^(-_-'' The Minotaur ''-_-)^
By Mike Meginnis and David Peak
m: You wake in the maze, on your back. The walls tower over you, twenty-five feet high, gray, smooth and featureless, like fresh concrete. There is no blood on these walls, there is no waste -- none of yours, and none human. The maze has no roof. It stands in open air, beneath the sky. Today the sky is blue and the clouds have a golden tint that will pale and wash away as the sun climbs to its throne. Your left horn aches. The horn has ached for days. Once your tooth hurt like this. One of the back teeth, on the left. It got to the point where you couldn't think anymore. You pulled the tooth out with your thumb and forefinger. You threw it as hard as you could -- you tried to throw it out of the maze. No such luck. Now the horn is throbbing in the same way, nearly as bad.
d: Go north
m: You walk north. This leads you down a narrow passage in the maze. You come to a bend in the passage. It turns right. You have found that turning right is often preferable to turning left given the left horn's pain. You may walk east or south.
d: Go east
m: You come to a dead end in the maze. On the wall before you there is a mark you made with your blood. The mark is a circle (a head) with two horns, one longer than the other. (The right horn is the long one.) This is your way of telling yourself that you have been here already before. It is your way of telling yourself to leave. There is, beneath the mark, a second mark: an eye. This is your way of telling yourself that you did not weep when you found this dead end a second time. You may leave west or you may make another mark, or:
d: Kiss the eye
m: It does not smear because the blood is dry because it has been a long time since you were last here. The maze's wall is cool.
d: Search for yet another mark, this time written in the blood of another
m: After wandering the maze for an hour, you find what you seek. It is a mark that you have seen before, in other regions of the maze: a wing. Just one. But not in blood. He found, it seems, some chalk. (Your horn throbs in time with your jealous heart: you have wanted chalk for years.)
d: Look into the sky.
m: At first there is nothing. The clouds have turned eggshell. The sun is a golden disc. And then you see the boy. He flies haphazardly over the maze, winged contraption on his back, left wing flapping faster than the right, so that he moves in wide banks and loops. His clothes are mostly rotted away, and the threads of what remains trail him on the wind. He is not shouting because he is hoping you will not notice him because he knows that you are here because he was warned that you would be.
d: Roar. The flying boy is the tormentor.
m: The boy whips his head around to see who is roaring although really he must know who is roaring. For an instant his eyes snag on your eyes and then he loses all control, careening back down into the maze. You hear him land too hard. You recall his torments, beginning with the first.
d: The smell of the boy's father remains on the steel ring pushed through my nose. This was the first torment. The second was being banished into this maze, where I have remained. The boy is guilty of having the same blood as his father. The boy is guilty of being gifted with flight, of never returning to ground, of letting his life deteriorate, drunk with freedom. Allow the memories of these torments to feed into the throbbing of your horn. Follow the smell of the boy where it takes you.
m: You walk south, west, west, south, west, north. The maze winds. This is older, more familiar ground to you: stains from your droppings in the corners and up on the walls, little plants plucked clean of all their soft edibles, dirt pockmarked with hoofprints. The boy's reek is always near but the maze keeps you apart. You see a mark on the wall: another chalk wing.
d: As I have done before, I remove a tooth with thumb and forefinger. My mouth fills with blood. The pain is excruciating. Use the blood to mark the wall, covering the wing. It is important to remember that I have been here, that I am here right now. I will use this as my point of reference from now on. Continue following the smell of the boy.
m: As you continue, the boy arcs into sight again, over the walls, over your head, and into the maze somewhere far behind you. The distance is less important than the path, however. This is the trouble with chasing the boy through the maze. It might take a long, winding journey to find a way to the other side of the wall inches from your snout. it might only require that you turn a corner. The boy's stink is all around you and it does you no good. You need your own wings, or a way to break through the walls, or just a way out. The left horn sends a bolt of pain down your jaw and into your neck, which tightens like a screw.
d: Remove horn.
m: You pull hard with one hand. The horn won't come loose. You try with both hands, leaning back against one of the walls, digging your hooves into the dirt. It hurts but the horn does not budge. It's hard to keep your grip. The horn is too smooth. You slump against the wall.
d: Don't give up. Ram wall with horn.
m: The wall trembles. The horn is knocked askew. You feel something shift inside your skull. The wall shakes. The horn begins to splinter.
d: Do it again. Ram wall with horn. Even harder this time. This is the way into the sky.
m: The horn breaks in half. The wall splits also, a hairline crack from bottom to top. The horn still hurts, maybe worse, but it feels good to have changed something. Your horn's ruins lie in fragments in the dirt. These look like many pencil leads.
d: Search crack in wall.
m: The crack goes all the way through. You can see, from a certain angle, that there is something behind the wall -- something new. A plant. You're not sure what kind. The smell of the flying boy is strong here. And some other sweetness.
d: Fill nostrils with the smell of the flying boy. Ignore the sweetness. Ram wall again, this time using my other horn.
m: This knocks the horn a little crooked, but it works: you knock a hole in the wall. This is large enough that you can walk through it if you are not afraid to leave the maze proper. On the other side the walls are every color: a psychedelic blur. And this place between the walls is thick with unfamiliar plants. They have white berries and red blooms. Blue petals. Black thorns.
d: Smell the air. What can I smell?
m: There are many smells. There is the smell of your own blood. There is the smell of your broken horn. There is the smell of the moist earth that nourishes the plants. There is the perfume smell of their flowers, bittersweet, pungent. There is the smell of the boy, who has come among the plants, no doubt eating the best of what they have to offer, and leaving the worst.
d: The smells have guided me for so long. They have always been familiar smells, always ruined by the smell of the boy's father. I want the smell of my blood -- my smell -- to be everywhere. I want to consume the boy. I want to cover everything in blood. If I run fast enough, I can catch him before he takes off into the sky. Run to the boy.
m: Did you never try running before? Did you really never ram the wall? Then you are guilty of a weak desire, pale and powerless. But now you are running. You go down on all fours, hooves and hands, kicking up a trail of dust, which soils the maze's walls. The boy no doubt knows you are coming. The boy no doubt wonders what has changed: why today, of all days, must he die?
d: I don't know what else to do. I'm tired. I've been hungry my entire life. I don't know who I am. I have never known where I live, why I am there, what I have done to deserve my life. My desire is my desire, whether it is weak or strong. I do not know the difference. The wondering in my life has consisted of which way to turn, which passageway to follow. The boy should not be allowed to contemplate his mortality. It is wasteful.
m: And here the boy is, trembling, sunk to sitting on the ground, arms shielding his head. The wing contraption is not running, for once. You can see the wings are wax but that does not tell you where or how he got the wax. Perhaps some other margin of the maze. Perhaps it was, like most things in this world, a gift. He is at your mercy. He says, "I am at your mercy." The walls are marked with many chalk-white wings.
d: Am I still in the maze?
m: You have always been in the maze.
d: I ask the boy why he deserves mercy.
m: The boy turns his back to you, to show the waxen wings. You see how fine the mechanisms that make them flap: a wooden ring with bronze gears inside, which chew each other just so, so as to manipulate the rods that slide in and out, which draw the wings back and push them forward. You see the fine leather harness that mounts the wing contraption on the boy. He says, "I made these myself, with my own hands."
d: Ask the boy to build a pair for me.
m: The boy looks back at you over his shoulder. He says, "But you are too big." You see his immediate regret in the slump of his shoulders. He knows he shouldn't have told you the truth.
d: It makes me hate him more to learn that he fears telling me the truth. Truth is all I’ve ever wanted. But he is right. I will show the boy mercy if he agrees to build a bigger pair of wings and come back for me.
m: "I'll agree to anything," says the boy.
d: But then how will I know he is to be believed?
m: "You'll believe in anything."
d: Does believing mean there will be a chance to leave the maze?
m: It means that you believe there will be.
d: Then I choose to believe.
m: Lift the boy.
d: I lift the boy, my hands below his shoulders. He is light.
m: How strange to feel the skin. His. Its warmth and the fearful residue of sweat. To feel his ribs through the skin. The soft skin. He begins to flap his wings.
d: Use my remaining strength to push him into the air, so his wings can catch hold and take him away.
m: This is the highest that you've ever seen him. The wings work better at this height. He looks almost stable. He is flying toward the sun.
d: Roar. Warn him of the danger.
m: His slightness vanishes in the light. You can believe he heard you in time to lower himself. You can believe, if you choose, that he will find a new home, a workshop, that he will remember you fondly, that he will remember you at all -- and that larger wings are coming.
d: I have no choice but to believe.
m: How will you pass the time while waiting? (The right horn has begun to ache.)
m: And what is your pillow?
d: I have none.
m: And what do you dream about the boy's pretty eyes?
d: That someday I will see the sights they see. Until then, I will mark the walls of my maze, to remember.
m: And how will you lose this rotting right horn, finally?
d: Is it damaged badly?
m: It will be.
d: I choose to live, for now, with the pain. It is who I am.
m: Sleep well. Dream well. Goodnight.
Bio: David Peak's most recent book, Glowing in the Dark, will be released by Aqueous Books in October, 2012. He is co-founder of Blue Square Press, an imprint of Mud Luscious Press, and lives in New York City.