Bryan R. Saye
The REAL Minotaur
Here's the first of many upcoming short fiction pieces. As you read this, keep in mind I was given something of a prompt, though it was admittedly pretty open. This is something outside of my normal writing style and setting, which tend toward historical and based in reality instead of fantastical and (in this case) somewhat silly.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy! Please take some time to throw a comment below and let me know what you think!
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to.”
Carl sighed and looked at his reflection in the water. “I’m sick of doing it.”
“Someone has to do it.”
“Do they?” He touched his horns, his snout, his teeth. “I’m a vegan, you know.”
Daedalus grinned. “I know, Carl.”
“I don’t even wear leather.”
“I know, Carl.”
“Or fur, and it’s cold in this labyrinth. Why’d you make it so drafty?”
“Would you have preferred a fiery pit?”
Carl stepped back from the water and gestured to his upper body. “Bulls don’t eat people,” he went on. “We eat grass. We graze. Why do they keep sending me children?”
“It’s the king’s orders.”
“The king is stupid.”
“Agreed. But that doesn’t change anything. Seven boys, seven girls. You have to ‘eat’ them," Daedalus said, making air quotes as he said "eat."
Carl huffed in frustration. “What are you actually doing with them?”
He shrugged. “Some become blacksmiths. Some tailors. A few priests and merchants. One painter.” He grinned. “I sent a particularly nasty little kid off to Sparta.”
“Sparta?” Carl shivered. “And they think I’m scary.”
“You are scary.” Daedalus gestured to the massive, double-bladed axe resting against the stone wall. The weapon was nearly as tall as he was. “Are you ready?”
Carl frowned and grabbed the axe. “No,” he said. “But I don’t have a choice, do I?”
“You do not. Now show me your scary face.”
He flexed arms that were as round as a soldier’s waist, bent over so his snout was in Daedalus’s face, and roared loud enough to send his only friend stumbling backwards covered in spittle.
“Sorry,” Carl muttered, standing back to his full height.
Daedalus wiped his face. “It’s okay,” he said. “I asked for it.” He nodded toward the exit. “Have fun.”
The two of them stood in the center of the labyrinth, thirty-foot tall walls of stone encircling them. Vines climbed the stone, cresting the tops and curling around the other side. Trees grew up through the very walls, their limbs overhanging the passageways. The walls stood so close together that the dirt and gravel saw little sunlight, leaving the ground cool under Carl’s bare feet. He stared through the only doorway, which was little more than a stone arch so low that he would have to duck to get through.
Carl paused before stepping forward. He looked back toward Daedalus. “You’ll bring me some Athenian grass when I’m done?”
He thought about issuing one final complaint, then rested the haft of the axe across his shoulder and sauntered off into the labyrinth, each footfall thudding and echoing through narrow passageways. Fifteen years of wandering these stony walls, and he’d yet to find the exit. Daedalus himself had built it, and even he needed to be lifted out by Pegasus. How he’d trained that beast, Carl had no idea.
People think I’m scary; they’ve never tried to train a winged horse. Stubborn old goat.
A musky scent on the air guided Carl through the labyrinth as he ducked under bent trees, their tangled branches scraping along his horns. The musk was fainter than he was used to, though he followed it still, each step bringing him closer to his prey. He’d been forbidden to speak, instead forced to chase the fourteen children one at a time until Daedalus—riding atop Pegasus above the labyrinth—could scoop them up and whisk them to safety.
Only now, he turned the corner and saw a warrior, armed with a sword and, oddly enough, a length of thread.
That’s new, he thought.
“Halt, foul beast!”
Carl had to fight not to roll his eyes.
“No more shall you feast on the flesh of innocent Athenian children!”
I’m a vegan. I feast on delicious Athenian grass.
A shadow passed overhead, and Carl glanced up to see the distant outline of Pegasus.
“I am Theseus, adventurer and true king of Athens!”
Might be harder to chase him if he isn’t scared of me.
Carl swung the heavy axe, burying one of the blades several inches into the dirt and gravel, then bent down onto all fours and gave a mighty war cry that shook the walls of the labyrinth. The stone rattled, bits of gravel bounced from the ground, and the branches above trembled hard enough to drop leaves.
Theseus, however, was unfazed.
“I will not quake so easily, you putrid beast.”
Putrid? Carl sniffed at his armpits. I washed this morning.
“You are a desecration to this labyrinth,” Theseus went on. “Foul! Abhorrent!”
He really doesn’t like me.
“You are an abomination,” he continued, his voice rising in excitement as he insulted Carl. “A profanity! A repugnant and offensive atrocity! And I shall—”
“Now you’re just being mean,” Carl said.
Theseus froze, and only then did Carl realize he’d spoke aloud.
“Dang it,” he muttered.
“Don’t talk, you fool!” Daedalus cried from somewhere above them.
Theseus looked up, brow knit in confusion, then turned his gaze back onto Carl. “You speak?”
He thought of roaring again, of leaning into this image that Theseus had formed, but he could see that the illusion was shattered. His secret was out, and part of him—a big part of him—was happy about it. For several moments, the two of them just gazed at each other. Eventually, the silence was unbearable.
“I’m a vegan,” Carl said.
Theseus frowned. “What’s a vegan?”