I ran along the metro tunnel. Every now and then a train passed and I had to press against the wall to get out of harm’s way. My pulse was pounding in my neck, but I knew that I had to move on. Then, suddenly, I saw it. Seven underground tracks in different storeys on top of each other, like bridges in an Escher painting. I knew that it should have been impossible for me to see this, that all the tracks were in individual tunnels since they were constructed, but that is, what I saw.
In the distance I heard a roar that quickly became closer. I looked behind me and I was almost run over by a train that approached quickly. I saw a flight of stairs in front of me, leading up, but when I ascended the stairs, I ended up below the track I had been on. Apparently it was not only the tracks that were like an Escher painting.
I wanted to descend the stairs again when I saw a huge figure at the other end. A huge, grotesque figure of a human being with the tail and the head of a bull. And his eyes were glowing red.
I turned around and I ran. I crossed a track and turned around. The minotaur was approaching quickly, but a metro train broke our line of sight. I used that moment to run down another flight of stairs. It felt funny. When I looked up, I knew why. Up wasn’t up, up was down. My feet seemed to be on the ceiling, but below me – or above me – there was the head of a minotaur, roaring and showing his teeth.
I ran, hoping that the strange gravity here would not betray me. I turned a corner and now I seemed to be walking on a wall that was perpendicular to the floor the minotaur was on. He tried to grab me, but I shied away, running to the right, which was his up. I made another step and almost was run over by a train that was shooting upwards – or downwards – or sideways. I lost track of the directions.
I tried to remember which way I came to return to the metro station and to call that foolish quest off. What did I have to gain? Mike had a reason to be here, I was just tagging along – wasn’t I?
“Well, at least he doesn’t look like a Catholic priest…” I mused.
After retracing my steps five times and always ending in a loop I realised that there was no escape. I was stuck here with the minotaur, just like the tributes of Athens were stuck in his labyrinth. Either he would kill me or I had to kill him. But even when I do… Theseus had Ariadne’s thread to lead him out of the labyrinth. Mike had the red book which apparently was supposed to do the same thing. I didn’t have anything like that.
I just thought that somehow things might be ok.
And now the minotaur and his labyrinth would prove me wrong.
I jumped to the side as another train appeared out of nowhere, crossing right in front of another train going perpendicular to the first one. I wondered how the people in the trains would see this, experience this.
“They don’t!” said a leering voice right next to me.
It was the minotaur.
I stumbled back from him and he laughed.
“People don’t usually see these things, you know. They only see what they want to see. To them, this is a normal commute. They don’t see layers upon layers upon layers of this world.”
“I… I see. Back below the pantheon, was that you?”
“Why did you appear to him as his father?”
“Because that’s what turned the man into the beast.”
I thought about that.
“Bull head on a man’s body… you are… you are fear… you are the side of the animal that trumps all rational thought and just goes by instinct. And thereby we are lost in your labyrinth and can’t find out, just like fear traps us in our mind.”
The minotaur grinned.
“So why don’t you turn into something for me? Why don’t you confront me with my past?”
“I don’t need to. I already have.”
He got very close to my face. I could feel the warm breath of his snout in my face and I could smell his bovine saliva.
“You just realised that you will never find the way out of here, even if you killed me. And not being able to get out, that is your biggest fear. To be lost – and alone. Goodbye!”
And with that he turned and walked away.
“No,” I screamed, “wait, don’t…”
He looked at me with a broad grin. Then a train passed between us and he was gone. I was alone.
I tried not to panic, but it was hard. I retraced my steps again, trying to find a path back to the train station. I tried following the trains that passed me, but they were travelling at impossible angles and I never found the right way to walk in the same direction. There were stairs leading up and down and sideways, but I always ended up where I started. Slowly I could see the light of my head torch getting dimmer and dimmer. Finally it went out and I sat in the dark, aside from the occasional train passing by. I buried my face in my palms and started crying.
He was right. That was my biggest fear. And now it has become true.
The labyrinth soon became my home. The space was limited and infinite at the same time. Of course, there was no food. I had some chocolate bars in my backpack but they only lasted me two days. I did manage to find a second battery pack, but after another day of light I was again surrounded by darkness.
There still was roaring, but I knew that the minotaur wouldn’t come to kill me. That would have been too quick and too easy. He had something else in mind, something by far crueler. And it was already beginning. I felt my mind unravelling.
Totally disoriented, I couldn’t tell the time. My mobile’s battery had run out. It must have been days as the thirst became overbearing until I found a puddle of water to drink from. The water tasted disgusting, but at least it was moisture.
Every time I fell asleep, I woke up on tracks with a train approaching from the left, the right, from behind or from in front of me. So I tried my best to stay awake. Stumbling forward, feeling the path in front of me, crawling up stairs only to find another impossible angle and another path.
Finally, after a long time, I fell into a restless sleep only to wake up staring into a bright light in front of me. I raised my arms in terror and screamed “NO!” and I tried to roll away. But a hand grabbed me. “Alphonse, it’s me, Mike… Alphonse! Calm down!”
For a moment I stared at the light in disbelief. Then I hugged him and never wanted to let go.