Page 36 - HEF Pen & Ink 2023
P. 36

By Allison Christensen Art By Michael Everett
A Short Story Inspired by the Taylor Swift Song
This was her labyrinth. With its wide tunnels and smooth stone walls and soft grassy floors and bright float- ing lights. She knew it well. She did, afterall, walk through it every day. Not always the same path, but always a gen- tle one. She always came out of the labyrinth at the end of the day. Sometimes it took her longer, but if she was patient, she always made it out. This was her labyrinth, she had nothing to fear here.
Right. Left. Straight for a while. Right. Right again. Left. Straight. Left again. Right. The only sounds were
her muffled footsteps on the grass carpet of each tunnel, and her breathing, slow and deep. Down each tunnel, she thought, something different each turn. She thought about her life: past, present, and future. She thought about her friends. She thought about her family. She thought about love. She thought in the silence because it was peaceful. She thought in the solitude because it was simple.
Left. Straight. Left again. Right. Left. Straight for a while. Right again. The floating lights that guided her path changed color in every new tunnel, or was it with every new thought? Both were the same, she supposed. Sometimes purple, blue, yellow, green, orange, or red. Sometimes harsher, sometimes softer, but always guiding her. Always lit. The yellow lit tunnels were her favorite, in those she always thought of things that made her happy. The red lights were her least favorite, they made her think about things that made her angry. But those were few and far between. She was generally very happy in her labyrinth.
Right. A purple tunnel– things she wanted. She wanted her best friend to come home. He left for college a few months ago, and she missed him every day. He was always there when she needed him, but never when she just wanted him. She wanted her future to start. She felt like she was teetering on the edge of a huge turning point, a huge breakthrough. But it’d be a leap she’d have to take. She wanted to take it now.
Left. A green tunnel– things she wished were different. She wished she were prettier, like the girls that always beat her to everything. They’d be nice and say she was their friend but she’d always come in second to them, and she had her whole life. She wished she were smarter, like the people she sat next to in class every day. The peo-
ple that made her feel stupid, sometimes. She hated feel- ing stupid more than anything. Wait...she realized she had lost the right thoughts. She wasn’t supposed to feel hatred in a green tunnel. There was a loud crack. She jumped and looked wildly around, the stone wall of the tunnel had split. Leaving a small jagged crevice, at eye level, as if staring right at her. She hurried to the end of the tunnel.
A sharp right. A blue tunnel– things that made her sad. She was sad her best friend was gone. She was sad about the state of her life. She was sad she could never be like those pretty girls or smart people. She was sad she felt stupid sometimes. She was sad she was alone.
Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack. They were all around her now. She stood, her feet frozen in place, as her head whipped back and forth watching the tunnel walls as they... crack, crack, crack...
Eventually, silence settled over her labyrinth once more. The tunnel walls were unrecognizable now. The once smooth stone surfaces were tarnished and marred with all of those serrated lines. She reached out and touched the wall gingerly, it was sharp and rough, and she withdrew her hand immediately. The bright blue light dimmed until the tunnel was almost dark. She tried to step forward but her legs were shaky. After a few timid steps, she picked up her pace, and practically ran to the end of the tunnel, eager to leave the sadness behind her.
Another sharp right. A yellow tunnel. The light was dim but she could still make out the tunnel walls. They were cracked and rough here too. Somehow, her labyrinth had changed. No. She had changed her labyrinth. But
this was one of her favorite tunnels, she was safe here at least. She thought of her family, how they always made her smile. She thought of the things she loved to do– read, draw, swim. She didn’t have very much time for those things now did she? She thought of her friends, how they always made her laugh. Except...when they made her cry. Some friends they were, really. She halted abruptly. What was she saying? She loved her friends more than anything, why would she say that? She looked up, the yellow light was still there, just tinting the air with the warm glow. Then she looked down and jumped, horrified. There was a circle of dead grass at her feet and it was spreading, out to the walls, down the tunnel, and back where she came from. She watched as each blade shriveled and turned brown until the entire tunnel floor was dead.
No, no, no, no, no, was all she could think as she looked around the tunnel, confused and mortified by what she had done. She seized fist-fulls of her hair, and spun in a slow circle, hoping her labyrinth would go back to the

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