Shame-Shadow-Threads by David Hartley

When he is at his most human, the minotaur is overcome with shame. Follow the thread and we’ll find him, hunched at the join of two walls, snout pressed to the brick. They let this one loose in an old seaside town hoping the knackered streets would be enough to remind him of the labyrinth, but he is startled by plazas and landscaped roof gardens, angered by the names of alleyways, so he has toppled all the signposts. Somewhere there’s a loose unicorn, hustled in by some do-gooder who thought he might be hungry, or horny, or lonely, or in need of spiritual redemption. But unicorns know exactly how to stay hidden, while minotaurs need to be lurking in perpetual possibility, casting horn-shaped shadows around every corner, billowing fetid breath, roars echoing, freezing the hairs on the backs of foolish necks. But this one saw the ocean three days ago, this one saw the ocean, the ocean, he saw it, wide and uncomplicated, a wide and uncomplicated ocean, and this minotaur saw it. And he is overcome with shame.

When he is at his most minotaur, the human is overcome with shadow. Follow the walls and we’ll find him, threads bunched in a fierce fist, the other gripping an ostentatious axe. We let this one loose onto a wide and uncomplicated ocean hoping the waves would quell his bloodthirst, but he is emboldened by the horizon and its perpetual possibility, thrilled by the promises of maps, so he has gathered other foolish necks. Somewhere there’s a loose do-gooder, hurrying through the streets of the old seaside town, trying to retrieve the unicorn, trying to find the minotaur, or the signposts, or the names of the alleyways. But do-gooders know nothing of spiritual redemption, while horn-shaped humans need to be roaring forth beneath insignia, casting bold silhouettes, shouting knackered songs, pissing at brick, and drinking ocean water passed through landscaped gardens. This one saw the town three days ago, this one saw the town, the town, he saw it, small and knotted, the small town with knotted streets, this human saw it. And he is overcome with shadow.

When she is at her most overcome, the do-gooder is emboldened by threads. Follow the ocean and we’ll find her, unicorn caught between her thighs, a flaming torch held to boats. She set herself loose into a small and knotted town hoping to retell the ancient story, but she could not track the minotaur in time, could not prevent the slaughter, and she only just managed to escape with her steed. Somewhere there’s a loose human, carving new names for alleyways into bare stone, erecting a statue, gilding a plaque, saying he claimed her as his prize. But humans know nothing of perpetual possibility, while do-gooders see knackered shapes and repattern them, landscaping new horizons, pissing at insignia, roaring at ostentatious maps, and drinking the bloodthirst of foolish necks. This one saw the boats three days ago, this one saw the boats, the boats, she saw them, tall and proud, the tall and proud boats with tapestry sails, this do-gooder saw them. And she is emboldened by threads.

David Hartley writes strange and unsettling tales for people who like that kind of thing. His latest collection is Fauna, twelve weird fables about animals published by Fly on the Wall Press. He lives in Manchester and tweets at @DHartleyWriter.