The lights of Iraklion twinkle like grounded stars, inviting us to recreate the local myths. We are travelers and passengers in a deep moving gulf that opens into the Mediterranean sea. I can’t help but think what a powerful force the ocean is and that we are at the mercy of its every whim. The ship bobs like a rubber ducky. There is no sense of disruption: the consistent waves, the movement toward a blinking light, our silence, and the sound of water slapping the sides of the ship.
The sky is purple, almost black now, infused with white streaks of spilled milk. As I look closer on the horizon, the colors change from purple to blue to a yellowish-green and finally to orange. Orange halos appear closest to a source of light, like stars or planets.
“Would you like to hear a story?”
“What kind of story?” my mother asks.
“A twisted one.”
A story can begin in many places. It is always a question of how far back you want to go in the chain of causes and effects, because something always precedes the action, no matter where you begin.
“Crete had a mythical king named Minos,” I told her. “Minos worshipped Poseidon and prayed for a sign. Poseidon gave Minos a white bull, but the bull was so perfect that Minos couldn’t bear to sacrifice it. He replaced it with an ordinary bull. Of course, when he sacrificed the stand-in to Poseidon, the god got pissed.”
The wind grows in strength, blowing strands of lemony hair across her face.
“For revenge, Poseidon made the wife of Minos fall in love with the bull. She developed an uncontrollable lust for the animal. She fantasized about its immense whiteness incessantly, until one day she asked Daedelus for help with her embarrassing predicament. He suggested that if she had sex with it once, the cravings would probably cease. However, there was a logistical problem: the bull wouldn’t copulate with a human. So, she donned a life-like cow suit to trick the bull … and it worked.”
“Yes. Well, to make matters worse, she conceived. The offspring was a Minotaur: half man, half bull.”
Mother sips her tea, blinking into the wind. I zip my hoody up to my clavicles to block the powerful gusts. Island mountains glow by refracting their light off the water.
Mother looks over the edge of the railing, the water making slurping sounds, as if climbing the side of the boat. She cringes, goose bumps lit up by the moon.
“Now, Minos had a son and a daughter.”
“Oh yeah. The Athenians killed Minos’ son. As a peace pact, the king of Athens Aegeus agreed to send fourteen children every full moon to feed the Minotaur. But Aegeus also had a son named Theseus, who he included in a sneaky solution to the onerous sacrifices.
“Too much?” I ask, grazing my hand over the salt spray on the railing.
“No, it’s fascinating.”
With the black night above us, I continue. The lights of Iraklion grow brighter. “Aegeus told his son to raise white sails instead of black, if he succeeded in killing the Minotaur. When Theseus arrived he met Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who fell in love with him. She gave him a plan. When he got to the labyrinth, he tied her red yarn to the gate and unraveled it as he went.”
Mother’s eyes move with mine. Mixed languages dance on the deck above us. The night has become colder with wind whipping around the ship like the voice of night. Iraklion is enveloped in a throbbing, orange glow.
“The plan works. Yet, on the way back to Athens, they stop at Naxos, and Theseus somehow forgets his new girlfriend on the island. In anger, Ariadne places a curse on Theseus’ memory. He forgets to change the sails on his ship, so when he docks at the Athenian harbor, Aegeus sees black sails and jumps into the sea in his grief.”
Though the ship has moved a great distance, the moon still finds our faces. It drapes over our expressions and our silver-plated skin. Why is fear liquid?