Ziska, The Problem of a Wicked Soul (Publisher Information & Prologue, page 1 of 1)

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Originally Published in 1896
Now in the Public Domain




Dark against the sky towered the Great Pyramid, and over its apex
hung the moon. Like a wreck cast ashore by some titanic storm, the
Sphinx, reposing amid the undulating waves of grayish sand
surrounding it, seemed for once to drowse. Its solemn visage that
had impassively watched ages come and go, empires rise and fall,
and generations of men live and die, appeared for the moment to
have lost its usual expression of speculative wisdom and intense
disdain--its cold eyes seemed to droop, its stern mouth almost
smiled. The air was calm and sultry; and not a human foot
disturbed the silence. But towards midnight a Voice suddenly arose
as it were like a wind in the desert, crying aloud: "Araxes!
Araxes!" and wailing past, sank with a profound echo into the deep
recesses of the vast Egyptian tomb. Moonlight and the Hour wove
their own mystery; the mystery of a Shadow and a Shape that
flitted out like a thin vapor from the very portals of Death's
ancient temple, and drifting forward a few paces resolved itself
into the visionary fairness of a Woman's form--a Woman whose dark
hair fell about her heavily, like the black remnants of a long-
buried corpse's wrappings; a Woman whose eyes flashed with an
unholy fire as she lifted her face to the white moon and waved her
ghostly arms upon the air. And again the wild Voice pulsated
through the stillness.

"Araxes! ... Araxes! Thou art here,
--and I pursue thee! Through life into
death; through death out into life again!
I find thee and I follow! I follow!

Moonlight and the Hour wove their own mystery; and ere the pale
opal dawn flushed the sky with hues of rose and amber the Shadow
had vanished; the Voice was heard no more. Slowly the sun lifted
the edge of its golden shield above the horizon, and the great
Sphinx awaking from its apparent brief slumber, stared in
expressive and eternal scorn across the tracts of sand and tufted
palm-trees towards the glittering dome of El-Hazar--that abode of
profound sanctity and learning, where men still knelt and
worshipped, praying the Unknown to deliver them from the Unseen.
And one would almost have deemed that the sculptured Monster with
the enigmatical Woman-face and Lion-form had strange thoughts in
its huge granite brain; for when the full day sprang in glory over
the desert and illumined its large features with a burning saffron
radiance, its cruel lips still smiled as though yearning to speak
and propound the terrible riddle of old time; the Problem which

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