He wanted to turn around, but he couldn’t. He heard barking and running feet coming behind him, and the tall stones on both sides kept guiding him deeper into the maze. This was no spiritual labyrinth where he could lose the evil spirits and bad fortune before going to sea. This was meant for hunting, and he was the prey. Or so they had said when he had come around, his bother by his side. He wasn’t sure where his older brother was now. They had forced him to go in first and said that if you got out, you could leave here alive, and if you didn’t… The sentence didn’t need to be finished. Both he and his brother had got it. Along with the implication, only one will survive. They had been given a choice, who went in first, and his brother had volunteered to be the last one, giving him half an hour head start.
He pushed his hand against the outer stone wall, letting it guide him towards the exit, feeling every pump and notch. It was the only way he could navigate. Seeing farther than a few feet ahead was impossible in the darkness of the night. He heard a scream behind him, mixed with barking. His stomach lurched. He wanted to throw up and, even more so, to turn around. There came another cry, and he was sure they had gotten his brother. Who they were, he had no clue. They had worn masks and not some stylish party masks. These were made of wood and were demonic and impish. There had been eight men with rifles and dogs around them when he had come around from whatever they had been given. He didn’t have a memory of anything other than stopping into a pub with his brother and then nothing, only waking at here next to the maze in the garden of an enormous mansion.
He shivered as another scream sounded behind him.
“Eli?” he shouted.
There came laughter, and a shot fired over his head. He ducked on the ground, scraping his hand on the plaster and feeling blood mixing into the dirt. Shit, he thought. But he couldn’t stop. He continued crawling on the ground around the next corner before getting up. Then he took up running, and again there came a shot, just above his head. He lost the outer wall he had been following and ran as fast as he could, turning and twisting from junctions the best he could. Finally, he ran into a dead-end, hitting against the wall, which was barely visible. There was no strength in his legs, and he collapsed there, panting heavily and automatically reaching for his pocket where his phone would have been. There was only a paper note there with words RUN 🙂 written on it.
“Where did you go?” a man’s voice sang the words out.
He tried to steady his breath and listen to the steps taken in the maze and the dogs barking in the distance. He had to stop himself from replying, “Fuck you.” They had given him an hour head start and told him that Eli would get no more than thirty minutes. He had been in the maze longer than that. He was sure of it. Also, certain that he had gone around and around, passing the exit.
He saw a man cross the entrance of the nook he was in. He pressed harder against the wall and held his breath. The man didn’t see him. The man moved on. He slowly pushed himself up, careful not to make any noise. He followed the man, seeing his shadowy figure in front. Then the man disappeared. At first, he was sure the darkness had swallowed him, or the man had pressed against the wall, waiting for him. But then he saw the optical illusion made with the angles of the walls. Bastards, he thought. And followed in through the small opening. He saw the man soon enough, carrying a rifle on his shoulder ever so casually. He was bigger than he was, or Eli was. They should at least pick someone of their size, but he couldn’t deny he and Eli weren’t agile. Fuck, he hoped Eli was still alive. Maybe he should turn back and leave the man be and let him go deeper into the maze. Not that he was sure what was deep any longer or where he had come from. He had lost his count when the shot had rung.
“Noa!” he heard his brother wail.
He was about to shout, “here,” but then the man he had followed stopped abruptly and was about to turn around. So, he dashed back through to opening and pressed against the wall.
“Noa,” his brother wailed again.
Every part of him wanted to reply, but Noa knew it would be foolish. Then, finally, there came a loud scream. Something an animal would make when they had jaws of a trap snapped around their leg. He bit his teeth together and kept waiting if the man would return the way he had come from. Noa didn’t have to wait long. Soon the masked man with his eighteen-century suit hurried past him, his rifle ready.
Noa hit the man as forcefully as he could at the back of the head. The man fell down, and the rifle slung a few feet ahead of them, swallowed by night. The man groaned and tried to get up. Noa kicked the man to his head repeatedly. The mask swung away, and he saw a boy not older than eighteen underneath it. A boy who could be anyone on the street with his short stylish haircut. Noa staggered away, leaving him behind, stumbling to get the rifle. He steadied himself and then picked it up. He wondered if he should go back and shoot the boy, but that would be going too far.
He left in the direction where he thought he had heard his brother’s voice coming. It was improbable Eli was alive, but he had to try.
Thank you for reading, and have a blissful day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb