The sun is setting. Hopefully there is enough time to travel there and back. I pat my travel bag again, just to be sure. The weight of my skinning dagger drags on my hip. Over the final hill, I begin to see him in the distance; the giant. The one who with four eyes looks every way.
Argos, the all-seeing.
Sitting on a throne, carved out from the granite mountain where he resides some miles east of the city. He appears human in form, but monstrous in proportions, wearing a tunic, like my own, but it’s caked with grey dust accrued from his surroundings. Scraggly black hair covers his head. My mind boggles, how he could see anything through that filthy mane? Red pox marks cover his arms and chest. Is he ill? As I approach I notice that the gaping red holes seem to close and open at random. A grotesque idea surfaces, I know the truth.
I inhale deeply and shout. “Hail, Argos, traitor to your kin and spy of Hera!” The greeting echoes off the mountains twice and disappears. Silence eclipses the mountain. Even the breeze ceases to blow.
A gravelly voice answers, “Who have I betrayed? You look like no kinsman of mine.” A tree trunk of an arm raises itself to part the black curtain of hair, revealing two blood-red eyes. “To whom am I addressing?” he asks.
“A fellow herdsman,” I respond. Argus cocks his head to the left. It appears he now understands my introduction.
“Forgive me for not realising earlier brother,” he says. “What brings you here? You seem to know my name, have you one that I may greet you by?”
“Surely you must know my name great Argos?” I scoff. ” Do you not see all? Could you not just take it?”
“But that would be impolite, don’t you agree? Own a man’s name and you own the man. A frightful power, and to abuse it would be wrong.”
“And who’s to say that you have never abused that power?” I retort. “Must I accept a stranger’s word?” The giant appears shocked. “Who are you to possess such a power to begin with?”
“Why, I give you my word as a servant of Hera,” implores Argos. “I merely stand watch and offer protection as you have asked my mistress for. Have I wronged you brother?”
“Argos,” I begin, “I have thought long on the ‘protection’ that you offer. Stories have travelled to us, telling of faraway peoples as well as Grecians who have come across one of your scarlet eyes. Those people now live in fear of your unseen gaze.” I reach into my travel sack. “I did not believe the stories at first. But then I found this!” On cue, I pull out a glistening red orb. It was one of his eyes. “Explain, oh watchful Argos, why found I this lying beneath my babe’s cot?! You are tasked to guard us, have you found an enemy in my children?” I drop his eye and unsheathe my dagger. “The others in the city would not come with me,” I inform him. “You’ve turned them into panicked sheep. But I am a true man of Greece. You threaten my offspring? I would sooner slay you. Your powers and their magnitude are a perversion in and of themselves. No one should have any right to them. You claim to guard us from an enemy. Then look to them, not us! You contradict yourself Argos.” I raise my dagger at him. “Speak, loatheful thing. Explain yourself or I swear by Zeus I will-”
“YOU WILL WHAT?” Argos slams his palm on his throne’s armrest. A clap like thunder splits my ears, the vibration shaking me to my core. Oh gods, protect me.
“You think your true enemies are some strange shadowy devils? Wrong, young sheepherder. Your devils are of flesh and blood, heart and soul, just like you. You only differ in how you view your fellow man.” He points to the dagger on my hip. “Some would sooner greet you with a sword in hand than they would without, and you might do the same. You humans bless the fickle and curse the true. I watch over you because you are the greatest threat to yourselves. The real devils walk in the daylight.” His muscles strain loudly as he rises from his seat, towering above me. Argos looks to the sunset. “From here, I see the vengeful sphinx stalking the cliffside, the basilisk slithering from its desert hole, and the gorgons inching ever closer from the world’s edge.” His points west to the city. “See how the ravens no longer perch atop your towers? They know who waits for you in the dark; undying creatures who wait for when the threat of Man’s self-hatred has stricken itself down to its weakest. Time will not stop them. They will wait to visit upon your children and your grandchildren. The beasts only fear Man when you stand united. Because devils walk in the daylight, so they will just wait for the night, when you are asleep.”
I sense the full force of a legion of fierce red eyes bearing down on me, staring at me, no, staring at Us. For a moment, I think I saw in my mind the terrible things he spoke of. And I think they saw me as well. “Surely, you will warn us?” I implore shakily. “You said it yourself Argus. Isn’t it your duty to protect us?”
The earth begins to tremor. I notice the rhythmic, deep bellow filling the air. Argus is laughing, head thrown back, face contorted by a cavernous grin. Moments later, Argus steadies himself and slowly sits down upon his throne. The smile is gone. He looks to me and says, “Indeed it is, Demetrios.” Then an unfathomable sadness casts itself over his brow.
Story by Cyril T. T. Makwembere