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Minotaur in the House
Money drew me to the big city where I lived in an atrociously scuzzy apartment building that had two trees and an eight-by-ten-foot patch of grass. Nate, my best buddy, and lover lived in a lavish, ridiculously expensive penthouse a few miles away. I stay at Nate's penthouse, mostly. We're good for each other.
Nate collects things, object's d'Arte, he calls them. The latest is a Minotaur mask that he bought last week. I only glimpsed it, but it brought back memories of my childhood and the bucolic summers at my uncle's farm - - the swimming hole, the green fields, our prize stud bull, standing proudly in our pasture.
I stopped eating Nate's Buffalo wings and wrapped my arm around him.
"I really want to try on your new Minotaur mask."
"You can't. It's cursed, and you're drunk. It's the beer talking to those six active brain cells that are still sober."
Nate was correct on one count. I was drunk as a skunk, but that wasn't why I wanted to try on the mask. I was six-foot-two, and two hundred forty-five pounds and Nate was five-two, a hundred and five. Even my six active brain cells could lift Nate over my head with one hand. I did and bounced him in the air.
Galen the Bartender snapped his fingers and yelled at me. "None of that juggling people crap, tonight." I set Nate down in his seat, and I pouted silently.
"But I want to be Master of the Maze, Lord of the farmyard on a lusty Spring Frolic with my herd," I whined.
"Now you got Galen mad at us," Nate said, taking a drink. "This is a bad case of beer goggles. The mask is cursed, and it's the curse that attracts you."
"Cursed? Did you buy it from those naked boy witches in Withernsea? I had fun diddling those boys. Dude! Me strong and long like bull. Me want mask."
"Stop with the twenty questions. I bought it at that curio shop in Punxsutawney. If you make this mask your Everest, it will become your Golgotha." Nate turned to his beer. I still wasn't satisfied. Galen the Bartender wasn't going to like me tonight. He bragged he had a walk-in foreskin for servicing his lovers or was it a walk-in meat locker for freezing calves livers to serve his guests. The beer had me confused, but Galen was from Barcelona, or so he said. I held my arms out flexed, muscles rippled under my t-shirt before I pounded my fists against my chest and let out a Tarzan yell. Heads turned.
"Last call for you goofball," Galen yelled across the room. "Both of you take a walk. Now!"
"Spoilsport. You're no fun," I yelled back just to yank his chain. Nate smacked the back of my head. So I drank the last of Nate's beer.
We left the bar and zig-zagged down the sidewalk to Nate's apartment building. He owned the twenty-story apartment building where he lived.
"I'm going to crash in your guest room."
"As long as you don't whiz in the ficus again."
"It looked like it was trying to grow in the Sahara - - dry, parched, thirsty."
"It was my third ficus this year. Kill this one, and you're banned for the life of the next ficus plant, got it?"
I didn't say another word.
On his credenza in the living room sat the Minotaur mask in a display case. The shaggy-haired bison of my dreams, eyes aflame, snorting fire in my mind and trailing down its back, a mane of luxurious brown hair, blazing eyes, and longhorn antlers hiding furry ears.
"It fills me with delight and wonder. How could this be cursed?" I asked.
"The curator at the Museum of Natural History told me that it once belonged to Robin Goodfellow and he gave it to Shakespeare in gratitude for letting him play the Puck in the original production of 'A Midsummer's Night's Dream.'"
Now that was bull crap straight from Nate's ego.
"Is Robin that cute boy at the grocery store. The one you're jealous over?"
"No, Robin Goodfellow was a Puck in Shakespeare."
"Is that like my hockey puck?" I paused for effect. He didn't answer, so I continued. "Mikey at work said I looked like Ovechkin. Do you think I look like Ovechkin? I think I have better hair and more teeth than Ovechkin."
"First, Mikey doesn't know his ass from his elbow about hockey. Second, you don't look like Ovechkin. Third, you're a lumbering bull moose on the ice. You joke that you can't see the puck. You joke that the crease is that groove between your ass cheeks. You joke that icing is what is found on a cake. If those hockey sins weren't bad enough, the team only plays you because smaller players bounce off your bulkiness." He took a deep breath and yelled: "And finallyÉDon't touch that mask!"
I stared at the beautiful bull's head like a man possessed. I lifted the mask from its stand. Nate yanked it out of my hands and shoved me away. He returned it to the stand and locked the display cabinet.
"Does it hide from the sun and howl at the moon like Fenrir?" I asked, pouting. Nate answered, screaming, a real angry shit fit.
"No more booze tonight. The whiskey is off-limits. The wine stays corked. The beer bottles are numbered. I don't want you bumbling around all night like a drunken neanderthal," he ordered. I thought he was going to stroke out. I shrugged my best fibbery shrug and went to the guest bathroom for a shower.
Nate's a clean freak. He'd scrub his drunken body for an hour like beer was germs and then anoint himself with creams and oils and other smelly things. I finished my shower in three minutes, toweled dry, and searched for another beer. But, the display case and the mask stared at me; A forbidden thing, the thing I wasn't supposed to touch or feel or think, or see.
I imagined wearing the mask. The daydream took me to fragrant green fields. I ain't-a horse or hound or bear, but a great Bull surrounded by fertile bovines, awaiting stud service.
I am become Alice. This is my Wonderland. Drink me, eat me, become me.
What Nate doesn't know is fun for me. I picked the lock on the display case in seconds, and the mask was mine to hold and touch and feel. We were made for each other.
The horns were long and noble, bone-white set high on the top of the skull. The eyes, soft brown, set wide. A nose so black that when it reflected light, it turned to silver. Coarse, golden-blond fur covered the head and trailed down the back in a shaggy mane.
I took the mask to the mirror over the fireplace and pulled it over my head, carefully tightening it to fit. I'm a big guy with the bull neck, thick chest, broad shoulders from cutting wood, heavy deltoids, and a gun show to shame Superman. The mask easily covered my head and neck, draped my trapezius muscles, and rested on my shoulders. A good fit.
It didn't confine my head like other animal masks. Its ears were awfully high on my head, and those horns, sharp and dangerous. I saw too much of the sides of the mask's nose and too little in front of my face. Still, I could manage to move around. My jaw found the mechanism that moved the mouth. I could speak. I gave a short declamation of drunken Shakespeare - - Beer, sir, is a great provoker of things - - my desires and bladder being two. Without warning, my head quivered. My body felt electric. I slipped to my knees and with a thud, passed out.
When I woke, I felt water dripping on my chest. My eyes struggled to make sense of my nose and Nate both together in my line of sight. He sat, legs straddling my chest, wearing only a towel. I mumbled. Instead of words, a rumbling, guttural roar filled my chest.
"What the hell have you done?" I lifted Nate off my chest and sat upright.
"I passed out. I'm horny. We're naked. Want to mess around?"
Nate wasn't interested. "No, stupid, why did you put the mask on your head?"
"It was like beckoning me, calling me." I stood up and posed in the mirror, guns flexed, muscles bulging all over my body, the head of the Minotaur on my shoulders. A thick mane of hair grew over my shoulders, down my back. "I like this mask. I almost look real."
Nate grabbed a tiny patch of fur on my back and yanked it out. I grabbed his hands.
"Don't do that, it hurts." Nate squirmed his hands-free and rubbed the bare patch on my back. He reached up, stroked my ears with one hand and petted my snout with the other. Without thinking about it, I licked his face with a thick, long tongue.
"If it were just a mask then you wouldn't feel hair being yanked, right?"
Even drunk I knew that. I messed up, sort of, drunken messed up.
"You didn't say this would happen."
"I warned you. It's cursed. Whoever wears the mask lives as the Minotaur."
"You mean I'm a real Minotaur, the ruler of the Maze twenty-four-seven?" I gestured at my reflection in the mirror. If what he said was true, I might never be fully human again. "You mean all the time?" I smiled as best I could with my new bullish face.
"Not quite all the time, only the daytime. At night you'll be like you are now, half-man, half-bull," Nate said, retrieving his cellphone from his desk. "We have to get you to a farm," Nate said. Nate phoned Galen and made arrangements. We drove a Fiat 500. Galen, the Barkeep, owned an SUV.
"Tell him to bring a six-pack of his home-brew. I got a bull-sized hankering for the good stuff." I laughed a deep, funky, animalistic laugh. Nate sighed.
He guided me down the freight elevator and to the loading dock. Galen handed me a six-pack and screamed and yelled in his native Greek. It sounded terrible, like blasphemy from the 'Maw of Hades' as Preacher Smith used to say on Sundays. He wouldn't let either of us drive his precious SUV. I sat alone in the back seat on a towel because Galen thought I'd stain his seats.
Nate gave him directions to the ranch. He drove like a crazy man, and I had to brace to keep my antlers from ripping the upholstery.
Once there, I remembered all the smells from my youth; the musty house, the well-used barn, horses, chickens, barn cats. All surrounded by fields of corn, a pond, and somewhere nearby, cattle.
That was a month or two ago.
These days, I live a carefree life. By day, I'm Taurus, the prize bull, doing stud service. My steers born with big beefy bodies, all of them prime. Their meat is sold to the finest restaurants across the country. By night, I'm the Minotaur, ripped and shredded muscles, gloriously shaggy-maned, beautifully long-horned, and hung like a bull stud. My human offspring are big, brawny boys, athletes, and champions, all of them. I'm working to have fifty sons, one living in each state.
Amazing how a few beers can change your life.
1950 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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