Within the Plains of Memory

After something like twenty miles, the usual measures fade away. Distance and direction, past and future, all grown shifting and uncertain. She stands in a bazaar two hundred years after her own death, listening to conversations in a language she recognizes but cannot understand. She floats massless in space, watching the crisp line of the terminator sweeping across unfamiliar continents. She is a name half-said in a windowless room choked with decoration, a sharp crack of gunfire echoing across Kansas prairies.

At the center, in what might be the spiral castle of Arianrhod, she finds it, old and blind, rapt in contemplation of the infinite unfolding of the Aleph.

“Well met, o my brother,” she tells it.

“What’s that? Who’s there? Come closer that I might know you.” She gives it her hands, hairy with goat’s hide. “Do I know you? I do not think I know you.”

“Once we were closer than blood, closer than skin. Once we were two sides of the same door.”

“I don’t—” it begins, and she stabs it, new key in an old lock.

The Minotaur

Think of Blake’s illustration of the Commedia. Think of Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beasts. In short, think of the minotaur as inversion: man above, bull below, human head on taurine body. The poor, near-sighted creature! Think of other questions: such a large babe ne’er grew in woman’s womb. Question Poseidon’s gift: a bull? or cow? If cow, whither the father? Minos, then? or love-struck numinous creator? Whose seed germed in that forbidden garden?

But, so. Let us consider clothing. Or, rather, the lack therof — for if there is one thing constant about poor Asterion it is the lack of cover his several parents have provided for to cover up his shame. (Saving the labyrinth; a cold stone cloak throne upon an impudent figling.) How he swells in his maleness! See now the sad ghosts of past crimes rubbing down to nothing on a convenient cornice! These little deaths whicker in his ears.

What can he do when they have broken under his thwarted love? What other food is there? Outcast, untutored, unfed; without family, without language, without all the needed gentle ties of his human head, what is there for him? What, but turn cannibal? Poor omophage, he turns corner after corner, wears stone to earth with heavy hoofs, but never finds the door his key would fit.

Born of the Sea

Poseidon cracked open the sea bed and pulled a bull red as the sun from the hot rock within. No finer animal had even been seen — no more shining coat, no broader back, no prouder head, no heavier horn. The sealord looked upon his creation and fingered his weighty trident and was glad. “It’s a fine wan ye are,” quotha.

“Pchoo, you,” said the bull, and blew bubbles from his nose. “I bet you say that to all the beeves.”

When he came stamping out of the water, with his back all thickgrown with seaweed and barnacles and mussels, it was a week’s labor and more to get the bull clean again. The king and the queen came down to watch the work, not without some trepidation.

“He’s a big fellow but he reeks of fish,” remarked the queen.

“I’m just as the god made me, ma’am,” said the bull. “I can’t be any better or worse than I am.”

The king frowned. “It’s an impudent thing ye are, for all that it’s your own death that’s waiting for ye.”

“Ah, well, now. As to that,” said the bull, and smiled a secret bullish smile. “I know something you don’t know.”

The Doors of Daedalus

The plaque on the door says SINergy which she thinks is kind of pretentious but then she supposes you can have any two of effectiveness, originality and taste and it looks as though SINergy has not opted for taste which is fine because really she’s had enough of taste to last her a lifetime and is in the mood for some trashy brilliance.

The door opens and a deep male voice starts to lecture her on the wonders of the SINergy system but she’s already tuned it out. Either she’ll figure out what the wonders are or she won’t and in either case being told about them won’t make a bit of difference so what’s even the point?

Inside there’s a lounge breathtaking in its tackiness: shag carpeting, a recessed seating area full of couches and fur rugs, soft music, a bunch of serious nude people sitting around talking about Serious Nude People Issues. There’s no way out of the room that she can see, but if there’s one thing she knows, it’s that mazes always lead deeper into themselves. She takes a tight hold on her clew, and goes down into the party.

Asterion

On the stairway he is buffeted by ghosts. Their dry hands stroke his hide, their twittering fills his ears. For an instant he thinks he understands them: he hears his name, and then they are gone.

He has been climbing these stairs for months. Every thirty steps there is a landing; every hundred there is a door. Inside he sees poisoner’s banquets, masquerades, long rows of books and strange creature floating in formaldehyde. He passes by, driven by some unformed instinct, searching for some truer life. The voices within fall silent, stilled by the echo of his hooves.

Once he finds a garden in a solarium, citrus trees and pepper trees bathed in golden light. He shoulders his rude way through the lianas to the glass walls and looks down and down through the clouds to the sands below. His eyes are weak like his mother’s, and the sun drives him back into the cool depths of the stairwell.

But for weeks he dreams of that sunset light and the scent of peppers, curled in uneasy sleep upon the landings.