The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


October 1, 2019
Traveler: Menestheus; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

Of all the ways to categorize people, the one that is most telling is to ascertain their opinion on the degree to which courage is required to maintain a gentle demeanor. There exists among us a substantial proportion of the population who would insist that the two traits are unrelated if not outright contradictory. The gentle nature bows and yields while courage rears its head. We do not take the absurd position that there is no grain of truth to this perspective.

At the same time, there are those like Periboea, the brave, who saw in Menestheus' gentle nature a kindred spirit, for he persisted, outwardly unperturbed, in the face of the labyrinth's unfathomable riddle. To Periboea's thinking, what could form the foundation of such steady resolve save courage?

As for Menestheus, himself, he wavered between courage and resignation. He would not strenuously argue that his deference to the terms of the labyrinth was invariably a sign of strength rather than fatigue. Perhaps, a similar ambiguity is at play when those who have dedicated their lives to heroic endeavors--selfless service or the fight against injustice--refuse to acknowledge the antagonism of spiteful men and trolls.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michihiro Sato - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-8 (July 29, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 2, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

As she wandered through the dark, winding tunnels of the labyrinth, Melite stumbled over a rock, which had been hidden by the pervasive gloom. As was her custom, she issued a short, impromptu prayer, forgiving the rock for troubling her. She supposed that there were unforgiveable acts committed by unrepentant criminals, but she had had the good fortune never to have run across one.

"Just because you have never met one," Europe agreed, when the two women met at an intersection in the maze, "doesn't mean they don't exist." This was a curious opinion for Europe to voice, as she was well known for her adamant stance that the minotaur did not exist, based solely on empirical evidence; she had never encountered it in all her days imprisoned within the maze.

"Sometimes I fear that it diminishes the world to imagine, much less to prepare for, coming face to face with one governed exclusively by a malevolent cruelty."

Again Europe concurred. There was little preparation one could make for such an eventuality. Certainly no pre-formulated argument would dissuade a wicked man or even the minotaur (if there was any difference betwixt the two) from acting in accord with a savage nature. "Better to do nothing," she concluded, "and to pretend the world is a better place than it is. Should your luck run out, you have, at the very least, the consolation that the entirety of your good life was not spoiled by a miserable end."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michihiro Sato - unreleased live recording, tracks 9-14 (July 29, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 3, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

The perception of uselessness associated with daydreamers is largely a result of the fact that often individuals turn inward when creating fantasies to escape from the external world. Such a claim was true of Antimachus, who dwelt in the darkness of the mine. Can we fault him for retreating from the dizzying disorientation of the labyrinth and the omnipresent threat of the minotaur? Can we accept that the only refuge available to him was one that he created for himself? Indeed, we sympathize with Antimachus for he was able to construct a framework by which he could exist in a manner, reasonable to others and tolerable to himself. Do we not all search for the same thing? However, even in this generous perspective, we cannot deny that, at times, Antimachus found his daydreams excruciatingly dull.

It fell to Demoleon to suggest to Antimachus that there was a superior form of daydreaming. He postulated that escapism and daydreaming were separable. He envisioned a habit in which idle moments were used to imagine the characteristics of a utopia. Demoleon knew of no principle that would prohibit tractable ideas generated in an admittedly far-fetched mental incubator from being tested in the communal world. "Does the notion of directing your daydreaming toward amelioration appeal to you?"

Antimachus looked thoughtful. He supposed that such a thing was possible, though he did not always control the flow of his reveries and much that transpired within was so fantastic that it transgressed the laws of the physics-based reality. Still, he reasoned that some trinket in the horde of golden riches stashed within his imagination might retain some residual value if presented to a passerby in the external world. All that was lacking to enact this experiment was the willpower to break the daydreamer's habit of keeping his most precious treasures to himself.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Keiki Midorikawa & Toshiaki Fujikawa - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (August 8, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 4, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

For one who seeks to treat others as they would their own family, it is all too easy to consider, in retrospect, a lack of attention, an indiscretion, or other minor offense as betrayal. "Little sister," Hesione called out when the channels of the labyrinth delivered her to the stone bank of the subterranean lake. Her voice carried over the still, black water. "I'm sorry," she said, "for having neglected you for so long." Her apology would have made more sense if her absence had been due to ordinary obligations of living rather than the physical obfuscation of the labyrinth walls. It remains a possibility, though admittedly a dismal one, that Hesione had dwelt so long in the maze that she could no longer tell the difference between the two.

Eurymedusa surfaced and approached the bank, greeting Hesione in kind, "Elder sister," she answered with naught but her head above water, "how kind of you to call on me. I appreciate your company whenever you can spare the time." It seemed as if she too was willing to pretend that this meeting was a mere social call between fond siblings, rather than an accident spawned by the indifferent whimsy of the labyrinth.

Or, perhaps, it is we who do not perceive the actuality of their exchange clearly. Can we hypothesize for a moment that reality corresponded to the dialogue between the two maidens, rather than the stone in which they were entombed? Of course, one could argue that it is the same thing since both phenomena transpired simultaneously. The women had the wisdom to interpret events in a manner which accorded them the latitude to respond with grace.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Gozo Yoshimasu, Mariria & Jean-François Pauvros - unreleased live recording, track 1 (August 16, 2003, Gakusei Kaikan, Hosei University, Ichigaya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 5, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

Though Idas and Amphidocus had encountered each other several times since their incarceration in the maze, each meeting was different from those that preceded it. Aside from the fact that individuals can express themselves in myriad ways in response to the same stimulus, there was also the impact of extended exposure to the labyrinth, which influenced the evolution of their persons. That Amphidocus might have once struck Idas as intolerant and now as open-minded could be due to any number of factors. Perhaps Amphidocus had experienced something, which caused his character to become more accepting, either permanently or temporarily. Alternatively, perhaps the change lay in Idas, who had become less judgmental, or some combination of the two minor metamorphoses.

In any case, the youths met and appeared to be set on an exchange of questions, as was their common habit. Amphidocus asked of Idas a question of no account, which has been lost to time. Idas was tempted to answer, but the change that had come over him was not the one that we have suggested. Instead, a weariness seemed to have settled on his shoulders. He did not exert any significant effort to find within himself the urge to share with Amphidocus an answer to his query. Given the transient nature of individuals and their interactions, we suppose that Amphidocus gave Idas the benefit of the doubt and chalked it up to "catching him on a bad day." Alas, for both of them, they were not destined to meet again and this paltry exchange constituted their last shared testament.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Gozo Yoshimasu, Mariria & Jean-François Pauvros - unreleased live recording, track 2 (August 16, 2003, Gakusei Kaikan, Hosei University, Ichigaya, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 6, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Andromache; Moon: Gibbous

It is not all that perverse for an individual to exchange the roles of map and music, though neither Melanippe nor Andromache would have suggested it. Melanippe rendered her map in order to provide clarity and guidance to those, like her, who wandered all their days in the lightless tunnels of the labyrinth. Andromache played her flute, allowing the notes to take on the shapes of the caverns in which they echoed and dissipated. Here, we do not presume to state explicitly the purpose of music, since that is a sentiment left to each individual to discover. However, we do note that both cartographer and musician work memory into another form. It is in this transformation that we suppose an exchange could be made.

Let music serve to define the shape of coasts, the distance between the homes of loved ones, and the longitude and latitude of the great cities and humble villages, which we have known. No less let maps serve the various functions of music, providing comfort, pleasure, distraction...

Melanippe, the cartographer, found this suggestion to be absurd and somewhat insulting. Andromache on the other hand, suspected that a world in which all roles--not just those of maps and music--were being reassigned was presently coming to pass, if not already complete. She contemplated, briefly, an ancient history where the original purpose of providing guidance was the domain of music, rather than maps, a distinction we contemporary folk are only foggily able to recollect.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Coil - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (September 28, 2003, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 7, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

We can presume that philosophers will argue until the end of time on the subject of the appropriate response to dwelling in the labyrinth. Among the many reactions to its dank, unlit corridors, its unfathomable geography and arbitrary intersections, one can find resignation and despair. For his part, Hippophorbas experienced an overwhelming sense of indignation. What gods in their right minds would have seen fit first to create such a tortured environment and second to subject mortals to its insidious ways? He shared this sentiment in colorful terms with Menestheus when their paths crossed by chance at a crooked juncture.

A gentle soul, Menestheus neither contradicted the righteous resentment of Hippophorbas nor joined in it. He did not have a more palatable explanation for their current plight. He could provide no background story beyond the dictate of King Minos and the luck of the lottery to justify their internment in the maze. Still, Menestheus supposed that there existed an appropriate response to any hardship, shared or isolated, and it lay in compassion. Whether the gods had created compassion by design or, rather, mortals had cobbled it together out of flesh and mud to address their own needs, he did not pretend to know. His ignorance did not disturb him. "Let there be more love" was the guiding principle of Menestheus. Acting thus, he listened to Hippophorbas and nodded sympathetically when it seemed, to the best of his limited judgment, that it might do some good.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Michio Karimata & Takuji Kawai - unreleased live recording, track 1 (November 14, 2003, Classics, Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 8, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

The warrior maiden encountered the itinerant priest, as each wandered through the gloom of the labyrinth. Periboea supposed that a moment of weakness prompted her to confess to Porphyrion her anxiety, saying, "I fear that, when my chance to strike at the minotaur arrives, my breath will catch, my hand will freeze and the instant of opportunity shall be squandered." She glanced up at Porphyrion's face. Despite the shadows, she clearly discerned a radiant joy. Puzzled and dismayed, she would have accused him of insensitivity had that been in her repertoire. Instead, she turned abruptly and stormed off into the darkness.

Issuing one apology after another, Porphyrion raced after her, finally grabbing hold of her wrist to bring her to a stop and spin her around. "Periboea!" he plead.

"Why should I waste any more time with you, who takes pleasure in the sorrows of others?"

Porphyrion bowed his head. It falls to some among us to present an inviting shoulder so that those who suffer may confide their miseries. After a time, Porphyrion had come to recognize his utility as a valve through which others could release pent-up doubt and dread. Because he still regarded usefulness as a virtue, he rejoiced in the role of comforter, passive though it was. How could he explain this to a woman of action like Periboea?

Porphyrion knelt before her and kissed her feet, covered though they were with the dust of the mine. When she demanded an explanation, he invented a divine truth, claiming that the gods had instructed him to bequeath to her unfaltering resolve. "Standing your ground," he asserted, "begins with the feet." It was, we suppose, the unpredictability, if not the earnestness, of his actions that so effectively placated Periboea.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Michio Karimata & Takuji Kawai - unreleased live recording, track 2 (November 14, 2003, Classics, Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 9, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

If there is a reliable means to predict the vagaries of an individual's disposition on any given day, it lies beyond our knowledge. Certainly there seems to exist a correlation between mood and external events, though even that intuitive link can be tenuous at times. Triumph can be greeted with regret and failure with relief. We provide this opinion as a justification for our ignorance regarding the source of Europe's high spirits as she wandered through the insatiable darkness of the labyrinth. Perhaps the moon had misjudged its mark; when it had intended to pull on the tides of the seas, it instead had latched hold of the fluids of her brain, causing her mood to ebb into unknown territory. In any case, Periboea found an uncharacteristically ebullient Europe capering down the stone corridor. She chanted a quatrain put to the melody of a nursery rhyme.

The minotaur is not at home
and in its dungeon I shall roam,
as cheerful as a bird of song,
to fly off ere it comes along!

Periboea quizzed her friend at length regarding the origin of this wanton provocation of the beast, but received no satisfactory answer. She was left with much the same bewilderment to which we have already professed at the beginning of this passage.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kazuto Shimizu - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (December 24, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 10, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

Demoleon supposed that society could be likened to an orchestra, in which various participants, based on their talents and instruments at hand, made assorted contributions to a synergistic symphony. Trapped in the labyrinth, society was reduced to odd encounters comprised typically only of two individuals. Still, the analogy of the orchestra could be maintained even for an ensemble as small as a duet. In either case, Demoleon considered the occasion when one participant sought to disturb the prevailing melody. Perhaps, this person was temporarily aggrieved by some mistreatment, real or imagined, and found himself in no state of mind to contribute constructively to a shared goal. Or, alternatively, it remains a possibility that a person had developed over the years an esthetic sensibility, which preferred to incorporate elements of dissonance in an otherwise melodious tune.

"Sometimes," Demoleon admitted to Melite, in one nondescript passage or another of the labyrinth, "I am so exhausted by the prevailing song that I feel the urge to smash the cymbals together, so that all of the other instruments are drowned out in a cacophony of clattering and clanging!"

For her part, Melite supposed that Demoleon had known some cruelty in his past, which he had never confided to her but which prevented him from accepting a role in a well-functioning whole. "If it brings you any relief," she offered, "I will sing a song and you may shout over it to your heart's content."

Because Melite's overture, well-intentioned though it was, lacked sufficient subtlety, Demoleon was made to feel ashamed of his feelings. Without another word, he slunk off into the gloom.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kazuto Shimizu - unreleased live recording, track 3 (December 24, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 11, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

Ours is a world of carelessness. To insist otherwise is dishonest. Eurymedusa supposed that the pervasive negligence in the world could be made tolerable by those with the inclination to excuse it. The rationalization of a forgiving attitude might grow from an acceptance of the many demands placed upon each of us, requiring that we commit some portion of our attention to several different matters at once. As a consequence we fail to properly attend to our immediate surroundings. Alternatively, Eurymedusa mused, the preponderance of mishaps of one kind or another could be attributed directly to the chaotic and dynamic nature of the world, which changes about us without asking permission or giving warning. In any case, accidents happen.

Standing at the edge of the subterranean lake, in which Eurymedusa dwelt, Antimachus agreed with the sentiment of the water maiden. "For example," he said, gazing out at the dark, placid surface, "children drown."

"The indignation one should feel at the parents who, through neglect, allowed the drowning, is mitigated by sympathy at their loss and sadness in the tragedy." Antimachus was about to respond, but Eurymedusa had not finished her thought. She continued, saying, "But the routine variety of carelessness, born of an ignorant if not unrepentant indifference, makes each day slightly poorer for having been exposed to it. That is a harder thing to forgive."

Antimachus nodded. "But you have to," he said, "because there is no getting around it and living in constant anger is bad for you."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Daitiki Yoshida - unreleased live recording, track 1 (February 20, 2004, Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

October 12, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

Each of us tries to find our own way through the labyrinth. Because the maze is designed to be impenetrable, it is folly to declare one approach superior to another. A well-coordinated effort, based on calculations derived from the geometry of the corridors, is no more likely to succeed in delivering one from the labyrinth than is haphazard wandering or frantic scurrying. Still, Amphidocus was predisposed to dismiss the poorly conceived schemes of others, once he had convinced them to share their strategy with him. To his credit, Amphidocus acknowledged that his own plan, or rather absence of a plan, was no better. "I have encountered only an infinite variety of equally useless designs," he concluded.

Despite the ineffectiveness of her own methods, or perhaps because of it, Hesione was not in a frame of mind to appreciate the observation of Amphidocus, irrespective of its truth. "Hush, little brother," she admonished him. She promised him that, were she the one to eventually strike upon the proper solution to the maze, she would share it not only with him but with all who floundered in the mine.

Amphidocus received this news with an expression that conveyed his doubt and disdain.

If that is how he felt, Hesione thought, she might very well keep the secret path to herself. Of course, we can be comforted by the surety that such an act of selfishness lay beyond the capabilities of Hesione, ever the devoted sister, aside from the fact that the secret she sought did not, in all likelihood, exist.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Hiromichi Sakamoto & Koichi Makigami - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (February 25, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

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

There was no mistaking the origin of the initial roar. The minotaur had bellowed, whether in triumph or fury Andromache did not know. She had sought out a niche in the stone walls of the labyrinth and hidden herself in shadow. Not long afterward, she heard the approach of another. The soft and tentative footfalls did not sound as if they could have emanated from the hooves of the beast, but Andromache did not reveal herself, for the wiles of the minotaur were well known. Her terror grew as the steps paused outside the opening, then entered it. Eventually, however, she perceived the silhouette of Idas. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him into the deepest part of the cranny, where the pair crouched side by side, each attempting to control their breathing as best they were able.

Time passed ambiguously. Idas dared whisper that, perhaps, the initial roar had been due not to the minotaur, but instead to a collapsing support beam elsewhere in the mine. Andromache clapped her hand over his mouth before he had finished speaking. Still, it was the maiden who grew impatient. They could not spend the rest of their lives in this dead-end tunnel. The muscles in Idas' legs grew sore from remaining in the same position and his back stiff from hunching over beneath the rock. Sooner than many would have judged wise, the pair emerged from their hiding place. It cannot be said that their return to the maze was due to courage, perseverance or any other remotely related virtue. They had only this one life and, as if in tribute to its imperfections, they steered it based on weakness and impulse.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Hiromichi Sakamoto & Koichi Makigami - unreleased live recording, track 3 (February 25, 2004, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

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

"Put away your map," Menestheus urged Melanippe, when he met her at a juncture in the labyrinth. We suppose that this plea issued forth from Menestheus because he was in the thrall of the labyrinth. He had been subjected to its winding ways for so long that he had begun to doubt that there existed any state of being beyond the disorientation, which now gripped him. What use was there for maps for one ensconced in utter befuddlement?

Having devoted untold weeks and months in the damp and dark of the mine to the construction of her map, Melanippe reacted poorly to Menestheus' words. She made her displeasure known in no uncertain terms, criticizing Menestheus for adopting a variety of vices, which had allowed his better nature to be cowed by the, admittedly formidable, constraints of the maze. When words seemed not enough, we feared that Melanippe might strike the youth with her rolled-up parchment. That she refrained from doing so was out of her concern for the map rather than Menestheus' person.

Menestheus tried to backtrack, saying that Melanippe had taken a statement of general principle much too personally, but it appeared to him then, as it does to us now, that one's individual acceptance of the triumph of a callous universe may be regarded as a personal affront to those who have yet to abandon the struggle against the same forces.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (March 7, 2004, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

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

Porphyrion, the itinerant priest, wandered through the halls of the labyrinth alone. Although a pastor typically was attached to a congregation, whom he served in the role of shepherd, Porphyrion had been forced to adapt his practice to the vagaries of the maze. Here, individuals could not predict their destinations. As a result, he provided what counsel he could in short bursts as an opportunity arose. When he encountered Hippophorbas, Porphyrion was dismayed by the request to accompany him to the quiet sanctuary of the crystal temple, a natural cavern adorned with geological marvels. Porphyrion was not immune to the confusion of the labyrinth. He admitted to Hippophorbas that, sadly, he had, despite his best intentions, strayed too far from the temple. For some time now, he had been unable to find his way back.

"You lost the temple?" Hippophorbas asked incredulously.

Porphyrion nodded and, spotting an opening for the expression of humility, added a self-deprecating smile.

"Perhaps, you have been banished," Hippophorbas suggested, unkindly.

"I don't think so," Porphyrion mumbled.

"Perhaps, it is a punishment for failing your gods."

"I suppose it's possible." Porphyrion was, in principle, not opposed to admitting his faults.

In fact, as far as we can tell, Porphyrion's separation from his temple was not a result of divine, punitive intervention, but rather ordinary human carelessness. Ultimately, it is not at all clear that one cause is preferable to another.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-4 (March 7, 2004, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

October 16, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

"Do you think," Antimachus asked Porphyrion, when the pair crossed paths, "that if I were to burn offerings every day for a year, to beseech the gods with daily prayer and to perform ablutions and whatever other sundry rituals are appropriate, then the gods would grant me the strength to slay the minotaur?"

"No," replied the itinerant priest, "but don't let that stop you. I have limited insight into the ways of the gods, who are, by many accounts, notoriously fickle."

Antimachus seemed not to have heard the reply. "Do you think it possible that I could awaken unexpectedly in the middle of the night and wander into a cave filled with an eerie glow, only to find a magic sword, alive with the electric crackling of lightning, left by the gods for me?"

"Also unlikely," said Porphyrion, "but not unprecedented, I suppose."

While Porphyrion prayed silently that the suffering of those who wander through the labyrinth may not be in vain, Antimachus imagined striking the horned beast with a magic sword. Its enormous body shuddered as the current passed through it. Smoke rose from its flesh.

Alas, we who are here now reflecting on this passage experience difficulty in identifying which of these two men provide the better example.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Tsujiko Noriko - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (March 21, 2004, Cay, Aoyama, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 17, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

Although Hesione desired nothing more than to occupy her role in a community that welcomed, appreciated and protected her, she found herself wandering alone in the darkness of the labyrinth. Her isolation revealed a betrayal of her intentions and her principles, though it was hard to put the blame on anyone in particular. Neither had she sought solitude nor had the other wanderers in the mine expelled her from their fellowship. Pieces had simply fallen into place, one after another, delivering her into her present condition. It we were forced to identify a culprit, we could specify nothing more definitively than what others before us have termed, 'a cosmos intrinsically inimical to the interests of humanity'.

Europe groaned with exasperation when such grandiose phrases came her way. Upon passing Hesione in a tunnel, she accepted the other's embrace as best she was able, given the low ceiling. She then advised Hesione that it would be prudent to steer clear of such ill-fated concepts in the future. It was, at best, unproductive to dwell on the eternal conflict between her desires and their inferior realization in the material world.

"I never meant to entertain such thoughts," Hesione said, defensively. "I only wanted our company to reform and to be part of it."

In utter darkness, the labyrinth presented a fork with a geometry that played with the echoes of their voices. Hesione and Europe became separated again. If you, gentle reader, find it hard to believe that their parting came about accidentally, we leave it to you to identify which of the pair should be held to blame.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Shuichi Chino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (April 11, 2004, Lady Jane, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 18, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

Dwelling, as he did, in the subterranean labyrinth, the greatest deprivation, as Idas reckoned it, was neither the absence of sunlight nor the lack of breeze, carrying the cool scent of mountain laurel into the streets. Nor was the hardship of the maze felt most dearly in the loss of freedom, for unlike a field, which offered Idas the choice to run in any direction, the stone corridors of the maze were parsimonious in their options: forward or backward, with an occasional fork, presenting two equally dark and ambiguous paths. Still yet, the paucity of human companionship, scarce as it was in the mine, seemed to Idas not the most onerous burden. Rather, Idas found most oppressive the narrative induced by his confinement in the labyrinth, which rendered his mental image of himself as a doomed and hopeless prisoner, incarcerated without a trial for a crime never articulated.

"But that last one," Demoleon commented, when the two met by chance in a cavern, "you invented yourself. You are, either voluntarily or via some unhealthy compulsion, adding your own wretched adornments to the penurious architecture of the labyrinth."

Initially, Idas found this suggestion offensive but, as he ruminated on it in solitude, he supposed that there might be a grain of truth to it. Strangely, he felt somewhat cheered by the observation, for it gave him a notion that he had some flexibility over the decoration of the labyrinth and thus some control, however modest, over his destiny.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Shuichi Chino - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-8 (April 11, 2004, Lady Jane, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 19, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

In a test of the veracity of her map, Melanippe attempted to proceed in as direct a manner as was possible toward the subterranean lake, in which a portion of the labyrinth was submerged. Along the way, Melanippe encountered one or two minor setbacks. She dismissed these wrong turns as a result of misreading the map, rather than an error in the map itself. When Melanippe arrived on the stone bank, she called out in triumph to its lone inhabitant. "Eurymedusa, I have conquered the maze! I have successfully navigated to you from a distant depth. Join me for a celebration."

By these words Eurymedusa, the water maiden, was coaxed toward the portion of the shore where Melanippe stood, though she did not emerge from the water. "What will you do now?" she asked, knowing full well that her guest was obsessed with cartography and had built her life around deciphering the labyrinth.

"Well, I haven't mapped all of it," Melanippe admitted, "just the portions through which I have traveled to date."

"And what fraction of the whole is that?" asked Eurymedusa, dampening the celebratory mood, for both women considered the labyrinth to be infinite. In the ensuing festivities, muted as they were, Melanippe invited Eurymedusa to contribute to her endeavor by reporting on the water-filled channels, which only she dared enter. Eurymedusa demurred, citing the distortion of light by water as the reason that those passages were unmappable. In truth both suspected that she possessed a different nature than Melanippe and so chose to keep the details of her relationship with the labyrinth a secret.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michihiro Sato - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-7 (April 23, 2004, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 20, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

If you, gentle reader, had been subjected to the relentless onslaught of darkness and disorientation at the insentient hands of the labyrinth, as was the case with Amphidocus, you might well understand the vehemence of his response, when he came upon Hippophorbas, who blithely greeted him with the announcement, "Everything happens for a reason." The indignation of Amphidocus was well placed because, most assuredly, everything does not happen for a reason. To make his point, he brusquely shoved Hippophorbas, who, not expecting the blow, stumbled over a rock and fell to stone floor with a grunt of pain.

"If by stating that 'everything happens for a reason', you mean that you fell because I pushed you," said Amphidocus, standing over Hippophorbas, "then I agree with you. In any other context, I cannot agree. I committed no crime, yet here I am, sentenced to the doom of the mine."

That the two did not come to blows cannot be attributed to any profound wisdom on the part of Hippophorbas. Instead, lying on his back, gazing into the black shadows of the cave, he began to laugh. To be sure his laughter was free of mirth and delivered a hurt to Amphidocus more penetrating than any blow of his fist. Curiously, the impact of causality is no weaker if its origin lies in wild conspiracy theory than if it issues from the procedural mechanisms of reality.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Maku Ito - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (May 15, 2004, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 21, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Andromache; Moon: Gibbous

It takes a kind of courage to rise each morning to face the day ahead. This habit comes naturally to many among us, so we don't consider it as courage at all, so habituated are we to discounting our own merits. For those who lack this trait, however, its absence cannot be ignored. Periboea woke in the darkness of the labyrinth. She had slept on her side. Small pebbles had left the imprints of their irregular shapes on one thigh and arm. The odds seemed remote that today of all days she should finally encounter the minotaur. Instead, her fear took the form of a mild and unfocused apprehension, vaguely connected to the grim prospects, which the labyrinth laid out before her.

Andromache, the flautist, discovered Periboea in such a state. She acquiesced to the request to play a waking song then tried further to cheer Periboea up. "If you are not destined to clash with the minotaur today," she said, "perhaps a man who has adopted the barbarism of the beast shall take his place..."

Periboea possessed a degree of self-awareness sufficient to recognize that there was something amiss with requiring the promise of conflict to rid her of her listless malaise. Still, each of us is made a different way and she would take what impetus she could get from wherever she could find it. Periboea shared a sparse breakfast with Andromache while the two maidens imagined a male villain whose base depravity Periboea would thwart with the edge of her sword.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Eiichi Hayashi - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (May 21, 2004, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

October 22, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

Pity poor Melite, who wanders through the darkness of the labyrinth without aid of lantern or guide. It is in her nature to forgive each confounding turn and unexpected dead-end. She does not seek to exemplify mercy but she is regarded in this light by other wanderers because charity is the only tool she has ever learned to wield. She is to be pitied, not because of her grace, but because of the limits of her humanity.

Lost and exhausted, she comes face to face with Menestheus in a narrow corridor, scarcely more than a crack in the rock. It is impossible for the maiden and youth to pass; one or the other must retreat. Menestheus, a gentle soul in his own right, slides a step backward, only to elicit a sob from Melite. Perhaps, it is all finally too much for her. The compassion of Menestheus, no less than the force of the stone against her, is an assault that proves the necessity of abandoning oneself to the relentless whim of the labyrinth. To compound the failure, Melite retreats as well. Soon, there is, again, naught but a cruel and apathetic darkness between them.

How can two kind souls generate such turmoil? The answer, of course, is that only two kind souls are so capable. Without kindness, the labyrinth is but an idiotic and troublesome maze. It takes the combined efforts of Melite and Menestheus to imbue it with the capacity for tragedy.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Eiichi Hayashi - unreleased live recording, tracks 4-5 (May 21, 2004, Dolphy, Sakuragicho, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

October 23, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Andromache; Moon: Gibbous

Because he was unable to detect any path within the labyrinth leading to self-realization in terms of lofty principles, Demoleon sought instead an infinity of distraction. We can regard this response as a type of self-medication in response to a parasitic inflammation caused by existential angst. It was, however, not a trivial task to accumulate an endless series of experiences, which sufficed to approximate infinity, given the unpredictable and episodic nature of encounters in the maze. Foremost among Demoleon's means of maintaining a tolerable level of anesthesia was the pursuit of carnal pleasures.

Under no circumstances, do we pretend that pleasures of the flesh are without their appeal or value. Based on our admittedly limited understanding, intimacy is an essential component in many stable relationships founded in love and mutual respect. So, it remained a possibility that Demoleon might discover a like-minded partner, who shared his desire for the temporary relief of oblivion through sex.

Yet Demoleon managed this search poorly at times. Encountering Andromache alone in a rough tunnel that seemed to extend endlessly in both directions, he propositioned her with words, which, in retrospect, had little chance of achieving his goal. Imagining a relationship with a man who sought in her only another dose of a potent drug, Andromache retreated. She harbored a different fantasy of love, one which involved extended bouts of hand-holding, eye-gazing and soul-baring amidst the blooms of spring, never mind her present incarceration in the mine. No one should be surprised by this outcome, which is fortuitous in the sense that two youths, setting aside their passions, recognized at an early stage their relative incompatibility.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Animamima - unreleased live recording, track 1 (June 26, 2004, Uplink Factory, Shibuya, Japan, digital files)

October 24, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

A thing floats or it sinks, its buoyancy determined by little more than density, a physical property of the body. Kind sentiments are of no consequence in this regard. Words, of truth or of deceit, spoken beneath the surface are equally garbled. Either a swimmer can breathe water or she drowns. Given this statement, it caused Menestheus some perplexity that Eurymedusa seemed to dwell interminably in the dark depths of the cold, subterranean lake. Moreover, he found the invitation to join her in the water a difficult riddle to decipher.

Thinking of his own safety, Menestheus wondered next how much time had transpired since the minotaur had last knelt on the stone bank to slake its thirst. Before he voiced this question, he wondered further regarding the uneasy truce that Eurymedusa seemed to have brokered with the beast. Why did the monster, a reportedly able swimmer, refrain from pursuing her into the lake? In the end, Menestheus said nothing. He imagined that knowledge of the answers to his questions would bring him no advantage. He satisfied himself with waiting for the water maiden to approach the shore.

Eurymedusa beguiled him for a pleasant while with watery words, in which flattery and threat were mingled until they became indistinguishable. She shared an insouciant tale in which love and death were revealed to be one in the same. Charmed to be the momentary subject of her interest, Menestheus nevertheless recognized in himself the propensity to sink; he dipped not so much as a toe in the chill of her domain.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Animamima - unreleased live recording, track 2 (June 26, 2004, Uplink Factory, Shibuya, Japan, digital files)

October 25, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

An intense fury of resentment arose, from time to time, in Amphidocus. This animus was directed primarily at the labyrinth itself, an inanimate construct in which he was inescapably confined. However, it was inevitable that his rancor diffused outward and contaminated, albeit unintentionally, his interactions with the other hapless occupants of the maze.

Encountering Amphidocus in such a state, it took no special insight for Porphyrion to recognize his problem. He attempted to explain to Amphidocus the hypothesis that our perception of existence is actually one slice of a broad probability distribution in which many other outcomes, perhaps all other possible outcomes, transpire. It seemed to Porphyrion that his words only further incensed Amphidocus, if he understood them at all. Rather than abandon his task, Porphyrion pressed on. "There is a continuum of realizations of yourself, which span the entire spectrum from distress to bliss and which evolve in a range of environments that encompass both subjugation and liberty. Seen in this context, your suffering is mitigated by its integration into a more balanced whole." Crossing his arms across his chest, Porphyrion concluded, "Doesn't this make you feel better?"

It did not make Amphidocus feel better. In fact, Amphidocus felt he would either explode in rage or collapse weeping. He did neither; nor did he find any solace or solidarity in the suggestion that other versions of himself exploded and collapsed on his behalf.

written while listening to:  Kikuri - unreleased live recording, track 1 (July 2, 2004, Loft, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

October 26, 2019
Traveler: Andromache; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

Andromache played a tune with a fast tempo as she sat in the shadows of a small cave. The labyrinth tampered with the cadence, adding reverberations that slurred and slowed the music. Europe found this melody oddly compelling and followed its echoes through the winding tunnels until she stood in Andromache's midst. "What is that song called?" she asked the flautist, once the piece was finished.

"The Dance of the Drunken Minotaur," answered the musician.

Europe considered the title. "Your song has one advantage over the minotaur," she said, intending to compliment the player. "Your song exists." Of course, Europe was an inveterate advocate that the beast of the labyrinth was a myth.

"Perhaps," Andromache said noncommittally. "Or, perhaps the title of minotaur is intended as an exaggerated description for a brutish man, who likewise kills to express an inhuman appetite for violence."

Europe nodded as if in agreement but in the next breath she declared, "That man also does not exist. I will not allow it."

Naturally, Andromache felt the impulse to contradict Europe. How dare Europe, a mere maiden of years and modest lineage similar to her own, define with such authority the limits of reality? However, upon reflection, Andromache supposed that Europe's words served not so different a function than her own songs. In response she resumed playing. This time she crafted a new song, characterized by the rhythm of footsteps, with a title she did not announce but which she internally named, Men and Minotaurs Share a Common Fate. This song too proved vulnerable to the distortions of the maze.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Michio Karimata & Michiko Kanazawa - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (July 2, 2004, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 27, 2019
Traveler: Menestheus; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

Menestheus dreamt that he was enveloped in a caliginous mist. He could see but a few feet ahead. As is the way of dreams, there was something thwarting his ability to walk in a straight line. Even in the absence of external landmarks, by which he might get his bearings, Menestheus accepted that he was wandering in circles. Suddenly a force lifted him from his body so that he was now looking down upon an endless plane covered in fog. His body still moved aimlessly beneath him, but from this perspective, he observed that his passage disturbed the mist, leaving a faint and fleeting trail of phosphorescence in his wake. Menestheus began to notice that his path did not form circles but rather the shape of letters, connected as if written in a cursive script. As he made out each letter, he said it aloud. He intuited that the same force, which had plucked him from his body, was transcribing each letter as he revealed it.

He awoke at the hand of Demoleon, who roughly jostled him by the shoulder. "Wake up, Menestheus!"

Menestheus felt ill at ease for many reasons at once. The dream had been disquieting. He had been roused before he had been able to decipher the text of his passage. He did not know to what end the unknown listener planned to put the secret meaning of his movements. To add insult to injury, he remained in a dank tunnel of the mine, where Demoleon stood over him, explaining that he was in hot pursuit of a girl. "Did you see one come this way?"

Menestheus was inspired to create a waking dream, where, under the false pretense of guiding him to his quarry, he misled Demoleon through the labyrinth by a path that spelled out in the tortuous calligraphy of the labyrinth a hidden message of rebuke.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Tatsuya Yoshida & Mitsuru Nasuno - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (July 14, 2004, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 28, 2019
Traveler: Porphyrion; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

There is near universal agreement on the point that each individual experiences a finite number of days in a mortal life, although there is no general accord on the extent of control that the individual exerts over this number. That a man was fated to die when a certain event transpired, regardless of his age, is a familiar sentiment. Even should a young woman by untimely suicide extinguish her potential to serve as a font of wisdom in her elder years, there are those who would hold destiny, and not the girl herself, to blame for her early demise.

If such accounting is true of days, Porphyrion surmised that the same could be extended to shorter increments of time. Each footstep that he took, however misguided, reduced by one the sum total of remaining footsteps that the labyrinth would yield to him. Each breath was numbered, so too each heartbeat, each thought.

As he sat on the stone bank, Porphyrion shared these worries with Eurymedusa, who floated effortlessly in the waters of the subterranean lake. Her first impulse was to reassure Porphyrion with the notion that his bookkeeping provided a noble motivation for him to make every breath and thought count in a meaningful way. The chill in the lake was especially fierce that morning and she opted instead to remind him that meetings between friends were also not without limit. Predicting that they would not meet again, she chided him for wasting their last moments together lost in maudlin reverie.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Tatsuya Yoshida & Mitsuru Nasuno - unreleased live recording, tracks 4-10 (July 14, 2004, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

October 29, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

While it may be difficult to detect in the midst of a blind fury, there is a distinction between vindictive self-destruction and selfless sacrifice. Europe remained convinced that the labyrinth did not exist. The surest way to prove her point was to extinguish herself, for once she departed the mortal realm, she would assuredly emerge beyond the confines of the maze. That her defiance necessitated her annihilation could be interpreted as a testament to the depth of her convictions.

"I don't know about that," said Amphidocus, when the two met at the juncture of two tunnels. "It sounds awfully dramatic."

Despite the laconic discouragement, Europe persisted in her belief. As she planned her final act of retaliation, she elevated her role to that of heroic savior, laying down her own life so that others trapped in the labyrinth could see the illusory nature of the walls within which they were ostensibly bound.

Amphidocus rapped his knuckles on the stone surface. "It seems pretty real to me."

His instinctive resistance only strengthened Europe's resolve that, given the cosmic scale of the duplicity, drastic action was required. As she departed, Europe apologized to Amphidocus with excessive gravity, so that he was led to suspect that he should not see her again.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (July 21, 2004, Stormy Monday, Kannai, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

October 30, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

Hesione ascended a steep incline as she entered a chamber in the labyrinth. In the darkness, the dimensions of the cavern were difficult to ascertain as was the location of an exit, by which she might continue her journey. As she walked the perimeter, she began to feel light-headed then nauseous. Sensing the air was bad, Hesione immediately turned around, intending to retreat the way she had come. Despite her efforts to retrace her path, she tripped over the form of Hippophorbas, splayed out on the floor beside a pile of vomit. Placing a hand on his chest, she felt him yet breathing. It took all of her strength to lug him the short distance out of the chamber and down the slope to cleaner air.

There the pair gradually recovered. Hesione, whose exposure had been much shorter in duration, waited for Hippophorbas to wake but eventually left him asleep at the base of the incline. We may attribute the limits of her attentiveness to poor judgment induced by a temporary lack of oxygen. When Hippophorbas did wake, he found himself alone and remembered nothing, not that he had been rescued nor even that the cave opening above him led to a dead end filled with toxic gas. Only weariness prevented him from repeating his earlier mistake. His legs were tired and he did not relish a climb so soon after waking. He walked back the way he had come, unknowingly following Hesione's trail. He wondered about the sour taste in his mouth and erroneously assumed that he was at fault.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake - unreleased live recording, tracks 4-7 (July 21, 2004, Stormy Monday, Kannai, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

October 31, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

The only adornment absent from the labyrinth that would have identified it as a crypt were walls lined with shelves laden with bones. As it was, the irregular features of the rough-hewn walls of the mine loomed like a misshapen amalgamation of supraorbital ridges and empty sockets. It took but little imagination from Idas to suppose that the spirits once associated with these corporeal remains haunted the winding corridors of the labyrinth. Perhaps, the momentary chill he experienced was caused not by a draft of air but rather by a ghost as it slipped uneasily through the warmth of his body.

Periboea, strong of arm, sought to conquer the minotaur, wielding a sword of iron while girded in a bronze cuirass and helm. Such tools offered no protection against the intangible forms of the dead. Thus she had been taught by her martial tutors to fear no beast but to avoid, as best she was able, vagrants from the spirit world.

Observing her unease, Idas attempted to reassure her. "The secret to power over the dead is indifference. They possess what might you bestow upon them. If you withhold everything, even memory, the dead are helpless."

Periboea heard these words but they impacted her no more than a passing spirit, for she judged it a dishonorable affront to forget the gifts of those who had died, not to mention the damage she did to herself through such neglect.

written while listening to:  Homeogryllus japonicus Orchestra - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (August 28, 2004, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Shinagawa, 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.