Memories of Elvaston: Mazes and Minotaurs

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This IS Elvaston, but it isn’t the maze. Only picture I could find that properly conveys the fear.

I’ve always thought that my irrational fear of mazes stemmed from childhood visits to Elvaston Castle. I had distinct memories of chilly early Aprils many years ago when there were few visitors and the wind whistled through the twigs of the leafless maze. My parents were sitting on a bench outside the maze, leaving me to play, and my heart thudded as I wandered the twisting pathways, convinced I’d never find my way out. Finding a clearing with a statue and a bench was a relief, but also oddly terrifying, as I’d expected there to be other people there, and yet I was still alone. And worse, I felt that I wasn’t, that there was someone just around the corner, lurking unseen. I was left with an odd competing terror of being alone in the maze and not being.

This memory was the basis for my short story, Frozen, out today in Murder of Storyteller’s Faed anthology (yes, this whole thing is a plug! I tricked you!) So, it’s a story about fear and safety and how sometimes those two feelings are only a few meters apart. And because I love Greek mythology, thinking of a maze made me think of a minotaur. And when I think of a minotaur, I always think of Enkomi, the creation of my very talented friend, Gary Riley, back when I used to work in games. So I threw him in there too.

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Enkomi. Isn’t he gorgeous?

And, because I always like an element of ambiguity in my stories, it’s also a little about how your mind plays tricks on you, and you can never really be sure that what you think is happening is what is actually happening, particularly when you’re in a heightened emotional state.

Which brings me to The Shining. I first watched Kubrick’s adaptation in my mid-late teens and found it very unsettling. The hag in the bath and the bear giving head were burned into my brain for a very long time. So when I re-watched the film more recently, I was ready for those. What I was not ready for was the maze. A chilled labyrinth, semi-bared frosty branches rearing up on all sides, and an unseen monster lurking in there, somewhere.

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*Spaced Reference*

“This is it!” I said to my husband, “THIS is where my fear of mazes comes from!” And I thought about those times at Elvaston, really thought about them, and I realised I couldn’t remember one single time I’d been in the maze alone. I’d always been with my parents, or a schoolfriend, or at the very least my dog. For some reason my fevered brain had copied and pasted the sense of fear and isolation from the maze scene in the Shining into a vaguely related childhood memory. My story had more truth in it than I might’ve imagined.

Int the subconscious brilliant?!

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