Prompt: You wake up one morning, and you aren’t in your bed.  You’re not even in your room.  You’re in the middle of a giant maze.  A sign is hanging from the ivy: You have one hour.  Don’t touch the walls.

I stand there staring  at the sign overhead taunting me with its writing in bold script”: You have one hour.  Don’t touch the walls.”  A blinking digital clock appears out of nowhere counting down, and I stand hypnotized unable to step forward.  58:10 blinked the clock, and I jolted forward forcing myself to take deep breaths.  Labyrinths were supposed to promote peace, and inner calm.

‘I can do this, I told myself.  I moved forward 5 steps, then ten.  It looked like I was on a main path; I could see the exit, a light hanging above it beckoning me forward. I could be out within minutes.

I continued, and mist settled in thick enough to obscure the exit. I sighed: so much for a quick five-minute interruption to my day. I would need every second of the 45 minutes to get this.  I raised my hand trying to cut through it to no avail, and slowed my steps.  A figure appeared out of nowhere grey hair sticking out at all angles.

Their clothes were torn, I could see cuts, and scrapes on the skin.  A bruise blossomed around their eyes.  As I drew closer I realized they were a woman.  She slumped to the floor stretching out.  “Don’t touch the walls.  D..Don’t touch the walls.”  I took her hand making soothing noises.  She closed her eyes, relaxed.

“Why? What happens if you do?” I asked.  Covered with ivy they didn’t exactly invite a good touch.  Still I was curious.

“Don’t touch the walls. Don’t touch the walls.  Don’t touch the walls.”  It was a mantra to her now.

I gave up my questioning.  “What happened to you?”

“My heart’s desire turned bitter.  Don’t touch the walls.” She repeated.

“I promise, I won’t touch the walls.  I gave my most reassuring smile.  I sat next to her taking her hand.  I confronted the next riddle: “What’s your heart’s desire?”

A beatific smile covered her face, her eyes twinkling.  I was with him.”  She said looking at me; or was it past me?

“I loved him, and he never knew.  I finally told him, and we were happy for a while.  We agreed to elope.  We were on our way and… she coughed.  I raised her shirt to check for broken bones.

“Some kind of accident?” I asked.  A hacking noise piercing the silent maze.  She waited a few moments to answer:

“I made my choice, and it didn’t matter.  My decisions led me here.  They always lead me here to this damned maze.”  A stream of coughing cut her off. I laid a hand across her forehead checking for fever; another sign of infection.

“I’m going to die here aren’t I?” Don’t think I haven’t noticed the gentle touching.  Checking for fever, broken bones.

I nodded. I’d seen it often at the hospital.  She had at least two broken ribs, one of them punctured a lung.  Without anything to drain it with… “Unless we can find a way to get you out.”  A clock appeared projected on the wall; 30 minutes.  My break cost me 15 minutes.  I stood up brushing my jeans off:

“I have to go.  I… I’ll try to make it back.”  I shifted my gaze to the path in front of me, that Exit sign teasing me again its light reflecting through the mist.

She looked up at me, taking a deep gurgling breath.  “Don’t touch the walls.” I watched another moment as her eyes closed, her breath echoing.  She was gone.  The body disappeared from in front of me as if she never existed.  I knelt down; the pavement was a little warm as I touched it.  I knocked on it listening for a hollow sound, and nothing. The clock appearing in front of me; 30 minutes turned to 28.  I moved on, jogging.  The maze dissolved around me as I exited. The questions remained.

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