Author: Harry J. Bentham

A deep vista of stars rested in the boundless black, subordinate to the rays of a single white sun above the time-scarred wastes of the surface. There stood cliffs, cruel and capricious, and the winds piped in an endless song through deep canyons. For eons that planet had rested, as some monument to the remotest past.

Now, with purpose, a disturbance arose within the vast cosmic void above that hitherto undisturbed realm. A trail of cloudy matter had formed distantly in the dark heavens, spearheaded by a glittering bullet of silver and gold.

The gales, hallowing the supreme isolation of the world, were pierced by a shrill and insolent new sound. Only minutes later, the source of the violation hurriedly descended. Halo-like rings of light traced the arrival a graceful apparatus, resembling a metallic disc crowned by an array of dark spikes and antennae. For a moment it hovered over the stone, even as a sphynx-like body of rock stared on.

No sooner had the disc fully settled on its landing gear than a bipedal form stumbled from a glowing bay, now opening at its wing. A curious mask covered the face of the visitor, with grotesque goggles and black garb occluding any sign of flesh on that uninvited species.

The figure stopped with confident bearing, looking to the solemn face of the sphynx-shaped guardian of rock with suspicion. As if for reassurance, he then tilted his head to regard the glint of the mothership gliding so far above. A second figure stepped forward, a little more nervous than the first, almost recoiling under the stare of the beastly form and face in the stone gazing down on them.

Neither figure said a word, so imposing were the howls and bellows of the developing storm sweeping those unvisited rocks. The leading figure produced some radiant rectangular device, with an evidently benign optical purpose. He held the pane resolutely against the desolate vista of grey and white. The man turned steadily, regarding with greatest interest the visages that seemed to protrude from all the strange rockfaces, capturing every contour of the skyline through that window he held.

Dismissively, the leading figure gestured for the other to return to the warm glow of the bay at the wing of the disc. The nervous man beat his own ear with a gloved hand, as if he had missed some inaudible instruction from his superior. He looked again with caution upon the weird visage of stone. But the rays of light from the white sun migrated and grew in intensity, and under that new brilliance the features of the sphynx appeared to recede and give way to only the twists and caprices of bare geology.

The peculiar craft, still lit with its open bay and its halo of spinning light, waited for the figure to return. Some minutes passed, but the explorer still stood. Then, with great caution, the man stepped back up the ramp at the disc’s wing. The bay drew shut.

With new yellow lights blinking upon it, the rapport of the trespassing vehicle with its gleaming mothership returned. It ascended vertically with ever-increasing haste, its own shrill artificial whine overpowering the whisper of the winds.

All things fell silent for a moment, before the eons-long song of the planet’s wind restored its sovereignty over the sterile cliff faces and ravines. Soon, with the setting of the sun, grim shadows grew once more. The vague but somber impression of the face upon the head of the cosmic sphynx had returned.