Monthly Short Story Winner: Mazes
Welcome back to our monthly writing contest winner post. This month our contest participants wrote stories about mazes. There were a lot of great entries, but before we look at the winner, here is the write up for the contest.
Life can be very complex in the fantasy world. Characters are often presented with multiple choices on which path to choose and forced to make decisions without a lot of information. Nowhere is that more true than in the twists and turns of a maze. Now this does not have to mean a labyrinth residing under the villain’s lair, it could be the hedge maze guarding an enchanted castle, or the natural caves of a classic dungeon crawl. Even the sewer system in a modern city could be considered a maze if you are unfamiliar with the layout. New or old, big or small, the most important question where mazes are involved is always the same: Once you go in, will you be able to find your way out?
This month, your challenge is to write a fantasy story or scene involving a maze. It can be good or bad, big or small, but it must be the main point or setting of the story. (No fan fiction please.) Once again, we are opening the contest to both prose and poetry.
1. This can be prose or a poem. Be creative.
2. Maze (or mazes) must be a core element in your piece.
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
You can see all the contest entries here. And our winner this month is EmpressJaimie (Jaimie J.)! Congratulations!
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“In My Head”
By Jaimie J.
Speed shifted in the backseat of Donovan’s car. It was hard to find a perch where the fire axe holstered inside her trench coat didn’t poke her in the ribs or try to slice a hole in her jeans. She turned fully toward the window and watched the lights of the Gorbals area of Glasgow whip past.
It was a hot night, not that temperature could bother Speed anymore. She could see fog rising in the back alleys. Fog wasn’t good for wandering around old cemeteries.
Tapping the glass three times made Speed feel better. She imagined the glass fairies that lived inside the glass would be happy with three taps.
“So, what did the doctor say, petite?” Laurette asked.
“Nothing helpful,” Speed muttered.
Laurette sat beside Speed. Her legs were crossed under her blue peasant skirt. Laurette’s dark, almond shaped eyes watched Speed from under long lashes.
One, two, three, Speed tapped on her leg.
“Come, petite, he must have said something,” Laurette pressed.
“If she doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t have to,” Donovan said from the driver’s seat.
Speed sighed. “He said that he thought I wasn’t being honest with him and that I could benefit from more sessions to build up trust.”
Carl snorted from the front passenger seat.
“He also said he thought I might consider a prescription,” Speed said, looking back out the window. She thought she saw a glass fairy wink at her but it could have been the headlights of a passing bus.
“What did you say to that?” Laurette asked.
“I told him no,” Speed said.
“Just no?” Carl asked, leaning into the backseat.
“What was she supposed to say, connard? ‘I’m sorry, doctor, but unless you take the drugs and let me feed from you, all I will do is throw them up?’” Laurette snapped.
“If she’d said that, I’d have to kill her,” Carl said, flatly.
Laurette slapped Carl across the face. “Don’t you say that you…salaud! You do not know our Speed. She would not be so foolish.”
Donovan glanced at the seat next to him. “Do you honestly think the Prince of Scotland would have sent Speed, or any of us, if he didn’t trust our discretion?”
Carl glared at Laurette then turned back around in his seat.
Donovan had a point. Murdock, the Prince of Scotland’s Nighttime, had dozens of operatives to choose from in the local vampire community. He could have sent any of them to deal with the rumors at the Southern Necroplois. Murdock had, however, chosen Speed and the three others.
Speed knew Laurette was chosen because she had a mystical connection deeper than most vampires. Donovan was on the Prince’s security force. Carl worked in retrieval, a part of the security force dedicated to the capture and ‘questioning’ of any who threatened the nice, quiet life of the vampires living beside and unseen by their prey.
That was the others. Speed had no idea why she’d been chosen for the group. She was just a slightly crazy, relatively young vampire.
Analise Speedkowski was a computer specialist. She worked for the vampire establishment so she was on hand at the museum where the Prince held his Court. Speed was pretty sure, though, there weren’t any computers lurking amongst the tombstones in the Southern Necropolis.
Expedience, Speed thought. I was there when the Second called.
Speed was patiently explaining to her Prince for the twelfth time that the disc drive of his computer was not a cup holder when his Second called to say the local TV news had run a segment on the old legend of an iron-toothed vampire haunting the twisting paths of the Southern Necropolis. The Prince couldn’t afford to let rogue vampires run around his kingdom getting themselves on the news, so he’d sent a team to locate the rogue, if it existed.
“It is all nonsense, anyway,” Laurette said. “A vampire with iron teeth? Who has heard of such a silly thing?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Carl said, leaning his tattooed head against the headrest. “I’ve knocked out a few fangs in my time.”
Donovan pulled into the parking lot. “But why replace them with iron? Then all you’d taste is metal.”
Laurette shrugged as she got out of the car. “Some people like that, I suppose. But I do not think there is anything out here.”
Speed slipped out. She slammed the door shut and flicked the handle three times; just to be sure nothing would happen to the car until they got back. Three was a magic number, no matter what Dr. Anderson said. Or maybe that was one of the things that was only in her head. It was hard for Speed to tell sometimes unless she paid really close attention.
Donovan spread out a map of the Southern Necropolis and the others gathered around it. The map was split into four sections.
“Carl, you head to this sector. Laurette, you take this one. This one’s for Speed and I’ll take that one,” Donovan said, jabbing his finger at the map. “One hour and we meet back here.”
Laurette squeezed Speed’s arm. “Be careful, petite. I do not think there is a rogue out there but there are spirits in this city of the dead. Its paths are like a labyrinth.”
Speed nodded. She turned to head for her sector and bumped into Carl.
The tattooed vampire loomed over her and smiled. “Don’t get lost, little girl.”
Speed pulled a tiny, powerful LED keychain light out of one of her pockets and flashed it in Carl’s eyes.
Carl put up a hand.
“Excuse me,” Speed said, stepping around Carl and heading off into the Necopolis. She heard Laurette laughing behind her. Speed stepped into a row of tombstones and the foggy darkness.
Once away from the well-lit parking lot, the gloom closed in. Her LED light valiantly tried to cut through the soupy air but it just reflected off the fog. Speed shook the light three times. Damn things were supposed to be better than regular flashlights in fog.
Maybe it wasn’t real fog, a part of Speed’s brain said. Maybe it was a fog demon or the hot breath of some unspeakable creature. The fog around Speed began to pulse like a creature breathing in and out.
Nope, she thought.
Speed focused on a nearby tombstone. She centered herself with some slow breathing. The pulsing stopped. Speed shrugged; it had all been in her head.
Moving down the line, Speed stepped into a different row of graves, went down a few stones, and crossed again. The fog got so thick Speed could only see a few feet ahead. How were they supposed to find each other, let alone a rogue?
Speed skirted around a stone memorial shaped like a veiled lady and, for a second, she could have sworn the statue turned its head. She didn’t stop. That was either in her head or it wasn’t. It didn’t matter. Speed wasn’t looking for a statue. Besides, everyone knew the story of Magdalene Smith and Mary McNaughton. They’d been killed in a tram accident in 1933 and buried under the veiled lady statue. If they wanted to move their statue around and run all over the Necropolis in bed sheets, it wasn’t Speed’s business.
She walked another ten minutes or so, swinging her LED light back and forth over the tombstones, trying to hit each row three times as she passed. They all looked the same, until the statue of a woman in a veil.
“I passed you already,” Speed murmured.
Speed looked up and down the row. She couldn’t see very far and she didn’t think she’d made any turns but, as Laurette said, the Necropolis was a maze. Especially on a foggy night.
Shrugging her shoulders, Speed head off in what she thought was the right direction. She walked slowly, hitting each tombstone three times with the light. The names were blurry with age, so she couldn’t make any out.
Until she flashed her light on the veiled lady again.
“Oh, come on.” A wriggle of fear wormed its way into Speed’s stomach. What if she’d wandered into a looping path? What if she couldn’t find her way out before the sun came?
Speed pulled out her cell phone to call Laurette. No signal. She put it back in her pocket. If Speed still had a heartbeat, it would have been pounding.
Stepping around the veiled lady, she wove through two tombstones into a different row. Setting off at a run, she jumped over another set of tombstones.
Stopping, she shone her light up and saw…the veiled lady.
“Not possible,” Speed muttered.
Flashing her light up to the statue three times, Speed took a quick, sharp breath with each flash. The veiled lady loomed beside her, rising up out of the fog each time it lit up. The fog pulsed and closed in on Speed.
“Three bears,” Speed whispered. “Three coins in a fountain.”
Speed rubbed her temples three times and closed her eyes.
Three. A tripod to set her brain upon would be lovely. A glass jar with her brain floating in it supported by three strong legs. Made of titanium. Strong, strong, strong legs to hold up her brain.
Her brain was what worked and didn’t work. Tricks. Speed’s brain liked to play tricks on her even as it served up the most delicious computations faster than it took to microwave a bean burrito.
Speed’s eyes snapped open.
It wasn’t possible for Speed to walk so far and still be at the statue. Not when she’d only gone forward and not when she’d changed rows. Her brain knew that.
She stared at the statue of the veiled lady. She focused and willed herself to see what was actually there and not what her brain thought was there.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
The statue faded into Carl’s tattooed head. His eyes stared through Speed as if she wasn’t there.
Blinking, Speed looked around without moving her head. She saw Laurette and Donovan standing near the car. Donovan still had the map in his hand. They were all as they were just after Speed had shone her light in Carl’s eyes.
Speed saw something move. It was a man dressed in ragged jeans. There was old blood staining his shirt.
The man headed for Carl. He smiled and the streetlights glint off his metal teeth. When he reached Carl, the rogue vampire tilted Carl’s head to the side.
Speed moved her hand toward the fire axe inside her coat.
When the man brought his mouth to Carl’s neck, Speed gripped the axe’s wooden handle. She slammed the cutting edge into the rogue’s wrist. The sharp steel bit through his flesh cleanly. He howled and dark, thick blood seeped from the stump.
Donovan threw himself at the man and bore him down to the ground. The rogue hissed and fought but Donovan was stronger. Soon, Donovan had the rogue on his stomach with his hands pulled behind his back.
Carl clamped a hand to his neck and looked up at Speed. “You…saved me.”
“Don’t mention it,” Speed muttered.
“I know this guy,” Carl said, kicking the rogue in the ribs hard enough to snap something. “I busted his teeth out, what, five years ago?”
Donovan hustled the rogue to his feet. “Thought you’d get a little payback, huh?”
“I don’t understand. That illusion was perfect!” the rogue sputtered.
“Not perfect enough for our Speed,” Laurette said.
The rogue shouted, “How could you have known the maze was all in your head?”
Speed shrugged three times. “It’s always all in my head.”
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Congratulations again to our winner Jaimie J. (EmpressJaimie)! If you would like to enter this month’s contest or vote for July’s winner, check out the Monthly Writing Contest board in our forum.