TUESDAY: Asterion


Copyright is held by the author.

ONCE HE was called Asterion, named for the stars he would never see. Imprisoned in the stone bowels of Knossos, he hardly knew there was a world above, nor a name that people called him there. Before long, even this kindness faded, and those who spoke of Asterion forgot that he had ever had a name. In its place, he was given a word: minotaur.

How should he have passed the time, in his tunnels where there was neither day nor night? Asterion came to know the hours by sound — the dim bells of morning, the beat of footfall in the palace above, the hum of conversation and song in the feasting halls. Lonely creature that he was, he knew nothing of feasts, nothing of music, and if he cried out in hunger or tried to sing along it prompted only clattering and stamping on the tiles above. His sorry lowing reminded them of the starving calf beneath them. Only in the brief quiet hours did he rest.

Perhaps in his sleep at least he was permitted to leave his prison, and dream of open pastures, and others with faces like his. There might have been hope for him in the regard of their dark and doleful eyes. Would the cattle have welcomed Asterion as much as men abhorred him? In dreams they might have stood together in fields of moonlit grass, and watched the milk-dappled darkness break into dawn. But Asterion never saw grass, never knew milk, never even tasted the open air. All his life he dwelt in the rank pit of the labyrinth and its barren stone.

Neither did he know what an Athenian was, nor that in the world above they took calves from their mothers for veal and left their bones to bleach in the Hellene sun. Yet Asterion could see in their torchlit eyes that whatever they were they feared and hated him. There was a part of him that knew, though he had not the words to express it, they eat things like me. The rest of him knew he must himself eat, or perish in the dark.

In Knossos they heard the screams, and felt the palace itself tremble at the beat of his hooves. This time they did not dare stamp nor cry invective to silence him, fearing that they would turn that terrible hunger on themselves. Not once in Crete or Athens, nor even on the slopes of Olympus dared they speak of the true horror of the minotaur. No bull has ever hunted, no cow in all the world could ever stomach flesh. From this alone sprang his monstrous inheritance: Asterion had the teeth of a man.


Black-and-white image of O. L. Trethyn wearing a leather jacket.

O. L. Trethyn is a British teacher, writer, and Ursula Le Guin obsessive
living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A genre nerd at heart, Trethyn writes
mainly about monstrosity and gender in fantastical settings that draw from
Classical and Brythonic mythology. They have long abandoned Twitter but can
be contacted through Instagram at @that.olly.

1 comment
  1. […] work was first published on 13/6/23 on the Canadian ezine CommuterLit! Give them a […]

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