A long long time ago, in a very far and ancient land there lived a king, Minos was his name. King Minos of Crete had an arrangement with the sea god Poseidon – in exchange for fair weather and good sailing, he was to sacrifice his best bull every year.
In another world, perhaps in the same time but different years there lived a playwright, Jaromir Hladík. Hladik lived in Prague, and was unfortunate enough to be just when the Nazis invaded.)
One year, King Midas’s herd bred a beautiful rare white bull. He thought it so lovely that he hid the white bull and decided to sacrifice his second-best instead, much to the sea god’s anger. As revenge, Poseidon cursed Mino’s wife Pasiphaë to fall in love with the bull. In the haze of her accursed lust, she dressed herself as a white cow, and seduced the white bull and nine months later, gave birth to the bull of Minos — the minotaur.
Hladik had protested his arrest, however none would listen. There was no one who would vouch for his German ancestry – not his family which he had long forgotten, nor his name Jewish sounding name, nor his peculiar signature, nor his interest in cultural plays. He was, in other words, an expediency.)
With the best architects, they built a maze. He sits alone in the center, solitary, unknowing and confined. Fed in prison-dark, odd hours where time is counted by the flesh or scraps thrown to be eaten. First comes terror, bone deep and despairing. Then comes acceptance. I will be the monster they want me to be, says the man in the center.
To add to the tragedy of his wife’s affair, Androgeas – son of Minos and winner of Panathenaic games was brutally murdered by jealous Athenians. Despair burns into cruelty: King Minos decrees that a tribute of seven best Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, be sent every seventh or ninth year to be devoured by the minotaur.
Despite his fear of death, Hladik’s primary concern is for his unfinished play: The Enemies. He dreams of a vast non-linear narrative structure full of intrigue, where the acts flow fluidly across ages and characters dance to the music of chronos….. and time is the biggest double-crosser of all. He knows this will be his best work, his oeuvre – the play that history would vouch him and judge him by.)
Fate too, decrees a hero to be born. Theseus, son of Aegeus and prince of Athens volunteers to put an end to this cruel plague. He is sent to Crete on his eighteenth year with his father’s blessing, strong beautiful and proud. Ariadne, daughter of Minos and priestess of the labyrinth falls in love with him. They make a promise. If she can help him slay the minotaur, he would take her to Athens and wed her.
Hladik knows he will die tomorrow. He can see it in the soldier’s eyes, they way they refuse to look at him. He worries for his play, which will never be complete. The last night, he prays and prays and falls asleep. Dreaming. He dreams: a vast library of incomprehensible infinity, where every room is a thought and every thought that has ever existed lives inside these books, remembered.)
Ariadne knows the only one who can save Theseus is none other than the architect who made the labyrinth, the gifted inventor Daedalus. She seeks his help, but he turns her away. “I have sworn never to reveal the layout of the labyrinth”, he says. And yet, even as he closes the door to her, he passes a ball of twine.
“one of the books, contains the word of God” says the librarian. “I have looked for it all my life.” He takes off his glasses, and Hladik can see he has black holes where his eyes used to be. Like a dream (or was it one already?), Hladik walks towards an atlas spread on a desk and touches a letter. A voice comes from around/inside him: “”The time for your labor has been granted”.)
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In this: Theseus slays the minotaur with the twine. In this: Theseus slays the minotaur with the sword of Aegeus, and uses the twine to find his way home. In this: Theseus weds Ariadane. In this: Theseus takes the younger sister instead, and leaves Ariadane to die on a deserted shore. And also: Hladik dies the next day. And also: Hladik is given a year to work and refine his play, after which the bullet kills him. And also: Hladik creates the greatest play ever made. And also: Hladik has no play at all. Together: we are all monsters and heroes and labyrinths, only we know… …
This ball of twine, is the only real thing about all stories – a thread, a line, an intersection. Where lines meet and cross, between historical fiction and mythological truth. Twine, or in ancient Greek: Cleos. Clue. We can only trace and retrace fragments of clues, piecing together different pathways constructed… … only we know.