Phillip A. Ellis

Over the desert, a thin dust of dust
sifted down with the evening breeze. We'd come
upon the word of Orthodesun, traveller,
whose lectures noted the old mysteries
of the singing statues. Only at dusk, he said,
they sing a low, and mournful, note. So we'd come
to witness this marvel for ourselves, bring
back word of our adventures.
    We had travelled
inwards almost a day away from the nearest
oasis. The statues stood majestic, rose
with backs to the rising sun. Desert storms
had long scoured all character from them: they
were smooth pillars, fifty foot in height,
each pieced alone by a fissure: ancient mouths.
It was almost dusk, the sun behind cast
the statues’ shadows away, at some length.

“Camping here would be so romantic,” she said,
brushing dust from her hair. “They must be magnificent
by moonlight.”
      “I heard tell the natives regard
them haunted,” I said, looking upon the wilderness
with experienced eye. “I don’t see why
we can’t wait for moonrise. When will it be?”

She checked her ephemerides: “About an hour
after sunset.”
      We waited there for the sun
to set, the song commence.
  “What would we see
in our dreams,” she said, “if we're to dream tonight?”

“Perhaps the builders,” I said, “and the statues whole.”

With the sun touching the horizon, there commenced
a low, breathy humming, seeming to emanate
from the bedrock. The  fissures seemed darker
than night; I was awed into silence. This,
this was the song we'd heard about, of unknown
antiquity, equally unknown import.

Eventually, the sun finished setting:
the song ceased, evening began.
       “I wonder
what race built these images,” she said, “They seem
so ancient, mysterious.”
“They must have had
their reasons. Probably ceremonial. There’s
no other reason to build out here in the desert,
since it must have been millennia since
there was greenery here.”
We made our camp, and waited
for the moon. The moonlight, after dark, was divine,
we imagined ourselves the first explorers hereabouts.
After we'd retired for the night, I lay
awake a while, imagined what it must
have been like when this plateau was green, perhaps a stream
or lake below. Were there people then, and if so,
whither had they gone?
      And I dozed, not long
afterwards, my dreams full of a shape,
and a strange scene, with that same song at sunset.

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