The Minotaur: Chiaroscuro

by Salvatore Difalco

[ read the suite in correct order ]



The world is divided into distinct halves. The right side bright and full of chattering people living good lives and willing to talk about it. The left side dark, thronged by sullen figures absorbed in dark, unspeakable thoughts. I’m having trouble breathing. I expected as much. And hearing, forget about it. Might as well be buried. But that comes with the turf. The bifurcation of the world, however, comes as an unpleasant surprise. Who knew? Maybe one of the eyes has a darker lens. That’s too easy.

The bus rumbles and wheezes along. No one dares sit beside me, there in the middle of the back seat, no one from the dark side, no one from the bright side. My peripherals are blocked, but I know that no one sits to my left or to my right and that no one will sit there.

I’m perspiring heavily, armpits soaked. Raging thirst. I just want to get home now. My plans for the day have been scotched. I just want to get home and think about the next thing, the next thing I must do. A young man in a tight black suit sits in front of me, to the left. He turns and smiles. An exception in the gloom. I see half his face as I try to adjust my eyeholes. Dark-haired, square-jawed, exuding cocky but friendly energy. I nod in acknowledgment. I understand how this must look.

“What’s your story?” he asks.

“Supposed to be a Minotaur.”

“Speak up, man.”

“I’m supposed to be a Minotaur!”

“Yeah, I gather that, but the question is why? I mean, in the middle of the day?” He taps his wristwatch, holding it up as though he knows I’ll have trouble spotting it without assistance. “Kinda early for a costume ball, eh?”

“That’s later, yes, a party.” A party to which I wasn’t invited, speaking of which. “But I was trying on the mask and—well, I can’t get it off.”

The young man chuckles into his hand.

“It’s not funny,” I say.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but you can’t get it off?”

“Believe me, I mashed my nose, ripped my ears and almost broke my jaw trying to get it off, but no go. I’m—it’s fucking stuck.”

The barista and I had spent the better part of an hour trying to pull the thing off, after I let him convince me to try it on “just for the hell of it.” The towel must have got jammed up inside there and we couldn’t get the mask off my head no matter how we tugged and twisted it. The barista said we needed a lubricant and grabbed a stick of butter from the cooler and greased me up, but all that did was stain my shirt. I figured my only option was to cut the bastard off.

“That’s fucked up,” says the young man. “Like, really out there.”

“I know. And I missed an appointment to sign my divorce papers. My ex will be pissed. She thinks I still love her.”

“Do you?”

“It’s—it’s been five years …”

“Anything I can do?”

“Like what?”

“Take you to Emergency or something? Tricky getting that thing off by yourself.”

“No, forget that shit.”

The young man stares at me with serious eyes.

“So you’re just going to go home and do it yourself?”

“Yeah, I’m going to cut it off.”

He leans over and taps the mask. “Gonna need a saw to get that sucker off.”

“Think so?”

The young man rings the bell and looks at me sadly.

“This is me,” he says.

“So it is.”

“Good luck with that.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I say, barely containing my tears.



more 2018 FLASH SUITE Contest



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