The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
They were led, hands bound,
gagged and drugged by a hooded
Cult that chose them for their beauty.
Fourteen captives herded through
quiet streets in the dark of
a moonless eve.
Seven maids and seven young men,
cast into a catacomb-like vault
every nine years. Such was the penalty
for keeping dormant the savage
temperament of a spoiled goddess whose
name stood for untamed.
The Cult Of Thera believed
humanity’s fate rested on performing
this duty. And so, without remorse,
a solemn cadre escorted the innocents
to a concealed entrance where
palms pressed stones in an ancient wall
and a section rasped inward to reveal
the gate. More stones indented.
This reserve barrier scraped aside.
A carved staircase disappeared
into a black abyss . . .
“May the gods show mercy.”
A low-pitched chant; a prayer for
the ritual to end and spare these victims.
“Quickly!” Shadows loomed beyond
a torch’s glow. The sacrifices descended,
obedient. Their tomb sealed.
There are mazes that go for miles.
Then there are tunnels that curve and
take you in circles —
until driven insane by the sound of
your own footsteps, repeating in
somber lonesome peals.
Fruitless treads. The strides of lost hope.
One of these maddening interminable paths
lay below the island of Krete.
A Daedalian construction, a convolution.
The life-size puzzle had a purpose.
It was sacred ground.
Guarded from public awareness.
Winding, wending ever on.
You’ve heard the legend, but this was
different. More of a curse.
When Thera blew her top in the form of
a massive volcano, she split the ears
of deities and gave her parents colossal
headaches. Her tantrum was so intense,
no mortal witnesses survived.
Waves towered. Heavens turned to
ash and fumes, toxic gas in the
A moment of doom and great gloom . . .
Neighbors could only guess at
its noise and fury, the days of night.
An isle named after her, bearing shrines
to the Harvest Mistress, was half-destroyed
in her flaming cauldron blast; life on
Krete forever changed by losses.
A tragedy, felt deeply above.
And it was not the first of her outbursts.
“She cannot be allowed to vent
childish wrath, to quake or spit rocks,
ignite further mountains of fire!”
The gods voted to punish Thera.
“If you have such enormous pride,
shaking land, speaking in thunder,
churning the seas, dimming the sky with
dust, we banish you to spend Eternity
as a bull, confined beneath the earth
where you will do less harm!”
Even worse, the vain goddess would
scarce be remembered . . . but for
a secret society of human caretakers.
Among them, an architect was appointed
to build her dungeon, a vast Labyrinth
based upon a spirit road to the Underworld,
a series of subterranean caves.
“I am a princess! You cannot do this to me!”
Angry howls echoed unheeded. She paced,
roaming desolate passages, awaiting
her next meal, yearning to be free.
The daughter of a goddess and King Minos,
she was born a vision of loveliness.
Perfect features had been marred —
reduced to the countenance of a bull!
It was a cruel trick, and her conceited heart
seethed. “Is that dinner I hear? It’s about
time! I’ve been starving down in this hole!”
She hunted the latest morsels and toyed
like a cat playing Mouse. Thera also meant
reaper in addition to a wild nature;
she might be erased from the Pantheon,
yet she was true to her name.
“You cannot hide from me. I know these
tunnels, having stalked them for ages!
I shall sweep you with my horns
the way a sickle cuts grain!”
Fits of laughter seized her. “I’ll be your
death!” she bellowed, suppressing
mirth. A threatening voice rumbled
and reverberated every shaft.
The group huddled in fright as their
sedatives wore off. Then divided,
scrambling, mice in pursuit of cheese
along a network of paths that went
round and round.
She located them one by one,
inhuman, more ogre than bull, and they
nourished the beast’s appetite.
Not her contentment. As usual,
she offered to spare a handsome male.
“You may live if you promise
that you will stay and be my companion.”
Revealing her face, stepping into
the torchlight, she smiled.
And as always, the young man
refused — calling her hideous, ugly.
Humiliated and spurned, Thera’s visage
burned scarlet. Shame followed by rage
colored feminine eyes, bovine cheeks,
a fur-coated complexion. Try though she
might, her powers had been sealed
within the Labyrinth like a burial chamber’s
gold and jewels. Arms raised,
a second pair of horns. “Then you must
dance with the bull!” She charged to
sling him upon her points,
tossed him in the air and caught him
till at last he was speared. The tauress
ate him for dessert. And wailed at
the prospect of being alone,
unfed, another nine years . . .
Her tedium and solitude endured
even as civilizations crumbled, combined,
vanished on the surface. Many things
would develop and disappear,
grow and wither, yet her Cult remained.
Perhaps a few members broke the vow of
silence. As tales and rumors often did,
facts turned to fiction. One myth
in particular emerged of a princess named
Ariadne who helped a hero escape the
perplexing maze of a Minotaur.
It read like a romance! Thera would not
be pleased to see herself depicted in
a common and cringe-worthy fashion,
for she was a modern girl.
Fiction © Copyright Lori R. Lopez
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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