The Mechanical Bull

Nobody rides me anymore. Nobody plays with me. A forgotten invention, I stroll the meandering avenues of high walls made of coral and swaying veils of golden sargassum as I rust at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes a calamarius will stare into my white glass eyes encasing black marbles, and pass on, thinking that I am lifeless and pointless–not good for eating or even avoiding. Once, I was black, shiny and well-oiled, my long horns curling outward, my arched back rising like a mountain, my steel hooves stomping, skidding and rolling through the dust of labyrinthine avenues like these as I blew clouds of steam from my flaring nostrils, in the days when there was a bright sun above and fragrant hedges, and the pale temples and towers rose into the azure sky above the labyrinth. The inventor abandoned me for birds and other contraptions, but he made me for the queen, or to test whether or not I would pleasure the queen. I believe he was horrified by her passion; perhaps she was too. Perhaps a few rides on me would scare the passion from her limbs, and clarity would return and the curse would be lifted. She rode me once, but then walked away, much disappointed. After that, I was shoved into the maze to gather dust while the inventor fashioned a machine to encase the real bull. The bull came to me from time to time asking me questions about his upcoming marriage. Out of jealousy or rivalry, I snorted and refused to answer. After it happened, I came across him one day in a shady corner of the maze, where he just stared at the wall and wept silently. It was not as it should have been, he sobbed, or something to that effect. Not long after, he was gored and eaten by that minotaur thing he had sired, the most hideous thing I have ever seen, which I in turn gored to avenge him or to put an end to fear. I have no idea why they began to speak of warriors or magic threads or of chimerical ships with thirty oars that could last a thousand years and magic dolphins. None of that is true. Men and women always think that the story is theirs, that they could be anything but tangential, much as horses seem to think that they alone act out history. In the maze, there were only three bovine contenders: nature, machinery, and a monster. I regret that nature did not win, but perhaps in a way it did. Something went wrong when the inventor worked on me, something ghosted me. I received something I should not have, and when the queen sat on me, I felt a warmth I should not have. I have often wondered why the queen went mad for that bull, in whose image I was made and whom I avenged. Perhaps in lusting for it, she was really lusting after their god, who often takes the form of a bull. They say he carried off a beautiful maiden in this way, crossing the sea to discover a new continent in which to bed her. And not having had such a divine experience herself, she sought to manufacture one, a twisted simulacra of the one she desired. Only she would know. Several thousand years passed. I was discovered by the men of the west, who fight bulls and sail the seas. They act out the original myth in an arena in a very stylized and bloody fashion, as a ropemaker and a blacksmith explained to me in the hull one night. On another voyage, a captain’s daughter rode me and I remembered the joy of contact with another human being after millenia of being alone. For weeks, I felt I was in paradise. The rum flowed, the sailors talked and sang, the young woman came to ride me in the damp darkness below deck. A hurricane blew our ship off course, however, and I watched her drown and disappear into the jaws of sharks and fish. I watched the sargassum grow over pieces of eight. I always try to sing the ballads of the sailors who once danced and watched bullfights under the golden sun. I want to tell them that the toro and matador are one. Wherever there is bloodshed, there is a haunting intimacy. The works of men and horses are strange. Tomorrow I will continue to rust into the dirty water.

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