The Bane of Maine
By Joseph Leskey
I, like so many other people were doing in their own houses, was crouching in a corner of our securely locked house. Father held a rifle, and Mother, seated near the kitchen table, held a small black pistol in her lap. Everyone capable in our small town had some sort of weapon. We all sat, waiting for noon; then, all too soon, it came. A cruel, screeching laugh filled the air. The sound of large beating wings followed, accompanied by a loud roaring.
“Be quiet,” warned Father hoarsely; he was whispering. Mother squeezed her eyes shut; I felt like doing the same, but I would have preferred to become one with the thick wall.
We all listened; there was no sound. Father walked over and, opening the window a little bit, looked out. “It's all clear!” He was greatly relieved. Mother appeared to start breathing; I realized that I might not have been.
My name is Johnnie Adam Wallace and I live in a small town in the coast of Maine. At noon, almost every day, something comes down from a nearby hill and causes wreckage all throughout the town. It seems to only destroy because it wants to carry away people; that is why we all hide in our secured houses, not that it does much good. We went out of our house to inspect the damage. People crowded the streets, trying to figure out everything. We learned soon that the creature had assaulted the butcher’s shop.
Suddenly, a lady came up screaming, “There's something carved in the Thing-Tower; it wasn't there before.”
The Thing-Tower was a so-called piece of art; an artist came on my second birthday, my parents tell me, and stacked some stones on top of each other, explaining that it was a frog in a lake. Ever since, people have called it, “the Thing-Tower”. Everybody ran over to it, as it was only a short distance away. Tripping and pushing the mayor finally got up to it and read, “One who dares must come up the hill yonder and confront me, answering my riddle. If no one does, I will continue to enjoy my lunch.”
“Lunch?” asked an old lady, “What's its lunch?”
“I'm afraid, Madam, that we are lunch,” said the mayor, “But, don't take on so!” He never could stand anyone being upset.
The few people with smart phones whipped them out and began snapping pictures, pressing on their phones with painted fingernails.
The mayor's brother always needed to instantly start things, “All right, who will go?”
The mayor couldn't leave it at that. “Just think of all the good you will do for your beloved town, your friends and family that you are saving, the way of life that you are preserving, and last, but definitely not least, the bread that you are keeping on these wonderful people's tables. Though it may cost you everything you have, know that you are saving your precious community.”
A few people clapped, one person said their only friends and family lived in England, another person said that actually they would be keeping bread in their mayor's stomach, and others said that they didn't put bread on their table. Then, everyone started murmuring about who should go; as it turned out, they were all going far away, which was not true, so they started murmuring all over again.
“It might help if we know what we are dealing with!” shouted one man.
Suddenly, an idea occurred to me; I told my father and mother that we needed to go home, so we did. I quickly grabbed, from a closet, a live-video camera and I rushed back out from the house. I searched around until I found a place where there were many lion-like tracks; there, I set up the camera. Then, I rushed back home. The rest of the day, my stomach fluttered. Finally, night came, and I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned for what seemed all night. I must have fallen asleep, however, because suddenly I was awake and my watch said that it was 9:38. Father and Mother were already up and I joined them for breakfast.
“Father, may I look at some of your books? I will need some, probably on mythology.”
Father was very careful about the books I read. “How old are you?”
I knew that Father liked things to be exact. “I am eleven years, six months, and seven days.”
“Good! Yes, you may read them.”
“Thank you!” I smiled, but inside I felt like I had a stomach virus.
“You shouldn't talk so long, dears,” said Mother, “Your eggs will get cold.”
We ate and cleaned up the kitchen. I looked at the big clock above the stove; it said 10:56. Shaking with excitement, I went into Father's library. We weren't what one would call rich, so there weren’t many titles on the bookshelf. I grabbed all of the books of mythology and set them next to a monitor, that was, by wireless, connected to the camera. I checked my watch again; 11:13.
Father went to prepare weapons, as I knew everyone else was doing. I grabbed a long knife and some cyan pepper sprayers from my bed and put them into my belt. Father brought out his rifle and Mother's pistol.
“It's eleven-twenty-five.” warned Father, “Is everyone prepared?”
“Yes.” replied Mother and I.
I sat down next to my monitor and turned it on; nothing was stirring. We waited for what seemed hours. I was reading about sea monsters in one of the books, when, suddenly, the monitor beeped. With controls on the right side of the monitor I turned the camera to where the thing was. All I saw was a man walk into his house with a donut and a can of Mt. Dew. I sighed and checked my watch; it was 11:52. I started reading my book again. I had just reached werewolves, when the monitor started beeping again, more rapidly this time. I again turned it to the right direction and I saw something like a bird coming towards us. I was going to turn back to my book, when I noticed that it had four feet. It was coming forth rapidly, so I set the camera to follow it.
When the creature finally landed, I gasped. It was a great lion, with large, black wings, which looked like a bird of prey's, only larger. It looked in the camera's direction and I gasped again, for it had the face of a woman; for the first time, I noticed the long black hair. Suddenly, it pounced in the direction of the camera and the screen of my monitor went blank and said that it had lost connection. I had heard of this creature before, although I could not recall its name. The mayor doesn't hold with myth, so nobody knows much of it. I had no time to look into it now, so I sneaked into a corner and waited. The creature loudly vocalized its customary laugh, and there was a loud crash. Someone screamed for all they were worth. I realized how awful it would have been if the creature had arrived at our town earlier; as it was, it had only arrived a month ago.
All was quiet now and we started to stir again. We all went out to see what was damaged. Someone yelled, “The Thing-Tower has toppled over onto a house.”
Everyone ran over. The house was completely smashed, as it didn't have a good build, and the rocks of the Thing-Tower were everywhere.
We soon went home and I sat for a long time thinking, reading, and writing.
“Time to eat supper!” called Mother.
We all went and ate. Then, I began looking through the books again; at 8:30 PM, my search was rewarded; the book showed a picture almost exactly the same as the thing I caught on the camera and went on to say:
A sphinx is a beast of Greek mythology. It supposedly has the body of a winged lion and the face of a woman. The sphinx gave a riddle and, if the riddle wasn't solved by the person it was riddling, it proceeded to eat them. The story goes that Oedipus answered the riddle correctly, the answer being a man at the three stages of his life. Upon his answer, the sphinx killed itself.
The riddle went something like this:
What walks on four legs in morning,
Two legs at noon,
And three legs at evening?
The answer is not many, but one.
The answer and explanation to the riddle was:
Answer: Man at the three stages of his life.
Explanation: The baby crawls (four legs), the man walks (two legs), and the old man walks with a walking stick (three legs).
I thought and thought. I came to the conclusion that the sphinx may be using a new riddle, so I looked through Father's dictionary and book of riddles far into the night. From plain exhaustion, however, I finally fell asleep, right where I was.
I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. I found that I was in bed and that Mother was making breakfast. Father was away at work. I waited for breakfast, while I pondered about the sphinx.
“Time to eat, Johnnie!” said Mother. I went over to eat the usual breakfast of pancakes and sausage. We ate in silence, until Mother said, “You seem uncommonly quiet today.”
“I'm thinking.” I stated shortly. And I was thinking; I was thinking that nobody was going to confront the sphinx; nobody, that is, but me. I knew that I had to do it, no matter how silly it seemed; most people didn't believe in mythology and, of those who did, braveness was not a common trait in my town.
When we had finished breakfast, Mother started washing dishes. And I knew that, if I didn't want more people to be eaten, including me, I needed to act now. I didn't put on my weapons, as they would do no good. I sneaked out of the back door with nothing extra but wits. I walked for a while before reaching the hill. Drawing a breath, I started to climb. Strange lights were coming from the top, and I dreadfully wanted to run back home. When I reached the top, I felt like I had my trembles and everyone else's combined; I was trembling so much, in fact, that I fell over. There was another little hill in front of me and I started towards it, but, before I could, there was the sphinx staring at me with cold eyes, “Have you come to be my appetizer, or to answer my riddle?” Her voice was icy and a little surprised.
In my great fright, I only managed to say, “Riddle.”
She laughed scornfully, “They send a mere child. Old fools, young fools; it's all the same to me. The riddle I will give you, tasty tidbit.” the sphinx continued, smiling in a cruel fashion, if not a little amused. She smacked her lips, “What is in control of many lives, but not yours nor mine. Of the last to turn out the light. Consuming greedily and put forth rapidly, this thing still lives today.”
The sphinx sat down waiting greedily for an answer. I really liked being smart; therefore, I forgot a lot of my fear. I tried to instantly summon all my knowledge at once; I tried to remember things from the dictionary, I tried to recall this riddle from the book of riddles, but it was all no good. It seemed that it would all end here. The sphinx started slowly going towards me, with its mouth open. Just as I was about to be eaten, I thought of my cousin, who was a dedicated author, remarking, “It's fun! You are in complete control of your characters. And, you stay up to all hours of the night!”
The answer dawned on me. “It's an author.”
The sphinx quickly withdrew itself and then, with a mighty bound and a screech, which was heard far and wide, flung itself into the rocky side of the ocean; it never moved again.
I suddenly realized what I had done, and, overwhelmed, I sat down. I looked down on the town and realized that everyone was flocking out of it towards the hill—towards me. When they reached me they threw me about shouting, “Hip! Hip! Hooray! Three cheers for Johnnie!” The town was so small that almost everyone knew who almost everyone was.
They carried me back to the town square where the mayor straightened himself up and said, “May this by a lesson to you. Why does it matter how old someone is, as long as they do what is right? This young lad here, without any thought for himself, braved through the perilous journey to the top of the hill and fought through the many dangers thereof. He single-handily tossed the creature into the rocky lining of the ocean. He knew how to defeat it! Sometimes, it isn't just mere feats of arms that win a war; it is the knowledge behind them. Let's have a great big hand for this boy.” The mayor sat down, very much impressed with his speech. Everybody clapped.
“Now, Johnnie,” said the mayor, “what would you like as a reward.”
“Books,” I said. “Lots of books.”
Copyright© 2015 by Joseph Leskey
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