I stand outside my king’s palace, my stone body towering over the city. My brother is to my right. I can hear him sometimes in the silence of the night. There, his lion’s body presses against the stone, and I hear the stones crack, but never give. He roars, so slight that no one can hear him besides me. We guard together.

One day, my king steps out of the palace. His horned helmet appears first in my vision and he reaches out to me. His hand rubs against my stone wings, getting caught in the indents. They push past the stone, and touch my skin. I close my eyes and take in his warm fingers pulling at my stone.

He speaks out to the people. The wind blows against me, and I shudder. I look at all the faces in the crowd. There’s a boy with bloodshot eyes that dart around. His hands are stuffed into his tunic. Then, his hand slides out. Steel glimmers in the sun. His knuckles dig into the hilt. The wind dies as the gods hold their breath.

My king tells a story of our past. Of how the gods chose all of us to live on these hot sands. Of how the gods placed us here with a destiny, a purpose, and that the sun burns our skin because the gods know that we are strong enough to handle it.

The boy with bloodshot eyes weaves through the crowd, then closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath.

I speak out. I have no voice. No one can hear me, but it doesn’t matter. I guard my king, and he knows. He looks back at me, into my engraved eyes. He nods and grips the hilt of his sword. Then a shout erupts from the crowd.

The clouds freeze in the sky. The boy races up the steps. My king hesitates, staring at the boy’s bloodshot eyes. My king unsheathes his sword and steps back. He reaches out and touches me. His palms are wet. I shudder, and his arm shakes. He looks at me and I roar. There’s no sound, but he hears me.

The boy jumps in front of me, his long hair clumped with dirt.

They look at each other. The boy’s legs tense up. He grips the knife harder. I shout. The boy lunges at my king, but my king feels my stone shake. My king knows even though he cannot hear me. My king jumps back, and the boy stumbles to the ground. His knife tumbles down the steps, then lands on the bottom step.

The boy lies there, staring up at me. Those bloodshot eyes, red with fury, white with despair. Then he looks at my king, his sword pointed at the boy’s neck. The boy shudders, then closes his eyes.
My king pauses, then sheathes his sword. He picks the boy up by the shirt and lifts him above the steps. Everyone looks at them, waiting for that blade to sink into the boy’s chest and for his body to drop down the steps.

But the boy is let down to the ground. The guards take him. My king walks up to me. He taps me, then stares. I say my prayers to the heavens, but my king cannot hear me. Yet, he knows, and he smiles.

The boy is led through the crowd. The people look at each other, mutter words of disbelief, of happiness that blood did not spill down the steps.

My king stands on top of the steps and he grabs his blade. He places it down on the top step, and all the people look back to him. He looks at me, nods, and leaves it lying there in the blazing sun.

The night comes and the blade still lies at the top. No one has taken it.

That is why I am the guardian of my king.


Years pass. My king’s hair becomes white and his back arches forward, but he stills steps outside his palace and speaks. His voice is soft, but the crowd and the heavens still grow quiet. Not out of fear anymore. Just to listen.

He tells us stories, about how one of the gods stole fire, and was banished to the depths of the sands. Kids sit on the bottom of the steps, like the knife left long ago. Their eyes look at him, hanging on every word. My king always smiles whenever the crowd gasps or laughs. I keep my eyes on them, waiting for that boy with the bloodshot eyes.

Then, one night, a boy stands in front of the palace. He fiddles with a knife in his pocket and I see his eyes. Bloodshot. My legs press against the stone. I feel cracks, like it’s about to give, and imagine myself jumping on top of the boy, pinning him down. Imagine the feel of my teeth scraping across his throat. I stop myself. He doesn’t need to die. Just another boy with dreams of glory.
But the stone doesn’t let me go. My body still pushes on it, aching, and the boy pats me. Cold, rough fingers run through my cracks. He walks by the guards, who have fallen asleep after all their years of service. No boy with bloodshot eyes had dared to challenge my king in years. Yet, here he is.

He walks inside. I try to scream, but I can’t make noise. The wind howls. Then, I hear it. A knife slicing through flesh, blood dripping on the floor, and gurgling. Then, another slice. More and more. Bones cracking. Silence. Then footsteps.

The boy emerges from the hallway. The horned helmet in his left hand. My king’s head in his right. He holds up the head, to the cheering of the wind, and tosses it down the steps. Then he looks at me, grins, and puts the helmet on his head.

I am the guardian of my king. He is dead, but I still serve him.


The boy becomes the king and he stands in front of the crowd. He speaks out, but the winds do not die down, and the crowd mumbles. He doesn’t tell stories like my old king.
He keeps coming out to the top of the stairs and looking over all the sand and buildings. He grins. Soon, the grin starts to falter, and becomes little more but a grimace.
He tells his warriors to go north. To take whatever there is and make it his.

An assassin, another boy in a tattered tunic, comes in the night. My legs twitch, trying to stop a new boy with bloodshot eyes, but I can’t. He walks out of the palace. The guards are gone, off at war.

The head tumbles down the step.

The new boy stands atop the steps again, with the same grin that always fades.

My king is dead, yet I serve him.

In the nights where the boys don’t come, I tell stories to the darkness. At first, they were to my brother. He became quiet after my king was killed. He’s silent like the nights where the boys do not come. His stone crumbles to the floor. His face falls off. Still I stand.

I tell stories of the gods, stories that my king told his people. I tell stories of how they died, of the wars they waged on themselves. Of the blood and dust that dripped from the heavens that made all this sand. Yet, there was a god who stood above all of it, who watched it all, and saw through all the dust. He saw us, men and women, alive because of the bloodshed, and he smiled. The god still watches over us, guarding us. That is why I serve my king.

I keep telling stories. I hope someone hears them. My brother cannot, as his ears have cracked off and shattered against the ground. Perhaps, a boy with bloodshot hears it, and leaves us alone for the night.

Still, the boys come and the helmet switches heads.

The palace becomes empty eventually. There are no more crowds, just sand. The houses fall, and my brother continues to collapse. He becomes little more than cracked rock and dust.

I still stand. I guard my king. He is not here, but that doesn’t matter. I protect him.

I cry out into the night, hoping my words reach somebody’s ears. I tell the stories that my king said years ago. I don’t remember all the details, but I say what matters. How the gods loved us. That we were created for a reason. That we have a duty. When I speak, the sands die down and birds perch onto the fragments of my dead brother and listen. I hear the winds call me king. But I guard my king. Still, to this day.

A man walks up to me after centuries. He stops in front of me, and grins. His eyes are bloodshot, and he pulls out a brush and dusts me. He looks into my eyes and rubs his hands across my stone, getting caught in the fallen pieces. He pulls out a notebook, jots down a few quick words, then continues to stare at me.

I tell him the stories I have shouted a hundred times over, but he doesn’t listen. He cares not for the stories of gods and wars.

Then I tell him about my king. About the one who spared the boy with the bloodshot eyes. My king, whose words still echo in his ruined village. The only king. All the rest were boys with tattered tunics and rusted knives. My king.

I see it in his eyes, how it twitches so slightly. He listens. My king lives inside of him. Then, he carries me away.

I’m not in that dead city anymore. I’m in a building filled with statues. Hundreds of boys with bloodshot eyes stare at me every day. They look at me and I tell them the story of my king. My king who saw a boy with bloodshot eyes ready to kill him. My king who spared him and who remains with me.

Some forget my story.

Some listen.

Those that do will become like my king.