The case of the demented Labyrinth

by Michael

Having succumbed to self-pity last time, here’s a more constructive response to my Alzheimer’s feature: the short story version!

Image: Hephaestian Studios

Image: Hephaestian Studios

I don’t know if I was born in it or brought some time later, but my first memories – all my memories – were in the Labyrinth. Alone, but not lonely, and there were myriad opportunities to step outside or look out of the windows and interact, talk to others, fall in love, create, have effects on the rest of the world. Equally, as I grew older, I liked to retreat into the cool depths of the maze, clear away the cobwebs and do a cryptic crossword or read a detective story. Poe, Dickson Carr, Takagi – classic locked room mysteries were my particular delight.

But at some point, daylight withdrew and my comfortable corners became too dim to see. It became harder to navigate the Labyrinth and I reached doors and windows less often. The paths had become overgrown with fibrous masses. I tried burning them away but nothing worked. They constricted my way, eventually blocking off whole sectors of my inner life. Glimpses of the outer world made little sense now, though I strove to make connections, even if they were absurd. A kind of nausea gripped my head, not my stomach. I stumbled around, often with my hands over my eyes, forced to take torturous routes around the obstructions, missing the comforting familiarity of my old ways, until I would curl up in a ball with my head in my hands despairing of it all.

I saw faces I recognised – my parents, or my children, perhaps – and wanted to speak to, but the only way to reach them would be to turn away and search down some forgotten pathway for a secret passage and when I turned my head I began to doubt I had even seen them at all and would be taken along another path to a distant memory or a fragment of degenerate fantasy. There were paranoid flickers of others, too, unrecognised; ghosts in my Labyrinth trying to find me, perhaps. I would find scraps of thread crudely woven from the overgrowing fibres and discarded as useless, not mapping the way out but compelling all the same. I would follow some of the longer ones for a while, hoping, while traces of music led me on, but whether to the outside or deeper towards the centre I wasn’t to know.

At last, I stopped trying to find an exit. It brought me only grief.

When I came to the centre, there was the Minotaur, its breathing ragged, an upside-down A on its forehead, a double-headed axe in its hand. The brute looked like death. We raised our axes, each intent on destroying the other, but when my axe fell, it struck only glass. My reflection shattered the mirror and sealed my fate.