The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

A Practicum on Divination via Cleromancy
Hebeloma Crustuliniforme
(link to main page of novel)


November 1, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

All things, including knowledge and love, are subject to the scale of their being. In the labyrinth, there was scarcely any life outside the patches of cave slime that coated the walls and ceilings of damp chambers or the growths of crystalline minerals, with ages measured in geological epochs. It took the appearance of a rare, solitary cave cricket disappearing into a minute crack in the stone to remind Melanippe that her precious map, the labor of her life, provided no insight into the myriad of pathways accessible to the cricket. Her map encompassed only what knowledge was available through her own experience.

She shared her ambivalence with Melite, when the two maidens crossed paths in the maze. "I don't know whether to tear this parchment to shreds for its pretense to knowledge or to prize it all the more for the limitations it reflects."

Melite forgave the cricket its provocation of the cartographer but she was less generous with Melanippe. "Neither can your map provide guidance in small matters nor in large. Your map is useless to the moon in its path across the sky. It is of no value to the planets, the stars or the fiery stone whose hard heart crashes to Earth in a smoldering crater." Her implication that Melanippe's labor possessed worth only to an infinitesimally small sliver of the universe was left unsaid. She offered no further comment, opting instead to allow Melanippe to find her own way, with or without the map.

written while listening to:  Homeogryllus japonicus Orchestra - unreleased live recording, track 3 (August 28, 2004, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 2, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

The disorientation induced by the labyrinth can be exacerbated by the actions of those wandering within its halls. Insobriety immediately comes to mind as a potential aggravating factor, save that Hippophorbas knew of no source of wine or other spirits in the mine. Alcohol serves as a chemical mechanism to muddle thought processes, to blanket memory and to lower the barriers to imprudent action and speech. There are also paths to the loosening of one's inhibitions, which do not require external substances, only a shift in attitude. For example, a sense of resignation can loosen one's tongue. Although Hippophorbas was not willing to consciously admit that he had lost all hope of ever exiting the maze, the presentiment subliminally influenced his behavior. How else could he explain to himself the harsh words with which he greeted Antimachus when they unexpectedly collided in a dark tunnel? "Watch where you are going, idiot!"

Antimachus, for his part, was unwilling to relinquish the daydream in which he had wrapped his peregrinations. (His fantasy of the moment had something to do with saving humanity from the threat of the labyrinth or at least rescuing one doe-eyed and buxom beauty from the menace of the minotaur.) He shuffled away from the truculent youth without a word.

Hippophorbas was left in a stupor of his own making, irritated by his own short temper and unable to make recompense in the absence of the one whom he had aggrieved. With his very existence a draught that induced in him a dipsomaniac's stupidity what need had Hippophorbas of wine?

written while listening to:  Head Rush - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (August 29, 2004, Loft, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 3, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

There is no strength that cannot be overcome nor loyalty that cannot be undermined. It is insensible to measure ourselves against the absolute since the absolute possesses resources that we do not have and lacks any conscience, which would prohibit us from using them against the vulnerable. "When my strength deserts me," said Periboea, "I shall be at the mercy of the minotaur."

"Eldest sister," replied Hesione in the cramped darkness of the niche in which the two had taken shelter, "I think it more likely that, in the event you are overcome by weakness, you shall find yourself at the mercy of your friends, for do we not wind our way to your side when you need us most?"

"And if the beast itself stood betwixt us, would you yet come to my aid?" Periboea asked in challenge.

"O, by all the gods above, I would not do as you ask!" cried Hesione in a hushed whisper. "I would flee in the other direction, screaming for my life." She leaned her head against Periboea's shoulder as an advance consolation for her treachery to come.

Periboea raised her left hand and lay it against the exposed cheek of Hesione. She said in a soft voice, "I thank you for the warning. When that fate comes upon us, I know now not to think of it as a betrayal."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, Tori Kudo & Tamio Shiraishi - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-7 (September 1, 2004, Jam, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 4, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

Melite and Idas huddled in a dark corner of the labyrinth. She had one hand over her mouth, to mute her breath, and the other placed for balance on Idas' shoulder. They remained still for they had heard the sound of heavy footfalls pursuing them, though they could not dismiss the possibility that the echoes were the product of their overwrought nerves. Eventually, Idas broke the silence. He leaned close to Melite and whispered, "I would like to ask the minotaur what joy it takes in terrorizing those imprisoned in its maze."

Melite shook her head. "Better not to ask," she replied in a similarly low tone. "It is a cruel question, which allows the beast to justify its barbarism." From her perspective, Melite believed that there was no reasonable rationale for the monster's brutal crimes. Why bother with excuses?

Although Idas was fond of Melite and, moreover, largely agreed with her on this point, he nevertheless pressed his argument, saying, "Should the opportunity arise, I will put my question to the beast. It is the only weapon I have. For whatever answer it gives, I shall add it to the litany of its faults, which demonstrates, beyond all doubt, that it deserves the judgment awaiting it of torment and despair.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, Tori Kudo & Tamio Shiraishi - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5, 8-10 (September 1, 2004, Jam, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 5, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

Antimachus daydreamed that he had in his possession a magical map of the labyrinth, which showed his position among the myriad of tunnels. The parchment upon which the maze was rendered defied the laws of optics, for it was capable of representing the three-dimensional tangle of cavernous chambers, the winding passages that connected them and their various intersections on its flat surface. Of course, Antimachus did not know how to escape his prison. Therefore he adopted the attitude that, enjoying a map of such wonderful capabilities, in which not one but several means of egress were invariably contained, if he but looked for them, released him from the obligation of any anxiety. With this comfort, Antimachus strolled in a nonchalant manner through the unending gloom.

Melanippe had devoted her life to the creation of a map of the labyrinth, endowing it with as much fidelity as was humanly possible. She disparaged Antimachus' map, not because she desired to spoil his high spirits but because the pleasure he took from his make-believe map so threatened the solace that she took from hers!

Alas, the same complexity of life that provides innumerable delights can sometimes manifest as mutual disappointment. In such occasions, it is best to move along quickly in the direction of the next distraction.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michio Karimata - unreleased live recording, track 1 (September 17, 2004, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 6, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

Eurymedusa, the water-maiden, had resolved never to leave the cold waters of the subterranean lake in which she had taken refuge from the predation of the minotaur. Her visitor, Melanippe, attempted to reassure her with the notion that her map of the labyrinth was expanding with each step she took. It seemed impossible that the maze could be unbounded. Eventually, she would have to encounter an exit leading to the surface world. When she did so, she promised to return to the lake and escort Eurymedusa out of the prison.

Eurymedusa had selected a point in the stone bank where the slope was abrupt, enabling her to remain largely submerged, though her elbows rested on dry rock and her chin was cupped in her hands. "How will you find me again?" she asked.

The cartographer indicated the mark on her map which represented Eurymedusa's lake. "You are on my map." She added with the utmost confidence, "It is a certain thing that I shall be able to find you when the time comes."

Eurymedusa pleaded with Melanippe to prolong her visit, until she grew tired. Then Eurymedusa invited her guest to sleep on the stone bank. While Melanippe traveled in dreams unknown, Eurymedusa crawled upon the shore. She wrung her thick black hair so it would not drip on the parchment before she leaned over to examine the map in detail. It was all squiggly lines to her, but she had noted the unremarkable dot that designated her domain. With a thumbnail, she scratched it away and, with Melanippe's quill, she marked another point some distance off. Eurymedusa acted in this manner because she suspected that, if a chance at liberation arrived, it would be too late for her. In fact, it was already too late.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michio Karimata - unreleased live recording, tracks 2-3 (September 17, 2004, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 7, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

We are unable to definitively determine whether our failure to penetrate the ambiguity of an arbitrary purpose and the need to rationalize our story arises because no distinction exists between the two or rather because the limitations of our mental faculties are so profound that we perceive no difference. Amphidocus communicated this sentiment to Hippophorbas, though he did not fully comprehend it. Thank goodness for the darkness of the labyrinth, which cloaked their expressions of confusion and dismay from each other.

"It seems that everyone has found their purpose except me," Amphidocus said. His admission was superfluous since Hippophorbas, like everyone else in the maze, already knew of Amphidocus' plight. In his investigation, Amphidocus had interrogated all of the other wanderers regarding their motivations, in search of one he could call his own.

Hippophorbas dared not suggest that Amphidocus' drive to discover a source of meaning in his life was itself a purpose. This sort of notion is catalogued under the esoteric subject heading 'experimental meta-living'. It is generally regarded as inferior to ordinary living. Consequently, Hippophorbas listened silently to the lament of Amphidocus, in order to spare him from dwelling overlong on the disheartening realization that he had chosen poorly.

written while listening to:  Vajra - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (September 23, 2004, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 8, 2019
Traveler: Andromache; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

The music emerged from the flute of Andromache with a lively tempo. However, as the soundwaves traveled along the stone walls of the tunnel and explored the sundry chambers through which it led, the original melody stumbled among its own echoes, culminating in a rather slurred and doleful elegy. It was not at all the expression of herself that Andromache had intended to present to the world.

The music summoned Periboea, the warrior-maiden, to the flautist's side. Periboea greeted her with an embrace. No sooner had she taken a step back then she was beset by Andromache's lament. "The labyrinth does not allow people to see me how I really am."

There was too much truth in her words for Periboea to refute Andromache's claim. Nor had she been able to hear past the dirge crafted by the unkind acoustics of the surrounding rock to detect the original message of her friend. "I am closer now," she said. "Why not try again?"

Andromache played while standing, with Periboea a few feet away. The flute is capable of communicating a great range of emotions, appropriate to jaunty dancing, woodland strolls or solemn reverie. She played for some time, mingling these disparate elements, until she perceived clearly that her music had taken on the form of the same labyrinthine elegy as before. Andromache concluded that there were but two possible explanations. Either she had internalized, through prolonged exposure, the message of the maze to such an extent that she could no longer separate herself from it or, alternatively, the notion that she had once possessed a unique message of her own was a naïve conceit, which she had apparently outgrown.

At the conclusion of the song, Periboea applauded, mostly because it is what people do when the music ends.

written while listening to:  Vajra - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-5 (September 23, 2004, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 9, 2019
Traveler: Menestheus; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

The barrage of thunder overwhelms voices, so is there any point in whispering during a storm? Similarly, the remoteness of the gods distances them from the pleas of their mortal charges, so what purpose can be found in praying for relief?

"Don't ask such questions," said Melite to Menestheus. She had heard an unintelligible mumbling emerging from the dark mouth of an angled shaft in the mine. With her hands pressed against the rough walls to control her descent, she had managed to shimmy down the steep slope until the words took better form at the bottom of the pit. She was disappointed, to be sure, to have encountered more despair. Can she be blamed for having preferred to discover joy? Yet her disappointment was mitigated by her extended acquaintance with the labyrinth; she knew well what to expect. "Such questions are better left unsaid."

She groped in the utter darkness, until her fingers found Menestheus seated on a block of stone, as if it were the stolen throne of the king of hell or an indefinite waiting station on the way to the gallows. She pulled his head against her stomach and held him there with her arms. "In any case," she said, "the answer is obvious. You must whisper amidst the peals of thunder, because to remain silent provides unnecessary sanction to the proposition that it is essential for all of our actions to be meaningful."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Munehiro Narita, Masayoshi Urabe & Junko Hiroshige - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (September 29, 2004, Super Deluxe, Nishi-Azaba, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 10, 2019
Traveler: Porphyrion; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

The sorrow that Porphyrion felt for his fellow travelers trapped in the underground labyrinth did not arise from sympathy for their deprivation of freedom, although that was undeniably an accurate description of their present state. Instead, Porphyrion experienced a heavy grief for their future, for the damage, which the labyrinth inflicted upon those confined within its dark, winding corridors, was carved in the creases of their faces, written in their minds and absorbed in their hearts. Even should the unlikely day arrive when they were freed from the labyrinth, it was difficult for Porphyrion to perceive any outcome other than their role in the transmission of the malaise of the maze into the surface world. Why should they be forced to serve as agents for the spread of a darkness to which their mortal frames had simply not been constructed to resist? "Sometimes," Porphyrion admitted to Antimachus, when the two met by chance at an intersection, "I think if I were the one to discover an exit to the maze, I would keep it to myself."

Antimachus nodded. If he had felt that way, he would be just as somber as Porphyrion. Fortunately, Antimachus had another opinion. "You need," he advised the itinerant priest, "to be more creative in how you allow the future to be imagined. I don't pretend to understand the complexity of the workings of the world, but I do know enough to admit that things never turn out the way that I thought they would."

written while listening to:  Vajra - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-9 (October 17, 2004, The Arches, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, digital files)

November 11, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

Even were we to shout the opposite a thousand times, it would not make any less true the fact that the labyrinth had spoiled something inside Europe. The maiden, who once so proudly declared that they could roam the subterranean corridors of the maze without fear because the minotaur did not exist, now shambled aimlessly through those same tunnels.

Hesione found Europe, her face pallid and her brow damp, in these doldrums. "Little sister," she said, "whatever has come over you?" Hesione inquired as a matter of etiquette, since the culprit was obviously present in the stone, which surrounded them. "Tell me again how the minotaur does not exist," she said encouragingly.

Hesione's guileless attempt to cheer her up brought a wan smile to Europe's face. "The minotaur does not exist," she repeated obediently.

"Now that's more like it." Hesione wrapped an arm around Europe's shoulders. The two girls walked side by side for a while, as Hesione proceeded to describe in unnecessarily meticulous detail all the evidence that she had accumulated during her internment in the labyrinth, which demonstrated beyond a doubt that a minotaur dwelt therein. This too was a rather transparent tactic but it succeeded where a more subtle approach may have failed. Europe proved unable to restrain herself. Soon she was vigorously refuting each of Hesione's supposed clues. For her part, Hesione played her role with genuine relish until the pair parted on good terms, each headed down a passage of their own choosing.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masonna - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (October 31, 2004, Musashino Art University, Kodaira, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 12, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

When an individual has abandoned the notion of absolute truths, he may be inclined to explore territory that is forbidden to those who acknowledge the same truths as inviolate. Demoleon had found paralysis in the exercise of virtue, for it was impossible to foresee the consequences of his actions. It was only by disregarding his deference to these ideals, which had once steered him toward virtue, that he was able to move again. And what movement it was--slinking from one shadowed corner of the labyrinth to another, skulking from one degenerate indulgence to the next. We describe it only in generalities in order to avoid the promulgation of such decadence. Demoleon justified his extravagant behavior to Idas, who kept his distance when their paths crossed, as an acceptable strain of curiosity.

Inquisitive by nature, Idas knew something of curiosity and the quandaries to which it could lead. "I sought out the minotaur," he said as he gazed at the floor, "so that I might satisfy my desire to know the unvarnished secrets regarding its choosing of a bestial way of life." Idas shifted his gaze to Demoleon. "I have largely curtailed my investigations," he admitted, "because I arrived at the realization that an understanding of barbarism has limited utility and direct exposure to it poses a non-negligible risk of contagion." Idas returned his focus to the ground and added, as an afterthought, "And finally I suppose I recognized that the age old beliefs, which others had enshrined as unquestionable, probably arose by trial and error through the experience of our ancestors, who possessed more or less the same capacity for common sense as does the current generation."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (November 12, 2004, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 13, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Andromache; Moon: Gibbous

In the labyrinth, time was distended in a nonlinear and contradictory manner. The inhabitants had recourse to neither sand-filled hour-glasses nor any other variety of time-keeper. Because the unpredictable turns of the maze prevented the reliable planning of events, there were also no appointments. Without any schedule, Idas imagined that the press of time should be diminished. However, what the labyrinth lacked in clocks, it made up for with the minotaur. Each breath was its own measure of time, when one lived under the threat of a beast, which might leap at any moment from the mouth of one shadowed tunnel or another. Idas reckoned his life could be extinguished without herald or fanfare. It remained unclear to which of these two, opposing temporal forces he was supposed to submit.

When he encountered Andromache, the flautist, Idas asked her to share her opinion on the matter. As a musician, Andromache had comes to terms with time; controlling the tempo of her songs when she desired, from largo to presto. Because she thought of time as malleable, she explained to Idas that his supposed contradiction was no more than a self-created dilemma. If he found simultaneously each hour intolerably long in the moment and vanishingly short in retrospect, that was exactly as it should be. "You need only train yourself to accommodate without upset the vagaries of time." Of course, Andromache realized that she asked the impossible, for Idas had no ready means to change his fundamental nature, any more than the rest of us do.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Keisuke Ohta - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (December 6, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 14, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

There is no map that can lead the hard-hearted to compassion. Rather, the most effective instrument for instilling this lesson is a cudgel. Only through the repeated delivery of blunt trauma can an individual, not naturally predisposed to kindness, come to see its merit.

Menestheus listened to Melanippe expound on her interesting take on an age-old subject. The pair sat in an enormous cavern covered by a ceiling from which stalactites a dozen feet in length continued to inexorably grow. The corresponding stalagmites glistened with the moisture that dripped sporadically from above. The grasping stones would have to wait an epoch before they felt each other's touch. Menestheus was a gentle soul who would have put up no argument to all women and men finding their way to kindness. Still, he said to Melanippe, "I think you take it too far. Compassion is not the only lesson one may learn from prolonged exposure to suffering."

Melanippe refused to yield. "If this is not the way, I can see no other."

Menestheus recalled from the streets of his home town men of violence and women of spite. While he had never considered them beyond rehabilitation, he had always supposed that the most straightforward solution would have been the preventative administration of tenderness at a formative stage. It was much harder to reclaim a fruit that had already bruised and spoiled. Ever stubborn, Menestheus declined to abandon his propensity for tenderness, though others assailed it as useless. It could, he imagined, still work its magic given sufficient space and a span of time beyond the foresight of the most perspicacious of prognosticators.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Keisuke Ohta - unreleased live recording, track 4 (December 6, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 15, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

Although Hippophorbas was a man driven by a compulsion to justify both the acts to which he was subject as well as the actions for which he was responsible, he accepted that there was no reason for everything to be going so well. "I have to chalk it up to a run of good luck," he said to Porphyrion, the itinerant priest, when the two crossed paths in the labyrinth.

This admission put Porphyrion in a peculiar spot, for he consciously strove to play the role of the eternal optimist. Yet, when he sized up Hippophorbas, with his unkempt hair, ragged clothes and his vaguely haggard expression, Porphyrion could not keep the doubt from his mind. He peered over Hippophorbas' shoulder, wondering if some evidence of this supposed good fortune was visible inside the tunnel from which he had just emerged. Porphyrion observed only the same mundane and oppressive darkness that filled every niche and passage of the maze. He returned his gaze and locked eyes with Hippophorbas. For a terrible moment, it seemed to Porphyrion that Hippophorbas challenged him to sabotage his high spirits and that he might succumb to the temptation of logic.

But, of course, the world is an unreasoned place. Porphyrion had no obligation to the truth other than that which he imposed upon himself. Besides, he supposed his service to joy transcended any other duty, so he whole-heartedly congratulated Hippophorbas on his streak of luck, wished him more of the same, and invited him, should he tire of this windfall of blessings, to redirect some his way.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (December 19, 2004, Stormy Monday, Kannai, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

November 16, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

Just as there could be no faith without doubt, so too was it impossible for Periboea to have gained her reputation for courage without a presentiment of fear. Her conquest of the dread of the minotaur could not be contained. Others, like Europe, found their own strength in Periboea's brazen show of valor. When the two maidens met by chance in a winding corridor of the maze, Europe expressed the immediate draining of anxiety that she experienced merely by being in the company of Periboea. For her part, Periboea, found her own reprieve in exposing a minor chink in her armor. "Some days are better than others," she admitted with an affected insouciance.

Although it is inaccurate to distinguish segments of time spent wandering endlessly in darkness as 'days', the denizens of the mine resorted to the familiar recourse of describing stretches of wakefulness separated by bouts of restless sleep as the days of the labyrinth. "And which are your favorite days," Europe asked, "those of heroic glory or those of inescapable vulnerability?"

Periboea desired to share no further opinion on the matter and suggested to Europe that she provide her own answer. Europe drew a deep breath, as if giving the subject much thought, though she had already known her response before she had spoken. "We need them both."

Ordinarily taciturn, Periboea had not been inclined to say anything more, but the words of Europe resonated with an unexpected intensity. She was moved to agree. "Yes, I relish the cold stone of fear in my belly as well."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-9 (December 19, 2004, Stormy Monday, Kannai, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

November 17, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

There was no point in condemning the stone in which she was entrapped, so Melite reasoned, because stone possessed a limited capacity to act beyond its own nature. It did not move of its own accord. If she found a small piece, she could hurl it into darkness and the stone would do nothing to stop her. If she found a sharp piece, she could scratch her name into its face, or so she imagined. Certainly, she had never attempted to disfigure the walls of the labyrinth in this way.

The same could not be said of her fellow companions in the mine. As human beings, they had inarguable precedent and promising potential to engage in behaviors outside the limited domain of the nature to which they had been born and were innately predisposed. The stress of wandering alone in the darkness of the maze had exhausted Melite. Because no one appeared, she suspected everyone of cruelty. Although it is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, in Melite's case it had the opposite effect. Her resentment metastasized beyond all proportion to the supposed harm.

When Demoleon encountered Melite, he was taken aback by her cold welcome and subsequent abuse of him. The world is a terrible place, he thought to himself, to have induced this behavior in a maiden whom he had formerly known as gentle and demure. Yet Demoleon did not remonstrate with Melite. To be sure, he felt the hurt and the reflex to reciprocate. However, he could not reconcile the present Melite with the woman of the past. He, perhaps, juxtaposed the earlier version into his current circumstance, and, as a result of this temporal anomaly, treated her more kindly than she deserved.

written while listening to:  Kikuri - unreleased live recording, track 1 (December 23, 2004, Cay, Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 18, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

As if one land-bound predator in the labyrinth was not enough, Antimachus took it upon himself to imagine a second beast, confined to the flooded portions of the maze. He had absent-mindedly followed a path that led him to the wide stone bank of the subterranean lake. The placid, black water stretched out into darkness, while numerous tunnels pocked the rock wall from which he had emerged. Antimachus studied the lake, searching for any sign of the marine creature. Because he did not know its form, he remained vigilant for the telltale ripples of a sinuous tentacle or the arched, scaled back mimicking detritus as it floated on the still surface.

When the creature appeared, Antimachus' delight could not have been greater, for it took the form not of a horrid monstrosity, but rather of a sublime and seductive mermaid with skin of ivory and thick locks of kelp aside her face. "Antimachus, why do you stare at me as if you've seen a ghost?" the mermaid called, disturbing his vision. He had allowed himself to be carried away by his imagination; it was only Eurymedusa, who had been ushered into the mine with him and who had sought refuge in the lake.

"Is there another beast in the water?" he called to her, while she remained some distance from the bank. "One with a beak perhaps or vise-like jaws?"

"I am sorry, Antimachus," Eurymedusa replied, "it is only me."

Antimachus was open in communicating that he had difficulty imagining how Eurymedusa could fulfill the role of watery fiend, for she struck no fear in him. To placate her guest, Eurymedusa described in the most lurid detail, the chaotic and morbid thoughts with which she was preoccupied while she remained submerged during the long and uneventful hours between the arrival of one visitor and the next. To be sure, Antimachus found her tale, embellished though it may have been, as chilling as that of any ferocious mutant or leviathan.

written while listening to:  Kikuri & Bastard Noise - unreleased live recording, track 2 (December 23, 2004, Cay, Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 19, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

Not everyone feels an injury to the same degree. Some of us are more prone to magnifying the minutiae of our traumas. Perhaps variations in genetic make-up have made one body more sensitive to pain than another, or one brain less reluctant to cry out. As it is with a physical wound, so too can the same be said of psychological damage. Hesione devoted herself to concerns for her companions dispersed through-out the labyrinth. So, in their absence, she suffered the dark and desperate isolation perhaps more keenly than any other.

At the approach of Amphidocus, she greeted him with her usual welcome, "Little brother, it is good to see you again."

For his part, Amphidocus proved unable to ignore her forlorn expression, although it had been quickly replaced upon their meeting by a more composed visage. "There is no need to pretend with me," he said to her with the best of intentions.

Feigning incomprehension, Hesione continued to speak blithely of potential plans. Upon their release from the labyrinth, would he not join her for a visit to the Acropolis, to view the statues of bronze and marble?

Amphidocus was not predisposed to embrace facades, preferring to get directly to the core of a matter, but his fondness for Hesione prevented him from disturbing her. He whole-heartedly agreed to this engagement, going so far as to promise to bring a basket of bread and cheese, which they might share in a shaded garden when their tour of the houses of the gods had concluded.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kazuto Shimizu - unreleased live recording, track 1 (December 24, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 20, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

We live in a world of many truths. Seemingly contradictory accounts can be simultaneously legitimate if we take the time to reconcile the apparent discrepancies. At the same, we live amidst constant prevarication and deceit, much of it intentional in its twisting of truth. Those whose skills at dissembling are most polished have advanced their practice to the state of an art, in which they exploit the existence of multiple perspectives and use that same language to blend in falsehoods with half-truths that either enhance their position or simply diminish an enemy.

"It is difficult enough trying to navigate the labyrinth," Amphidocus said, when he unexpectedly appeared on the bank of the underground lake wherein dwelt Eurymedusa. "When the misdirection of others is also present, how can a person avoid being overwhelmed?" He seemed on the edge of fury just thinking about it. "There is a special place in hell for the world's great deceivers."

While Eurymedusa listened to Amphidocus unburden himself, she wondered what act of treachery had brought him to this state. It was not her place to ask. Instead, she supposed that the liars among us had been taught an immoral lesson, one that they had been made receptive to through some weakness of character or omission in their upbringing. "Pity the liars for their trade will bring them neither happiness nor peace of mind," she said. "Their arrogance a shell, they wait anxiously for each falsehood to be revealed." To Amphidocus' point, she added, "Forget the fates of the afterworld; each of us is capable of creating our own special hell among the living. We must work together to shield as many as possible from the detriment of these man-made miseries."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kazuto Shimizu - unreleased live recording, track 2 (December 24, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 21, 2019
Traveler: Andromache; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

The utter silence of the labyrinth served as a theatrical mask, amplifying Andromache's voice as if she were an actress upon the stage. Even when she chose not to speak, the silence, by its vacuous absence, magnified the sound of her breath and the rustle of the cloth of her gown as she walked. Each gesture gained the exaggerated motion of a thespian communicating her actions to a crowded amphitheater, save in the maze her audience consisted of ancient and uncaring stone. From time to time, Andromache found herself perturbed by the geological restraint. "Where is my applause?" she asked of the darkness.

In response to her query, from a spot unseen a pair of hands clapped, slowly and arrhythmically. Amphidocus emerged from the shadows and allowed his arms to fall to his sides. "Did I help?" he asked, though he had only a vague guess as to the performance to which his ovation had been directed. When Andromache pressed him for a further critique, he was forced to admit his ignorance of her intended role.

Andromache sighed, as if she were tasked with expressing the frustration of misunderstood artists since the beginning of time. "Isn't it obvious? My mask is the labyrinth! I am become a weave of tangled tunnels and an unnavigable river of coiling currents and an endless expanse of ocean, no more fathomable for the absence of walls."

Amphidocus appraised the lithe form of Andromache anew and, remarkably, perceived her just as she had said. He again applauded, though it felt even more pointless than the first time, for what use has the maelstrom for the praise of those whom it devours?

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Munehiro Narita & Michiyo Yagi - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (January 27, 2005, Roppongi Super Deluxe, Nishi-Azaba, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 22, 2019
Traveler: Menestheus; Companion: Andromache; Moon: Gibbous

In our attempt to imagine an equal in gentleness to Menestheus taken from the inanimate world, we come up empty. All elements, though quiescent for a majority of the time, are capable of tempestuous acts of destruction. The avalanche, the inferno, the flood and the tornado demonstrate time and time again the senseless might of the inanimate. (The senseless might of the animate we leave to the minotaur to illustrate.) The physical world could offer no parallel to the innocuous kindness of Menestheus. Yet, he struggled to withstand the constant attack of the world, which threatened by its insentient nature to erode his character unto its functionless, skeletal parts. Menestheus thought of himself then, as many have before him, a bag of bones. He rested that tired bag against the stone wall of a corridor in the labyrinth.

Andromache harbored in her heart a fondness for Menestheus, though she observed that one who stood at odds with reality risked being whittled away into nothing. When she came upon him in this moment of repose, she noted that he seemed to have lost weight. His face had acquired a gaunt aspect, or perhaps it was only a trick of the shadows combined with a sympathetic imagination. Ordinarily, Andromache advocated patience, but the ephemerality of the being known as Menestheus was on full display. If she did not seize this moment, it might never come again. She sat down beside him and, much to his chagrin, described aloud the traits that she admired in him, citing as evidence numerous examples of his kindness, which she had either witnessed or heard second-hand.

Menestheus derived no special protection from this encomium; all the same, it does not occur to us to declare that Andromache spoke out of turn.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Munehiro Narita & Michiyo Yagi - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-8 (January 27, 2005, Roppongi Super Deluxe, Nishi-Azaba, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 23, 2019
Traveler: Porphyrion; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

Either the world made itself or someone else made it. In both cases, the actuality of the present moment remained unchanged for Porphyrion. He was situated in the depths of the labyrinth, in the middle of a seemingly interminable tunnel. The path sloped down before him and rose gently behind. The darkness in both directions was equally impenetrable. The rough stone walls encircled him and the ceiling had closed in, forcing him to stoop. None of these facts would be changed if there was some original intentionality to the world. As it was, so far as Porphyrion knew, the first purpose of the labyrinth had been that of a mine: the extraction of copper and lead, and silver when it could be found, from the bowels of the Earth. He understood also that King Minos had repurposed the mine, when exhausted, as the domain of the minotaur. Now, it apparently fell to Porphyrion to repurpose it once more as a tomb, for he felt no impulse to continue. He lay down in the middle of the path. A stone jabbed him in the back and he shifted to accommodate it.

By chance, Menestheus traveled down that same tunnel and nearly stumbled upon Porphyrion, who blocked his passage through the gloom.

"Menestheus, you may step over me," Porphyrion said politely.

Menestheus was a gentle soul but he had also learned, as a sorcerer might, how to wield his talent to achieve certain outcomes in the physics-based reality that might initially seem farfetched. Menestheus found the power within himself to repurpose the labyrinth yet again. Laying himself down beside Porphyrion, Menestheus allowed the warmth of his body to be conducted from the contact points between his shoulder and thigh into the adjacent body of Porphyrion. This incremental addition of either heat or human contact proved sufficient to rejuvenate Porphyrion. After a while, he rose to his feet and the two youths wandered off together into tracts of the maze unknown.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Hiromichi Sakamoto - unreleased live recording, track 1 (February 4, 2005, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 24, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

The existence of a utopia is an illogical proposition because the improvement of a society comes through actions generated by dissatisfaction with the present actuality. The process of amelioration would have our society gradually approach this asymptotic ideal. However, as we drew nearer to the goal, the imperfections we experienced would diminish, taking with them the motivation for further progress. Consequently, we would never reach our destination.

"Still, it sounds like we could get pretty close," Porphyrion argued, when Europe had shared her thoughts. "If the annoyances are so modest that they fail to prompt us to act, then that eliminates the presence of all sorts of crimes and injustices that can't be easily ignored--despotic behavior of our elected officials foremost among them."

Europe smiled at the itinerant priest. "I find you in an optimistic mood today," she said, "but you, I think, intentionally misunderstand me."

Porphyrion shared a look of mock offense, as he waited for Europe to continue.

"Take the labyrinth for example. What is it that offends us about the maze?"

"The perpetual disorientation it induces," Porphyrion answered easily enough, "and the persistent threat of the minotaur at our heels."

"Exactly," Europe agreed. "Without the feeling of being lost and hunted, we would not attempt to escape the labyrinth. We would be satisfied to dwell here for the rest of our lives. The twisted tunnels of this dirty mine, where we now stand, stripped of darkness, dead-ends and terror, is our utopia." Europe folded her arms across her chest. "I, for one, should not like to be forced to acknowledge it as such."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Hiromichi Sakamoto - unreleased live recording, track 2 (February 4, 2005, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 25, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

A tension existed in the thick, dank atmosphere of the mine, as Demoleon stood no more than two strides from Europe. His demeanor seemed threatening but indecisive, as if he had not yet made up his mind to carry through on the desire, which he now mentally entertained. Europe, for her part, was rightfully uneasy; she too could sense both the menace and the uncertainty in the youth. "How long have you been following me?" she asked.

Demoleon denied the accusation, claiming that he had only come this way out of fear himself. He had heard the heavy trod of hooves echoing through the tunnels and had crept away in the opposite direction.

His story was rather convenient. Another woman might have allowed it to stand unchallenged if it permitted her to get away without further confrontation. However, Europe did not believe that the minotaur existed. It was a sore point with her that a beast, which she considered to be nothing more than a figment of the collective imagination, should be used as an excuse by a man to threaten her. Despite her better judgment, she let flow a torrent of abuse. "There is no minotaur," she declared, "only the depravity in your degenerate heart. You think to shift the responsibility for your wickedness onto some external cause, as a way to excuse your lechery and exonerate your violence but, because I deny the existence of your scapegoat, I see you clearly for who you are--a man willfully bent on evil." She paused to catch her breath then demanded at the top of her voice, "Admit it!"

Demoleon found this encounter not at all to his liking. Although Europe had risked igniting his temper, she had instead succeeded in extinguishing his lust. Without any admission, Demoleon withdrew, retreating into the darkness. Having not only made her point but also avoided disaster, Europe wisely refrained from additional provocation. Sometimes it is best to speak the truth just once.

written while listening to:  Sanhedrin - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (May 24, 2005, Grapefruit Moon, Sangenjaya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 26, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

Demoleon did not deny that he had, at times, acted impulsively and inappropriately. He found it a rather asymmetric attribute of the universe that, to be regarded as a virtuous person, one needed to exercise virtue on a daily basis, while, to be identified as a criminal, one could commit a single crime. "How nice it would be," he said to Eurymedusa, swimming in her lake, "for it to be the other way around." Each movement of the water-maiden struck Demoleon as enticing. He found himself hoping, implausibly, that she was flirting with him.

Eurymedusa paused mid-stroke a few yards from the stone shore and floated gracefully with only her head above water. "Do you mean to suggest that we should recognize someone as a saint if she showed but a single act of charity amidst of life of dissipation and debauchery?"

"Perhaps not a saint," replied Demoleon. "Still you must admit the unfairness of the way it is now."

"In that case, come swim with me," beckoned Eurymedusa. "If I lure you into the depths, where the chill of the water paralyzes the muscles in your legs, causing you to drown, I shall commit a good act in your name on the morrow and all shall be forgiven."

Demoleon frowned. He could not deny that the thought of drowning in pursuit of one as alluring and remote as Eurymedusa had its appeal. But, as he currently contemplated the intrinsic imbalance of the civilized world, he held this impulse in check. In doing so, he discovered another undeniable asymmetry, namely that good opportunities must be seized in the moment or they will be lost, whereas other, less ideal opportunities, such as drowning, can be had any day of the week. To imagine the world any other way invites absurdity!

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Pikacyu - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 13, 2005, UFO Club, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

November 27, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

Melanippe's progress through the labyrinth was deliberately slow because she methodically rendered on her map each tunnel, fork and chamber. Let us not presuppose that the map would ever guide someone through the labyrinth. Such an outcome is too much to ask. That a tool or a person should serve precisely the role for which it was intended almost never comes to pass. It was far more likely that the map would be lost, or if not lost, then fall into the hands of another individual who could not read it properly and thus misused it, besmirching Melanippe's legacy. It was therefore prudent of Melanippe to regard the creation of her map as a private affair of utility only to herself and then simply in the role of providing a pleasant way to occupy the hours of her life. That each of us should find such a labor!

Idas possessed an idle curiosity about the map. He crossed paths with Melanippe and lingered in her company, peering over her shoulder as she added details to the parchment. He was content with Melanippe's explanation that her work would never prove useful to him. "Excellent," concluded Idas. "Thank the gods that you are doing this, because it seems to me that it should be done and I, for one, have no desire to pretend to make heads or tails of this maze."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Hiromichi Sakamoto - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April 13, 2005, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 28, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

We expect each person to find their own way in life, though doing so requires an often perplexing balance between the talents and inclinations of the individual and the needs of the community. It has been written that developing along the direction where one's greatest uniqueness lies is the single most important contribution one can make both to oneself and to others. Those who are relegated to the margins of society cling to this mantra because it allows them to see a broader value in their eccentricities.

Hippophorbas placed little stock in such philosophical musings because the structures of society most apparent to him were the stone walls of the labyrinth in which he was entrapped. He accepted no personal responsibility for the construction of the mine. Thus his perception of those who had built the maze was one of continuous antagonism.

Melanippe had been mapping the labyrinth since almost the moment of her arrival. In her studies she had observed impossibly the handiwork not only of herself but of Hippophorbas and the other youths in the strokes of the pick-axe, which had hewn the tangle of corridors from the Earth. If they themselves had not constructed the labyrinth then it must have been due to progenitors so similar in nature as to be indistinguishable. In any case, future generations would hold Melanippe and her cohorts accountable for aiding, if not in the creation, then in the perpetuation of the maze.

"There is nothing you can say," Hippophorbas insisted, "to convince me that I am responsible for the labyrinth."

To this declaration, Melanippe silently agreed. It was not by her words but by his own actions that Hippophorbas would earn his due share of the blame.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Hiromichi Sakamoto - unreleased live recording, tracks 2-3 (April 13, 2005, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 29, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

The principal advantage to youth is the illusion of immortality, which allows young people to unreservedly invest their time and energy in endeavors of vital consequence to no one but themselves. Life ensues. Decades pass. Gradually, perhaps through the experience of failure or by other means--the raising of children comes to mind--perspectives on the relative importance of the components of life change and are reflected in the priorities to which effort is devoted. Often, this change in outlook precedes a deterioration of physical abilities or mental faculties due to age. However, the eventual onset of senescence is welcomed because it is a sign that the body is catching up to the mind. Outwardly, it gives others direct evidence by which they might excuse a person from participating to the same degree in tasks into which they once threw themselves wholeheartedly.

"I grow weary of the hunt," Periboea, the warrior-maiden, admitted. "It occurs to me that the minotaur may very well elude me until I lack the strength to subdue it." She glanced over at Hippophorbas, who listened silently in the dark. "I find myself strangely relieved."

Hippophorbas had once dreamt of taking Periboea as his wife and loving her as completely as a husband could. Some combination of the confusion induced by the labyrinth and Periboea's preoccupation with the beast had prevented this union. He observed none of her supposed resignation in her proud and erect silhouette. Still, he found that his desire for her had waned. Perhaps he had only craved the idea of a huntress who would spurn him for love of her quarry. He smiled tenderly at her. Such was life in the labyrinth. Neither could they deny what had transpired nor would knowledge of their trials reach the ears of others. Theirs was a secret struggle to be relished privately.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Goro - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April 16, 2005, Uplink Factory, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

November 30, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

Melite had followed an unfamiliar tunnel as it descended along a sinuous coil into the nethermost regions of the mine. It was rumored that the minotaur kept to the corridors of the labyrinth nearer to the surface because that is where it was most likely to find prey. As Melite progressed steadily into the greater depths of the maze she supposed another beast might be found herein--one of obsidian eyes and caliginous innards, an inhuman creature which kept to the shadows because it was inextricable from shadow itself. If Melite called out in the utter darkness, it was to surrender to this phantasmal specter.

She stumbled upon a crude grave, a cairn marked by the wooden shaft of a shovel. Surely, a miner had been lost here. Too deep to return the body to the surface, he had been laid to rest by his companions then cruelly abandoned. She approached the grave to offer a prayer and discovered, much to her surprise, Periboea seated on a boulder not three feet from the pile of stones. She jumped and gasped. "I thought you were the wraith of the deep shade!"

Periboea nodded, "That's what I am hunting too."

"I wouldn't exactly say that I was looking for it," Melite countered, defensively.

"What else could draw you down here?"

Melite gestured at the mound. "I came to pay my respects."

Periboea raised a skeptical eyebrow. How could anyone have known of this ramshackle tomb of an unknown miner?

Melite perceived her unspoken query. "There is," she answered unnecessarily, "a long history of horror and death in this world. Anywhere you go, you are likely to find a solitary spot where you can contemplate its enduring legacy."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Goro - unreleased live recording, track 2 (April 16, 2005, Uplink Factory, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

previous month

next month

This work is made available to the public, free of charge and on an anonymous basis. However, copyright remains with the author. Reproduction and distribution without the publisher's consent is prohibited. Links to the work should be made to the main page of the novel.