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The following tome is best enjoyed as presented by Penumbral Press: laid across a wide, open-face spread. Should you encounter this work in a narrower format, consider yourself forewarned that it may intrude upon your reading experience.

With thanks, The Publisher


I stood before the stonework arch: the only break in the towering, mortarless expanse of wall gently curving away from me on either side. Here, on the threshold of the labyrinth, I paused — collected my thoughts — and strode onward.

The sun, once oppressive, felt cool as it greeted me again, having been briefly eclipsed by the vaulting curve of the aperture. On this new side, the damp and heavy air prickled the hairs across my arms under the leather of my well-worn coat. Slowly, I raised my hand to the breast pocket and withdrew the item within. The finely polished brass gleamed as it caught the sun, illuminating the complexities of metalworking upon the disc's face; incised lines glimmered, a testament to the intaglio masterwork I held. Were it not for the regularity of space between the carvings — I mussed — it could pass as metallic stump from a fallen old-growth forest. Yet the rings counted not time but space.

Here was my map, which would lead me through the dark and twisting path ahead.

I raised it against my brow. The metal was cool against my skin as I held it there. As I lowered it downward,

Everything remained the same.

I looked down the branching path before me. The gently curving stonework offering no insight or hidden clue to aid my advance. I grew embarrassed and uneasy, like a child waiting to cross a road that, hitherto, had constituted the end of the familiar. I glanced down at the disc in my hand, shifting it gently. I ran my fingers over the smooth metal, flip, the carved face.

Whatever revelation this trinket promised me had faltered. But faith is easier shifted than abandoned. If not magic, luck would aid me instead. A chance: heads, tails, left, right. flip. That settled, I slunk along the curving edifice, uncertain of my path.

After only a few steps, I found the stone wall opening to my side and continuing forward, curving ahead. I let my hand, resting on the wall, guide me around its curve. Yet in my head, an unnerving thought nagged at me: had I already been this way before?

This suspicion, this uncertainty, grew as my journey lengthened. Onward and onward I walked. At times meeting a dead-end and looping back the way I came. Was it the way I came? The walls, ever the same heaps of stone, offered no landmark. My pace hastened as the chill air settled in my chest.

The walls: continuous, unchanging forms, melded in my mind. I was missing something. I could only see broken fragments of a whole. I ran through the twists and turns, driven by exhilaration and fear, disrupted into pauses by rationality and uncertainty. I had lost sense of time, of distance, of meaning beyond forward and back — shifting lefts and rights.

Disorientation encompasses me: I act without knowing the way.

I stop myself. Distraught, my breath ragged and chest heaving, I reflect for a moment. Knowing only that I am here. And then I feel it; I am not truly alone.

I am the wanderer; I am Dante.

I reach upward.

I am

Everything had changed.

Gone was the masonry, and in its place, I — bodyless, formless — beheld a series of concentric rings. The work of artifice before me existed without scale. I could make out minute details and its grandiose complexity: narrow pathways spiralled, branched, and curved serpentine through it, leading to unwanted ends and, lastly, the center: the meaning of it all.

This void of self intrigued me, I had no eyes, no form — I saw, without sight; the experience was pleasant, freeing. I let my gaze slip lazily across the contrived intricacy of the labyrinth before me, searching without meaning to, for something familiar.

There! Near what I would learn to be the entrance, I spotted it. A speck of dust, moving slowly through the twists and turns. Its progress was slow, faltering; its start-stop pace betraying a lack of confidence. Yet this oddity captivated my attention

I would watch the moving thing, trace its futile and meandering path endlessly. Each recourse to systems of thinking and determination were abandoned as new attempts at navigation arose. Yet for it all, its progress towards the end was slender and at times undone by fugue diversions along backward paths.

How it races! Each wrong turn infuriates, each wasted moment dragging on through an unending expanse of time. To see, to know the path I had traced it in my consciousness a hundred times over, was relaxing: the maze was ordered, rational, intuitive. But to follow the cretin within, lost to it, was torturous. If I could only grasp the wayward soul and show the way.

Frustration overwhelms me: I recognize the way but cannot act.

I will away the sight. Darkness envelopes me in a senseless pause. The rising tide of perturbations pass, receding as I open myself again to witness the figure, motionless. It sees me.

I am the guide; I am Virgil.

I reach downward.


The maze unfurled before me. With vision and motion, I tread — confidently — onward. Walking along the paths became meditative. I knew what lay before me and grew closer with every moment. Trance-like, I made my way along, through the silent turns. My pace was steady and unflinching as the hitherto labyrinthine complexity unwound, shifting into a conceivable route. I walked knowing I grew ever closer to the center; what was once beyond sight, knowledge, achievement, and obtainability now lay within reach.

With this shifting paradigm came reflection. One may assume that the duality of experience I had undergone was jarring or wonder how I could reconcile such opposition: did one consciousness subsume or repress the other? Might I fear for the day that othered self would return to claim stake to the assemblage of "I?" In truth, these thoughts hadn't occurred to me. Each set of memories were distinct from one another, cohabiting along a new, non-sequential axis of thought. The experience of the mind-in-body felt no truer than the mind-without. Indeed, the moment of unity was pleasant. My thoughts were upon this perplexing contemplation as I turned the last corner of the maze.

And then I saw it. From the narrow, claustrophobic spaces I had traversed, the clearing before me seemed infinite. My spine straightened and my breath deepened as I crossed the border that defined the maze. And there it greeted me.

The circular expanse was dominated by a great misshapen form. There, the rocky monolith, whose broken peak left two angry, jagged spikes piercing the grey sky. Its substance was paradoxical: half shone with the splendour of artistic precision, curving ornamental vines and esoteric overlapping of lines and shape — yet also it was crude, unfinished in parts, lumpy and angular. Against it grew a pale tree, the tallest of its grasping branches reaching the statue's midway.

I have hitherto spoken only of the labyrinth; before me stood the Minotaur, witness of my transgression. Its presence demanded acknowledgment and response. Though I had voyaged through the labyrinth behind me, its challenge had been passive: it cared not whether I progressed through it, abandoned my goal and sought the entrance, or became lost forever in its winding turns. In contrast, I could tell by its heaving dominance and extruding sense of self that the obstacle before me would confront me directly: it did not want me to progress.

Weary, I settled down against the wall and set about recording the day's (days'?) events, to be presented to you, dear reader.

Of this subsequent trial, I shall write another time.

~ Kinslow

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