The crude stone walls of the labyrinth towered over the man like judgmental gods. Inside the massive gray corridors he seemed insignificant, a rat fearfully scurrying through a maze. The sun was too bright, too hot for his sweat-stained suit, now torn and tattered after god-knows-how-many days spent wandering in the hellish place.
He mutters to himself, thinking that if anyone was there to hear him, they’d believe he’d gone mad. Perhaps he has. But he’s far past the point of caring. All that mattered now was reaching The Corner. It was all he could think about, ever since he found himself in this godforsaken place. He can’t remember his life before the labyrinth. He can’t remember his mother’s face. Oh god, he can’t even remember his name. But he knew that he had to turn The Corner. The exit’s just around The Corner. It must be.
Placing a hand on the wall to support him, the man dragged his aching feet down the corridor. Staggering, he continued to stumble towards freedom, the walls around him stretching up and out, a mausoleum of cold stone. There was only the passageway and, in the distance, The Corner in front of him. Only miles of desolation behind.
Hours, or maybe days, passed. There was no way to tell time in here, with the ever-present sun beating down constantly, with no wind or any other sign of change, of life. Doubt began to creep into what was left of his mind, the small part of it that wasn’t burning agony, a twin sun inside his skull. What if he fell to the ground and never got up and died in here alone and forgotten and...
His foot slipped on a piece of loose rubble, and his legs gave way like a marionette cut loose from its strings. For just a moment, he allowed himself to rest, blissfully closing his eyes and sinking into a deep black pool, so calm and quiet and far away from everything ‒ NO! He had to keep moving. He was almost at The Corner now. Dragging himself on hands and knees like a parched man blindly groping for water, he crawled forwards, less a man than an animal.
And there it was. Just around The Corner. Salvation. Fueled by weary, but not yet depleted hope, the man hauled himself upright and, steadying his shaking body against the wall, turned The Corner.
The walls of the labyrinth towered over the man, silent as a crypt. The corridor that lay behind The Corner stretched forward for an eternity. Far off in the distance, he saw a familiar sight.
There it was. There’s the exit. Just around the Corner.
The machines chirped and buzzed in the artificial twilight of the ICU. The nurse, her face prematurely aged after years of caring for trauma patients, sighed and turned to the young doctor hovering awkwardly over her patient’s bed. She didn’t like him much. He was one of those fresh-out-of-med-school types, eager to show off his knowledge and full of idealism. They’re just kids at that point; kids who think they can change the world. Work in trauma as long as she has, he’ll learn soon enough.
“So you like sleeping beauty here?” she asked, unable to resist the hint of cynicism that crept into her voice.
The doctor laughed, a sort of nervous chuckle. “Heh. Very funny. I suppose you have to joke when you can in this job.” He turned to look at the comatose patient again. “What’s his story? Car crash, right?”
The nurse rolled her eyes. Her shift was almost over and she was sick of his constant questions. “Close enough. He hasn’t woken up in months ‒ probably never will.”
“Poor guy, huh?” The doctor didn’t take the hint and kept speaking. “Lying here all alone with nobody but us?”
“You could say that. Medically, he’s an interesting case. He’s been registering brain activity the whole time.”
In two minutes, her shift was up and she could go home and see her kids. They were at the age in which they kept begging her to bring them to work, like all their other classmates’s parents. But she could never bring them here.
Oblivious to her frustration, the doctor continued. “Wonder what he must be thinking about. Could be terrible, trapped in your own head like that.”
“I imagine it must be.” She decided that leaving a minute early could do no harm, and flipped the light switch off, leaving the room in darkness. As she headed out the door, the doctor hesitated, looking at the serene face of the patient.
Musing to himself, he half-smiled. “But you know what? He’s probably having the most fantastic dreams…”