Tragedy of the Beast

Porsche Garrett


I took my first breath on a night when the moon hung fat and bright in the sky, shining down soft light to bathe the world in silver. The stars shimmered like so many bright eyes looking down on me, unblinking and unjudging. It was a night I didn’t deserve. Horrors are meant to be birthed in raging storms under wicked lightning. The clouds should have been rending themselves in wispy torment with rain pelting down in vengeance and trees shaking their branches like angry fists. But nature is hardly ever in accordance with the atmosphere that a scene yearns for. The only sound that carried through the serene night was the wailing of my mother’s anguish. The world did not care if I took my first breath from it by force.

My very life itself was born from something taken by force. My father’s punishment used my mother as the scapegoat. Her mind was enchanted to love a bull, her body forced into bearing something beastly. I am the product of her rape. I am the product of a god’s rage and a man’s greed. They tell me I was cursed from the beginning. I believe them. I was taken from my mother’s loins the second I escaped them. I never saw her face. The victims I keep around for a while tell me she was beautiful. When I was younger I used to cry for her. Of course, she never answered my cries and for that I cannot blame her. They sounded horrific even to my own ears. They came out as a high-pitched bellow, shrieking moan, something that made all the hair on your body stand at rigid attention. They dared not come near me, even as a child. They threw me slop and buckets of milk over the walls until I was old enough to devour— until I was old enough to be the villain. I grew so quickly they did not have to wait long. My skin bears the stretch marks of my growth into something vicious.

They have named me The Minotaur. My bull’s head hangs heavy on my man’s shoulders. It itches where my fur fades into olive skin. Even my man’s skin has grown rough, scraping against these walls. My hands and feet are thick with callouses. The world is not soft anywhere for me to feel. No one thought to leave me grass to lay on or flowers to smell. There is no tree to climb and stretch up through its leaves towards the sun. There are no chirping birds or meek mice to dart between my hooves. What use has a beast for any beauty? At least I have the stars, although they too are simply the top of my cage. They did not think anything good could be reflected in my black eyes. I know beauty. I do, though it matters not to me. For me, beauty is always followed by blood.

They send me in the youths that King Minos demands as tributes. They are still rosy cheeked and world fresh. They cry out for their mothers when they see me, but their mothers are as able to answer their cries as mine is. Sometimes I make their deaths quick, sometimes I drag it out. I suck on the sweet marrow of their young bones and gorge myself on their flesh. Sometimes I braid their hair when I am full, or I peel back their eyelids to stare into their dead eyes. I take their garments and weave them
into my own coverings. No matter what colors I cover myself in, their blood stains me darkest. I tried keeping one for a companion once, but the only food in the labyrinth was the youth. I watched as he starved and each day the fear in his eyes grew. He was kind enough or delirious enough to tell me about his native Athens. He told me about his younger brothers and his sister. He told me how he missed sitting in the shade of his favorite juniper tree, where he napped after practicing his lyre. I snapped his
neck when he started crying. What else was there for me to do? I could not stand the thought of him thinking his grief could outweigh my own. I am a monster, a beast, an abomination. I act the only role they will allow me. Those who have caged me here forget that I am a man as well. I wonder which part of me is truly monstrous. After all, the bull did not plan their scheme. In my black eyes, did they see only a monster? Or did they see the reflection of what they had done?

Once, I found a maiden in blue and purple drapery, gold woven into her dark curls, sitting at a crossroads of the maze. One of her delicate ankles was swollen at a painful angle. She saw me and was one of the rare ones that did not scream or attempt to run. She simply slumped further against the wall and began to sob. I sat across from her for a while, and after deliberating for a few minutes, I started with her feet, and then her hands, and saved her head for last. I hope those outside of my labyrinth felt her scream like a scratch down their backs. I hope her sobs made them choke on the sweet grapes and soft breads they stuff themselves with. I hope they hung their heads in shame at the same time I did.

I knew the day of the final tribute. I could smell it in the air. The youths were led in and they scattered, each hoping to go farther than the last, to be the smartest to escape the genius’s labyrinth. I took their breath by force. I savored their skin, their livers, their hearts, knowing it would be my last meal. Their wine-dark blood dripped from my foaming mouth. My bellow echoed from the center of the labyrinth, twisting and convulsing against the walls of my concealment, the caterwaul lifting to the city’s sky. I wanted them to hear the echo of their daughters and sons and how their screams blended into mine as their blood was still fresh on my thick tongue.

Once I had plucked the last spry bone from between my teeth, Theseus arrived before me with his golden skin and hair crowning his head in a halo. Here too, was a creature born to a predestined end. I knew instantly he was the hero of this story. The golden boy slays the beast. It’s in both of our natures. We don’t write the story, we only get to live it. The string he trailed behind him was his only way out. The string that led me to him and to his dashing escape. Some say he strangled me to death, others say he stabbed me through the throat with his sword. Does it matter? Either way, the beast died. Does the story ever get to count as a tragedy if it’s told from the beast’s point of view?

When Theseus sliced the bull’s head from the man’s body, the Minotaur was no longer. The blood from two ends of one wound seeped thickly, and the same red, into the sand. Theseus sailed away triumphantly with the princess, who was abandoned by him on an island where soon after, a god snuck away with her to be his bride. Theseus married the princess’s younger sister, who died by her own hand. Theseus’s son died enduring his father’s rage. A great bull was sent to scare his son’s horses and he died strangled in their frantic reigns. Once again, the bull was used as a pawn in a god and human’s scheme. They call their human lives a tragedy, because they could have had a better ending, but the possibility of that, for them too, was never there. We’ve all been dead since the beginning.