An Old Symbol

Art by:  Hue Teo

Art by: Hue Teo


Her horns glow. We’re here, Sire.

Strokes her neck. Noble, strong, ever present. “This grove? I feel as though I’ve been here before.”

You have. Last time was seven years ago. Your father was still alive, it was two days—

"Before his birthday. I remember now.” Water laps the shore. Butterflies take flight catching sun in their wings. Flowers open as light nudges shadow aside. “Why did you bring me here? What was it you wanted me to see?

A shiver rolls through the body of his mount--her way of laughing. You don’t see it? I’m surprised. You tend to be so observant. Look around.

“Ah, okay…There’s the stream. I remember it being a river. Was it? Or have I grown?”

A little of both.

“Mm, and the trees. Those have grown. The rocks, same as…Oh, well that’s new.”

Now he sees it.

“How long has that been there? Is it new? The work of vandals?”

No, Sire. Not vandals, at least none still alive.

“What do you mean?”

This is old work, Sire. Older than your kingdom, older than the first stones set in the first roads, older than this stream and these trees. From what I’ve learned, it’s a remnant left from the Last Time.

“You mean”—turns in his saddle, strokes his jaw. “My goodness. I’m confused. I heard that was such an unhappy period, but here I see a beaming face of joy.”

Yes, Sire. It’s a lie. From what the birds and toads tell me.

“A lie? How’s that?”

A mask. An old symbol the people of the Last Time used to confuse each other. If they wore this mask it meant not joy, but a deep sadness.

“Interesting. Yet they carved it in stone. It must have been such a painful reminder for them.”

No, Sire. From what I can tell the deception ran so deep—burned into their very cores—they no longer knew the difference between truth and lie. In their upside-down world they believed lies had become truth.

He scratches his head. “This is confusing. Let’s return home.”

On their way he ponders his steed’s words. How could a lie become truth? Did the truth become untrue? No, there’s no way such a thing could be. It doesn’t make sense. How can up become down, and down up? Pain bliss, grief joy. Absurd.

“It doesn’t make any sense.”

Trying to understand what I told you?

“I don’t see it. How can lies become true?”

She paws the ground with her back hooves, sends dirt flying. You can’t. I thought that should be obvious.

“But you said”—

They believed lie had become truth, not that it had. Belief shapes perception. Not knowing what was true, they brought themselves an early end.

“Oh.” Turns to look back at the forest they left. “How come they didn’t listen to the birds and frogs?”

A shiver runs through her body. They didn’t know how. Too busy lying to each other to hear what nature had to say.