The Labyrinth

April 6, 2011
Today she would be hunted. Today she, like the goats and swine of Athens, would be slaughtered: eaten. Today she would know what it felt like to die. Her pulse pounded through her veins as she crouched in the shadows, survival was on the forefront of her mind. With wide eyes she peeked around the tall stone wall, and her hands trembled as she listened for pounding feet and a signature snarl. Hardly the survivor, she let her emotions overtake her. Tears rolled down her round, youthful face; she knew she was running out of time. The Minotaur would catch her at any moment and devour her in its brutish way, breaking her bones so she couldn’t run and sinking its teeth into her soft, delicate skin.
The labyrinth was long and filled with walls and dead ends. The Minotaur knew all the paths it contained, and after many years of sacrifices he knew how to catch his prey. Chase. Break. Kill. Eat. That was the method to his madness. That was the way they all died, and Euphrasia knew her turn was coming soon. Seven young men and seven young virgins had been forced into the maze; she had heard nine, terrible screams ring out along those dank halls since she had arrived.
Just then she felt something brush against her shoulder, and she turned around with a loud scream. A hand clamped over her mouth. Her heart began to react. It pounded as if selfishly trying to leave the girl’s body and escape the impending pain. This is it! she thought, I’m going to die!
“Shhh!” came the voice of a friend, “Do you want the Minotaur to find us?”
Euphrasia’s eyes opened as the hand released her. A small young man ran in front of her and searched around the wall.
“Kleitos!” the girl sniffed as she clutched her calming heart, “I…you…you scared me.”
“Sorry,” said the boy absently, “There’s got to be a way out of here…”
“A way out? This maze is impossible!” the girl whimpered.
“No it’s not,” said another voice from around the corner. The youths looked as two identical young men approached them. They were much taller than Kleitos, who was only about as tall as Euphrasia. They had large muscles and short dark hair. They had cuts and bruises all over their bodies, and their robes were torn, bearing their scratched and bleeding torsos.
“Leonides! Lysandros!” Euphrasia exclaimed in a whisper, “You escaped!”
“We lost Althaea,” Lysandros said, his face was twisted with worry.
“She’ll be fine,” Leonides said, “She’s a tough girl.”
Lysandros said nothing. His hands were balled into fists and his muscles tensed. He punched the wall hard, scratching his knuckles and making them bleed.
“Stop that!” Leonides spat. He grabbed his brother’s arm roughly and stared into his smoldering eyes, “Don’t wear yourself out now! You need to save your strength so we can bring that thing’s head home for our mantle.” He released Lysandros’ arm, and his eyes shone brightly as he imagined the way Athens would shout his name if--no! Not if!--when he came back. He would be Leonides: victor of the Minotaur.
“Think of the cheering…“ he said, “Think of the power!”
“Is that all you care about?” Lysandros said venomously, “Glory? We’re sacrifices, Leon, there’s no glory left for us. We’re going to die here, and no one will even remember.”
“Suit yourself,” his brother said stubbornly, “I got past him once, I’ll get past him again.”
“Only because Althaea led him away! Don’t give yourself the glory for her sacrifice!”
“Shh!” Kleitos interjected, “Do you hear that?”

Along the corridors of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur chased its prey. Nothing thrilled him more than the chase. He loved watching the little legs move, the muscles strain, and the arms pump as they feebly tried to escape him. A small girl, Althaea, ran in front of him. She was fast, the fastest girl in Athens, so fast that even the strong, raging Minotaur had trouble keeping up. This was good, he loved a challenge. Virgins and youths could be so easy to kill, but not this girl. This girl was determined. This girl was different.
Althaea ducked down a corridor, bumping hard into Leonides‘ strong, solid back. She recoiled only for a second before running away. Sensing her fear, the others did the same, scrambling madly out of the area and in different directions. The Minotaur continued to pursue her, though. Once he’d started a chase, he didn’t give up. The very moment Althaea had started to run, she was his.
Althaea ran until her powerful legs couldn’t carry her anymore. The best runner in Athens fell to the ground, scraping her knees roughly against the dirt. Looking up from the ground, she saw a great wall looming before her. She nestled her head into the dirt in despair. All shreds of hope left her as the large being loomed over her; she could feel its presence in the dark. Hot, smelly breath filled her nostrils as the beast grabbed hold of her, and a crack was heard as he broke her little arms. She cried out, begging for her life with her wide, beautiful eyes.
Suddenly the beast cried out and dropped her. Looking up, she saw Lysandros clinging to the back of the Minotaur; digging his teeth and nails into its neck. The Minotaur groaned angrily and threw Lysandros to the ground, breaking his back on impact. Althaea cried his name; her voice strained from the horror. Her arm lay limp and broken on the ground and she closed her eyes as Lysandros, her dear, sweet Lysandros, was torn to shreds just feet in front of her.

In another part of the Labyrinth the last three survivors stood still, listening to their screams ring out, crisp and clear, until eventually it died away with them.
“Oh my god, Kleitos…” Euphrasia began to tear again, “I don’t want to die!” She gripped his arm tightly, but he stayed silent. Even the boisterous Leonides looked shaken, but it was only for a moment. Gathering his courage, he headed back towards the Minotaur.
“Leon, where are you going?” Kleitos cried, “That thing is going to kill you!”
“That beast is going to pay for what he did,” Leonides replied with an angry, shaking voice.
Euphrasia and Kleitos watched him walk away before heading in the opposite direction. Their heart’s pounded like erratic drums, beating louder and louder still. Their breath was shallow; their hands were laced. They walked together in the smoky darkness, taking each step and praying it wouldn’t be their last.
At one point Kleitos stumbled, tripping over the remains of a fallen friend. Euphrasia vomited at the sight, but Kleitos urged her on. They couldn’t risk standing still, not even for a moment. The Minotaur would come upon them soon enough. A cry rang out across the maze, followed by another scream of horror. Euphrasia jumped and clung tight to Kleitos’ arm. They both stopped to listen.
Silence screeched in their ears. Leonides was dead.
“Kleitos, I can’t do this anymore,” she sobbed, “I just can’t. Who knows if we’re even going the right way? We’ve hit dead end after dead end…it’s hopeless. It’s absolutely hopeless.”
“Fine,” Kleitos said, coldly, “You stay here, and I’ll find the exit.”
“No!” she screamed; he shushed her harshly.
“Then be quiet and come on.”

They wandered for hours. All hope seemed lost. Eventually they found themselves in a large, circular room. There was no exit, just walls. Claustrophobia seemed to overtake the two of them, and even determined Kleitos began to shake.
“Wh-where’s the door?” he said.
Euphrasia began to sob again, falling to her knees in despair.
“It’s over,” she cried, “Oh Kleitos, it’s all over!”
A roar blared from the entryway and Kleitos knew that she was right. It was over. With a terrified scream, Euphrasia darted towards the other end of the room. Kleitos screamed after her, but it was too late, the Minotaur had picked its target. He bounded over to the girl and lifted her off the ground by her ankle, wasting no time to snap her legs. Euphrasia screamed as her face twisted with suffering.
Knowing there was nothing he could do, Kleitos turned and ran. He ran down the corridors, barely watching where he went, running into dead ends and rebounding back down the halls. His nose was bruised and bloody from his encounters with the walls, and red dripped down his face and tunic. He stumbled over bodies and bones, groping his way in the darkness, reaching desperately for salvation.
Then he saw it. A bright light flooded the hallway. It seemed to grab him and pull him towards the wide, open exit. With a sudden burst of adrenaline, he ran through the gorgeous open door, savoring the sunlight as he ran down the Labyrinth’s forbidding steps and into the shallow ocean waters. He fell onto the sand as waves lapped against him, washing him with warm, salty water.
He made it out. He was alive.
He could hear the birds chirping all around him, feel the sunlight on his skin, smell the humid, salty air as breezes blew winds from other worlds through his hair. He laughed outright as the water soaked his skin and clothes. He stood up, splashing in the ocean as relief filled his whole being.
Mockingly, he kicked sand at the Labyrinth steps. But there was something about that eerie, looming doorway that sent a sudden chill over Kleitos’ body. He stared into its wide, open mouth as he remembered the look on Euphrasia’s face while the Minotaur had broken her legs. He remembered the horror in Althaea’s screams as she watched Lysandros die. He remembered the venomous anger in Leonides’ voice as he spoke the words Kleitos said now:
“That beast will pay for what he did.”

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