Tale #82: Ariadne’s Web

There is, of course, the story of Ariadne and her ball of string. It’s always told as if that was her way of keeping Theseus from getting lost. But really it was to tie him in place.

Just as her brother was half bull, she was, as her name alludes, half spider. And with every adventurer she lured in with her tricks, with every length of twine she gave them, she slowly remade her brother’s labyrinth into her web.

And, despite what the stories say, no-one ever escaped.

How many entered that labyrinth? How many in good faith took with them her wool? Unspooling it behind them, each loop they left behind a comfort to their terrified hearts, a protection against disorientation, despair.

In reality all it did was lead her brother to them. He left no trail, yet his victim’s always did. In his fury he tore those poor men limb from limb, ate the hearts from their chests, sucked the marrow from their bones, watched in the dark with demented glee as the last lights of life left their dying eyes.

Ariadne lay her eggs in the bodies he left. When they hatched, her children feasted on the rotting flesh in which they had been born, before, eventually, they scuttled down the delicate trails of her web that stretched out around them.

Out from the dark, towards the light of the town.

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Notes:

1. Written in January 2016
2. One final thing
3. For that maze
4. Of ours

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Tale #81: How to escape from every maze in the world

I listen to my dad. Not always, but often. He’s my father and I don’t want to let him down.

He told me once how to escape from any maze in the world. You just hold out your left hand, let it touch the wall by your side, and then, no matter where in the maze you are, you just follow it until you escape.

It might take a while, he said, but it’ll never let you down. Try it. Put your hand here, and start walking. Trace your fingers along the wall and follow them to freedom.

And so I tried it. I held my left hand out and placed my palm against the wall, and then stepped forward, one step, then two. On and on.

In this way I followed my father’s advice. Followed the path my finger traced along this wall. Followed the path like he said I should.

I have followed and followed and followed his loop forever. Have, in all my years, never found my way to anywhere at all.

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Notes:

1. Written in January 2016
2. For that Maze
3. Again

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Tale #80: A Labyrinth Of Streets

The labyrinth was built over several generations, new pathways added every few years at the whims of each successive lord, until eventually the maze was so large and complex, so tightly woven and dense in self-referentiality, that the people of the town it encompassed (and embraced, and contained) could not only never find their way out, they could never reliably find their way home either.

Over time they settled in new houses, made new families, found new friends, and formed new communities to replace the ones they had lost in the ever-branching complexity of this prison in which they lived.

The lords grew ever angrier at this resistance. They built the maze ever larger, wove it ever tight, progressed, they imagined, ever closer to their dreams of complete control.

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Notes:

1. Written on July 3rd, 2019

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Tale #79: Trail Of Breadcrumbs

We knew our way in, and we knew our way out. And we wanted so much to show everyone what we knew. To show them what we’d found, to show them everything we had. But telling would diminish it all. And asking, well, that would diminish us.

We waited and no one ever came. We left a trail of stones to mark the way, but no one ever thought to follow. We left a trail of breadcrumbs behind us, yet all we attracted were sparrows. We left a path of flowers, and they brought us nothing but bees.

So now instead we used coins we’d stolen from the machines by the pier. And we laid them down on our path as we walked out of town and down into the woods, our way twisting here and there between the trees and through the undergrowth, taking half-forgotten paths along river banks and across nearly-broken bridges, until our trail reached the hidden clearing we loved so much, and the forgotten lake where we always swam.

There we took off our clothes and stepped into the water and waited. Waited for whoever would follow their greed and come to us.

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Notes:

1. This was originally written in July 2014
2. As part of what became An Escape
3. But this version was written in January 2016
4. For use in the Maze
5. That I have mentioned before

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Tale #78: On Hansel And Gretel, And Horror

For me, perhaps for everyone, what I find to be the most dreadful part of Hansel and Gretel, the most horrifying bit, where it ultimately turns it into a tale of horror beyond compare, is the happy-ever-after ending.

There is an escalation of horrors throughout the story, of course – their mother’s death; the jealous malevolence of their stepmother; their abandonment in the woods; the pitcher-plant lure of the gingerbread house; the witch; the imprisonment; the slavery; the threatened (but never actualised) death by cannibalism.

But in a way this is all for show, a deft piece of misdirection, obscuring the real horror at the heart of the tale, the monster lurking at the edge of the screen as the credits roll, that final moment of dread as the screen goes black, that gnaws at you all night.

For here is our happy ending: the witch is dead, the stepmother is dead, and Hansel and Gretel return home to their father.

Their father, who took them to the woods and abandoned them, not once but twice.

Their father, who was perfectly willing to let them die, simply to appease his new wife.

Hansel and Gretel escape from the forest, and they escape the witch. But can there be any possible escape for them from their father. From his blankness, from his pliability, his disinterest and neglect. From his next, inevitable, betrayal.

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Notes:

1. Written in 2017 sometime
2. I remember starting it in January 2017
3. While ill
4. At the Eden Project
5. But I have no idea when I finished it

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