The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


September 1, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

The sound of rocks clattering down an incline reached Demoleon as he wandered through the tunnels of the labyrinth. He had not long ago clambered up a slope of loose stone. He supposed another wanderer, at that same point, might have dislodged some rocks during their ascent. Demoleon made the decision to retrace his steps because the labyrinth was endless and perpetually dark. He welcomed distraction when he could find it. Still, he proceeded cautiously since there was always the possibility that the noise had originated with the minotaur's passing.

As Demoleon retraced his path, he espied the opening to a side passage, cloaked in shadow, which had escaped his notice earlier. The presence of this intersection and the others that had surely gone unseen meant that, despite his intention, he might not cross paths with whomever was responsible for scattering the rocks. When Demoleon arrived at the top of the incline, he was disappointed to discover the identity of the one, out of breath from the climb, who had drawn his attention. Menestheus, a gentle soul, provided, in Demoleon's estimation, poor prospects for entertainment.

For his part, Menestheus knew well the limits of his appeal. He welcomed Demoleon kindly, though he sensed the other's disinterest. There is a certain art to allowing one's presence to be as unimposing as possible while remaining as inviting as necessary. It was this ambiguous craft that Menestheus plied until Demoleon, his patience exhausted, moved on.

written while listening to:  Vajra - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-11 (August 14, 2002, Star Pine's Cafe, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 2, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

From time to time, it must be said, Eurymedusa felt the temptation to leave the subterranean lake. Her desire arose not from a need to dry off, for she had a secure and private shelf hidden in darkness at the far side of the lake where she could retreat to withdraw from the water. She did not especially sense within herself the need for company, for the winding ways of the labyrinth delivered visitors to her shore, albeit on an irregular schedule. Eliminating these obvious possibilities, Eurymedusa was left with the notion that she was prompted to explore beyond the boundaries of refuge due to the exceedingly ordinary impulse to escape a dread sensation of uselessness.

"It is ridiculous," she said to Porphyrion, when he appeared unannounced on the stone bank, "to think that I should be any more useful on dry land!"

Her declaration brought a smile to the lips of the itinerant priest. "Amen," he said as if closing her prayer. He then offered to escort her through the tunnels for a while, promising to deliver her back to the lake, at least to the best of his navigational abilities.

Eurymedusa demurred, offering as an excuse the fact that she had left her gown on the far ledge and had no intention of traipsing through the labyrinth unclothed. In truth, the very suggestion that she might lose her way in the maze and find herself unable to return to her sanctuary caused an anxious knot to form in her stomach, which proved sufficient deterrent to extinguish any yearning for travel in the foreseeable future.

written while listening to:  Head Rush - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (August 17, 2002, Hosei University, Iidebashi, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 3, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

Amphidocus trod the corridors of the labyrinth with a steady gait. An observer might have supposed that he was a man driven by a particular purpose, but the truth of the matter is quite to the contrary. The only design to which Amphidocus could lay claim was his ambition to discover a purpose of his own. While philosophers may accept this meta-purpose as an acceptable substitute for the genuine article, the more practical among us, having encountered various aspects of meta-living before, are more likely to admit its shortcomings.

Equally motivated was Europe, though her obsession lay in endlessly demonstrating that the minotaur did not exist. Amphidocus harbored reservations, asking her, "How do you know when to declare victory?"

Europe smiled and leaned forward conspiratorially. "There is no victory against a thing that does not exist." She clearly observed disappointment cloud the face of Amphidocus, for this answer confirmed what he had suspected all along: Europe's purpose was even worse than his own.

"I'm sorry to have bothered you," he said, retreating a step.

Europe released a laugh, containing as much scorn as mirth. "There's nothing to be sorry for. Having transcended infantile notions of victory and defeat, I am free to engage in pursuits of a higher sphere."

His interest piqued, Amphidocus wanted to hear more.

The youth and the maiden departed side-by-side through the convoluted channels of the maze. That one should suppose to provide guidance to the other is surely a case of the fabled blind leading the blind. What is poorly understood is that, in blindness, the attenuation of other faculties may provide an opportunity to discover paths which seeing eyes have rashly dismissed as unprofitable.

written while listening to:  Head Rush - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-9 (August 17, 2002, Hosei University, Iidebashi, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 4, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

Hippophorbas woke from a restless sleep in an irritable mood. The stone floor upon which he had lain had left him with a stiff shoulder and a sore hip. Moreover, he had dreamt that the darkness of the labyrinth was infinite in space and perpetual in time. The dream annoyed him because, of course, the gloom of the maze seemed exactly so to his waking eyes. He would have preferred a vision that offered relief of some kind, even if temporary and illusory.

Hippophorbas stalked through the tunnels in a foul mood, half-hoping to stumble across the minotaur, so that he might vent his anger upon it. Instead, he encountered the astute Hesione, who greeted him, saying, "Elder brother, I see from your furrowed brow that you are ill at ease. Share with me what troubles you."

It seemed foolish to admit that his consternation was due to nothing more than a dream that had reflected reality all too well, so Hippophorbas was forced to make up an excuse. "I...I," he stammered and stopped, because there was no other plausible explanation. He surrendered to the truth. "The labyrinth is too dark and its ways unfathomable. I can see no end to the darkness that surrounds me."

Hesione took his hands in her own and consoled him as if he had a fever of the body. "It will pass," she said, though she had no supporting evidence. She spoke thus merely because it was her nature to comfort the suffering and because, as near as she could tell, the future had not yet been written. There remained a possibility, however remote, that Hippophorbas and the rest of them would find a light sufficiently powerful to push the darkness back.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Akio Suzuki - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (November 8, 2002, Xebec, Kobe, Japan, digital files)

September 5, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

Alone in the labyrinth, where even the trembling of the Earth's tectonic spasms had quieted down, Periboea felt no hint of danger. Undoubtedly, the minotaur still roamed the passageways. Had the beast been slain by some passing hero, word would have spread. Moreover, Periboea believed she would know instantly of the minotaur's demise, as if the two were psychically connected by their long, adversarial relationship. She took a deep breath, hoping some faint trace of fear would jolt her back to her senses, but she felt no threat, only a dull foreboding that she would wander aimlessly through the tunnels of the mine for another day.

"Have you seen the minotaur?" Idas asked the maiden when their paths crossed by chance. "I have a question that only it can answer."

Periboea said nothing of the thoughts that had so preoccupied her only moments before. Instead, she invited Idas to share the pressing query for which he was willing to risk his life.

"I should like to know," said the youth, "what the minotaur believes is the proper balance between action and restraint? By what rules does it lurk unseen for weeks at a stretch? What conditions are necessary to spur it to violence?"

"I was wondering the same thing," Periboea said, "more or less."

Idas nodded, not at all surprised. He held the mistaken belief that it was common for reasonable people to think just as he did.

"But I think," continued Periboea, "that there is no clear answer because the balance, of which you speak, ever shifts in response to an array of factors, some of which are known, like the weather, the hours since the last meal, the position of the stars and the most recent kindness or unkindness shown to us. Of course, as many factors remain unknown. As such the answer is intractable and unravels only over the course of a lifetime, revealing some portion of truth and the rest error."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Akio Suzuki - unreleased live recording, tracks 6-12 (November 8, 2002, Xebec, Kobe, Japan, digital files)

September 6, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

The ceaseless darkness of the labyrinth possessed the potential to extinguish the enthusiasm of even the most ardent optimist. Melite proved no exception. Although her spirits were ordinarily buoyed by her confidence that no transgression was beyond forgiveness, she found herself contemplating the unforgiveable. She supposed that, as poorly as people treated one another on ordinary days, the misdeeds and wrongdoings would swell in number and in degree of debasement as the end of the world approached.

"What makes you think that the end times are nigh?" asked Melanippe, concerned by the uncharacteristically dour words of her friend.

Melite rotated in a circle. In every direction she saw either the unyielding stone of the mine or an impenetrable cloak of darkness, which, if explored, would reveal only a more distant boundary of stone. This action alone she gave as reply, judging it a sufficient answer to Melanippe's question.

"I don't deny," said Melanippe, "that in times of drought and famine, the wealthy hoard their stores while the poor starve. He whose family has little is robbed, sometimes by he who has less but also by those who exploit the disorder of disaster to prey upon the vulnerable. All this has already transpired many times over across the world and, assuredly we shall witness its occurrence again." Her tone softened. "Still, Melite, my friend, let not dread smother your kindness in the days leading up to the cataclysm. If these be your only days, it is best, I think, to leave what honest record you may of who you chose to be."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Lee Ranaldo, & Jim Black - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-10 (November 15, 2002, Tonic, New York, United States, digital files)

September 7, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

Antimachus dreamt not a dream of slumbering fantasy but a vision that he could not but help to interpret as a portent. As he slept, a hidden mechanism regarding the working of the labyrinth was revealed to him. It was not the case, as was commonly believed, that an agreement had been struck between King Minos and the minotaur, in which, in exchange for an annual sacrifice of seven maidens and seven youths, the beast would voluntarily refrain from plundering the island. Rather, an ambiguous human form appeared to Antimachus and claimed that the minotaur was divinely bound to the labyrinth until it had devoured all fourteen of the victims. Because they had scattered through-out the maze, it took the beast nominally a year to hunt them all down. At that point, its herd, so to speak, was replenished, to renew its binding.

Antimachus shared this insight with Hippophorbas when their paths happened to cross. "An interesting idea," said the latter, "though it makes me wonder more than ever why the creature seems so lackadaisical in its pursuit. If capturing each of us is its means to freedom, you would think it would pursue us with greater alacrity." Hippophorbas shrugged. "Perhaps, it has another agenda."

Antimachus was struck by the truth of Hippophorbas' assessment. He did not, however, share that this agenda had also been expressed in the dream, which, in retrospect, must have emanated from the sleeping minotaur itself. A great and terrible boredom had settled upon the beast. It did not seek to hasten either its release from the familiar corridors of its prison or to exchange those who had been offered with a new batch because the world outside had lost its appeal. Antimachus chose to keep the beast's secret to himself because he could not see how the world would be made better by its proclamation.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kan Mikami - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-7 (November 26, 2002, Junkbox, Hammamatsucho, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 8, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

Each individual can be perceived as an attempt at self-actualization, the hypothesis of an experiment with undetermined outcome. The elements of uncertainty influencing the result are both internal and external. If Hesione optimistically assumed the best of a person, the confirmation of her hypothesis brought happiness while its contradiction delivered disappointment. She felt no obligation to scientific objectivity. To the contrary, she sought to bias the outcome of each encounter toward a favorable resolution to the greatest extent possible.

Still, the problem at times presented seemingly unsolvable dilemmas, in which Hesione was forced to pick a side and, in supporting one individual, betray another. When she ran into Periboea, the warrior maiden, she asked, "Eldest sister, how do you balance competing demands?"

Periboea replied as if this was a conundrum that she had handily dispatched long ago, before moving onto tasks of greater import. In truth, her solution may not suit all of us, for Periboea sought to be as two-dimensional as possible--to present a frank version of herself in an unambiguous light so that the motives behind each of her actions were easily guessed. In this way, no one could mistake her deeds for anything but natural extensions of who she was. She deemed it hard for others to take offense at someone acting in accordance with their nature.

Those of us who prefer a more nuanced take in our social interactions recognize the need for subtlety and discretion. Still, we can learn from Periboea because her approach was an, admittedly blunt, attempt at transparency. Even if we do not agree that everything should be brought to light, there is much misunderstanding that can be prevented beforehand and much hurt that can be healed, after the fact, with forthright words and a liberal appreciation of simple truths.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kan Mikami - unreleased live recording, tracks 8-12 (November 26, 2002, Junkbox, Hammamatsucho, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 9, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

The logical extension of the proposition that individuals control their own destiny is that a group of individuals can dictate their collective fate. When applied to the human race as a whole, Idas supposed that two factions battled for opposing futures. The members of one group had experienced, by hook or crook, sufficient happiness in their lives as to advocate for the creation of a society where all were able to share in the world's bounty. To be sure the constituents of this party had wildly varying views on how to arrive at this utopia, not to mention its defining characteristics, but they were united in the notion that pursuit of amelioration was a worthwhile endeavor.

A second group existed, in opposition to the first. It was composed of individuals who had experienced untold miseries, those plagued by recurring distress and unremitting pain, those who knew protracted and meaningless suffering. Each member of this faction had independently reached the conclusion that life was not worth living, neither for themselves nor for humanity as a whole. They sought extinction of the human race, most of the time, it must be said, in a rather listless and ineffectual manner.

"To which party do you belong?" Melite asked Idas, once he had finished his exposition.

"It's hard to tell," he admitted. He did not know if it was humanly possible to straddle the two camps.

Melite could not deny the existence of these groups. She might even have been induced to admit that, at the present time, the net migration of the human race seemed to move from the utopian bloc to the apocalyptic sect. However, despite being condemned to the labyrinth, she was not yet willing to abandon hope. "If we can't have one foot in each camp," she said, "let me stand with one group and you with the other. Then let us reach out and grasp each other's hands to keep the world from splitting in twain."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Hideo Yamagi, Michiyo Yagi & Akira Sakata - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (December 8, 2002, Pit Inn, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 10, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

Melanippe listened absent-mindedly as Antimachus described to her a fantastic cavern, which he had recently visited. He recalled an amalgamation of geological wonders, including vaulted arches rising from natural columns into unseen heights, walls studded with the facets of crystals of all the colors of the rainbow, and streaking veins of silver lining the ground on which he walked. In the center of this chamber, he had found a pool, faintly lit from beneath by a bioluminescent film of slime. Snakes, Antimachus claimed, each as thin as a single hair, swam via lateral undulations though nary a ripple disturbed the placid surface. As his description continued, Melanippe's disbelief grew.

"I feel pretty sure," he concluded, "that the wish I made at the pool is going to come true."

Of course, Antimachus could not lead Melanippe to the cavern. He had walked too long through the winding passages of the labyrinth to retrace his steps. Nevertheless, he felt sufficiently confident of its location that he encouraged Melanippe to add the locale to her map of the maze.

She shook her head dismissively. "The reputation of your imagination precedes you."

Antimachus did not his disappointment. Melanippe attempted to console him saying, "Because the intention of map-makers is to create a faithful representation of the world, there are entire realms, which must be omitted from their work. Fabled cities of gold hidden in deep jungle, mountainous aeries where rare birds have carried maidens to play for them upon the harps and lyres that line their nests, forest cottages inhabited by children borrowed indefinitely from their parents by sylvan spirits--these secret sites have no place on maps, yet their significance is undiminished.

While Antimachus' gall was assuaged somewhat by Melanippe's explanation, he nevertheless resolved not to share with her the nature of the wish that he had made, judging it a kind of fitting punishment to withhold this blessing from one who could not bring herself to believe.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Hideo Yamagi, Michiyo Yagi & Akira Sakata - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-10 (December 8, 2002, Pit Inn, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 11, 2019
Traveler: Menestheus; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

It is said that great power can be found in not caring. This principle extends to people, places and especially the self. The ability of politicians and others in positions of authority to manipulate the populace depends largely upon them identifying issues about which their constituents care. The one who cares about nothing is impervious to this influence. Moreover, such a person is invulnerable to the anguish that results from unpleasant outcomes of all sorts, because sorrow, regret and other associated emotional responses are predicated on caring.

Menestheus contemplated this variety of invulnerability. The cost, of course, was high, since not caring contained its own punishment, namely isolation and lack of support in times of need. "No one would want to live like that," said Menestheus to Antimachus as the two crossed paths in the labyrinth.

"A maniac might, one who lacked all empathy," Antimachus replied, though he seemed not especially engaged. A thought sprang to him, "The minotaur might."

The two youths parted ways just as abruptly as they had met. Menestheus now contemplated becoming the minotaur. He knew such a transformation to be utterly beyond his powers, for he was truly a gentle soul. He would make the worst minotaur ever! He would flee to a meadow, where he would use his over-sized, clawed hands to pick flowers and to clumsily assemble a garland to be worn about his neck. He would approach country folk who, spotting his wicked horns and floral adornment, would yell insults and throw rocks at him until he retreated back to this cave. As he imagined these indignities, a smile came to Menestheus, for it seemed a minor triumph to be unable to distinguish between great power and crushing weakness.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (January 12, 2003, Lady Jane, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 12, 2019
Traveler: Porphyrion; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

Porphyrion recalled a woman in his village to whose hut people flocked when they felt overcome by sorrow at the absence of a loved one. Lords and peasants alike arrived at the door to her hovel for it was said that she had the power to speak with the dead. Although impoverished, the woman refused to oblige many of the patrons who visited her. Lacking explicit instructions, the locals had nevertheless gathered several rules governing her willingness to accept a request. First, the death could not be recent. At least a year should have passed before she was either able or willing to contact the dead. Second, the older they were at the time of death, the more likely she was able to find their spirit in afterworld. Dead children dwelt in a realm beyond her reach. Finally, some requests were refused for seemingly no reason at all. Hers was not an invariably reliable practice.

Wandering in the labyrinth, Porphyrion supposed that, were he to encounter this woman in the caves, he would seek to contact the soul of one who had roamed the maze in years past, before succumbing to the minotaur. If he had but a single query for one beyond the grave, he would ask, "Were you able in death to find a way out of the labyrinth?"

"That's a meaningless question, little brother," said Hesione, when Porphyrion shared it with her.

"All questions are meaningless," he replied, "until we endow them with meaning."

"It's a cruel question too," she insisted, "to ask the dead to betray their secrets." She added, "If we spend the rest of our lives in these tunnels, we might develop a kinship with each twisting passage and, in so doing, come to the conclusion that it is best to keep what we have learned to ourselves."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-8 (January 12, 2003, Lady Jane, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 13, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

People routinely engage in hopeless tasks, labors that have little or no probability of success. As often as not, they are well aware that the odds are stacked against them but they participate in the endeavor all the same for one reason or another. A mother may help a crying son search for a beloved toy, which he realized that he left at the park days after the fact. In this case, the mother searches simply as an exercise of love for her child. Or, as another example, clerks are asked to gather and analyze detailed data for a project with no prospect of emerging from the bureaucracy of their institution. Here, the employees demonstrate obedience, which can be reduced, in some cases, to an exercise of love for those at home with whose welfare they are charged. As a final example, people ordinarily pray without any expectation that their prayers will be answered. In each of these cases, the importance lies not in the act itself, nor in the ostensible goal of the act, but rather in an underlying significance at best tangentially related.

Europe explored the labyrinth, seemingly to locate an exit. At worst, it was preferable to doing nothing. Idas too participated in the same investigation. "We shall not find it," said the one to the other, "and I cannot bring myself to be upset at our failure."

"Oh, hush," the second replied. "Embrace the role or we shall lose our parts. How then will we occupy our time while we traverse these dark passages?"

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michio Karimata - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (January 24, 2003, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 14, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

For some, the mind is its own labyrinth. An individual may become disoriented, unable to find either one's bearings or one's moral compass, simply because the neurochemistry of the brain is muddied. We can think, therefore, of Demoleon, who existed within the minotaur's physical maze, as a labyrinth wandering within a labyrinth. It is folly to suppose that, through some magic of algebra, the convolutions of the two levels within the hierarchy should cancel out. They did not. Demoleon could not reliably access the common, internal instincts on which the rest of us rely, which made him dangerous. Much like the minotaur, Demoleon mistook the biological impulses that he could readily sense for moral imperatives.

When he communicated his desires to Melanippe in no unconcern terms, she sensed her misfortune at the chance encounter and sought to extricate her from this danger as adroitly as possible. She replied on what skills were available to her, which in her case almost exclusively pertained to cartography. On her map, she indicated a grotto in which they might shortly rendezvous; she needed only a few moments of private preparation.

When Melanippe did not appear, Demoleon raged but the various layers of the labyrinth clouded his anger no less than his judgment. He soon forgot the subject of his ire, replaced by a nebulous blame on the world at large. We suppose that Melanippe could have put her map to a more noble use, but we do not fault her for acting as she did; navigating internal labyrinths is understandably perilous and should not be casually attempted.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Michio Karimata - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-5 (January 24, 2003, Penguin House, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 15, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

The surface of a body of water plays with the light that strikes it. A breeze that drives ripples along a river creates a pattern of pinpoint glinting and fluid shimmering in an ever-changing pattern. At the coast, a wave takes on a translucent shade of blue as it rises; the spray at the crest whitens as it glides toward and collapses into shore. These optical phenomena are governed by the very ordinary physics describing the interactions of matter and energy.

Make no mistake, darkness also interacts with water. As the sole resident of the subterranean lake, Eurymedusa bore witness to the nuances of this exchange on a near constant basis. True, it was more difficult to perceive; fewer photons reached the eye. One could expect nothing less from darkness. Shadow lay upon the liquid surface. A sensory network not associated with the optical nerve captured the subtle adjustments darkness and water made for the other. Eurymedusa found the equilibrium between the absence of light above and the cold waters below as natural as a mother's love for her child.

When Hippophorbas arrived on the stone bank, he stood at the edge and, with one bare foot, idly kicked droplets farther inward. In an indisputable contravention of the conservation of momentum, the effects of those drops disappeared upon impact. The darkness suffered no casual disturbance.

The water-maiden and the youth knew perfectly well that the other was present, but neither voiced a greeting nor made any gesture of welcome. It happens. Individuals become wrapped up in their own perceptions of reality, which abide no consensus. For those who suspect that they may possess a finite tolerance for solitude, it is best to adopt a more malleable approach.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & K.K. Null - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (January 19, 2003, Binspark, Nishi Ogikubo, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 16, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Periboea; Moon: Gibbous

Amphidocus imagined that there could be no question more profound than the one he now contemplated, nor more ambiguous since it appeared to him that it was possible to construct two satisfactory, though diametrically opposed, answers. The question addressed the proper response to living. One reply was based on the assumption that each of us, who possessed the sentience to entertain the query, found ourselves alive through no choice of our own. In this case, the most demonstrative exercise of will was to reject the state. It took no effort, only inertia, to simply continue in the condition in which we had been deposited. This is what later philosophers intended when they stated, "Killing oneself is the ultimate expression of free will."* Alas, Amphidocus did not have recourse to this body of literature; he had to rely on personal experience for guidance.

The other answer, of course, suggested that, given the arbitrary and meaningless state of our existence, the greatest exercise of free will lay not in capitulation through death, but in harnessing reality to our resolve. In this case, we ought to construct an individual interpretation of a life of meaning, an admittedly arduous labor requiring ceaseless vigilance. This too seemed a noble charge.

Amphidocus next encountered Periboea, to whom he put this question. "To which perspective do you subscribe?" he asked. "Life or death?"

Periboea frowned. She had not considered that her continued existence was due either to a failure of courage to excuse herself from life or to an urge to defy the intrinsic meaninglessness of the universe. "Are those my only two choices?" She did not mean to criticize Amphidocus' intellectual rigor.

Amphidocus did not reply, because, though other answers had not occurred to him, he supposed they might exist. He invited Periboea to offer an alternative. Put on the spot, she faltered, as many of us would have in a similar situation.

The lesson here? Be ready! Prepare your answer.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kyoko Kuroda - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (January 30, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

*paraphrased from Alexei Nilych Kirillov in Chapter 6. A Busy Night of The Possessed, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1871-2, translated by Constance Garnett.

September 17, 2019
Traveler: Andromache; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

It was said that musicians who had truly mastered their instruments could induce wild animals to settle about them merely by playing a pleasing melody. Asps would slither from their holes and bathe in the sun at the feet of the minstrel. Wolves would lower their guard, the pack coming to rest, splayed about the musician, nuzzling each other at appropriate intervals. Songbirds, too, would perch in nearby boughs, only after both shoulders of the musicians were occupied. Andromache imagined such a scene as she played a happy tune upon her flute in the impenetrable darkness of the labyrinth. Under these conditions, she could have been expected to summon salamanders instead of snakes, bats instead of birds and, of course, the minotaur in place of a pack of wolves. However, no representatives of the animal world heeded her call, save the maiden, Melite, who sat down beside Andromache, and soon lay down with her head in the flautist's lap.

When the minotaur crept noiselessly within sight of the two girls, it chose not to step out from the shadows. It cannot be denied that cruelty ruled the heart of the beast, but it observed in this tranquil scene the intimation of a persistent damnation, leading to a cumulative doom beyond anything it could conjure with a few moments of frenzied terror.

When the beast had wandered off, Melite said to Andromache, "It's gone now; you can stop playing." However, Andromache continued her song, which was not constrained to a single purpose defined exclusively by circumstance.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Kyoko Kuroda - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-8 (January 30, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 18, 2019
Traveler: Periboea; Companion: Demoleon; Moon: Gibbous

For those who, through their action or inaction, have fallen short of their ideals, opportunities abound for atonement. At the same time, for those who have thus far avoided egregious transgressions, these same opportunities present a chance for a first failure. Viewed in this light, many decisions, distributed through-out the course of each day, provide one person the possibility of redemption and another a path to ruin.

"It is not as fair as it seems," Periboea explained to Demoleon. "For a single failure can define a person for the remainder of their life in ways that one instance of success does not. We are a people who prefer to punish crimes more severely than we reward virtue."

Demoleon concurred. "A single act of violence defines a murderer, all former charity forgotten. But the inverse is not true. It takes a lifetime of good deeds to, perhaps, expiate a crime."

"The lesson seems to be," said Periboea, "to always err on the side of light."

"Or," Demoleon added, "failing that, to hide one's misdeeds as thoroughly as possible."

"That seems an unlikely recipe for happiness...for anyone."

"No less improbable," Demoleon countered, "than a lifetime spent without deviation from the straight and narrow."

"I don't want to think about things in this way," said Periboea, sighing. "It makes me feel hopeless."

Indeed a task that seems impossibly hard from one point of view can be avoided altogether with a mindset in which misdeeds are perceived as offensive or irrational and deflected as naturally as one refrains from harming oneself with a knife, passed daily in the kitchen without mishap or drama. We should all work, by whatever means available to us, to cultivate that mindset in ourselves and in others.

written while listening to:  Knead - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (February 2, 2003, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 19, 2019
Traveler: Melite; Companion: Eurymedusa; Moon: Gibbous

Melite followed a meandering path through the labyrinth. She supposed that it would lead her from one intersection, hewn from rock, to another juncture indistinguishable from the first. However, by chance alone, this path led to the subterranean lake, which had formed when a portion of the labyrinth flooded in an age long past.

Eurymedusa had taken up residence in this lake. She rarely left and for this reason was known by the other prisoners of the labyrinth as the water-maiden. She swam toward the stone bank and, while remaining several yards off, warmly greeted Melite.

It appeared to Melite that Eurymedusa had been able to find a home in the labyrinth, a task that no other had accomplished, save the minotaur. She found it hard to forgive the swimmer for her good fortune.

Perhaps Eurymedusa sensed her guest's reservations, for she invited Melite to join her. Leaving her gown on the shore, Melite waded into the water, only to find it no warmer than the ambient cave; the chill quickly seeped through her flesh and settled in her bones and the joints between. Her exposure to the water was brief. Soon she stood again on the bank, now shivering. She asked, "How do you manage to withstand this cold?"

In the mine, the temperature was uniform and unchanging, prompting Eurymedusa to reply, "If all we know is this one thing, how can we distinguish it from something else by calling it cold?"

"I remember the warmth of the sun," Melite protested.

"A myth," Eurymedusa insisted, "garbled in memory. I once swam in springs beneath cloudless skies. By my vivid recollection, I found those waters no more welcoming than this dark lake."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, K.K. Null & Seijiro Murayama - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (February 9, 2003, Binspark, Nishi Ogikubo, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 20, 2019
Traveler: Antimachus; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

For Antimachus, life had become a daydream. How else could he react to endless wandering through the stone corridors of the labyrinth? As dreams go, his was exceptionally dull. Around each corner he did not discover an incongruous landscape, nor the ghost of a dearly departed uncle, nor even the nightmarish ambush of the minotaur. Instead, Antimachus discovered only additional gloom, confined to occupy the space where he must now tread by the rough-hewn walls of the labyrinth. He was understandably disappointed with the limits of his imagination.

Chance alone brought him face to face with Amphidocus, who was also lost. They shared information on the paths behind them, an exchange which took only a few moments since the tunnels were nondescript. Neither relished the choice that lay before them. Either each could turn back and revisit the shadows, which had held little appeal upon the first visit, or they could move forward and experience for themselves the uneventful darkness, which had just been described to them. "I don't like either of those choices," Amphidocus confessed.

"Nor I," agreed Antimachus.

We leave the two youths standing just a few feet apart, contemplating their future. There are almost certainly narrow crevices, overlooked in the darkness, which lead to unexplored avenues and chambers. It falls within the realm of possibilities that such a thought may occur to them and that one may have the imagination to pursue it and the other the willingness to follow along.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, K.K. Null & Seijiro Murayama - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-5 (February 9, 2003, Binspark, Nishi Ogikubo, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 21, 2019
Traveler: Hesione; Companion: Amphidocus; Moon: Gibbous

As she wandered through the labyrinth, Hesione periodically called out, "Little sister?" as if she were once again searching for a younger sibling who had strayed out of sight into the woods beyond the fields. In those happy days, her concern was quickly rewarded when she found the child, crouching with a friend beside a creek, lifting rocks to reveal a minnow, a crayfish or a newt. There were no remonstrations for children are meant to be untethered.

Lost in a delirium of darkness, did Hesione now call for that same child? Had the mine caused in her a desperation so dire that she sought an impossible answer to her summons? Fortunately, Andromache regarded the impossible with disdain. Taking pity on Hesione she tracked the echoes down, navigating the tunnels between them, until she appeared before her.

"Little sister," Hesione greeted her, for she considered all those trapped in the labyrinth as family.

"Here I am," Andromache replied.

"I have found you!" rejoiced Hesione, responding not entirely in accord with the circumstances at hand.

The two maidens kept each other company for a time. Andromache promised to stay close, but Hesione assured her that it was in her nature to wander. She had no intention of imposing additional constraints when their movements were already limited by the walls of the maze. Andromache left, perhaps prematurely, for soon thereafter Hesione resumed her summons, this time at a lower volume where the probability was greatly diminished that any but those who dwelt in her memory would respond.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Keisuke Ohta - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (April 16, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 22, 2019
Traveler: Idas; Companion: Menestheus; Moon: Gibbous

Idas had traveled through the narrow, unlit corridors of the subterranean labyrinth for so long that he no longer wondered where he was going or when he would get there. He had come to accept that there were no destinations within the maze, only the act of walking, sometimes climbing, through a broken spiderweb of tunnels and chambers. Some ambiguous and recalcitrant portion of his being concerned with morality continued to suggest that 'things were not right'. A man should not spend his life trapped in darkness, confronted at every juncture by an utter ignorance of the consequences of choosing one path over another. If there was truth to this sense of cosmic injustice, like everything else in the labyrinth, Idas proved unable to find it. He had no alternative but to insist to himself that he had moved beyond caring about such mundane matters.

When he met Menestheus, he asked the youth in a nonchalant way, "Do you ever get the feeling that things are not right?"

We know Menestheus well. If ever there was a soul too gentle for the ways of this world, it was Menestheus. How could one such as he answer this question, for life had always seemed at odds with his nature? His very gentleness prohibited him from expressing condemnation. His was a prolonged and placid apathy, undisturbed by the common miseries of the mine. To Idas, he reached out and responded with a wordless embrace, holding him close even as the other tried to pull away.

We suppose that by this action Menestheus intended to convey to Idas his suspicion of a higher morality, in which it is not right to either privately acknowledge or publicly profess one's conviction that all of the world was made upside down.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Keisuke Ohta - unreleased live recording, tracks 5-9 (April 16, 2003, In F, Oizumi Gakuen, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 23, 2019
Traveler: Melanippe; Companion: Porphyrion; Moon: Gibbous

Melanippe knew that the labyrinth existed, not only because she had wandered extensively through its dark channels but because she had rendered some portion of it onto the parchment, which she carried with her. When she woke each morning, she was able to examine the map by candlelight and reassure herself that the same lines, which she had drawn the night before, remained unchanged. Her work tied the labyrinth down, defined it in an immutable way, and saved the tangle of tunnels from utter incomprehensibility.

"But I don't see," Melanippe replied to Porphyrion, "how the same can be said of your afterlife. Where is the map?"

The itinerant priest had been ambling through what had seemed an innocuous cavern when he had been ambushed by Melanippe and her pernicious question. Rather than submit to the temptation to rebuke her for a lack of faith, Porphyrion asked to examine her map. He crouched beside her and drew a finger across it, following a path and muttering to himself as if reminiscing about a journey he might have taken as a child. Satisfied with his inspection, he rose to his feet and crossed his arms across his chest. "Yes," he concluded, nodding to himself.

"Well?" asked Melanippe, eager for an appraisal of her work.

"This map will do," Porphyrion said in a congratulatory manner. "You have succeeded where I did not think it possible. You have created not only a map of the labyrinth, but also a map to the afterlife."

His declaration took Melanippe by surprise for she had intended no such thing. Despite her encouragement, Porphyrion refused to provide many more details, suggesting instead that she unravel the mystery on her own.

For some, given the human origin of both life and the afterlife, superimposing one over the other is more natural than insisting that they are mutually exclusive phenomena.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-9 (May 1, 2003, Dolphy, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

September 24, 2019
Traveler: Hippophorbas; Companion: Europe; Moon: Gibbous

Hippophorbas speculated that the wiring in his brain was susceptible to confusing the area apportioned to short-term memory with that to long-term storage. How else could he explain the sudden emergence of decade-old memories rising unbidden from the back of his mind, when he sought only to consider his recent path through the labyrinth? "It seems to be nothing more than a malfunction of the thinking organ," he said to Europe, when they met at an intersection in the maze.

"Perhaps your subconscious self is trying to remind you of something," Europe suggested, though she was not entirely convinced of the argument herself.

"I don't see how that could be," Hippophorbas replied. "Earlier, I thought of an old woman in the village, a consummate liar and gossip, whose rudeness was tolerated only because of her advanced age. She reported with great elaboration the goings-on of children and adults alike, when it seemed most likely to cause trouble. I had not thought of her in many years, but my blood began to boil as I recalled her cackle when she kindled a fiery argument."

Europe listened to Hippophorbas. Eventually, she had to agree that there seemed little value in getting upset over insults and injuries long past and better forgotten. With a shrug she conveyed that she had no especially relevant advice to impart.

To be sure, much from the past is not helpful, as is true also of the present. Simply because one finds a sword lying in the street does not mean one should wield it. So it is with random thoughts; of course the mind is fallible. Make use of what you can and ignore the garbage, regardless of whether it is generated externally or internally.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Natsuki Kido - unreleased live recording, tracks 10-11 (May 1, 2003, Dolphy, Yokohama, Japan, digital files)

September 25, 2019
Traveler: Porphyrion; Companion: Melite; Moon: Gibbous

To say that misery inundates the world is also to say the same of joy, for one cannot be separated from the other. To wish for one (presumably joy) in the absence of the other is nonsensical, in the same way that a child might desire light without shadow or life without death. Porphyrion maintained a stoic demeanor, though he wandered through the labyrinth without hope of rescue or escape.

He chose not to articulate this sentiment to Melite, when they crossed paths in the maze. It was just as well, for she already intuited that which Porphyrion would not vocalize. In fact, the maiden Melite had taken things a step farther, lavishing upon the very stone of the labyrinth a tender forgiveness for its unyielding confinement. In this way, she mixed joy with sorrow in the same vessel, so that they became indistinguishable.

Each encounter with suffering is an opportunity for a right-minded individual to exercise their capacity for comforting another, which is the essence of joy. Philosophers may claim, "There is no suffering and no extinction of suffering," and, in the same breath, append, "Nor joy, nor extinction of joy." Here, they too wish to refrain from explicitly voicing what Porphyrion also chose to keep to himself. That they are prompted to speak at all is merely an effort to fulfill their assigned duties as teachers of the past and oracles of what is to come.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Eiichi Hayashi & Toshiaki Ishizuka - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (May 7, 2003, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 26, 2019
Traveler: Europe; Companion: Antimachus; Moon: Gibbous

Stop your labor. Set down your tools. Let all work come to a standstill. Let the engines of industry fall idle. Let each of us take this moment of repose to reflect on the purpose of our efforts. Can we find on our own the dignity in engaging in an activity, which, if nothing else, provides for those who depend upon us for their well-being? If, in our solitude, we can discover no motive other than self-sustenance, still is it not sufficient to find comfort in our independence?

Of course, it is not enough. For this reason, Europe ceased her investigation of the labyrinth. It had become a burden to her and one in which she saw no repercussion in abandoning save that she would never leave the maze. Gazing about at the stone walls, they appeared very much appropriate to the role of crypt. "Let me die here," she whispered.

Concealed, albeit unintentionally, by darkness, Antimachus overheard Europe's secret plea. He supposed that she was reciting a poem. He felt inclined to add to the verse, saying, "Let all birds plunge from the sky! Let their weary wings beat no more. Let crow and owl alike expire. Let spring come bereft of egg-laden nests and the summer dawns free of birdsong, for here, buried in the Earth, it is as nothing to us."

Europe corrected him, saying, "I would prefer birdsong to endure. It is only my discordant contribution that I wish to silence."

"You are my bird," Antimachus defiantly declared to Europe, "and it is your song, ardent and anguished, that I hope will persist."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Eiichi Hayashi & Toshiaki Ishizuka - unreleased live recording, tracks 4-6 (May 7, 2003, Manda-la 2, Kichijoji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 27, 2019
Traveler: Demoleon; Companion: Hesione; Moon: Gibbous

Whether it was a result of his nature or his experiences to date, or some combination of the two, the dark and winding disorientation of the labyrinth induced in Demoleon a susceptibility to dissipation. Had the mine offered casks of wine, Demoleon would have drowned himself in them. Alas, save for the cold underground lake, the mine was dry. Had he found an opportunity for debauchery, he surely would not have found the willpower to resist, but a brothel was not an amenity that had ever existed in the mine. Absent these wanton distractions, Demoleon had to satisfy his urge for dissolution in purely mental pursuits.

He luxuriated in the pointlessness of his wandering in the maze. He played with a destructive self-abnegation as if it were a toy. He wallowed in the absence of meaning until, in an unlikely apotheosis of apophenia, this behavior became its own purpose. "There is no higher recognition," he proclaimed, "than embracing our own insignificance."

Of humble nature, Hesione eschewed self-aggrandizement and matters of the ego. In rejecting an attitude of self-importance, her perspective aligned with that of Demoleon. But her implementation could not have been more different, for Hesione supposed that understanding her own negligibility liberated her from many weighty obligations and provided her the chance to address matters of little consequence, which nevertheless remained dear to her heart. For this reason, she dared to comfort Demoleon, though he insisted that he was inconsolable. She was not in the least disturbed by the likelihood that her compassionate ministrations were wasted on a lost cause.

written while listening to:  Knead - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (June 5, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 28, 2019
Traveler: Eurymedusa; Companion: Idas; Moon: Gibbous

It must have been raining again, somewhere in the surface world. An uneven trickle of water had materialized, emanating from an unseen crack in the vaulted ceiling of the cavern over the lake. At first, the leak manifested as sporadic, individual drops. However, the dribble soon picked up in volume until there was a thin, broken stream of water, each segment punctuated periodically by a series of droplets, forming an ellipsis leading only to the next rivulet.

The maiden of the lake, Eurymedusa, was most displeased, for she valued the ordinarily quiet and placid atmosphere of her domain. The incessant sound of dripping offended her ears no less than the ripples that marred the water's surface pained her eyes. She hoped that this was a temporary sign of a passing storm, which had delivered an especially heavy deluge.

When Idas arrived at the banks of the lake, he did not think to exercise the discretion to pretend that the leak did not exist. On the contrary, he made a great fuss about its appearance, going so far as to suggest that the repeated splashing, magnified by the acoustics of the vast chamber, might serve as a beacon, drawing the minotaur to the lake. Ever curious, Idas inquired of Eurymedusa, "What will you ask the beast when it arrives at your doorstep?"

Eurymedusa frowned. "What shall I ask it?" she repeated in an annoyed tone. "Indeed, I shall demand to know, as I would of any feckless landlord, what was so damned important that the upkeep of its ramshackle estate should be neglected to the point where the roof invites the rain to occupy, for free, the same space for which the rest of us tenants pay a heavy rent."

written while listening to:  Knead - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-5 (June 5, 2003, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 29, 2019
Traveler: Amphidocus; Companion: Melanippe; Moon: Gibbous

It is right for each of us to find satisfaction in who we individually are, both in nature and in upbringing. That an Athenian should find no city superior to Athens and a Cretan prefer a home within sight of the grand palace of Knossos is exactly as it should be. The same can be said of Spartans, Phoenicians, Trojans and Cyrenians. That a man of great strength should prize his brawn or a woman of renowned beauty hold her face and figure in high regard is also appropriate. Again, the same can be said for wit, agility, wisdom and resolve.

It is contrary to nature for a person to value that which they have not known or do not possess. "It is foolish," Amphidocus said to Melanippe, "to expect anything else from the world."

Melanippe did not seek to argue with Amphidocus, whose company she enjoyed. However, she was a woman interested in both origins and destinations. She suggested to Amphidocus that his statement reflected only the view of a person at their starting point. "When one travels, one discovers the merits of distant locales and foreign peoples. In doing so, she has an opportunity (though it is certainly true that many travelers have not accepted the invitation) to appreciate a contrary set of rules. She may find cause to realize the imperfections of her hometown for lacking an attribute fulfilled in another place. Similarly, as she grows toward some as-of-yet undetermined destination, she may come to realize the inadequacy of a virtue with which she always defined herself. In fact the more pronounced the trait, the greater an obstacle it is to her growth. A woman or man of vast intelligence is mightily hindered from recognizing, for example, that it is better to be kind than to be smart."

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Phil Dadson - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-4 (June 21, 2003, Plan B, Nakano-Fujimicho, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

September 30, 2019
Traveler: Andromache; Companion: Hippophorbas; Moon: Gibbous

The subterranean chambers tended to prolong the notes that Andromache generated on her flute. The resulting reverberations had the effect of transforming the music that, in any other venue, would have manifested as melodic songs into meditative drones. The overlapping notes gradually accumulated, the acoustic waves constructively interfering with each other, sustaining and amplifying the sound. An appreciation of drones requires a patient listener, one who is in the right frame of mind to be still and to allow the music to penetrate her being, opening the self to introspection through the conduit of tones and vibrations. To be honest, Andromache could not always adopt this mindset upon command. At these times, the echo of the notes by the labyrinth simply annoyed her.

Hippophorbas supposed that the stone of the maze insisted upon rendering all of Andromache's music into repetitious drones in order to better reflect its reality of indistinguishable corridors and endless offerings of arbitrary intersections. "On the day," he said to Andromache, "that the labyrinth relents on changing your music, you will have figured out how to transform the labyrinth into the shape of your song."

As unlikely as that outcome seemed to Andromache, it nevertheless struck her as a happy thought.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Per Gisle Galåen & Toshiyuki Shiragami - unreleased live recording, track 1 (July 11, 2003, Aoiheya, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

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