“And if you stand here,” said the University of Northern Mississippi tour guide, “you can see the football stadium, the baseball field, and the student union all at the same time!”

She had led them onto a raised platform atop one of the four hills that made up the campus. While looking at the three visible landmarks simultaneously, an orienteer and soon-to-be freshman noticed a snaky pattern inlaid in brick below their feet. “What’s that?” she said, gesturing at the convoluted, folding-in-upon-itself design.

“Oh, that doesn’t mean anything that I’m aware of,” said the tour guide. “But the view is-”

She was interrupted by a loud harrumph from a nearby bench, where someone was sitting bundled up in a coat against the summer heat. “Doesn’t mean anything that you’re aware of?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s just a pretty symbol,” the tour guide said.

“I’ll have you know that is a labyrinth, designed after the famous Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral, and one of the later expressions of a cultural shape that is innate throughout world history. From the Cretans to the Romans, to the prehistoric inhabitants of the Solovetsky Islands, the labyrinth–as distinct from the maze–has one of the richest cultural heritages of any symbol in history. This particular iteration is often thought to be used by pilgrims as a substitute for a costly and dangerous trip to the Holy Land!”

“Geez, it’s just a little squiggle,” the tour guide said. “Lighten up.” She led the group down the hill and away, with a sidelong look.

“Hmph.” The speaker took off their hat and jacket, shaking their snout and rubbing their horns. “Just a little squiggle to you, maybe. To a minotaur, it’s heritage. I bet you wouldn’t feel the same way if I said that Sigma Qoppa Nu was just a bunch of letters.”

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A Long Way from Minos

“I like to come up here at night. It’s the only place in town where I can eat a bird in peace. Eating a bird is very important in Minotaur culture. It’s how we commune with our taurcestors and with the Minogods. Everywhere else, people point and laugh, or they tell me that I’m being cruel to animals, or that the birds aren’t organic enough.”

“Why don’t you raise some chickens so you can eat birds and their eggs?”

“It’s illegal to raise chickens in New York anymore. I could never leave. Minotown’s the only place I feel at home; there’s nowhere else with such Minotaur delis and vibrant Minoculture. People tell me I should go home to Crete, but I was born here. I’ve never eaten a bird that wasn’t from here. I’ve never slaughtered the lost in a labyrinth that wasn’t a New York labyrinth.”

This post incorporates a modified version of this portrait and this cityscape both from the Wikimedia Commons. Please see their pages for full rights information for the images used in creating this transformative parody work.

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