the record still lying on the ground where he had dropped it. The music, however, had continued to play in his head, making the experience seem all the more surreal. There was nothing now he could do to hide it. It would be discovered and what then?

The armored thing, for at least one of them was not yet convinced that this entity was indeed a human, didn’t notice the stereo at first, for it was very carefully investigating the ground around the statue. When it did notice, it rushed over to it, and, without touching it, examined the stereo from every angle. It then picked the record up and looked it over, wiping off the slight bit of grass that had gotten on it from its fall.

“What’s he going to do?” whispered Zyenya.

“I’m doomed,” Sim softly said out loud to himself.

The figure put the record in its sleeve and cover, appeared to read the lyrics that covered the outside for several seconds, and then set it down on top of the turntable. Even without being able to see any of its features, one could tell that it was puzzled, as it looked at the equipment for some time. Then, taking out a hand-sized device that was clipped to its shell-like armor at the waist, it waved it over the entire stereo. A few periodic flashes could be seen emitting from the device as it did this. Then it reattached the device, gave a long sweeping look out to the meadow and then the forest, and slowly walked back across the other side of the statue, but not paying near as much attention as it had before.

The couple remained hidden for around five minutes after it had disappeared from view, not knowing if it would come back, and then Zyenya boldly stood up.

“I can hear it again. I think he’s leaving.”

Sim stood up after a second, and brushed himself off.

“You sure?” he asked.

Zyenya nodded. She was about to step out from cover but Sim held her back and took the first step out from the trees. After standing in the open for a moment he motioned for Zyenya to follow.

“They’ll be gone for a while again if it’s anything like last time,” Zyenya told him.

“You said there was more than one, the last time?”

“I saw three flying things, like birds, but not looking at all like birds.”

“And how many of those guys that we just saw were there?”

“I don’t know. I never saw them, just the flying things,” she thought for a moment, recalling the memory, and then suddenly she raised her head, her eyes went wide in terror and she cried,  “It’s the empire, it must be! They have all the magic technology from their gods! But even all the stories we have about them don’t tell of anything like this…But it has to be them! They’re coming, it’s a surprise attack! Sim, we’ve got to tell–”

Sim put his hands on her shoulders, stopping her, trying to calm her down. He gave her a reassuring smile.

“You’ll only cause a panic,” he explained, “You can’t even tell them that I’m here without that happening. Until we figure out just what’s going on, we can’t tell anyone about this.”

Zyenya nodded, realizing that no one else would listen to her anyway.

Sim continued, “Has anyone else even seen them?”

Zyenya shook her head and explained, “I told you, the things stay out over the field. No one is ever out there when they are around.”

“What about the statue?” Sim asked, “Surely your people must come here often. Is it possible that they could have shown up while someone else was out here.”
Zyenya laughed at this, and said, “You really don’t understand, do you?”

“What do you mean?” asked Sim.

“Nobody ever comes here. They think the statue’s cursed. There’s no way anyone else could have seen them, because I’m the only one who ever comes to this spot. Besides you, that is.”

Sim looked at her for a moment in confusion, “No one comes here? I assumed that your people built this.” He pointed up at the lion above them.

Zyenya laughed again, and took Sim’s hand in hers. “You really don’t know, then. My people didn’t build this. It was here when we came here. Nobody knows what happened to the people who built the lion. They were just gone. That’s why everyone thinks that the lion is cursed.”

“And you don’t?” asked Sim, leading her over to the right leg of the lion, to an area that was shaded by the head of the statue above.

Zyenya shook her head again, and responded, “I don’t believe in any of that. I like the lion. And I can always count on the fact that no one will find me here. But then I met you…So I guess you are right. No one comes out here, and so no one else will see those things, and no one will believe me. Except for you.”

Sim nodded. This was all new to him. He didn’t realize that the statue was as old as Zyenya had just implied. This was an even more ancient place then he had ever imagined.

He thought for a moment longer, and then let go of Zyenya’s hand and walked over to his stereo. Zyenya followed close behind.

“I should never have brought this thing here,” Sim said, picking up his record and holding it in both hands in front of his chest. He looked up at the statue, still gazing strait ahead, and added, “It doesn’t belong here. It shouldn’t be here. Just like them. Just like me.”

“How else would we have been able to hear the music?” noted Zyenya, “And without it, what would we dance to?”

Sim sighed, and then said, “They’re here because I’m here, I just know it. It’s all tied together. I should have never come.”

Zyenya shook her head, “That can’t be true. The first time I saw them was before I met you. Before you said you first came here.”

“Yeah, but that probably doesn’t mean anything considering…well, you wouldn’t understand.”

“I hate when you say that to me,” pouted Zyenya.

“But this would take way too much time to explain. I’ll tell you one day, but it’s probably best that I leave now. I’m sorry our date was interrupted. I’ll be back again in a few days.”

“Afternoon after tomorrow’s, I’ll be waiting for you to show, right here.” She leaned against the lion’s right paw, “Why can’t I come with you for once? You always come here and visit me; I want to see where you come from.”

“Maybe one day, but it’s so different there…One day,” he promised. He unrolled a tarp that sat next to the stereo, and proceeded to cover it over, tucking it underneath to ensure that it wouldn’t come off. Zyenya observed him as he did this task, her look ever curious.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” she said after a brief silence.

“I’ll be there,” he promised her, taking both of her hands with his, “Just two days.”

She squeezed his hands for a second, and then withdrew hers saying, “Until then…By the way, is this still here, when you come from?” She gestured upwards.

Sim looked up at the lion, still feeling the same sense of awe and wonder as the first time he had seen it, and slowly nodded.

“Incredibly, it still is, ten thousand years from now. But it looks pretty different. We call it The Sphinx.”

He stepped backwards, his eyes locked into Zyenya’s, who watched him go and waved. Sim waved back, and turned around, rushing off; soon after he disappeared into the trees. After staring for a moment, Zyenya turned and looked back up at the head of the lion.

“How odd,” she mused, “They call it a sphinx. But it has a lion’s head, not a god’s. Whatever can he mean? I wish I knew.”

And she tapped the base of the covered stereo with her foot, before turning and walking off into sunset. There was so much she didn’t understand, but she wanted to.

From atop the back of the lion stood the figure they had seen earlier, who silently watched her go.



© Copyright 2018 DJ Lost. All rights reserved.

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