Elena and the Minotaur is a 55,000 word novel about a young woman who rises up to save her sisters and her city in the earliest days of ancient Athens, a place and time in which the destinies of women were not considered…there are monsters, but no magic– all Elena has is a dagger and a dream. And the Minotaur– what of him? What does he want?
This story won a substantial award from the Bronx Council on the Arts and was enthusiastically received at a reading at PEN International in New York City; I am seeking representation for it.
….Leni stumbled over a jumble of skeleton collapsed along the pathway. Sucked her breath in hard. The remains of a dress fluttered, white against the glaring bones of a girl. Must have known her, whoever she had been. She fingered the hem. It wasn’t Amarante. It wasn’t her dress. How far had she gotten? Was she going to find something of her or not? Sweat was running. She had no idea how long she’d been inside the Labyrinth. She pushed another part of the twine to the plastering. There was almost no twine left. She turned again in the spiral of the path just as a hiss floated out above her head.
“Now!” Up there, on top of the wall, crouching like a wildcat. looking like she was ready to spring, A woman with wild hair all copper colored.
“Sssss. Take your dagger out. It’s time! Now! Now!” Nerves on fire, she got the dagger out, thudding heart — and there she was, face to face with the Minotaur. No misfortune as bad as to find what you seek.
The demon’s enormous hands go around her throat in a heartbeat. It’s over before it starts, she is already defeated. The months it took to make the whole desperate decision, disguising herself and stealing things and running away, sailing on the two different ships and managing the high waves and getting inside the fortress and surviving the week of burning isolation and too little food in the courtyard and the loneliness and the nightmares and now the pressure is everywhere — her breath, her chest, her shoulders. Flailing like a fish caught in a net. Once he gets her the Minotaur raises Elena off the ground like he’s done so many times before, not needing any strategy he’s done it so many times before, preparing to dash her against the wall. She doesn’t have a chance. As the monster pauses, their eyes meet and she does the only thing she still can. Her hands are still free — with her left hand she grabs at a horn and with her right she drives the dagger into its eye. Mahhhhh! The massive fingers jerk away, letting go of her. She falls onto her knees. The Minotaur stumbles away, moaning in pain, blood streaming from its eye socket, but as she struggles to her feet it lunges for her again. She drops to the ground and rolls away. He comes at her. She drops down in the direction of his blinded side. Diving to hard ground over and over, gasping for breath, the hairy strange body looming over her, always at her. She had no idea she could breathe so hard.
The two enemies are circling each other in the small space; the Minotaur’s heavy cow head is weeping blood and oozing gore as he hoofs dangerously on the dirty stones. Leni’s chopped off black hair is matted to her face, sweat is running down her back, into her eyes and she doesn’t know how long she can keep this up. There are no gods here. She has no time to think of gods, he who appeared motionless is actually moving straight at her, knocking her against the far wall with the strength of an ocean wave. She falls on a pile of debris.
“Aiee!” Her elbow smacks with a crack on the wall. Her dagger falls from her hand, skittering away out of reach. No weapon. She pushes herself up off the pile somehow with the other arm, closing her hand on some kind of a stick and brings it hard across the beast’s face when he charges again. The Minotaur’s head snaps up and the stick she’s holding snaps in half. She looks at what she’s holding and it’s no random piece of wood, but the leg bone of a sacrificed youth, someone from Athens, who had a name, who has been denied an honorable future and an honorable funeral.
The monster’s head is steaming, he goes down on his hands and charges like an all-bull, angling his deadly horns at her with perfect blind precision. There truly are no gods here. She only has the jagged leg bone, the curved horn is raking her face and she is screaming like something from the other world. The horn is raking her and she gets the splintered leg bone into his remaining eye and he collapses, holding his hands over the bloody mess of the eye sockets she’s gouged. He’s curled into himself, she’s standing. They’re both breathing, but not moving…..