This short story is a modern twist on the legend of the Minotaur in Greek mythology. There are various allusions and symbols related to the tale of the Minotaur, as well as a recurring theme of the struggle between human and animal within the speaker.
Day: Who the hell knows?
It will be dark soon. That’s when you don’t want to be outside. We pitched our tents in the shadow of an overhanging cliff, hoping for a little shelter from the biting wind.
Okay, I’m going to be honest here; we’re really not that worried about the wind. Not anymore. No one’s saying it out loud, but we’re all terrified out of our minds.
There’s only 6 of our original party of 14 left, and I’m praying to whatever power that may be that I won’t be the next taken. Gwen is still here with me, and I can’t help but wonder if Mom has even noticed that the two of us are still gone.
As a single mother working 2 jobs, Mom was never a very large part of our lives; she was simply too busy to make time for us. When Gwen had a bad nightmare, I was the one she came to. I was the one who would tuck her back in, staying with her until the tears stopped and she fell into a deep sleep.
Gwen is shivering in her sleep now, but we lost our sleeping bags days ago and I have no way to keep her warm. I watch my breath cloud the air in front of me in tiny, quick puffs. We’re like frightened rabbits, hunkering down as the temperature drops and the darkness grows ever closer.
Gwen stirred next to me. “Jason?” she mumbled.
“I’m here. Did you have a nightmare?”
“Yes,” she whispered, “but that’s not it.”
“Then what’s wrong?” I was confused.
“I realized that even after waking up, I never left the nightmare. I’m still in the dream. We can’t escape. Jason. Jason, I’m so scared. I’m so -”
I hugged her close and whispered comforting words to her until the trails of tears had dried on her cheeks and she slipped back into her dream. I can’t keep her safe.
Even now, I feel the thing approaching in the impending night, as the dusk quickly draws the sun out of the sky. Sliding even closer to Gwen, I try to soak up some of her body heat as the ground leeches the warmth from my blood. I know that I’ll get no sleep once it’s fully dark and it comes, so I’m going to try to catch as much shut-eye as I can. I hope Gwen and I can live through the night. I hope I can see the sun again.
Positive Thought for the Day: I have a new appreciation for indoor heating. -Jason
Day: I still have no idea.
Tom was taken last night. I didn’t hear a thing.
Our small party is taking a break from wandering through the woods. We’re all dehydrated and exhausted; I keep hallucinating that I can hear the sound of running water.
The creature is taunting us. Today, we took strips of bright red cloth and wrapped them around trees as we went to mark our path. This forest is like a maze and it seems to change daily.
We walked in a straight line, thinking that the woods had to end sometime, marking every twenty feet or so with a strip of cloth. After an hour or so of hard hiking, we climbed a ridge only to find a lone tree ahead of us tied with a piece of red cloth.
Gwen decided we should follow the cloth to see where we made a wrong turn, but I had a feeling that someone or something else had tied that blood-red strip around the tree.
As we continued to walk, the woods became more and more dense. Our party continued to encounter the red strips of cloth interspersed about twenty feet apart, but I had a sinking feeling that we had never been in this part of the forest before.
The crowded understory was sponging the light from the sky. Even the trees seemed to carry malicious intent; their scraggly branches scratched our faces and tangled in Gwen and Rachel’s hair.
Finally, after hours of walking in silence (we don’t talk much anymore), we entered a clearing. I noticed instantly that something was wrong. Next to me, someone had dropped to their knees in shock, and my breath whooshed out in a rush as I noticed what had caught my eye before.
Hundreds. Hundreds of trees tied with cloth. Everywhere I turned, my eyes were assaulted by the accusing red. The creature is playing us at every turn. I should have realized by now that there is no escape. Tomorrow, the forest will change again and we will be as lost as we were to begin with.
As of now, we still haven’t left the clearing. I’m forcing some stale bread down my throat, but it’s hard when you’re listening to the soft sobs of your sister and the mumbling nonsense of someone else driven to insanity. The red pieces of cloth seem to stare me down, and I can almost hear the monster laughing.
There is an animal glint in our eyes now. I can see it in when we look at each other, and I can feel it within me. I don’t feel human anymore; I feel like prey. I would do anything to get out of here. Anything.
Positive Thought for the Day: I’m still alive. -Jason
Day: I won’t even bother anymore.
Time: I don’t know, but it’s dark.
This all feels like a joke. Someone is pulling a prank on me. There are cameras in the trees and a laughing audience back home. Laughing at me.
I’m the only one left. Do I get a prize? A new car? A free vacation?
I’m writing with a flashlight between my teeth. My handwriting is shaky, but I can’t seem to stop the tremors running up and down my body. It’s not even from the cold; it’s because I know this is the end.
Oh, God. Just saying it makes me want to scream. Gwen is gone, and it’s my fault.
I woke up last night when it came. Gwen and I were the only ones left of our group, huddled together in our small tent. We had already said our goodbyes.
My arms tightened protectively around her. I could feel her shaking from the cold in her sleep, and I was doing everything I could to keep her warm. Her breath hitched and it almost sounded like a sob, like she knew what I was about to do, even as she slept. Her long, brown hair was tangled and dirty around the pale moon of her face. I could see her eyes twitching behind closed lids, lost in some dream, her only escape from this nightmare that was our reality.
It was then that I heard the heavy breaths of a large animal and the hard snap of twigs under large feet, coming closer. And then I heard the sound of the tent flap unzipping. It opened the tent slowly, methodically. I knew it wasn’t in a rush and I knew it was coming for me.
Before the creature could enter the tent, I was filled with a great terror, forgetting Gwen, and I somehow found the power to speak.
“Please,” I begged in a raspy whisper, “I’ll do anything to live another night. Take her. Just let me live.”
The creature made a harsh blowing sound, almost like a laugh. It was a sound of happiness.
And just like that, as I lay frozen in fear, I felt the warmth of Gwen’s sleeping form disappear from my arms. The tent was zipped again and the footsteps retreated, significantly heavier with the weight of another body. I was the only one left. I was alone.
Now, I sit and wait for my prize. My prize. My prize for giving up my sister. My prize for giving up my humanity.
The tremors are coming on stronger now, and I don’t think I can hold my pen steady for much longer. I can feel the night calling to me; I can feel it changing me. There is a desire in me to hear the crunch of bone, and the thought of it is filling me with pleasure.
I can only feel hunger. I am hunger. The thought is filling me with a sadistic rage, a thirst that can only be slaked with the spilling of blood.
I understand now. In giving up my sister, I have forsaken my humanity. I have become more animal than human. I am the creature’s replacement, the new monster to haunt this maze of trees.
I hear the monster laughing in the distance, mocking me once again. Strangely, the laughter sounds close.
And it is now that I realize that the laughter is no longer the monster’s, but my own.
Positive Thought for the Day: -Jason
Illustration from http://bapabst.deviantart.com/