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Labyrinth by D.B.Adams


The journey up from the southern coast of Crete had taken over an hour. At first there were long straight roads through the yellow-brown fields and dark green olive groves. Then came sharp hairpin bends, each with its own shrine, climbing through parched hills. Bridges passed over riverbeds of dry stones, while buzzards circled overhead and everything looking the same dusty brown. At last through narrow lanes bordered with the ever-present olive trees, icing sugar white square houses and red roofed churches, that lie on the very edge of the ugly concrete conurbation that is Heraklion.
After the air conditioning inside the coach, the air felt hot and thick, as if walking into something solid. Edward Lockyear put his hat on to protect himself from the sun that shone mercilessly from a clear blue sky. Through his sunglasses he watched the rest of the coach party follow the guide across the car park, to queue for tickets at the gate of Knossos. Edward turned on his heels, surveyed the line of taverna / souvenir shops on the other side of the road and headed straight for the nearest.
Edward sat in the shade, sipping his ice-cold Amstel and listening to the constant cajoling of the owner, at any tourist that passed within 50 metres. “Here, here, cold drink, souvenir, cheap, here, here.” All the time the man flicked a rosary back and forth rhythmically, each flick of the wrist sending another bead on its ceaseless journey.
“What goes around…” Edward thought as he took another sip of his beer. Today was his 40th birthday and here he was sitting a few hundred yards from the palace of King Minos. It was Knossos and it’s ancient tales that had brought him to Crete, indirectly or directly, he wasn't quite sure which. He was due a holiday and boy did he need it, somehow his birthday had seemed as good an excuse as any to get away. Edward had decided to book something at the last minute and try to get a bargain, he didn't really care where he went, so long as it was hot and he could swim in the clear blue sea.

Then he had found the book. Two years since his divorce and he still had unpacked boxes sitting around. He’d been looking through one of the boxes trying to find his old diving mask and snorkel, when he spotted the book, ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’.
It had been a tenth birthday present, he could still remember how much he had enjoyed looking at the pictures for the first time, how exciting the story had been. He could still remember how vivid and frightening the nightmares were that had haunted him for weeks afterwards. Dreams of running down endless dark tunnels, in his ears the thump, thump, thump of the minotaurs footsteps. Footsteps that caused the walls to shake and contract around him. Hearing the beast roaring in his ears, never daring to look round, little Edward in his dreams always running head down, until at last he awoke screaming.

Edward finished his beer and stood up. He put his hat back on and stepped out into the hot sun. He crossed the road and handed over 1500 drachmas to the man in the kiosk, in return for a ticket with a coloured photo of Knossos printed on it. Inside he purchased a guidebook from the shop. Then walked over to look at the statue of Sir Arthur Evans, who nearly one hundred years previously had uncovered this enormous palace buried beneath a field, led here by the same tale that had brought Edward to Crete.
For the next couple of hours Edward Lockyear wandered the hot and dusty ruins. He examined Olive oil jars as big as himself and wondered at how such things survived three thousand years. He lent forward and put his hand on one, tried to imagine some Minoan artisan putting the finishing touches to this jar. Had it been done with artistic zeal or had it just been the end of another day at work?
He looked at the restored frescos, depicting men and women in fantastic costumes. He stood outside the King’s megaron, gazed in awe at the stone throne where Minos himself had sat.
But for all this Edward had to admit to himself that he was a bit disappointed that he had seen nothing that could be in anyway compared to the mythical Labyrinth.
The heat from the relentless sun was beginning to take its toll and Edward looked round for some shade to sit down in. As he walked away from the king’s megaron, he came to a small wall and looked over. About twenty or thirty feet below a path shaded by tall cypress trees, ran between the palace walls and the wire fence that surrounded the site.
Edward found some steps that led down to it and walked round the path until he came to some benches.
When he sat down he was pleasantly surprised to find that excavations were in progress. In an area protected from the public by a low wire fence two men sat smoking, while they rummaged through a large flat wooden box full of pottery fragments that stood between them. Two more men appeared suddenly carrying another wooden box, they dumped their trowels and brushes into a large ‘leather bucket’ that contained various tools and sat down. Edward stood up and leaned forward to see where they had come from, with mounting excitement he saw that there were some steps down to a doorway that led under the palace. He knew that in reality it was probably just a cellar room, but….
After a while the four men stood up, stacked the two wooden boxes on some others against the wall. Picking up the bucket of tools they climbed over the fence and left.
Edward looked around quickly, he couldn’t see anyone about, instantly he made the decision, he must take a look.

Leaving the bench he walked to the spot where the archaeologists had climbed over the fence. Seconds later he was across the enclosed area and through the doorway that led under the palace. Once inside the opening, he stopped, removed his hat, put it into his rucksack and took out a small torch (an essential item on an island with no proper street lighting). The passage was narrow but high enough to walk upright easily, after about fifteen foot the passage turned sharp right and the daylight was left behind. The floor was uneven, every step taken had to be watched carefully. He turned another corner, in the darkness something lightly touched his head. Edward jumped and swung the torch upwards, it illuminated a light bulb that hung from a wire running along the ceiling. He could feel the heart pounding in his chest, he hadn’t realised how nervous being in here had made him. He wished he had seen a switch or socket somewhere to turn the lights on. In the silent darkness there was something unnerving and oddly familiar about the way he could hear his blood, thump, thump, thumping in his ears.
He pulled himself together, “get a grip, get a grip” he told himself, “it is only childhood fears rearing their head in the dark”. Edward walked slowly forward, swinging the torch beam between ceiling and floor. There were doors leading off the passageway on both sides now but he kept to the path. His nervousness would not subside, his heart was still beating rapidly, and his breathing became deep and audible, echoing back off of the walls. Edward began to think he could hear someone else breathing in the darkness that surrounded him. He swung the torch round, the tunnel behind him was empty
Ahead of him in the dark something shifted, he heard the sound of stone moving against stone. He swung round again, but there was nothing in the torch beam.
Edward began to panic, he wanted to get out, quickly, he felt the need to be back in the bright sunlight again. He turned once more and began to retrace his steps, when from behind, in front, above and below, there came a long low growl.
Edward let out a startled yelp and dropped his torch, he was plunged into total darkness the instant it hit the ground. His heart was racing as he dropped to his knees and scrabbled about on the floor for the torch. “Where is it, where is it” he muttered, turning round and round in widening circles. “SHIT!!” He scraped the back of his knuckles against the stone wall in the dark.
At last he found it. Wrapping his bleeding hand around the rubber casing, he flicked the switch backwards and forwards, nothing happened. Disgusted he threw the torch into the darkness, he winced as it ricocheted off the wall and hit his knee.
In the coal black darkness that surrounded him, Edward realised that he was no longer certain where anything was. He could not say which way was out. He was on the verge of tears when he remembered the story of Theseus and the ball of twine that had lead him out of the Labyrinth. Slowly he reached up and waved his hand from side to side, until at last he felt the wire dangling from the ceiling, grabbing it he began to edge his way carefully along the passage.
Once again he could hear something breathing heavily in the darkness, sensed movement somewhere behind him. Edward kept going, trying to move as fast as he could in his blind terror. Now he was certain he could make out heavy footsteps in the distance, he stopped for a second and listened, but all he could hear was his heart thumping in his chest. He started to move again as fast as he could. Catching his toe in an uneven flagstone he fell forward. A searing pain shot up his left arm to his shoulder. Edward yelled, and the yell echoed round and round, as though mocking him, sounding like laughter as it died away. He tried to get up quickly but the pain down his left side rendered his arm useless. He found the wall, scraping his knuckles against it again in the process. After a struggle he managed to push himself into an upright position. Reaching up with his right hand he tried to find the cable. He started to thrash about wildly in the blackness. It was not there, not where he thought it should be. Confused and frightened in the dark, he began to sob like a child. He no longer had any idea which direction he had come from or even if he had been going in the right direction to start with. His shoulder felt as if it was being hit intermittently with a baseball bat. He was finding it difficult to breathe; his chest seemed to be contracting around his thumping heart, squeezing the air out of his lungs.
He took a few faltering steps; he couldn’t stay where he was. He knew that the thing of his childhood nightmares was close by, he was sure that he could see something, a horned shape it’s density different to the surrounding darkness. Then he heard it, a deep terrifying roar, long and loud, that shook the ground beneath his feet, shook the walls and froze Edward’s heart.

Report in the Sun newspaper, dated 28th July 1998.
HOLIDAY BRIT DIES IN QUAKE
British holidaymaker Edward Lockyear was the only fatality of the earthquake that shook the holiday island of Crete on Saturday. Workmen excavating the ancient palace at Knossos, a popular tourist attraction, found his body on Monday morning. Prof. Alexander Machen, curator of Knossos, said “The mans body was discovered in a storeroom, under the Palace. We do not know what he was doing there the area is not open to the public.” Doctors revealed that Mr Lockyear, 39, died from a fatal heart attack. Creta holidays rep Sharon Jones described Mr Lockyear as “A bit of a loner, who was always wandering off by himself”. The epicentre of the earthquake, which registered 4.7 on the Richter scale, was located in the sea several miles off the island’s south coast, east of Ieraptra. According to local authorities no material damage was reported. A spokesman for the Thessaloniki seismological institute said, “ Mild to strong earth tremors occur sporadically in the Mediterranean area, there is no cause for alarm.” Knossos is believed to have been the home of the mythical minotaur, featured in the new cartoon film “ Theseus and the Bull King” due out later this year.


published in Writers Muse 2001
copyright: Derek Adams 1999

 

 

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