*Author's Note: I started this as a futuristic retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur for an anthology. I ran out of time to write it and decided to use this beginning as a flash piece. Enjoy!*
Theseus studied the wide eyes and trembling hands while his fellow Athenians removed a stone from the bag. His father neared him and his heart quickened its pace. This ancient practice of drawing lots seemed barbaric to him, but the planet Crete demanded its next victim. A smooth rock in white or black couldn’t be manipulated like a computer. They learned from those mistakes.
President Aegeus stopped in front of him and offered the bag. “Close your eyes, son, and choose wisely.”
He shut his eyes while his hand felt out the cloth bag. It dipped inside. The stones were cool to the touch as he grasped one in his hand. His heat warmed it; his hand sweated.
His father finished handing out the last of the stones. He struck his hands together and the Athenians straightened at attention.
“We come here today to bid our chosen young men and women goodbye as they journey to their new lives on Crete. This is a great honor. Your names will be famous among your people. Now open your hands. Reveal your fate.” He spread his arms and gazed upon his people.
Theseus thought his dad almost believed his own words. Living on Crete, it was a joke. Who did his father believe he fooled? With a clenched jaw, he spread his fingers, revealing the stone.
The black stone.
His stomach dropped to his feet while bile rose in his throat. He swallowed the acrid mixture.
Hands fell upon his shoulders. His father stood behind him, clenching him.
He heard his father’s pain and shock at this turn of events. Wails punctuated the cheers of those chosen or not. Blood rushed in his ears, dulling the chaos around him.
“Do I have to go?”
The fingers dug into his skin before his father released him. He came around before him.
“It’s an honor, son. Take care in Crete.”
Aegeus paused. Clouds passed over his features. His eyes darkened; a frown turned his lips. His hand rose, shook in the air between them, but then fell to his side.
“Our chosen ones need to gather on the ship. It’s time for them to journey to Crete.”
Theseus’s jaw dropped at his father’s callous. He was the president of Athens, but he would do nothing for them. He wouldn’t risk another war with Crete to save his only son and heir.
Anger bubbled in his gut as he walked stiff-legged toward the spaceship. His teeth ground together at the building rage. He wanted to yell, refuse to go. He tried to meet his father’s gaze, but he refused to look at him. Aegeus cared more about his planet than his son.
He lifted his head and sprinted on that ship.
Crete would be his destiny. He would save his people, not his father.
He would not lie down and be a sacrifice.