—an exploding key? What a terrible thing to invent. He lied on his side, in shock and in pain, and curled into a little ball.
Just then, he stood there, staring at nothing in particular. Perhaps he heard something in the background, something so close to being recognizable that he needed to stop the figure out where he heard it before. Or maybe there was something about the color of the corridor in which he walked—burgundy that transitions into black the further you look—that reminded him of a feeling he once had, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint the feeling exactly. But whatever. He started walking again, into the nothingness that turned out to be more burgundy, until he reached the end of the corridor.
His options were to turn left or right. He turned right into a shorter, similar looking corridor. It was a dead-end, but squatting at the end of it was this…thing. It was white, with arms and legs and a head, but it had no visible eyes or mouth, and spikes of various sizes covered its head. We’ll call it Sperm Guy for simplicity’s sake. Sperm Guy sprung upright, and it turned out to be quite the tall thing. So tall, in fact, that it probably could have climbed up the wall to get a view of the entire maze if it wanted to.
“Hey, buddy,” it yelled. “Buddy you got to get out. You gotta get out now, buddy!” Sperm Guy’s mouth manifested, only to spew purple vomit, seemingly not from some evolutionary purpose foreign to humankind but out of genuine sickness. It wiped its mouth area with its forearm before lunching forward into a sprint.
He panicked and ran away from Sperm Guy. He passed a couple of turns until he had no choice but to turn right, then right again, then left. He took another left instead of advancing forward, two more lefts than a right, and ran until he reached the end of the new corridor that turned left. Yet at the end of it was Octopus Face, the thing with the body of a sapien in a dress shirt with a blue octopus covering its face. Octopus Face still sat at its school desk, still scribbling in its notebook, so why it decided to carry its desk from one part of the maze to another just to do the same thing is beyond reason.
“—side the Burdel the Burdel holds the key,” it went on, “the Burdel the key to the treasure its so easy to get into the Burdel I’ve been there not my cup of tea but the key is under their noses they’re so stupid I know it’s there the key the key hidden inside the Burdel just lift the rock that’s always been there how can you not see the rock it’s the only one in the Burdel the key is in the rock the key to the treasure the secret of the maze what the maze can do for you that’s why we’re all here just have to find the key in the Burdel—”
He inched closer to the Octopus Face until they were, indeed, inches apart. When he leaned over it started to whisper in his ear, but its whispers were less jumbled words and more incoherent gibberish. As it continued to gibber, Octopus Face tapped on its white mug with its forefinger; the mug was labelled “1 Coin” like before. He fished in his pockets for a spare gold coin. He pulled his empty pockets inside out, then shrugged.
“Buddy, you gotta listen, buddy.” Sperm Guy caught up to him. It hunched over to catch its breath, leaning against the wall with one hand. “Your face, it makes me sick, it’s so ugly. So I ain’t looking at you. But I’m telling you, you need to leave this labyrinth. Boy, do my sides hurt. Gimme a minute.”
The corridor now turned right instead of left. Is that what happens when you don’t pay Octopus Face? In any case, he ran to create more distance between himself and Sperm Guy. This particular path went on longer than the others. He ran for a while until he grew tired and started to walk. And he walked and walked and walked, toward the nothingness that turned out to be burgundy, until that burgundy turned into literal nothingness. Literally. He couldn’t see anything, and this didn’t change the farther he wandered. He stretched his arms apart but couldn’t feel a wall on either side. At this point he couldn’t tell if he was still walking straight or in zigzags. He took off his backpack and felt for the zipper. He held the backpack to his stomach with one hand and felt for the content inside with the other. There was the paperclip, the pack of gum, the stick, the last can of tuna and the compass that led to that one key that exploded after he used it. Nothing else, certainly nothing that could help him currently. So he closed the backpack, replaced it on his back, and continued onward.
His footsteps click-clacked along to keep him tethered to this plane of existence until his noticed a tiny light in the distance. His pace quickened. He caught up to the still light to discover that it was a lit wooden torch hanging from a rusty metal sconce. The torch was bright enough for him to see immediately before him, immediately behind him and the familiar walls surrounding him. He took the torch with him, of course, and ventured forward.
The corridor he walked kept going. It was ridiculous. But where else was he to go? So he marched on, the flame of the torch to light the way, its crackling to accompany him. He stopped, eventually, because he was about to step on a new monster. This thing was twice the side of his foot. It looked like a fat, wrinkly prune, with the legs and wings of a fruit fly, but also the eyes and mouth of a person. What the hell to call this thing? Fly Guy? Prune Dude? Let’s go with Chuck.
Chuck lied on its back, groaning and wincing. “Can’t go on,” it said. “This is…the end. Going…to die.” Chuck then noticed him standing over it. “Please, young man. You look strong. Lift me.” He lifted Chuck with his free hand. The thing was surprisingly lightweight. He placed it on his head like a hat. “The Burdel,” it said. “Just one more time.”
Chuck’s body sagged over his head like it was more putty than prune—he had to tilt his head up slightly just to see where he was going. Finally, he reached the end of this corridor. The only way to go was left. He went on until he had to choose right or left. He went right. “No,” said Chuck faintly. Okay, left then. A couple of paces, and he had to turn right. The corridor went on, but there was an opening to the left. He was about to take it. “No, no.” said Chuck. He kept forward. Having to make a right, he decided to keep walking forward and not make the right turn he just spotted. “No, not there,” said Chuck. He turned right.
“I was there once,” said Chuck. Its tone could have been interpreted as lazy if the thing wasn’t found nearly dead on the ground several minutes prior. “The Burdel. I was young then. Great time. I hate being old. Want to be young again.”
He had to make a four or five left turns, as if he were walking in a circle. He then reached a dead end. “No, no, no,” said Chuck. It then started to thump itself between the eyes with one of its skinny legs. “I thought I remembered. Oh…it’s been so long. I’m too old. And you’re too old for this. Why do you keep running from your father?”
He brushed chuck off his head without a thought. When it landed on the ground, he heard a sharp scream. The scream sounded like it came from his mother. It took him so long to get the sound of that scream out of his consciousness. He was so startled by it he dropped the torch, which rolled a little till it luminated Chuck.
“What happened?” Chuck asked. It sounded normal again. The painful groans sounded as they did before, nothing resembling his mother. But he ran anyway, to get away from Chuck and anything else that could make him remember. The nothingness surrounded him again. He didn’t bump into any walls like he should have. So he kept running deeper into the nothingness. Nothing to see, nothing to hold, no one to help. He only had the stomping of his feet and his rhythmic panting.
He ran until the nothingness turned into burgundy again. He went further until he was sure he was away from that dark area of the maze. He could once again see a considerable distance in front and behind him. Only then did he hunch over in exhaustion, his hands leaning on his knees. When he postured back up, Sperm Guy appeared in front of him.
“What did I tell you before,” cried Sperm Guy, shaking him by the shoulders. It then turned its head to puke more purple vomit. “Gosh, you’re so gross looking, I can’t stand it. But listen, buddy. You have GOT to get out of this labyrinth. Your kind doesn’t belong here. I know that sounds racists, but I’m not racist. Just by looking at you I can tell that you stumbled into a place you shouldn’t be. Look, buddy, everyone wants to be in the labyrinth. I get it. The treasures, the secrets and all that, it’s super tempting.”
He pushed Sperm Guy away, causing it to step back. He notices the white residue on his hands and shoulders. It looked disgusting. He wiped it on the back of his pants. Sperm Guy noticed the residue, as well. It staggered back, visibly shaking. “I can’t believe I touched you,” it said. It then turned to lean against the wall, where it proceeded to puke some more.
He found a vase, conveniently, one of the old, clay copper-colored vases one occasionally finds lying around the maze. He picked it up and smashed it across Sperm Guy’s back. It fell into the shards of clay and its own vomit. “Why did you do that?” it yelled. It got to its feet and its forearms ballooned, with spikes growing out of them to resemble two large maces. It swung wildly at him. He was smart enough to keep backing away, maintaining a safe enough distance. He took off his backpack and retrieved his stick, but it got swatted away. He threw his useless compass, but it was batted aside. He threw his pack of gum— all eight remaining strips—but the pack got caught on its mace arm. It tried to knock it away with its other arm, but the gum started to stretch. It tried some more to free itself, but the maze-brand gum became more and more entangled. Sperm Guy yelped in panic as the blue gum further trapped it in a webbed mess the more it struggled to get it off.
He used this opening to make his escape further into the maze, making every random turn he saw to keep away from Sperm Guy. But Sperm Guy’s terror-filled screams were loud enough for him to still be able to make them out from far away.
And he walked, and walked, and walked, and went left, and went right, and went straight, and went right again. That’s how mazes work. You run into a few characters once in a while, but for the most part you’re walking in a pattern that hopefully leads you to where you want to go. The idea that his path developed into something more random and directionless occurred to him when he realized he lost track of his last five turns. What caught his attention while walking aimlessly was the wall to his right. The walls on either side look identical, but he’s righthanded, so that’s the side he stared at for the past however many minutes. The walls throughout the maze don’t change pattern outside the area of nothingness where the walls seemingly cease to exist. No brick and mortar joints present, either. Just straight wall. So, at the very least, the maze was made by a giant using giant people tools. At most, the maze was made by a god. But that giant must have been bored, or that god must have been a trickster.
It was a terrible idea, either way. Case in point, a skeleton lied horizontal in his path. The skeleton looked human. It was covered in dust from head to toe, wearing raggedy clothes and sandals. It clutched to its chest a brown leather satchel. He sat next to the head of the skeleton, his back against the wall, to finally rest and eat that can of tuna that sat in his backpack all this time. He had to eat with his hands, which were filthy from everything he’s touched during his adventure. But that’s okay.
He wiped his hands dry on the front of his pants, then he leaned over to open the flap of the skeleton’s satchel. Inside were three gold coins and a metal flask. He shook the flask a little; it felt half full. He opened it to have a drink, but when he raised it to his mouth, he caught a whiff of the bitter smell of the beverage inside. Instead, he closed the flask and stored it in his backpack. He then shoved the three gold coins in his pocket.
He turned his head to the path onward, because at the end of the corridor a line was forming that caught his eye. He walked over to it, by which time the line, which started to his right, grew so long he couldn’t see the start of it. But the end of it, to his left, wasn’t too far from where he currently stood. He walked to start of it. The line composed of hairy things, pimply things, clawy things, globby things, sparkly things, shiny things, tentacley things, ugly things, too many things to come up with individual names for. But they all waited patiently for something. Now he waited for that something, too, despite how weary he’s become from lack of sleep.
And he waited, and waited, and waited, with scary-looking things in front of him, and scary-looking things behind him. The line moved steady, one consolation for it being so darn long. As he approached the end, he stuck his head to the side. The line led to a dead-end. He couldn’t see where everyone who reached the front of the line disappeared to, but he did notice a large sign at the corridor’s end that read “The Burdel.” By some act of fate, he made it to that one place he kept hearing about.
The closer he got to the Burdel, the stranger the sounds coming from it became. He heard crying, screaming, moaning, pounding, bashing, and banging in what sounding like a chaotic symphony of sex and violence. He noticed near the entrance a prune thing (without any bug features, so we can actually call this one Prune Dude) sitting on a stool, nodding its head, and with each nod a huge rock thing (let’s call it Dummy Thicc Rock Lady) stepped aside to let in the next monster in line.
As it turned out, instead of everyone converging at a dead-end, an opening was carved into it and covered by a curtain, through which was the room known to all as the Burdel. Creating an opening in the maze wall for the sake of special gatherings? Was that even allowed?
Prune Dude nodded, and Dummy Thicc Rock Lady pulled back the curtain, letting in a tall purple pixie—it shut the curtain right before he could catch a glimpse of what was going on in there. It was his turn to be judged by Prude Dude, rubbing its chin in careful consideration this time. Dummy Thicc Rock Lady crossed its arms and stared aggressively at him. Eventually, Prune Dude shook its head no, and DTRL punched him out the line and onto the ground with its giant arm. The punch was incredibly powerful, making it hard for him to breathe. A long groan poured out of him, but no one seemed to notice. Slowly, he transitioned to his side and curled into a ball.
Just then, he stood there, staring at nothing in particular. Perhaps this mindless standing was his substitute for lack of sleep. Or maybe he hit a reset button, to a point when his chest wasn’t caved in. Regardless, a new line was forming in front of him—a new line for the Burdel. He joined that line once more, surrounded by a new crop of things, all waiting for the same thing. And he waited and waited, but not as long as before. An elf three spots before him, with long blond hair and an athletic build, was denied access into the Burdel and knocked out cold by DTRL. No explanation, just a shake of the head and a cold stone fist to the jaw. This begged the question of what qualities Prude Dude was actually looking for when granting access into the Burdel.
It was his turn again. Prune Dude rubbed his chin, pondering. “I seens ya bafor?” it asked. He shook his head, dug in his pocket, and pulled out the three gold coins he looted from the skeleton. Prune Guy took all three coins, then gave a nod. DTRL pulled the curtain to let him in. He entered the Burdel.
The strange sounds from earlier were accurate. Nothing looked appropriate