I parked my silver travel trailer at the edge of the RV park, as far from the national park’s main lodge as I could. The park rangers had been careful to warn me about the dangers that came with the park’s heat and dryness. I was an old hand at this. I wouldn’t stray far from my base. I’d carry plenty of water with me.
The dried lake bed stretched out from horizon to horizon. Front to back, left to right. In the far distance was the ridges of the Diablo Mesa. I would leave early in the morning and keep to the edges of the dried lake until I found some degree of shade. I’d stop, rest and draw whatever I saw. It was repetitive, but it was relaxing.
There was a sphinx. They weren’t uncommon in these parts, and I’d been told to stay away from them. I watched in silence. Browned skin of her head and chest gave way to the tawny fur of a lion’s body. Wings spread back from her shoulders. Jet black hair that shined. I was transfixed and spent several days sketching her.
Some days later, the sphinx approached me. She approached me in her glory, towering over me like a monster from some ancient childhood nightmare. The light of Saturn glimmered off the gold she wore. There was gold in her hair and on her ears. Bands of gold, jade and lapis lazuli encircled her neck.
“I see you,” the sphinx said.
“And I see you too.”
The sphinx sat down on her haunches.
“I’m not supposed to talk to you,” I said.
“Yet here we are.”
“Here we are.”
The sphinx nodded her head.
My face was burnt red and was covered in sweat. I held up my sketchpad to show the sphinx what I’d been drawing.
“That’s me,” the sphinx said. A statement, not a question.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m sketching life.”
“Life? There is little life here.”
“I sketch what I see.”
“This is public land.”
“I don’t recognize your government.”
“A sovereign citizen type, huh?” I asked.
The sphinx furrowed her brows.
“Sorry, bad joke.” I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “I can leave if you’d like.”
The sphinx studied me for several agonizing moments. She stood up and shook her head. Without answering me, she began to walk away, across the dried lake bed.
“What’s your name?” I called.
The sphinx remained silent, eventually becoming a distant figure marred by the waves of heat that rose from the ground.