The labyrinth and the shadow

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: Set your story in a labyrinth that holds a secret.... view prompt

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Fiction Suspense Speculative

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

It was cold, so cold. He walked on, both arms clutching at himself for any shred of warmth, the thin clothes he had on, scant protection against the chill, the chill nibbling away right down to his bones. Bare feet bleeding and he walked on and on and on.

On either side of him thick hedges towered over him, their dark green leaves almost seeming to absorb the white light that fell on them. Quite a bit taller than him, on either side of a wide graveled path that he kept walking on bare feet.  Above the labyrinth, right in what he presumed was the middle of the maze hung a crystal, its luminescent white light shining everywhere, lighting his way across the graveled path. All he knew was that he wanted to go underneath that crystal. What did he hope to find there? Escape? Shelter? He didn’t know, all he knew was that’s what he needed to go.

He had been walking so long now his feet bled, the gravel he walked on a discomfort with every step. Endlessly, endlessly walking on sore tired legs, he couldn’t stop walking now even if he wanted. How long had he been walking? How long had he been stuck in this god forsaken labyrinth? He tried and tried and tried to get to the middle where the crystal shone, he had walked and walked trying to figure out a way to the middle, he had slammed into the hedge out of frustration, howled at the sky crying out and sat down and wept when nothing seemed to be getting him closer to the crystal. No matter what he did he just could not seem to get closer.

Worse still was the Shadow, his hand always on his shoulder, ever present, saying nothing. The first few days he had been so afraid he had wet his clothes getting colder still under the cold deathly lit night sky. Every time he tried to look at his hand on his shoulder he recoiled in fear shuddering. It was made of tendrils of shadow neither solid nor liquid nor vapor. Sometimes the tendrils would extend out into his vision even when he didn’t look at his shoulder and leave him terrified and shuddering. At the beginning he had been almost paralyzed with fear but as time went on the fear ebbed into something he got used to, something that he had to bear with, what could he do anyway? The Shadow wasn’t going anywhere there was no getting rid of it, not that he hadn’t tried. Now, there was just a dull ache of dread in his heart, leaving him whimpering over his wretched existence. Sometimes he could hear it cackle like the chatter of a skeletons teeth, other times a slow screechy howl, every time he just wanted to run and cry and he had, the first few times, now he just frowned, there were only so many times he could try and run, now it was just another trial of the labyrinth.

In all this time he had never had the courage to turn around and look the Shadow in the eye, no, no, no, no, he thought to himself he was just too afraid of it. As he sat there squatting, head in his hands, whimpering, he didn’t know what to do, how could he get there to the crystal, he wanted to give up but he couldn’t give up either, was he cursed to walk and walk and walk and get nowhere close to where he wanted?

He could hear or ….. feel the Shadow chuckling at his despair, the horrifying sound coming from only served to make him want to cry but he didn’t, he was just too used to the terrifying presence of the shadow now.

He looked up at the crystal, it seemed to almost ….pulse, shining a light at him. He thought maybe he was being delusional, imagining things but he was desperate and clinging onto straws. The light seemed to shine at his feet, he glanced down at them now, and yes the deathly white light seemed so very slightly brighter there. His feet hurt, he shifted them around, his soles had left blood stains on the gravel he walked on.

The idea, almost blossomed in his head like a tree of lightening, he had already marked the paths he had taken with his bloody foot prints, all he had to do now was keep the crystal in sight and choose that paths he hadn’t taken and maybe just maybe he could make it to the middle. It was a crazy hopeless idea but nothing sane made sense in this place anyway. He was stuck, there was no other way out, might as well try.

He sprung to his feet like a jack in the box, and he didn’t start walking, he ran. This way and that turning his back on paths he already taken, twisting into the ones he hadn’t. He ran with frantic maniac energy, keeping the crystal in sight, it almost seemed to be pulsing harder now, cheering him on, mocking him with false hope? He didn’t care he ran.

The shadow didn’t just make it presence felt now, it loomed right behind him, larger. He could feel its anger, hear its hissing sound. He didn’t dare look back, but he knew it was angry.

He ran and ran, twisted into paths, he hadn’t taken ditched them for new ones, he could feel he was getting closer, now he could see the crystal getting larger and larger. He was close, just a little more and maybe this could finally be over.

The crystal was almost above his head, he turned one final corner and he was finally there the crystal hung over his head perhaps he was two or three meters from being right beneath it.

A clearing surrounded by the dark green hedge, right beneath the crystal stood a pedestal, made from the same material as the light above emanating the same white light. A small black onyx box was placed right in the middle of the pedestal.

What was in the box? A way out? A map? His weary feet carried him to the box, he took it and sat down right there cross legged. The Shadows sounds of anger vibrated even harder now, he just wanted it to stop. Nevertheless, he removed the box’s lid.

Inside the box were pictures, the first few were from his past, when he was a kid reminded him off times long gone when he had been full of youth and innocence, the good old times. The next few were pictures of him he had never seen, pictures of who he wanted to be, hopes and dreams he had almost forgotten in his despair. He was reminded of who he had wanted to be, hope rekindled in his chest, the will to pursue dreams was still there, it had just needed a reminder to wake up.

The crystal above his head almost seemed to twinkle, the Shadow almost seemed to growl like wind at midnight in anticipation. He had the courage now, he knew what he needed to do. He did what he had been afraid to do for so long, he wouldn’t be afraid anymore, he turned to face his fears.

He turned to face the Shadow.

December 17, 2021 18:44

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