Monday, 31 October 2011

The Labyrinth

Here's my 'scary story', as promised. It's not a typical ghost story, more of a quest-type thing, inspired by Greek legend, and, like most of my stuff, it's aimed at children.

The Labyrinth

I stare at the entrance. The empty blackness gapes back at me. The back of my neck bristles. I feel sure the darkness hides a horde of otherworldly beasts watching, waiting for me to enter their murky realm. I shuffle towards it, my body shaking. An evil stench washes over me, making me gag. Every nerve in my body screams to turn and run. And I want to, I really want to, but I have no choice. I must enter the labyrinth.

My shaking fist holds a small torch which burns with a bright, white light. It was given to me by Andor. He said it should last at least an hour, but will it be long enough? I start to sweat. It reminds me of the first, and last, time I entered the copper mines near my village. I was only a few strides inside when the earth shook and dust fell from the roof. I turned and fled, running until I had no breath left. When I finally returned to the village, my father laughed and said it was nothing serious, but I was still sure that I would have been buried alive if I hadn’t got out fast enough.

But here I am, about to go underground again. My heart hammers against my ribs as I move closer to the yawning dankness. The stench forces me to cover my nose and mouth with my scarf. I gasp for air, forcing my body forwards, until I find myself inside.

Within a few steps the wide tunnel becomes a narrow passage, far too narrow for my liking. I creep forwards, trying not to think about what lives in here and what it could do to me. There could be any kind of evil thing lurking around every corner. Andor said gigantic worm lizards with razor-sharp teeth bored out these tunnels over a thousand years ago and their ancestors probably still live here.

My chest is so tight I can hardly breathe. I stop for a moment and try to slow my breathing, until it is almost normal again. I must not stop for long, or I will run out of light. And then all will be lost.

‘The amulet lies at the heart of the labyrinth’, said Andor, ‘It has been there for over five centuries. The prophecy says that only those worthy are able to find it and take it.’ Am I worthy? I hope so. For the sake of everyone I care about.

I continue inching along the narrow passage. The constant reek makes my eyes water. The torch lights my way for about two arm-lengths, but the blackness beyond makes my eyes swim trying to see through it. Fear wells up in my chest yet again. I've come this far, I can't turn back now. If I succeed, this will be the most important thing I have, and probably ever will, do. I keep moving, my heart pounding. The tunnel takes a sharp left, and then I have a choice. Do I go straight ahead or turn right?

I stand and stare, then a memory comes drifting back to me – I’m very young, sitting on the grass outside my home, playing with a wooden puzzle. As I turn the puzzle this way and that, I can hear a marble ball moving around the maze hidden inside. The aim is to move the marble around the maze until it reaches the centre and drops out of a hole. After countless attempts, I solve it by making the marble follow the outside of the maze in one direction, making it go back only when it hits a dead end and slowly but surely working it towards the middle. Forcing my mind back to the present, I decide to go straight ahead.

The air in this tunnel is even more pungent and the blackness seems to bore into me. Thank Eos for Andor's torch! I press on. The tunnel widens. A screech tears through the darkness. Something very much alive brushes my cheek! Screaming, I duck and drop the torch, shielding my head from whatever it was that touched me.

What on earth was it? I crouch down, grabbing the torch and spin my head around wildly. I hear squeaking and flapping. Bats! There must be a whole colony down here. Relief washes over me, almost making me laugh out loud. I’ve never been keen on bats, but better a hundred of them than the other creatures Andor said I might meet. Why I couldn’t have brought a few warriors with me, I don’t know. ‘The chosen one must enter the maze alone. This is the only way to lay claim to the amulet and harness its true power,’ he said. ‘It is written in the prophecy.’

Blasted prophecy! I wish I’d never heard the damn thing in the first place. As I mutter to myself, a chilling thought creeps into my mind. What if it is just a story and there is no amulet? Or what if it has already been found? And, even more likely, what if the torch goes out before I’ve escaped the labyrinth? The thought makes me quail. I think about turning back. But I can’t; there are too many people relying on me. I have to try. I hunch over, bowing my head forwards, in case another bat swoops at me, and shuffle on.

Then the rumbling starts. It’s faint to start with, but it soon grows louder. I pray to Eos that it’s not a giant worm lizard, or anything else that might chew me up and spit me out without a second thought. The stench is getting worse. I keep walking but stumble as my legs start to buckle. Dust falls from the tunnel roof. I turn and try to run, but I trip and fall headlong, dropping the torch. The rumbling grows louder. The walls shake. I close my eyes and pray.

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