Two children, girl and boy,
progeny of servants of King Minos,
playing beyond the Royal Palace,
find a door, secured by soldiers,
day and night, night and day.
Once a year, or once in several—
children don’t count time as we do—
seven girls and seven boys,
of marriageable age,
the most beautiful of all, enter
and never come out.
They’ve heard, those children,
Girl and boy, there’s a labyrinth inside.
Their parents say that’s why
the beautiful children never come out.
‘Labyrinths are all the same,’ says the boy.
‘No, they aren’t’ says the girl. ‘My
father’s an architect so I should know.
I’ve seen plans for labyrinths in his office.’
Smart children, he the son of a mathematician,
learn the plans, there are several,
map them out in sand in secret.
Practise all. Smart children,
watch and wait, wait and watch
guards take their tea break,
take their pee break.
Children sneak in.
Stinks. Hold their noses.
Quickly run out. They know
peeing doesn’t take very long.
Curious children, take to listening.
All the grown-ups know
but no one talks about it,
that and many things.
Grownups have secrets.
So do girls and boys.
Grown-ups have painful secrets.
What happens to the beautiful girls and boys,
once a year, or less frequently,
is too painful to mention,
but these children discover.
They hide their plots and plans.
Every time a little longer.
Guards becoming careless,
used to girl and boy playing around them.
‘Now don’t you go in there
while I go off to poo.’
‘I suppose the children have gone off to play elsewhere.’
Girl and boy have learned the labyrinth
Every time a little closer,
no longer retching at the stink.
Girl and boy
Huge bullhead on a man’s body?
Man’s head on huge bull’s body?
Never mind which.
‘His head is huge.’
‘His shoulders too.’
‘He’d get stuck here where it’s narrow.’
‘He’ll get stuck where it leads nowhere.’
‘He’ll get stuck in this dead end.’
Girl and boy,
Tease, taunt, torment the minotaur
as they sometimes do their parents
who then beat them.
Now running down the narrowest channel
till he can go no further,
until he’s stuck by broad bull shoulders,
stuck by vast bull horns and head.
Girl and boy turn to face the Minotaur,
stuck, huge hoofs hammering dust,
huge eyes glaring,
stomping, snorting, stinking breath.
Holding hands and holding courage.
‘See ya on the other side.’
A neat beginning jump,
as they practise in gymnastics
where they leap the wooden horse.
hands on his burning back,
land on feet,
a neat balancing jump,
and then running
running running running
One more visit.
just must see
the Minotaur dead.
Now they play anywhere
but near the labyrinth door
where the soldiers still guard.
Next batch of the most beautiful of all,
seven girls and seven boys of
marriageable age, led by Theseus,
who goes ahead of all the others,
who runs back shouting,
arms raised, leaping,
claims he killed it.
The others come out grumbling,
Come out puking, say
‘It stinks of rotten flesh in there.’
Bio: Joy Manné writes innovative and classical literary fiction. She won the Geneva Writers Group prize for Non-Fiction in 2015. Her story White Hibiscus: A Fugue was one of three finalists in the Arkansas International 2017 Emerging Writer’s Prize in Fiction. She has had more than 35 flash fictions and short stories published online and in print. Joy has published three children’s books.