Maze in a Haze #storyaday

My eyes were still trying to adjust to the darkness. I was propped up against a hard, slick concrete wall, my legs stretched straight out in front of me. My back felt bruised and sore, but cautious stretching reassured me that everything was still in working order, more or less. I felt around on the floor near me. There – just within reach was a canvas strap – that felt promising. I pulled; the bag (I hoped it was a bag) slid towards me. I felt around the other side, too, just in case. Yes, there it was – an envelope. I put that in my lap, so that I wouldn’t lose track of it. Something soft and curious nosed the back of my hand and scurried off. I stilled my breathing, focused on the task at hand, and quelled the scream that rose up like bile.

I felt the object attached to the strap. It was, indeed, a satchel or a backpack. I hoped it contained a flashlight. My fingertips found a zipper, grasped the tab, and pulled. I began to rummage through its contents, identifying them by feel. Round barrel, slide switch – a small, bright, LED flashlight! Yes! I flipped it on and glanced around in time to see a smallish, damp-furred rat scuttling over to inspect my foot. Inquisitive, bright-eyed little thing, he turned to look me in the eye, more astonished to find me there than I was to see him. Thank God for shoes.

Move, I told myself. I struggled to my feet; the cold concrete had a way of making stiff muscles ache exquisitely. The envelope, momentarily forgotten, slid to the ground. I put the satchel down and bent to pick it up. It had my name on it, and I swung the flashlight around just in case there was another. I had the odd thought that there might be a small mountain of envelopes and was momentarily glad I hadn’t had to search through it to find mine. But it was the only one. I ripped it open. “A path forged of steel will forge your backbone.”

Well, that was obvious enough. I’d already guessed that I was in a sewer or an abandoned subway tunnel. Sure enough, several feet in front of me, there was a long “steel path” that stretched out as far as the light could follow in either direction. If I chose the wrong way, I might be walking for hours, only to hit a dead end and backtrack. I didn’t like wasting time and energy. I searched the bag – and my brain – for more clues. What about my frat brothers’ last words to me as they tied the blindfold around my head and stuffed me into the trunk of Billy’s car? “Stay true, North.”

My name is Edmund North. I hadn’t thought it more than a frat slogan, at the time, but now… sure enough, my fingers found something round and flat. A compass! “True North,” not “true, North.” GPS would’ve been nice, but I supposed it wouldn’t work down here in this concrete cave. Sometimes, old and proven tech is the best tech. The needle pointed north – to the left. I grinned, and set off on the “steel path.”

Eventually, I came to a junction. The track split off in a Y shape, and I considered my options. I swept the track with my flashlight, and decided to follow the steel path – the rail pointed to the right, so logic suggested that as the most likely path. The tunnel narrowed, and the flashlight began to splutter. Of course they wouldn’t leave me with fresh batteries, I thought.  Here I thought they’d gone easy on me. The light didn’t die, but it did grow dim. My ears were acclimating, and I could hear water dripping somewhere. I heard the faint squeaking of rats – more like tiny grunts of satisfaction, I imagined, whenever food or an interesting bauble was found. Rats intrigued me, as long as they weren’t crawling on my leg in a subway tunnel.

There was a yellowish light up ahead, and movement. Just shadows, softened by dust and distance. I quickened my pace. When I got to about 400 yards from where the light seemed to emanate, an angry, otherworldly roar rumbled against the walls and a burst of flames shot out from the left. I stumbled backwards and turned to run. “Edmund,” called a low, menacing voice that sounded a bit like James Earl Jones. “I’m waiting.”

Holy shit no. I almost wet my pants.

I sidled along the wall, retracing my steps, when I heard a scream. It sounded human. I tried to remind myself that this was nothing more than a bit of pre-induction frat hazing. Man up, Edmund, I muttered to myself.

“Edmund? Edmund, thank God – is that you? We’re in trouble, man–” It sounded like Rory, head of this year’s pledge class.

Flames roared out again. I could feel their heat. James Earl Jones laughed softly in the distance. I smelled burning flesh.

Oh, Hell no. I screwed up whatever courage I could muster from whatever was left of the jellied molecules of my leg muscles, and ran towards the beast. I wasn’t going to let my asshole frat brothers be fried and fricasseed by whatever unholy demon lay down that track.

As I rounded the corner, envisioning dragons and demons, I stopped dead in my tracks and nearly had a heart attack – torn by adrenaline and an urge to kill. My frat brothers stood there laughing. Rory was projecting video from closed circuit TV onto the far wall, while James tended the barbecue grill they’d dragged down into the subway. The “dragon” was a flamethrower manned by Brian – the same one we used to light the smoker out back of the frat house. “You should’ve seen your face when Rory screamed, man. Priceless.”

“I hate you all.”

“No you don’t,” said James. “You were hell-bent on saving our sorry, undeserving asses. Just like a real brother.” They surrounded me, clapping me on the back, squeezing my shoulder. Congratulating me, proclaiming me one of their own. Yeah, I thought. I do hate you now, but I’ll get over it. I smiled as Brian handed me a cold beer and nodded.


The prompt for story #3 was Sept 03 — Lost in a Maze. Check out StoryADay.org to see what we’re up to, and join the challenge yourself, if you dare.

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
Please share this post!

20 thoughts on “Maze in a Haze #storyaday”

      1. I kept waiting for aliens, fine young cannibals, or a sadist with a nice bottle of wine. Good job. I have heard of a very similar real life story. Naw, it was not THAT mushy. It was “Just Mushy enough”. Like a good bowl of oatmeal in the morning.

    1. I was the same Rasheed. I expected Aliens, or cannibals. It was quite a twist at the ending…. So now we know how HOLLY’s sorority hazing went!

      I was not disappointed, though…. I was astounded.
      She let a character in one of her short stories live?
      “Gentlemen, I offer you proof that Holly J is mellowing out!”

      Still, as you said “Nice change of pace though.”

      I think Holly is becoming “green”, and is recycling her characters. To do that, they would have to live. Unless, she follows them into the afterlife, and the terrors therein. Her next Character is a man with the odd name of S.I. Syphus. He’s, or rather was, a mathematician. And like all her characters Doomed. Probably bald, so also Domed…..

      1. Read this quickly and thought you said you WERE disappointed! Whew – glad that’s not the case. I was thinking, “Pete’s going to be relieved and happy,” not “Pete’s going to be so disappointed.”

        But “recycling characters”? Mmmmm…I’m going to interpret that as, “Holly’s writing bears a slight resemblance to the early works of Dean Koontz…” No, really, you think? Reincarnating them, maybe. But…no, you don’t really think…

        Huh. Maybe there really is a cast of tiny actors living in my head, making all this stuff up for me to write. Lazy little suckers. Oh–what? They just said they’re not lazy – no one’s been able to shove a typewriter far enough up into my nasal passages for them to reach the keys, but they’d be happy to suggest it in their next stor–um, yeah, we’re good.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Thief of Dreams #storyadayMy Profile

      1. Edmund could take one from Ron G——. A long cold winter walk through snow to shelter. And exlax brownies. But I better not say more.

  1. RE: Read this quickly and thought you said you WERE disappointed! Whew – glad that’s not the case. I was thinking, “Pete’s going to be relieved and happy,” not “Pete’s going to be so disappointed.”

    REPLY: Oh, let me make myself crystal clear: I was not disappointed. My name is Pete Laberge, and I support this message. Batteries, of course, are not included. Your mileage may vary. Shell Gasolines are blended to get the best performance out of the average automobile. Pete is too old, and has seen too many commercials. Holly is thinking of calling the Sanatorium. Not sure for whom….

    RE: But “recycling characters”? Mmmmm…I’m going to interpret that as, “Holly’s writing bears a slight resemblance to the early works of Dean Koontz…” No, really, you think? Reincarnating them, maybe. But…no, you don’t really think…

    REPLY: Not an expert on him. But I like the idea of re-incarnating characters. or at least re-using and re-cycling them.
    (Holly will likely be running her next hero through a giant dishwasher… “He’ll come out clean, like a washing machine.” – The Divine Comedy, AVB. He/she may even survive….)

    RE: Huh. Maybe there really is a cast of tiny actors living in my head, making all this stuff up for me to write. Lazy little suckers. Oh–what? They just said they’re not lazy – no one’s been able to shove a typewriter far enough up into my nasal passages for them to reach the keys, but they’d be happy to suggest it in their next stor–um, yeah, we’re good.

    REPLY: Oh, they are most definitely NOT lazy. Quirky? Yes. Oddball? YES. WEIRD? Sometimes. Unusual? 10-4. Leaking out of her head and onto the page? I take refuge in the 5th amendment…” Numerous? Oh, YES! cast of thousands….

    NB: They need not shove a typewriter up your nose. They have nanites… And the nanites….. Crawl all over….. Does this not give you such a warm, clean, fuzzy feeling…..
    The nanites are dripping out of her nose, hurrah, hurrah. The sarcasm is dripping out of….. And the ants kept marching deep into the ground! Now, go wash your hands…..

  2. In your sci fic story the nanites are a 1st or 2nd generation thing, in a experimental ship, travelling at 1/2 the speed of light for a decade or 3, to a new planet, at a new star. An Ark. Urrrr, the odds are NOT good. I put her odds at maybe 40/60.

    The writing is good, the story is possible, a strong Maunder Minimum, something going helter skelter in the fusion of the sun, the Earth;s orbit expanding by a very few miles / degrees, the loss of part of the atmosphere, and our currently much hated greenhouse gasses….
    And you would have those conditions. The nice thing about -100 at the tropics, is that you can flood an arena and make ice easily….

    I read it, skimmed it, and felt pity for her. But, one must be brave, in such a disaster case, and do the best one can.

    She’d have died going back down anyway, and the ship was a robot ship… Launched anyway.

Comments are closed.