Asleep (a short story)

July 28th, 2010


I am holding a thread and staring into a labyrinth. Darkness is falling, and the gold of sunset begins to fade from the moss that drapes its walls. Ancient stones lose their friendliness and succumb to moist cold. Only the sky remains cheerful. Inside the labyrinth darkness beckons.

Who is my Ariadne? She has been to the center of this labyrinth. The thread in my hand is my only proof of her existence. Is there a monstrous minotaur here? Must I kill it? Why?

I search myself for a weapon. Finding none, I a tempted to run away. But I stay; I have nowhere to run to. I step inside the labyrinth gate, and a soft wind whispers farewell to me from the outside.

The twilit sky is still aglow with blue light, and I walk slowly, hesitant. All is silent, the air is now calm. I am not afraid, but rather, bewildered. How did I get here? I begin to turn left, right, right, left, not caring to remember.

After a while I realize that whether or not I reach the center, I won’t be able to escape again, having wound the thread into a ball as I walked. Ariadne is my only hope; I cannot remember the way out.

Twilight fades. The stars come out into an indigo sky. Pinpricks of hope, silent witnesses, they stare at me from above. The waning moon, a thin smile, follows the sun into the horizon, leaving darkness behind. A cloudy mist begins to rise from the east. Soon all but the brightest stars are obscured. The dark has come.

I sit on the crumbling floor of the labyrinth and rest against a wall. Should I go back? Should I go on? Am I lost? But I don’t want to go back. I would rather die of exhaustion and thirst on a corridor floor.

I awake after a sleep I never meant to take. Or am I still asleep? I rise, and find myself taller than before. My footsteps on the ground sound softer. An irrational anger begins to boil in me, and I follow the string deeper into the heart of the labyrinth.

The string leads me to a bronze key, rusted green on an iron nail in the wall. A key, but no keyhole. Under it on the ground I find a silver ring. Ariadne! She must have been here not long ago, the silver is not tarnished. I put the ring on my left hand; it fits. She waits for me somewhere, but the labyrinth continues and I am trapped inside it.

The sun rises and sets several times. The rain and the wind have come and gone many times as well. The moon has circled across the sky, becoming full. In a corner I lie, too tired, too weak to find the exit any longer. I must soon die.

Are those footsteps that I hear? My rasping breath rends the silence. I am to powerless to move, I can barely open my eyes. The footsteps are louder and faster, running. Do they run toward me or away? I force myself to raise my head, unwittingly scraping it against the stone.

My heart pounds loudly, and the blood rushes through my ears. My hands reach my face. Why is it so deformed? Could I have transformed? Am I the minotaur now?

A scream rends the night, and I fall asleep, my life is spent. I will never wake.

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