fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

Why have you left me alone?


The beast named "It" cannot cry out, overlarge tongue and teeth unfit for speech. All sorrows come out like the lowing of a cow. It sits between walls, always walls. It watches a crack open in the sky, the only daylight it ever sees. A body plummets through the hole and crashes against the stone floor below. It kneels at the sight and clutches its giant head, coarse fur bristling at the patterns, the patterns. The world is a series of concentric circles interrupted by tall walls. This world is a prison.


Mother's face is everywhere, kind and nurturing. Father's face is everywhere, hostile and disgusted. All It sees is a relentless arc shortened by an end, again and again. Side exits branch into new arcs that also end, but it's always the same angle, worn fingertips brushing against the stone as if a difference could be decided in the roughness. After what seems like years, It finally knows where the most likely exit is, but the gate is always closed with iron. It can smell the body in the center. The scent of sweat and blood makes It gag. Sometimes the smell is new. Sometimes the smell is a memory of all the dead ones It has seen and tasted.


Sometimes a body comes out of the sky and dies on impact. Some break a bone and lay crying, clutching the corners of their mouths, while It stands over them with gnarled hands held open. Sometimes, like last time, the body hits the ground, stands up, and starts running. Those ones are all dead now. The last one was a woman, so this time it's a man. It can smell the man now.


He's moving, It thinks. He's alive. He's fast. He's healthy. Tears of relief roll from its eyes as It sinks to the floor, beating the cobblestone painfully with malformed arms. It remembers the last woman and her slack jawed, empty stare when it found her. Still, she was beautiful, far more beautiful than It--beautiful like Mother or like Sister. Seeing her dead made It cry. Food also rained from the sky once, a long time ago, but food became scarce for awhile and then only people started dropping through. After sitting and waiting for what seemed like days, what else could It do but eat? It would wait until the person starved or died before consuming them, which It did with as much ceremony and prayer as It could muster.

Then It notices a long thread running across the floor. What is this? It picks up the fiber, staring at the strand closely. The string is thick and fuzzy, with a striped pattern of red and blue running down it: Sister was knitting a long blanket when she was bored, smooth legs draped over the edge of her bed. Sister knit and then screamed at It. Get out of here, ugly thing! Sister cried behind her closed door. Was she scared or was she sorry?


It begins to collect the string and wrap it around its wrist. The soft fabric is nice. It never wears clothes. For the first time ever, its wrist feels warm. It begins to wrap the string around other body parts. The neck, the torso, the thighs--all of these parts start to feel warm. The man must be dropping this string as he moves, It thinks. The man is an angel!


It moves faster now, wrapping itself while walking, rushing to bow to the one leaving behind string for It to dress itself with. Suddenly, the trail of thread abruptly ends. It is left with the last ragged end of thread in Its hand. No! It thinks.


There, on the floor in front of It, is a fleck of something. It bends low to have a look at what the fleck might be. Bread! There are specks of bread everywhere! It hasn't eaten bread since Father dragged It from bed one night and tossed It down the same hole that everyone else keeps falling through. The other people never seem to understand that they are the same as It, only prettier. Did Father have more children? He doesn't need me anymore? He found a good son?


It nearly chokes on bread and tears, combing the floor with careful eyes. It remembers the days before being tossed into this circular maze. Mother used to take meals with It in a separate room, but then Mother vanished, and It ate alone. When It walked down the halls of the palace, It stopped seeing people. No one wanted to see It.


This bread is so delicious! A long time ago, It had heard guards saying that they feared being eaten by the monster. It didn't really know what the monster was, but It guessed, after being tossed inside, that the maze was for protection. Father said that It couldn't eat normal human food anymore. I like bread, though, It thinks, sniffling. Bread is good.


And then there is no more bread. Instead, twenty paces ahead stands a giant of a man, easily a head taller than It. He is scratching his head with confusion. I found him! I found my angel!


The man is scary, though. He stands naked, and It can see every muscle on his body bulging even without flexing. The man is like another wall. He slowly turns around, carefully looking over the floor. He stops, seeing It finally. The man shudders.


"You are a filthy monster, aren't you. Not as big as I suspected. This won't take long, Asterion," the man chuckles, before stretching his legs and charging at It.


It has no time to react before the man begins driving fist blows into its ribs, over and over again. "Why? Why?" It screams, but the sounds came out like the cries of a wounded bull. It takes off running, bleeding from the chest where everything feels loose, spitting blood from its mouth. It runs, but the man is faster, kicking at its legs and tripping It whenever he can.


"So that's what happened to my string. You want to look pretty, boy? Ha ha! Impossible. You'll only ever be a monster," the man grunts with no humor in his voice. I am the monster, Father?


Somehow, the monster manages to stand up and keep running again, but the monster's breath is ragged. The monster has only one hope. It must run to the exit, bang on the grate, and beg forgiveness for being so hideous.


The man slows his pace. The monster is beginning to believe that it might survive this attack. It weaves in and out of concentric circles, following memories of proven pathways measured through an exacting pattern of lengths. The monster reaches the grate, finally, and begins beating on the steel.


The grate slides open.


"Brother?" says Sister, standing between the dark labyrinth and a shaft of light running up a set of stairs. She sees the blood on the monster's mouth and begins to cry. Just as the monster moves to comfort her and tell her that these wounds are nothing, the man arrives. He followed the bloody trail.


It ends quickly after Sister tosses the man's sword to him. She laughs with the man as they walk away from her brother, who died surprised. She laughs until he leaves her stranded on an island later, conquests done and treasures collected. Only then does she wonder whether her brother was actually a monster in the first place. She cries guilty tears, though they're mostly for herself. She also dies surprised.


The man, who lived a long, mighty life, vanquished many "beasts," and abducted many women, seeks asylum from Athens--a city he can no longer safely live in due to years of his own misrule (who would ever have guessed that one who spent a career building muscle mass and trophies would be unsuited to sit a throne?)--and he is unceremoniously tossed off a cliff by a man that he believes he can trust. He also dies surprised.

*****


What other consolation can exist? When the ritual of ignoring or obliterating those who exist differently reaches its final conclusion, how can we possibly be convinced that people like Theseus are really heroes? How dare we judge a monster, like the Minotaur at Knossos, without examining his deeds?


We all die, but maybe if we can influence the tone of the ending by nourishing relationships and trying to live generously, especially with those that are quite different from what we "normally" expect. We cannot predict death in the way that an oracle decided that the best thing the king of Crete could put in his basement was a labyrinth to stow his deformed son, but our actions can limit the feasible outcomes and the surprises that we are capable of experiencing.

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fodschwazzle

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