Lost People in a Maze
by Christopher W Gamsby
A man rolled to his side, and his arms scratched on pebbles and grains of sand. The man shot up and peered around the field. He expected to wake under 1000 thread count silk sheets and smell pancakes and coffee. Instead, he laid on loose dirt with patches of grass. Two other men laid at his side. He remembered returning home from the store, but the drive was touch and go. He occasionally nodded off, but he was sure he arrived home.
The two other men stirred on the ground. One was an older gentleman dressed as a priest, and the other man wore an open flannel shirt with white an exposed white undershirt. A gold medallion hung to his chest. An empty blue tear was tattooed under his left eye. The three strangers found their feet, and the man walked past the gangster and approached the priest. He grabbed his hands.
"Thank God, Father. Do you know what we're doing here?"
"I have no idea. Do I know you?"
"No, Father but I could tell you're a man of faith, so I knew we must have a connection."
The man glanced at the gangster through the corner of his eye, and he turned back to the priest.
"I was only laying in bed last night and woke up here, whatever this place is, this morning."
The three men surveyed the green walls on the field's edges. They were in the open center of an expansive hedge maze. The maze's tunnels and walkways all looped around, so the trio always ended back in the maze's center. A stone archway resembled an exit on the maze's far wall, but plants blocked the way through. Images of twisting bodies connected by touching fingers were carved into the arch's pillars. A gargoyle loomed from the arch, watching everyone gathered outside his exit. Rubies glittered in the sunlight, giving the statute a faint hint of living eyes. Some ancient person chiseled a message into the crossbar.
"Ye with sin can not touch these walls."
The gangster scratched his head.
"What you think that means?"
The man scowled.
"Well, obviously, if you have sin, you shouldn't touch the wall. So if you don't have sin, something might happen if you touch it?"
The gangster looked unsure.
"...I guess. Padre, could you touch the wall?"
"No, I don't think I can. No one is without sin. I've lied in seminary to impress my superiors, and stole food in my youth. The shame of my life is that one time I took church funds to vacation."
The man interjected.
"But, you are the best of us, I'm sure."
The priest faced the ominous arch and raised his hand before the hedge, but balked at touching the shrubbery.
"I'm sorry I shouldn't..."
The man pushed the priest, but the hedge retracted just before the elderly pastor hit. Once the pastor passed into the land beyond the arch, the hedge refilled before the man could enter. The man scoffed.
"Well, I'm without sin, so I should have nothing to worry about!"
The man strolled to the hedge and placed his hand on the foliage. The plant's thorns cut his palm and he drew back his hand with a hiss. The gangster laughed.
"Yeah, I see you good."
The pair sat in silence for hours and the gangster stood up with a grunt.
"I can't take this! Maybe I should just try."
The man laughed.
"You think someone like YOU, could make it through, when some like ME couldn't?"
"My sins are worse than the reverend's, but I try to be better."
"Before you came here, what were you doing?"
"I was walking home, and this cop car stopped. I heard a voice, and then I was sleeping here."
"On your way from selling dope; I'd guess."
"What? Fuck you and your condescending attitude. I was going home from the youth center."
"What were you doing there?"
"I was slinging when I was 17. Some other banger set up shop on my block, and we had beef. I shot, and he died. The police found my two guns, but they swapped the evidence bags. They said I killed him with my .38 using .40 bullets, so I got off. That was a sign. I left the life, got my GED, went to college, and now I work at a marketing firm. I still go back four times a week and tutor kids from the block. I want to stop them from becoming me, killing some fool and spending the rest of their lives in prison."
"After all you told me, you are without sin? If I scratched my palm, you'd probably explode!"
The exacerbated gangster stomped over to the archway and raised his hand. The foliage parted. The surprised ex-gangster strolled through the gaping archway. The man froze, unable to will himself to run toward the hole. Once the ex-gangster departed, the hedge closed, and the man moved again. The gargoyle's ruby eyes glowed blood red for a few moments and dimmed.
Two hours later the man rushed to the hedge.
"What kind of sick game is this?"
The man shouted to no-one in particular.
"I have not sinned!"
The man punched and slapped the hedge. Blood trickled down his arms.
"It's never been my fault! There ARE things that have happened TO me, but it's not my fault! My son left and died because I followed your laws! It's not my fault! It's HIS fault!"
Blood gushed, and he became nauseous and dizzy.
"Why punish me? I lived a good life! I never sinned! I hated sin and shunned sinners! I've offered them no help or aid! Things happen to them, but it's not my fault! Nothing is my fault! It NEVER is! It's YOUR fault!"
The man collapsed from his wounds. Consciousness fled. The next time he woke, he knew he wasn't waking in the hedge maze, but he had no idea where he was going to wake.
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