We told everyone beforehand not to stare. That the Minotaur was, different. Was half and half. Was not like other party people. We thought he would be a good addition to our revelry. We told everyone that he didn’t like being stared at. That he was sensitive about his appearance. That there would be consequences if their eyes lingered; he wasn’t named the Minotaur for nothing. This wasn’t true, but we thought that it might make him feel better. Make everyone feel better if we could prevent the inevitable party pause.
They all agreed. Were excited to welcome him in, but that wasn’t enough.
He knocked on the door, and when we opened it, he looked the same as he always did. His head was large, dominated by a wide-grinned toothy smile full of daggers and two large eyes. He had to stoop to enter, his horns scraping the door frame. He was wearing a blue and white rugby shirt and a pair of well-worn denim jeans. He was practically a walking Levi’s ad.
We welcomed him in and immediately offered him a drink. Someone turned the music down as everyone stopped in their conversations, in their dancing, in their recitations of poetry.
We glared at the party people. Tried to lead him into the kitchen with the liquor so he wouldn’t notice. How dare you, our eyes said. We gave you fair warning. We told you that he was different,
that you shouldn’t stare — how do you think that makes him feel?
Some were taken aback and looked down at the ground, ashamed. Others felt the need to explain themselves. It’s not the whole part-creature-part-human-body vibe he’s got going on, Sophia said. It’s that he’s missing a hand.
We looked at the space where we expected his hand to be.
A missing hand. How had we not noticed that before? Was that new? It didn’t look new.
Did it hurt? Were we bad people for not noticing? Was it new? Did he have a really good doctor? We didn’t see any scars.
Han said, I thought Minotaur was a nickname.
We walked into the kitchen. Jesse said, I think I’m more drunk than I thought, what’s the
ABV on this wine?
We tried to be subtle about it. Sat him down on our nicest couch, plied him with his favorite red, got him talking. That wasn’t very hard, he was very talkative. He wanted to tell us all about his new job in quality control at the local coffee roasters. It made a certain amount of sense, he was always rambling, it must have been from all the caffeine. He had the personality of a guy who was in coffee quality control.
He was telling us about how fulfilling it was to finally be working at a job where he was appreciated. Across the room, the party people turned the music back up and began dancing. There were no rules to their movements. One-two rock step, three-four moonwalk, five-six-seven-eight box step.
We pretended to try to grab his hand to hold, only to encounter empty air.
“Oh,” we said “how silly of us, just forgetting your hand is missing. It’s like it only happened yesterday.” And the Minotaur smiled a little, his teeth gleaming. His eyes lingered over the bodies in the crowd.
One of the party people increased the bass and we felt the couch thump in time. Emma came down the staircase, bringing a box of the party sheets so everyone could don the uniform.
The Minotaur stood up, pulling a ball of red yarn out from his pocket, placing it carefully on the side table, before shedding his shirt and pants with the rest of the party.
The party people broke out the champagne. Haley popped a cork and it went sailing through the air, landing on one of the Minotaur’s horns. He doubled over laughing and joined the party people in their revelry, throwing his arms in the air.
But we were not feeling good. We thought we had known the Minotaur. Thought we had understood what he brought to the table, but now, all he was doing was dancing on the table, surrounded as the party people gazed on him adoringly.
The Minotaur does not remember the Labyrinth. The Minotaur remembers a mother, a wooden cradle. He remembers a child-aged anger, snorting and raging, wanting the taste of blood in his mouth. These days, he mostly has a taste for coffee. But he remembers what it was like to want to snarl and bite and see something lose the light in its eyes.
The Minotaur does not remember the Labyrinth. But the hand does. The hand remains in the Labyrinth where the men who hurt the Minotaur left it. The Minotaur made it out, stumbling along the path left by the humans, acutely aware that he was no longer safe in his home.
But the hand remains. The hand carries the scars and the feel of blood, hot and slick. The hand of the Minotaur traces patterns and dates and artwork into the walls of its prison with dust, with soot, with blood, with anything it finds. The hand carries soft things too, light feathers and tacky wax just about dried.
The hand remains in the dark, slinking along the ornamental baseboard. It wishes it had a choice in decoration. The style is outdated, carved seashells in relief. It is cruel, trapped away from the ocean, the sun and the surf. The design has not stood the test of time.
It has crawled up the Corinthian columns and followed the frieze that runs the length of the maze. It took many long months, but the hand does not need food, water, or sleep. It is a long and drawn out story, and a little long winded, if the hand is honest, but it doesn’t get much in the way of entertainment down here, so it is stuck with the baseboard and the frieze and the occasional rat.
The hand is unsure why this tale was included. It tells the tale of how the world began, but it is not like any world the hand has known. It tells of a seed dropped by a bird into dry land. The land stays dry for many years, until one little cloud happens to pass by. The cloud rains on the seed and the seed grows, sprawling through the cracks of the dust until it breaches the surface and unfurls into a bright yellow flower. As the flower grows, more rainclouds gather to stop and admire its beauty, and the more it rains, the more it grows, the more beautiful it becomes, the more rainclouds gather to stop and admire its beauty. This goes on for some time. Suddenly, one panel shows what is happening with the roots. As the flower grows up above, so do the roots down below. The roots dig into the soil, piercing through layers of earth so far and so wide that they pierce through the other side. A root finds a home in the west. In the north. And in the south. The flower grows in the east. As the flower and the roots grow and begin to cover the world in green, living things, a queen grows from one of the leaves. She is the only human creature on the lonely world, so why shouldn’t she be queen? She walks the circumference of the earth for lack of anything better to do. There are plenty of other creatures, some with wings, some with hooves, some with claws, some without any appendages at all. She knows only the bright and green around her. One day, as she is investigating the underside of a giant leaf, she finds a pretty purple flower. And when she pulls it from the ground, she discovers that the flower grew on the hilt of a blade. As she pulls the blade from its soil scabbard, a crow alights on her shoulder. The queen begins to search in the soil for more like her, creatures with two legs and two arms for her to lead. The frieze ends with her pulling an arm from the soil, lifting them into the sunlight.
The hand wonders if it should write down the story to go along with the images.
There are some days where the hand thinks that it misses the Minotaur. But memory is a funny thing. The hand wonders if it remembers its body correctly. It wonders if it remembers the smoothness of its horn as it polished it with a rag. It wonders if it remembers the feel of the other hand, entwined together behind the body. The hand wonders if it remembers the feeling of dead skin flaking off as it scratched its scalp. But the hand misses the warmth of a body, the company it provided.
Cassie Duncanson graduated from Portland State University with her MFA in Creative Writing where she worked as a writing instructor, tutor, and journalist. She currently lives in central Massachusetts where she’s a bookseller specializing in children’s literature and science fiction & fantasy. Her fiction has appeared in In Parenthesis, and her journalism is in The Vanguard.
Artwork: George Frederic Watts, “The Minotaur,” 1885.