I found her along the ruins of a wall, painting symbols and figures that made no sense to me. She was an ancient thing, with four legs supporting a hunched torso, and two lanky arms that nearly touched the grass when she bent them.
She dipped her slender, bony fingers into the pouches that hung around of her neck, and brought them out, dripping with paint.
“What are you doing?” I asked her.
For a long time she did not respond, as if she had not heard me. The bells and metal fragments that adorned her long, muddy shawls jingled as she painted.
“I am remembering,” she rasped. Her elongated fingers spread expertly along the stones, in slow, deliberate strokes. To the left, the wall was covered in a beautiful, black graffiti. To the right, I could make out unpainted grooves, older symbols as faded as scars.
She turned her head in my direction, and for the first time I realized she was blind. Her milky-white eyes looked above me, like she could see something in the heavens. Wrinkles cut deep into her ancient snout.
“My family. My friends. My people.”
“Where are they? Who are you?”
“I am the last. They are all gone.”
I drew her into my notes. She wasn’t the strangest creature I had seen in my travels, but she was important.
“What if nobody sees them?” I asked. I wanted to take the words back, because she was blind, and I did not want to offend.
Her fingers danced along scars, some so faded they couldn’t be seen, highlighting the eroded symbols with her paint.
“I will know they are there. That is enough.”
That night, I dreamed I was like her, and I was crushed with loneliness. I cried for her.
When I returned to the University, I asked the librarian if he had heard of such a creature. I showed him the sketch of her, and his eyes almost fell out of his head. He dashed to the ends of the library, and returned with a book, inked in the same symbols she had been painting.
He said the book was more than a thousand years old. The walls her people had built were even older. He told me that the last of her kind had died hundreds of years ago. The librarian thought I was making up stories, and demanded to know where I had found the sketch.
I never saw her again, but in my journeys I have seen those strange, painted symbols on the stones of ruins. I will never forget what she said to me, before I left her.
“Why do you paint?”
“As long as I remember, my people still exist. As long as I live, they will not be forgotten.”
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