“Sideshow” by Catherine MacLeod
Mr Minos, owner of a nightclub, holds a gun in the face of Rumer, questioning what has made her return here. She reveals that she went into hiding after she was tricked into the Labyrinth and raped by his son, the Minotaur. As they watch the filthy creature wander the maze on mounted monitors, Rumer reveals the reason she wants Minos to allow her back in there, to take her chances with the Minotaur a second time.
About the Author
Catherine MacLeod lives and writes in Nova Scotia, where she also spends too much time watching “Orphan Black” on Youtube. Her publications include short fiction in On Spec, Nightmare, Black Static, Tor.com, and several anthologies, including Fearful Symmetries, Playground of Lost Toys, and Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond.
Minos holds a gun in the face of Rumer. Both he and the gun are equally ugly. She’s not surprised as there’s been another bomb threat from the animal rights activists. She takes a seat. She doesn’t think he’ll shoot, but isn’t taking chances. Her knapsack and raincoat was searched at the door. Minos wears a good suit, silk tie, polished shoes: ‘he still dressed like a king’. There are wall monitors showing the Labyrinth and she asks if he ever turns them off. He says he hasn’t seen her in six months, why does she want to see him now? She tells him she doesn’t, his bouncer dragged her in. He’s used to crackpots and gold-diggers; she wonders which he thinks she is. After the attack, she went into hiding, although she’s sure he’d have paid her to disappear. She tells him she’s here waiting for the crowd to thin, then she’s heading into the maze. In response to his horrified look, she tells him she came when it was crowded in case she needed witnesses. She doesn’t want to ‘disappear’ unnoticed. He asks what she wants, but she wants nothing from him.
We learn that, as a child, she was nicknamed Little Miss Minotaur in the circus. She asks if time has no meaning in the Labyrinth, because her rape seemed like it took longer, but the tape shows it took only four minutes. He says yes. He asks her to tell him what happened, she says they thought she’d be eaten alive. She tells him she believes the Minotaur meant not to kill her, because he was lonely, not hungry. She says they seek out their own kind. She tells him the story of how it began, of her so-called friends and colleagues in the office job she had, after leaving the freak circuit when things got ugly. She should have realised when the colleagues asked her out for the evening at the Labyrinth. Should have been suspicious at their intent. The Labyrinth is like a side-show; strobe lights, theatrics, ‘bone-rattling music, brightly-painted dancers who don’t really worry about the Minotaur coming out.’ One of the colleagues, Justin, had betrayed her, giving her a date-rape drug and cornering her in the maze. She’d spent time afterwards in a crises home for women, but had left when she frightened the kids there. She wants to sleep in the maze.
Rumer tells Mr Minos that she knows he is the former king of Crete, husband of Pasiphae. She was sent to an asylum — giving birth to the Minotaur would drive any woman insane. ‘But even before that — falling in love with the white bull you were supposed to sacrifice to Poseidon because it was so beautiful?’ Mr Minos tells her that Poseidon put the curse on Pasiphae to love the white bull because he had refused to slay it, making time in the Labyrinth slow down so that his misery lasted longer. They watch ‘his son’ walk through the maze, ‘dark and filthy and mad’. He tells her business isn’t so good and he has a son to feed, who eats fowl now instead of virgins. He tells her he has an obligation to family, they lock gazes for a moment, she looks away first. She tells him she has no real memory of the event in the maze, other than her body being carried out and scattered bones. But in her nightmares she hears the Minotaur mounting her, smells his rank breath, the manure he deposited on her in his excitement. She says she blames no one but Justin. He asks if she’s really human, she says yes, her parents made sure. Her coat falls open and Mr Minos realises she’s pregnant. She says she knows what she’s doing, going into the maze, she’d memorised where his son is and can avoid him. If she can’t, she knows what to expect this time. He puts the gun down, saying he wouldn’t kill the mother of his grandchild. She tells him he will have many customers once they know she is in there. He says he will send help when she goes into labour. He asks her if this is an old story too, and how it ends. She enters the maze without answering.
This heartbreaking story updates ancient mythology for a modern audience. That woman, who narrates her story, tells a long story of sadness, heartbreak, isolation, yet aware about the life she is destined to live. As fantastical as this story is, MacLeod does something quite fantastic and expected, she shows that the actions of humans are the true horror in this tale of gods and monsters!