Orphic Phantasia

Theseus and the Minotaur

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“Yeah, I heard it can be pretty brutal out in the wilds. Beasts out there ain’t got no soul. Or, if they do, it ain’t what it used to be. It happens. People can lose themselves when they wake up and see a monster in the mirror. Milk and sugar?”

“Two sugars, no milk.” His host carried the mug over from the vendor, a thimble clutched between a vice. Theseus accepted with a nervous smile. “So, eh…”

“Malcolm,” said the beast, “if you can believe that.”

Theseus scratched behind his ear in search of the right words. This wasn’t really his area of expertise. Annie and Rogan were the diplomats; he was just a soldier, a field reporter. “Your ma must’ve had a sense of humour,” he offered, wincing. It took him a moment to realise the snorting sound that followed was Malcolm’s laughter.

“You think I was born looking like this? Man, eighteen months ago I couldn’t lift a baby. Now I eat them for an afternoon snack!”

Malcolm bared his teeth, sharp white tombstones that looked more than capable of grinding flesh and bone down to a bloody pulp. Then, again, he laughed, harder this time. “Theseus, man, you should see the look on your face! It was a joke! I don’t eat babies. They always crap in your mouth. And you think that”—he gestured to Theseus’s coffee—”tastes like shit?”

“I’ll avoid any offers of fresh baby in the future,” Theseus replied, nudging his mug across the table. His stomach couldn’t take it.

“You’re lucky. You’re human. You don’t taste half the things I do. Not even a quarter of them. That’s what happens when they unlock the ninety percent of the brain you don’t use. Time slows down, colours, they get brighter, you see more of them. Colours everywhere. You ever noticed those streaks of ginger in your hair? I can see them all, same way I can hear the shit stirring around your gut. Brainpower, man, you don’t even know you’ve got it ‘til they unlock the lot.”

“Can’t say it sounds like a good deal to me,” said Theseus, who was sure John had debunked that only-using-ten-percent-of-the-brain thing at least a dozen times.

“Are you saying I’m ugly, kid? Are you looking up at my fine, majestic form and telling me it ain’t worth the price I paid? That I should’ve been happy to stay in some ratass body like that thing you’re piloting? No offense, of course. I mean, I’m sure you’re perfectly buff beneath that shirt, it’s just, well, you ain’t gonna be lifting any two tonne weights anytime soon, are you?”

Theseus shrugged. “I could get some augments, maybe join Seelie.”

“Seelie?” Malcolm wagged a knowing finger. “Man, if you don’t think those guys have fiddled with their brains to get them working one-hundred-ten percent, you’re more naive them I thought. Dunno why they’d stick with those damned bodies of theirs, though. I mean, if you’re gonna go all the way, you may as well go all the way, you know what I’m saying? Why stick with what you’ve got when you can wake up a beast? Why be a Malcolm when you can be a Murdas?”

Theseus could think of several advantages, decent coffee being one of them. “Murdas, that’s your gladiator name, right?”

This sounds like a bad pun just waiting to happen…