Hannah – The White Bull

Summary

For three days rumors circulate amongst the cattle ranchers. More men are found each morning in the frost, gored and gnawed upon.  In daylight hours, the ranchers blame Nelson Story’s longhorns, brought by train from Texas to Western Montana.  It takes little imagination to picture the damage those massive horns could do to a man caught unaware.  But in the dark hours, they blame the white bull.  For a moment, we are transported to an ancient time, when a god cursed a Queen to fall in love with a white bull.

Leontis has been a ranch hand in Deer Lodge Valley, Montana for as long as he can remember.  Finishing his daily rounds, he comes upon a half-naked man with a sword, suspiciously prodding a frozen corpse. Leontis instinctively draws his pistol.  The man addresses him in an unknown tongue.  Through some creative sign language, the two agree this is the work of a mad bull. In accord, the stranger gestures for Leontis to follow him towards the mountains.

The snow begins to fall in earnest.  Leontis, on horseback, trudges behind the stranger, who seems impervious to the cold. Through flurries, Leontis sees familiar shapes pacing beside them.  They are longhorn bulls…though their signature red patches are so faded in the snow, the beasts appear eerily white. The bulls unexpectedly charge them.  The stranger leaps onto Leontis’s horse and the men gallop deeper into the valley.  Soon a horrifying silhouette confronts them, ancient and horned. It bellows, and the mountains crack ominously. The panicked horse shakes its riders and disappears into the oncoming avalanche.  Stuck in the snow, Leontis watches dazed as the stranger and the monster battle.  The stranger is fatally wounded, and Leontis fires on the Minotaur as the avalanche overwhelms them.

Time recedes, and Leontis opens his eyes to a terrible noise.  All around him is blackness and dripping stone. The Minotaur, bloody and clearly dying, has devoured the stranger whole.  It roars at Leontis and collapses.   Carved figures on the walls of the labyrinth seem to glow and twist.  There is a sculpture of a great snake with three heads, the first of a man, the second a lion, the third a bull. The bulls’ stone eyes glower. The snake intertwines a beautiful woman holding a spindle. Chronos, a voice whispers, and Necessitas.  From the spindle, a cool mist envelopes Leontis. When it vaporizes, he is identical in form and feature to the stranger, Prince Theseus of Athens. The carvings still and darken. Slowly, the new prince bends to clasp a familiar strand of twine. He passes the dead Minotaur as he follows the twine from the heart of the maze.     

Excerpt

Accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s Man with a Harmonica

She had despaired bitterly, most bitterly. But this construct was her salvation. She marveled at it. Like all Daedalus’s inventions, it was simple…but it’s genius was in it’s simplicity.  Shaped as a she-cow and covered in stitched hyde, with just the space inside she would require.  Positioned at last within the structure, palace guards carried her to his pastures.  At last, he would have her…

*    *    *

Leontis cocked his pistol. But he did not know what to make of the man, and could not rightly fire on him without first considering his predicament in each aspect.  He was stocky and dark-skinned, similar to the Indians of the Salish tribe. But his clothes were like nothing they wore. His clothes…Leontis shook his head.  They were not enough to keep a man alive long in Western Montana!  Still stranger was his sword.  It was not the saber of a cavalryman.  It was broader and heavier, shorter than a pickaxe and wickedly sharp.

And it was pointed at him.  Considerations.

“English?” Leontis asked.

The man, who appeared just as taken aback by the looks of Leontis, shook his head impatiently.  Eyes steady upon him, he stabbed his sword towards the corpse and spoke in a strange tongue.

The words, unintelligible, did not seem Salish. “You do that?” the ranch hand asked, pointing at the body with his chin. He looked more closely, and grimaced. Pockets of flesh gaped in the corpse’s chest. Just as it had been with the others.

Both men turned quickly to the sound of heavy hooves. The head of a white bull crested slowly over the hill, curved horns spanning five feet.  Hot steam shot from it’s nostrils as it breathed, and in a moment both Leontis’s gun and the strangers sword were trained on the animal. The bull, ignorant to danger, plodded past them without interest. Observing the red patches in the Longhorn’s thick coat, they released identical sighs of tension, and then glanced at each other, assessing.   

Leontis looked once more to the dead man on the ground.  Whatever dark implement that had killed him, it had not been the work of a sword. The stranger spoke again, more harshly, sheathed his sword, and curled his fingers to his head in the shape of horns.  He pointed to the corpse more gently, paused, then withdrew his sword and stabbed viciously towards the mountains.     

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