A love story told in shifting perspectives. For the Quotation Inspiration contest.
This was my life before him:
Running through fields chasing butterflies and dreams. I squeezed every bit of freedom that I could out of life. I ran and ran until I was stopped.
Then I was a prisoner in my own family: dark tunnels and darker secrets.
When my brother was born with a man’s body and the head of a bull, I had no other purpose than caring for him. It fell to me because his mother couldn’t protect him, and my father ordered the labyrinth built to hide him.
I’ve always been good at mazes. In the very center lived the Minotaur, and it was there that I found him. There we played, his warm eyes set into a bull’s skull. Oh, the strength of him, but he never once tried to hurt me.
This is how he became my responsibility. No one else was allowed near.
In all the years that I watched over him, all the times I traversed the maze, I never once got lost.
Except perhaps once, inside of my soul.
This was my life before her:
Master of the revels. Orchestrator of Chaos. I love the feverish dance, the freedom that I give them, these mortals. To be themselves, no matter how beautiful or terrible that may be.
A displaced god on the hunt for belonging. Trading favors and earning belief one small village at a time, earning my way into the pantheon of gods.
I had a purpose, and I had enjoyment, but still, something was missing—a true direction, perhaps.
And a dark hollow in the center of my chest, needing light.
I had one evening a week free from my terrible responsibility. One night away from the labyrinth. Unfailingly, I spent it in the forest, seeking madness, seeking release, seeking Dionysus. I dreamed of him, and his wild, tangled vines, his ecstasy, and then I took my careful steps back down into the dark.
I loved my brother, but always, down in the depths with him, always I dreamed of the light.
I dreamed of a hearth fire every night. A warmth that was unfamiliar and yet taunting. An echo of all the ways that my life had been unlived. My potential unfulfilled. “Don’t you want this?” it seemed to ask. “Don’t you want a bit of peace? A place to weather your storms?” No matter that I was the one that had stirred up those storms to begin with.
Perhaps it was perverse of me to want that calm precisely because I wasn’t supposed to want it.
Some things the tales got wrong:
I didn’t help Theseus defeat the Minotaur because I was in love with him. I did it because I loved my brother, and it was what he wanted. He had never asked to be born as he was, towering and violent. He had never asked to be used as an engine of ritual slaughter to appease a goddess. I worked to free him from it, though my soul fluttered against it.
Theseus didn’t abandon me, asleep on Naxos. I asked it of him. I felt that going forward with a life with him would have been the same as trading one kind of slavery for another. Any palace is a prison if there is no love in it.
Some things the tales got wrong:
I didn’t fall in love with Ariadne at first sight. I knew her long before she arrived on my shores. I could feel her prayer and desperation years before she came to my island, to Naxos, and I loved her even back then. She chased chaos, and I could provide, but she was also peace, she was that hearth fire, and I needed that. I needed her.
And now, she is here, on the sand of my beach. Asleep. How strange that my life was so filled with madness and change. Now that she is here, I am quieted. I sit before her in the sand, studying the lines of her face and the rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. She smiles in her sleep, and I wonder what has put that smile there.
I awake, but I still feel like I am dreaming. There is a man before me, and I know who he is. I’ve called to him for most of my life. He smiles softly and reaches a hand out to brush a lock of hair from my forehead and tuck it behind my ear.
Here with him, I can hear the rolling of the sea, and I can feel a sense of excitement, just on the edge of adventure. I don’t need to ask him to take me with him. He stands and holds out his hand to me. I take it.
Ariadne. My wife. We travel together and experience all that there is to share. I show her magic and tricks, and she laughs, merry and free.
We go where we choose, and we live as well as we can. We spend months in revels and then retreat to the quiet of the caves, to deep hot springs beneath the earth.
I died once, and it did not stop him. During a great battle, Perseus turned Medusa’s gaze upon me. I was frozen to my marrow, like drinking ice. Trapped in stone.
She died once, and it didn’t stop me. The loss of her took me back to the pain of being torn limb from limb lifetimes ago. I chased her across worlds. I made deals and pulled her all the way from the underworld and up to Olympus. I made her like me, undying—a labyrinth goddess. If anyone deserves it, the right of immortality, then it is her.
We have forever now, Dionysus and I. I tell him that love can be either a hearth flame or a blazing inferno, but with him, I have both: safety and ecstasy.
Ariadne always says that there are two types of love. The safe, quiet kind, and the passionate, raging kind. A hearth or a wildfire. But with her, I have both.