Labyrinth for Lovers

It was really my madness that led you through to light: my madness, red and sinuous, finding its way through the underground crevices and passageways like a snake. You followed me in my madness. You put trust in the twists and turns of my reasoning, the hissing god-words that were inaudible to your ears. You were a sane man, trapped in a world in which insanity reigned, and this made you desperate. I came to you in red robes. I tore my dress apart, and made a gift to you of my rags, my threaded blood.

I was married young, too young. On a doomed, thunder-day. Black clouds gathered over the churning Aegean. My bridegroom came down to me, in a clap of lightning, which turned the sands into planes of glittering emerald glass. He dashed his lightning-bolt tongue between my lips. My temples bled. I screamed and gnashed my teeth. I was never the same again.

One touch from him was enough to drive a virgin mad. I cannot say whether he ever even made love to me: all I remember is his tongue, the agony of it, then days – honeymoon days – awash in wine, glass-green water, forgetting. He left me after that. He was diverse in his affections. I could not have survived more than a week of his passion; no one could.

I returned to my family gaunt, bruised, and bloodstained. My father laughed when he saw me, and asked harshly if I was with child. Down in the basement, my brother bellowed, ramming his head against the bars of his cage.

I saw you marching to your slaughter, in loincloth and chains. Six other young men accompanied you, and seven maidens, who I couldn’t have cared less about. I went to you, under cover of moonlight. I kissed your wrists and ankles, where the bonds had chafed. I shredded my dress and told you to follow the trail of blood.

We emerged from the labyrinth onto the green shores, over which a bloody dawn was breaking. You made love to me beneath the gallows tree and, while I slept, left in a storm of black sails. With bull-foot raging, my bridegroom, my brother-god, descended from the bleeding heavens to hand me a ragged red noose. “Take your thoughts,” he told me. “Bind yourself in thoughts of blood, most holy.”

[While primarily devoted to Apollo, Laura Elizabeth Woollett is fascinated by the Dionysian. Earlier this year, she completed her first novel, which was inspired by the myth of Apollo and Daphne. She is currently based in Melbourne, Australia. ]

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