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I emerge into a night in the remote past.
Something smoky and acrid about the place, as if everything had been replicated correctly except the smell: the scent makes me think of an industrial plant. I expected antiquity to smell dry and dusty, like an ancient scroll pulled from a cave by the Dead Sea.
I am not part of the tableau. Perhaps I am merely a set of eyes in a fresco on the wall.
It is a bar, a meeting place for men. It is very dark in spite of the torches, as if the light had to fight its way through liquid. Tall wooden stools and tables, stone floors and pillars. The space is long and narrow and mostly empty. There are maybe a dozen patrons, all of them young Olympian athletes. Their bodies are muscular and graceful, bare under short sleeveless robes, feet clad in sandals. They lounge about the space, their youth and the outlaw nature of the place evident in their air of nervous uncertainty. They do not speak. They are not here for each other.
When he walks in, the space becomes charged with tension, a silent mix of terror and fascination running through the young men. He moves with the destructive self-confidence of a volcano, all thunder and internal fire, his stride the summation of masculine arrogance. With casual calculation, he takes the center spot.
He is far more massive than them, all biceps, pectoral muscles, and giant thighs. His legs are dark, and they are lost into the dark below. The head is monstrous: a bull head made of shadow, his face is shadow, and like shadow it reflects nothing back. Around the pinpoints of light in his eyes the silhouette of it is a vacuum of darkness, more a portal to oblivion than the head of a bull. The set of curved horns at his crest end in sharp tips, their glossy surface increasingly coarser as it approaches the thick root, a handlebar of death, so strong and solid it could probably break through the very rock walls that enclose us in the night.
The Minotaur is here to pick up dinner.
He could have all of them right here, but he prefers to play with his prey. Both hunter and bait, he waits for them to approach him: he knows their fascination will eventually outweigh their fear. And they are all visibly mystified, although caution keeps them at a distance. “Not for long,” seems to be his thought, as his head turns from one meaningless detail of the place to the next. It is fascinating to watch that massive bovine head move so gracefully, so unified, so effortlessly supported by that great dark neck protruding from human shoulders.
To any of the young men, approaching the beast would mean certain death, but his magnetic allure makes them want to believe otherwise. Soon, one of them will give in, come close enough, and be swept off into the night, never to return.
But not tonight.
The newcomer walks in with a difference kind of confidence: the confidence of purpose. He is oddly dressed for the setting: he wears dark pants and a sort of vest made of black leather straps, a garment clearly meant to hold weapons. He is very pale, his head is clean shaven and there is a stern look on what would otherwise be a handsome face. He is also muscular, more than the young men, but not as large as the beast. His arms are covered in symbols, the shapes outlined with remarkable precision against the white skin. There is a contained energy to his movements that reveals training.
He stops a few feet from the beast. The Minotaur turns to face him, and freezes… it is impossible to know what thoughts are forming in the deep, dark nebula behind the pinpoints of light.
When the man speaks, the anger in his voice is the first sound to pierce the silence of the night:
“I knew I’d find you here, you goddamn floozy! Get in the car!”
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