The Red Thread

Previously published online at Burning House Press

By Stephanie Parent

My Ariadne can see the future.

(My Ariadne. This is my version of the story.)

She spins her red thread, and it twists into shapes before her eyes, hearts and nooses. It tells her that Theseus turns out to be an asshole.

Seven young men and seven maidens arrive on the island, and Theseus outshines them all. His eyes are the sky blue of someone who believes he cannot fail, who believes he has no darkness within him. Those eyes make Ariadne dream of flight.

Theseus wonders how such a creature as the minotaur, half-beast, half-man, could be allowed to exist. Ariadne doesn’t tell him the last of the halves: the monster is her half-brother. She dreams of blue eyes in the evening, but her hands twist and turn the red thread. At midnight she dreams of mazes like arteries and veins, running red and blue.

Ariadne gives Theseus a coiled ball of thread the size of a heart. She tells him the thread will guide him out of the labyrinth.

Ariadne understands mazes. Her mind is a maze that switches back on itself, with dead ends and false passages. You love Theseus, one path says. You love the brother you’ve never met, says another. Don’t trust his blue eyes, says a third.

She pictures Theseus in the maze, trailing red thread with each step he takes. The walls are tall and damp and dripping moss as though they are alive. The sky is black and distant, and he can’t see the stars. The minotaur’s breath sounds like wind passing through the gaps between stones.

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Ariadne can see the future, but she couldn’t see the sword Theseus slid beneath his tunic, how he broke the rules of the sacrifice with his blue-eyed impunity.

Theseus stabs Ariadne’s brother. The blood drips from the minotaur’s human chest to its bull’s tail, long crimson strands like threads. The blue-eyed boy turns to follow the red thread out, but the spell Ariadne wove within it is working. The far end of the string has ignited, flames flying toward Theseus till the red thread dissolves to black ash in his hand.

He thinks he can follow the ash-like breadcrumbs, but the minotaur’s last breaths blow it away.

Theseus wanders the stone pathway as the sky above him lightens to the hue of a robin’s egg. Once the echo of the minotaur’s breath has faded, he can hear each slap of his leather sandals against the stone. The sound will grow fainter and fainter until, like the thread, it stops.

In the maze in Ariadne’s mind, walls burn away, and new ones ascend, passages reformed. Her brother is dead. Her almost-lover is dead. She will never be left alone on the shore of Naxos with only a saltwater lullaby to soothe her tears. Her brother will never devour another young man or maiden. She will never again hear his roar at night, the way his cries sounded almost like the syllables of her name.

Ariadne sits at her spindle and spins her thread all night long. The next day, she will gather madder for red dye and woad for blue.


Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.

One thought on “The Red Thread”

  1. Hi! I’ve been following your site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

    Like

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