Lion Heart

November 1, 2011

Original

Rhysling Award finalist

Tim Pratt is the author of over 20 novels, most recently space opera The Wrong Stars, first in the Axiom series. His short stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places. He’s a Hugo Award winner for short fiction, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He’s a senior editor at Locus magazine, and lives in Berkeley, CA with his family. Every month he writes a new story for his Patreon supporters at www.patreon.com/timpratt.

I settle for the first
oracle I can find (there’s
no sense being picky in
a situation like mine),
a spirit bound by
old bubblegum and lost coins
in the vicinity of a local
playground.

Crouching in the tawny sand
beneath a scuffed red slide at dawn
I sift the grains between
my fingers until a structure
spontaneously forms: less sand
castle than sand temple, sand
ziggurat, sand tower
of silence. A shape

moves within, a flutter of
shadow in the miniature oval windows,
dweller from some deep desert structure,
denizen of an emptier quarter,
transported to this park at the corner
of two long and aimless streets.

A voice of rippling oasis
water whispers the word “Offerings,” and
I empty the contents of a plastic bag on
the ground: a blue pacifier shaped
like a butterfly, the last drops of mother’s
milk retrieved from a bottle in the back
of the freezer, a lock of curled hair

yellow

as desert sun, bound by
thread and fraying into strands.

“Ask,” the voice whispers,
and I say — I speak — I sigh –
“Should I try
again?”

The ziggurat collapses into a mound,
covering my offerings, and my fallen
hopes fall further still. But then a green
shoot squirms up from the sand and bows
under the sudden blossom
of a yellow flower.

The laughter of absent children flutters
through the empty park. And for the first
time in months, the lion’s jaws
locked
around my heart
ease their grasp.

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© Tim Pratt

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