Sophia’s story: ‘To Hunt, or be Hunted?’

Highly commended

Suddenly I awoke and rose from my resting position, eyes still bloodshot no matter how long I rested, fur still tangled no matter how I pulled at it. I twitched my snout, sensing that something about today was different… Oh yes. Today was the day that I got an offering of 14 young Athenians, all for myself… with tender, still springy flesh… But wait. Today was also the day I would change. I would NOT let myself fall back into my gruesome habits. I would control my mind, stop my thoughts from going into that red haze of blood lust at the sight of my offerings.

As I loosened my muscles from lying on the cold dirt floor all night, I practiced a few angry snorts and tosses of my head. Whenever people thought of vicious bulls, or in my case, a bull-man, it is always the angry snorts and head tossing that comes to mind; and so, as the actor accepts their part in a play, so must I in this vindictive mess of a ‘life’ that I lead. 

Having lived in the Labyrinth for many years, I subconsciously navigated my way through it. After running for several long hours, I knew that it was time. Time to become a clumsy, lumbering puppet, angrily roaming the Labyrinth for Athenians, however, always striking a second too slow to kill. Yet was this… nervousness rapidly running through my veins? I, the towering, intimidating, vicious Minotaur was nervous? How utterly, comedically shameful. But now was not the time to ponder about how tough I truly was inside. Now was the time to act my part.

Over time, I had trained my ears to analyse the sounds of the footsteps of my prey – the heavy-footed ones were most likely the bashful, the over-confident; the ones I usually left until last. Then there were the sneaky ones with their swift measured steps around the maze, the ones who merged with the shadows, hiding from me. But the mistake that these ones always made is that they forget that I am half bull, meaning that yes, they may be able to hide from my eyes, but no, no one can hide from my snout. I always smell them out. Lastly, there are those who are easy prey. The frightened, flustered souls who walk with rapid steps that kick up dust, and startle any bats or creatures nesting in the Labyrinth walls, like blaring sirens to my senses.

However, this year, I could hear the footsteps of a different kind. A kind I had not ever come across. This Athenian moved swiftly and confidently, but with a tinge of apprehension – a perfect mix of the three types of humans I was usually offered. Somehow, this filled me with fear, consequently removing all thoughts of changing, and not killing, from my mind. One thing was certain though; I would hunt down this different Athenian first.

It didn’t take long for me to find them – or rather, it didn’t take long for them to find me. I felt as though our roles had reversed, that I was the prey… and I hadn’t even met this Athenian yet.

We met at a sharp corner in the maze. He was tall and well built, his skin bronzed and his muscles well formed. However, I didn’t spend much time looking at him, for he immediately lunged at me with a long, glinting sword. How rude for him, the prey, to begin this battle! Nimbly I dodged, before charging, horns first towards him. But whilst I was running, caught up in the false glamour of battle, I forgot one small detail. A detail I would dearly pay for later.

Mid-charge, my left hoof snagged on a humble rock, causing my great form to come crashing down to the ground. The fates truly did not have me in their favour today, for as I fell, my arm was impaled by one of my horns. Oh, the pain to be humiliated not once, but twice in front of what I had thought of as prey, but was now starting to look up at as the predator. He simply stared for a few seconds, obviously surprised, before his eyes hardened and gained an almost pained expression. As he swung back his sword, I finally knew and accepted that this was it. Finally, the sword hit my neck, and then…

The cool transition from life, to death.