Onyxis the Stone


Bryan Perkins

        When gods still roamed the Earth

And Death was a physical being,

Onyxis the Stone

Was the oldest living thing.

Onyxis the Solid, they called her,

In their various tongues.

Onyxis the Leader,

When they sang of her in songs.

It was because she made her home

Atop a mountain in the white, white snow,

And anywhere anyone was

They could look to her to know which way to go.

She lived there almost all her life

And, considering the length,

To live up there in the cold, cold snow

It had to take some strength.

Every night she’d freeze right over,

And every morning thaw.

All that changing ice and water

Was starting to rub her raw.

Then one night in the deep, deep cold--

The kind that was getting really old--

She had a dream she thought foretold

A life in the valley for she.

And that little hope gave her peace.

She thawed and she froze

And she froze and she thawed

With only the hope

Of what one day aught

To help her to keep

Her head held up high

So the people below

Could tell their left from their right.

She dreamed and she hoped

And she wished every day

Until, finally, one of the gods

Remembered her name.

        “Onyxis the Stone,” the god said to herself.

“The Solid, The Leader, The Stout.”

        “Onyxis the Leader!” she said again,

Only this time it was more of a shout.

        “Onyxis is who I need,”

She said to no one at all.

“Onyxis could do this deed

As easily as she could stumble and fall.”

        And through the halls of her empty castle

A cackling could be heard,

Until it turned into chirping

When the god turned into a bird.

On lighted wing, quick and lithe,

She flew through skies of blue

To the top of a faraway mountain

For a meeting with you-know-who.

        “Onyxis, dear,” she sang so sweet.

“Up here it is so cold.

How is it that you stand it?

Especially being so--ahem--old.”

        “Little bird,” Onyxis said.

“It’s like you read my dreams.

If I could live in the valley there

I’d be as happy as the Queen.”

        “You know, Onyxis,” the bird did whisper.

“I think I can help you there.

I’ll get you down to the valley

And out of this cold, thin air.”

        At that Onyxis’s heart did jump--

And she thought that she did, too--

But what she wasn’t ready for,

The little bird was about to coo.

        “You know, Onyxis, I’m just a little bird,

And this is a hard thing for me to do.

Maybe, then, you wouldn’t mind

If there was a favor that I asked of you.”


Onyxis was old enough

She knew the ways of the world,

But just the thought of the valley

Made her remember when she was a girl.

She didn’t always live on the mountain,

And if only she had known

How cold, dark, and lonesome it was

She might never have called it her home.

The best thing that she could think to do

Was to hear the bird’s request

And depending on what it was she sang

Onyxis could decide if agreeing was best.


The bird,

Taking her silence as a point of entry,


“The thing that I ask you can do quite simply.

It’s just, there’s a man down there

Who once did fool me--

And don’t even ask,

I’m not telling the story--

But on the way down

If you wouldn’t be sorry

Could you roll him right over

And make it quite gorey?”

        Another silence,

Though the bird did chirp.

The same maniacal laughter

From when we met her first.

Onyxis thought rolling over one human

Couldn’t do much harm.

Why soon she did wonder  

Why she was ever alarmed.

        “I’ll do it,” she said.

“And I don’t know who wouldn’t.

If they’re afraid to do it,

Then maybe they shouldn’t.

But I know that I’m not

And I’m ready right now.

Just tell me how to, then--”

        “Smack, bang, kerplow!”

The bird was excited.

She showed it. She sang.

Until she turned human

And her laughter rang

Out through the valley

And back to the cliffs.

Louder and louder,

No ear could miss

The cackling, crackling,

Rumbling joy

That rattled the earth

Like a baby’s toy.

And the shaking did shake

Onyxis from her seat

Her decision was made

Just her fate left to meet.

As she rolled and she tumbled

She knew all was well,

It was valley life for her,

No more cold, icy Hell.

She rolled and she rolled

And she felt a soft bump

Giving no thought

To what exactly it was.

Remember, Onyxis had no knowledge of pain,

To her, bump or no was all the same.

And soon, she was sleeping in the sunny, green plain.

        Yet, the next morning, upon waking  

She was icy and cold nonetheless.

Standing in front of her, shaking,

Was the bird, clearly in duress.

        “Onyxis, dear, I don’t know how,

But somehow you’ve defied me.”

        “I don’t know what you’re talking about.

I’ve done nothing, you see.”

        “That man down there--

Whom you were supposed to kill--

Now, how do you think

That it made me feel

When he laid there, sure,

But only for a bit

Then he got right up

And started walking again?”

        “I did what you said.

I’ll do it again.

It’s not my fault

I didn’t kill your human.”

        “Oh, you’ll do it again,

That much I’m sure.”

And she chirped and she chirped

Until she wasn’t a bird.

“And you’ll have your punishment,

Just you wait and you’ll see.

But not until you’ve done

What you promised to me.”

        So she pushed Onyxis

Right off the cliff

And Onyxis rumbled

And bumbled and biffed.

And she thought to herself,

This is bad for a Stone.

Maybe I could be happy

On a mountain alone,

But if there’s one thing

That I know for sure:

Rolling like this,

Anything is better.

        As things went

She had no way to stop

Until gravity and inertia

Forced her to plop

In the middle of the town

The man she killed called home.

She listened while his wife

Cried and she moaned.

And this particular death

Was strange for more than this,

It was strange, also,

Because of the dead man’s dying wish.

        So she sat for ten days

And ten nights staring

At the ghastly sight

Of a dead man lying

In the middle of the dirty street

Because before his makers to meet

He wished that he would not be buried

So across the river Styx his soul couldn’t be carried.

And when in Hades

He pled his case

He soon stood again

And he started to pace.

But the joy of wife and town,

Didn’t last long

Because soon came again

The tiny bird song.

        “Onyxis, dear,”

She cooed when she arrived.

“You’ve messed up again

Our man’s still alive.

Now since he clings

To life so strongly

And since you commit

Your deeds so wrongly

There’s a punishment

That I have in mind

That will be terrible

For you and he in kind!”


As soon as she said it

The scenery did change

And Onyxis found herself

In the valley of a different mountain range.

But she didn’t get to rest for even a minute

Before her whole world started spinning.

The man who it was her job to crush

Now did have his own job to push

Onyxis up to the top of a hill

But Onyxis didn’t like it so Onyxis did struggle.

And just before they did reach the summit

He did drop her and down she did plummet.

In the valley she did rest

Until her short time was spent

While the man did make  

His slow and winding descent.

Then he’d heave and he’d ho

And he’d pushed her again.

On and on and on

With no end.

This her punishment

For all eternity:

A life always rolling

And no Valley of Peace.