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to conquer the labyrinth was to map it. At the very least, it would give us an overview of the place, just as when you place a grid over a country, you contain it somehow. It was a massive task. We began by putting up signs to identify the streets but people simply took them down or painted over them or worse, moved them somewhere else. Next, we tried describing each street according to the number of windows in it and how they were decorated but the natives were enthusiastic builders and never tired of making alterations, curving a corner here, adding a cul-de-sac there and we had to abandon this approach as well.” “Eventually, we were forced to label each crossroad according to our compass readings, which made the maps difficult to follow but we had no choice. We paced out distances using our own strides as measurements and in this way, after perhaps six months, we succeeded in charting the labyrinth from our part of the coast to the centre of the island, where the walls gave way to vast, barren plains of shingle, pitted with the haphazard indentations of shallow quarries. The cabin boy thought that the islanders built the labyrinth because they feared the lonely emptiness of the interior. Perhaps this was true years ago but I am not convinced.” “In truth, the people made us nervous. Some of the crew felt they were communicating with each other by their thoughts alone, for how else could everything run with such ease in the labyrinth? We began to worry that they knew we were fugitives and had conspired to drive us mad by refusing to acknowledge our presence. The entire island, not only the people but the walls themselves, seemed to be plotting to crush us. It was unbearable. The men were languishing for want of proper human relationships. Many of them had succeeded in spending the night with a woman and it must be said, they seemed to be free to do as they wished and generous with their favours. At first, the men exalted in this 11

L is for Labyrinth  
L is for Labyrinth  

L is for Labyrinth is a short story which is part of the book an a-z of possible worlds