|Written by Jamie Lackey / Artwork by Lee Kuruganti
Thin silver branches whipped Sophie's bare skin as she ran through the dark woods. She stumbled and
twisted to protect her right arm as she fell onto dirt packed as hard as rock. The air rushed out of her
lungs. She scrambled to her feet without looking back.
The basilisk wouldn't need to catch her if she looked back.
Her lungs burned and her bleeding feet screamed with every step, but she kept moving. If she could get
to the maze, everything would be all right. The minotaur would protect her. She was doing this for him,
~ * ~
Sophie was about to go meet the Minotaur. Excitement and fear warred in her belly. She took a deep
breath and eyed the magic portal her mother had just completed in the courtyard of their palace. "How
do you know it will work?" she asked.
"My magic always works," her mother said.
"I don't want to turn him into stone. And I'm afraid he'll hate me." She reached out and touched the
runes carved into the stone arch. "I don't want him to hate me."
"You're a gorgon, people are going to hate you. But the minotaur is too weak to truly hate. Go, if you're
going. If not, then I will put you to work for wasting my time."
Work meant dusting the statues her mother kept lined up in the basement. Sophie hated looking at their
tortured stone faces. But what if her mother was lying to her to try to finally trick her into using her
horrible power on someone? Any living thing she looked at turned to stone. Her mother called it their
gift, but Sophie thought it was a curse. After one more moment of hesitation, she stepped through the
She screamed in pain and fell to the ground as magic reshaped her body. Her tail split, her forked tongue
merged and shortened, and her skin grew soft and warm. She laughed in relief through her pain. Her
mother hadn't lied. She was human, and she was in the heart of the Minotaur’s maze. The garden
around her was alien, but beautiful, through her new eyes. The sound of running hoof beats filled her
strange external ears. She tried to get up, but her unfamiliar legs collapsed beneath her.
The Minotaur approached her warily and knelt beside her. "Where did you come from?" His voice was
deep and smooth, and Sophie couldn't read any emotion in his face.
"The castle." Her new voice rang strangely in her ears. "My mother—" Sophie froze as his bovine face
darkened in anger.
"You are one of those monsters?"
Hot water filled Sophie's eyes, and she blinked hard. The water dripped down her cheeks. "I wish I
The Minotaur slowly reached out and wiped a drop of water off her cheek. He looked at his wet finger.
Sophie wiped the other cheek and looked at her own fingers. "What is this water?"
"They are tears." His voice was unexpectedly gentle. "I didn't think your kind would be able to cry."
"Well, I am human, right now."
"So you are. How? And why? What are you doing here, child?" he asked.
"I'm lonely. I thought you might be lonely too, so I asked my mother to allow me to turn into something
that could visit you. She said a human would be easiest, since we're already almost half human. I was
worried she might be tricking me, but she wasn't." Sophie worried that she was talking too much. Her
mother always told her that no one liked a chatterbox. "I thought maybe we could be friends. I don't
have any friends."
He stared at her for a long moment, then smiled at her. "Do you like flowers?"
"I've never been able to look at live ones before. They turned to stone."
"Then let me show you my garden." He helped her to her unsteady feet and half carried her around,
pointing out the different kinds of roses.
As they walked around the fountain that stood in the middle of the garden, Sophie stopped and stared.
A stone Minotaur stood in the center, her hands held out in supplication. "Is that really your wife?"
"It is." His deep voice was heavy with sorrow, and tears filled his golden eyes as he looked at the figure in
Sophie examined the pleading face. "I think she's beautiful."
"I wish you could have seen her when she smiled."
~ * ~
Sophie saw the dark green hedges and hope gave her strength for an extra burst of speed. "Help!" she
shouted on a ragged exhale, as she scanned for the entrance. It had to be close—it faced the silver
She couldn't see it. She looked left, then right. The wrong choice wasn't an option.
Something slithered behind her, and she bolted away from the sound, toward the right.
With a wave of intense relief, she spotted the entrance in front of her.
The air was cooler in the maze, and it smelled like flowers. The moss-covered ground beneath her feet
was like heaven. She was instantly calmer, but she turned a dozen corners before she let herself slow.
When the Minotaur built the maze, he'd made certain it was impossible to track by scent, but the basilisk
could still sense the heat of her skin and the vibrations of her feet on the ground.
She walked quickly, her left hand clutched to her side. Her breath was still coming in harsh pants.
She didn't shout again—she couldn't afford to give the basilisk any other ways to track her. If the
Minotaur hadn't been waiting at the entrance, then he'd be in the heart of the maze, tending to his
roses, and she could find his garden blindfolded.
She stepped out into the open center of the maze, and she chanced a whisper. "Minotaur, are you here?"
"Of course, child." He had been weeding behind a rosebush, and moonlight glittered off of his golden
horns as he stood.
"It followed me out of the castle."
The Minotaur strode over to the gap where she'd entered. "Did it follow you into the labyrinth?"
She shrugged. "I didn't look."
A smile tugged at the corners of the Minotaur’s lips. He muttered a few words in a language Sophie
didn't understand, and the hedges began to writhe and grow incredibly fast. In moments, the opening
~ * ~
Sophie trailed her fingers in the cool water of the fountain. "My mother and I had another fight. She
wants me to stop coming here. She thinks you're making me weak."
"Can she stop you?" the Minotaur asked.
"She can do anything she wants to." She got up and paced back and forth. "She said if I didn't do what
she wanted, you'd join your wife in the fountain. I hate her."
"I will miss your visits. I don't know what I would have done without you, these past years."
Sophie stopped pacing and stared up at the statue in the fountain. "I wish there was some way I could
change your wife back to flesh so you could leave this place. I wish at least one of us could be free."
The Minotaur closed his eyes and sighed. "I have heard of a way, a potion, but it requires a basilisk egg."
Sophie stopped pacing. "I can get you an egg. I'd have to go in this body, because my real eyes would
turn the egg to stone, but I can leave through the maze and sneak into the castle."
He shook his head. "That's too dangerous. What if you run into your mother?"
"I've gotten pretty good at avoiding her. Don't worry. She won't see me."
"You'd be in danger from the basilisk, too."
"Only if I meet its eyes." She took the Minotaur’s hands. "I can do this."
He sighed. "It has to be stolen under the light of the full moon."
"That does make things harder." Sophie ran her fingers through her hair. "But I can still do it."
"You'll need some way to carry it."
Sophie waggled her fingers at him.
"You could drop it. Or crush it. If you're going to risk yourself for this egg, it has to get here whole. I can
craft you a pouch—shape your flesh the way I shape my hedges."
Sophie held out her right arm.
"It will hurt," he warned as he drew a thin silver knife.
Sophie closed her eyes. "I'll be fine."
The Minotaur started to chant, then he sliced deep between the muscles in her bicep.
The pain was as intense as her transformation, but concentrated in her arm. She bit back a scream.
After a few more moments of chanting, he slid the knife out. "It is done."
The slit in her arm was bloodless, but her arm ached. "When is the next full moon?"
~ * ~
"Did you get the egg?"
Sophie nodded and pulled a tiny soft-shelled egg from her arm pouch. The egg looked even smaller in his
huge hairy hand. He glanced up toward the full moon and grinned. She'd never seen him look so happy,
and she had to blink back tears from the wave of emotion his joy gave her. "Everything is in order then."
Sophie followed him to the fountain. "Do you think it will work? Will she really become flesh again?"
"I hope so." He pulled Sophie into a tight hug. "Thank you."
"I'm just glad I could make up for my family's cruelty." Sophie buried her face in his furry shoulder. "And
repay you for at least some of your kindness." He smelled like honey and freshly turned earth. She tried
to capture the moment in her memory—he'd turn his wife back to flesh and leave this place, and she'd
never see him again. She sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand when he let her go. "I
need to get back." She picked one of his roses and brushed the soft petals against her cheek. She'd
miss so many things about this place.
"You could come with us," he offered.
Sophie shook her head. "She'd never let you go if she didn't have someone to punish." She walked to
portal that would transport her back the palace and change her back into her true form. She wiped away
her tears, knowing that they'd be the last she ever cried. "Good luck."
She stepped through the door, barely wincing at the familiar pain of transformation. The basilisk was
curled on the stones at her mother's feet, and she was stroking its head.
Sophie faced them defiantly. She'd been vulnerable in her human form, but now she was immune to both
of their stone gazes.
"What have you done?" her mother asked. Her eyes glowed red and the snakes that writhed around her
"I righted a wrong," Sophie said, ignoring the angry snakes that surrounded her own face.
"You murdered a baby!" her mother shrieked.
Sophie glanced down at her scaly skin. The rose in her hand had turned to stone. "I sacrificed a monster
to save a friend."
Jamie Lackey earned her BA in Creative Writing from the
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Her fiction has been
accepted by over a dozen different venues, including The Living
Dead 2, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction.
She has appeared on the Best Horror of the Year Honorable
Mention and Tangent Online Recommended Reading Lists. She
reads slush for Clarkesworld Magazine, works as an assistant
editor at Electric Velocipede, and helped edit the Triangulation
Annual Anthology from 2008 to 2011.
Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.