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.