- a memoir -

For twice ten thousand years, I have sat on this rock, overlooking this valley. For all that time, I have waited patiently for those occasional visitors who have come to relieve my boredom.

Of course, none of them knew that that was why they had come. They all thought that they had a different reason for coming. Some, to gain wisdom. Some, to win a reward. Some, to merely slay a monster and gain fame and reknown.

Not one of them knew that they had come because I had planned it so.

When I was first cursed to sit here, undying and unsleeping, it was cold. The land was mostly steppe, and the mountains were ice-capped even in summer. The first people who came were hunters, clad in skins and carrying primitive spears. They didn't understand me, and I did not understand them, but I learned.

As time went by, and the climate grew warmer, I sat on my rock, waiting. It was intensely boring, and I lived for those rare moments when some wanderer passed my way, whether by accident or intent. I would converse with them, as best I could, and thus learned of what passed outside the valley. Sometimes. At other times, I confess that the boredom drove me to extremes of behaviour that I am not proud of now. On such occasions, visitors to the valley found a ravening monster.

I no longer remember when the idea occurred to me. It was at least three or four thousand years ago. Such a simple idea... to make people seek me out, instead of merely waiting for them. Once conceived, the idea did not take long to implement, and the story spread, as stories did at that time, by word of mouth: in the mountains, there is a dreadful monster, and if you go to meet it, it will ask you a riddle. Answer it, and great fortune will be yours.

No longer a mere chance encounter, I became the object of quests. Oh, it had its hazards. On occasion, such men as were considered heroes would come to my valley, armored and armed, and eager to make me a trophy. They lasted no longer than the cowards, of course, but they had courage, I'll grant them that. It was impressive, in a rather pointless way.

In the end, though, even this new pastime grew boring.

Two thousand years ago, my days having settled into this new cycle of endless boredom, someone passed by. He was a religious man. I had met many of the kind before, but this one was special. So involved was he with his faith, that he even had me halfway convinced. In his world-view, I was a beast of the netherworlds, and ought rightly to return there. I tried to tell him of his error, but he would not listen, and tried to exorcize me.

No success, of course. I don't think any power on Earth could have moved me from my rock. Killed me, maybe. But moved me while still alive? Not a chance.

In the end, I ate him. I might have let him live, but he really was too pushy.

More centuries passed, and more holy men came, of various faiths. They all tasted alike. Too much garlic, usually.

Erosion caused my rock to move down the hillside, but I was still bound to it. And people still came. A few centuries ago, for some reason, I was visited by scores of poets, one by one. They weren't very good poets, it had to be said. There was one fellow in a cocky beret who had some style, but mostly they were pretentious posers. He was a poser, too, but at least he was a competent poet.

It's a new and busy age among humans, these days.

I'm trying something new now. I managed to realize, in time, that if my location became widely known among humans, I'd probably get a lot of the wrong sort of attention. So I compromised. I took one human clan into my service, and they built a small monastery around me. So far as the world is concerned, the rock I am bound to is merely part of a small, closed monastic garden. The "monks" who tend the place are self-sufficient, and do not receive visitors, except by invitation. And I choose who comes to see me.

I've got a television and a computer set up next to my rock. I chat on the internet, and I watch CNN. I entertain the occasional visitor, who is always properly humble and awed in my presence. And none of my friends on the internet have any idea that "TheSphinx" isn't just my online nickname.