The hedge maze was the biggest in the county and the Griffin family were determined to conquer it. Amelia and her husband, Maurice, had picked up their grown up children and headed into the countryside to beat The Maze.
"I tried printing out a map but nobody has actually managed to find the centre since the thing was put up eight years ago" said Eileen, her nose glued to the window as they drew closer to The Maze. Her brother laughed and clucked his tongue.
"That's cheating!" cried Earl. Eileen shrugged; she gave a small shriek as they pulled into the car park. Maurice stopped the car in an empty space and they all climbed out, the gravel crunching under their shoes. The Maze stood before them in all its green leafed glory. Eileen dashed across the car park to where a little map was mounted on a stand. It was a perfect square, each side two miles long with more twists and turns then a roller coaster. She stared at the map, trying to memorise as many turns as she could but only managed to confuse herself.
"What happens if it gets dark and we can't find our way out?" asked Amelia, she was leaning over Eileen's shoulder.
"They have flare guns every few hundred feet, we fire them upwards and they use the security cameras to pinpoint our location. The staff then uses a map to come get us" explained Earl. He stared up at the tall hedges; they were well over six feet tall and designed to stop people from climbing on their friend's shoulders and finding the way.
"Let's go" said Maurice. They all joined hands and followed the crowds into The Maze.
Six hours later, Amelia was getting ready to strangle her children. It was starting to get dark, they were tired and hungry and The Maze was starting to get on her nerves. It had been at least two hours since they had seen anyone else and over thirty since any voices had floated to them through the hedges.
"Just use one of the flares. I've had enough of you two whining!" yelled Amelia. Maurice glanced at his wife and children before opening a little box on a stand and taking a red gun from it. He loaded the flare gun, pointed it above his head and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
"Trust us to get the dud" said Earl.
"It's okay. There's plenty to choose from" replied Eileen. They continued in a straight line until they found a dead end and then they turned right. Amelia stopped, a small gasp escaping her lips. She could see in a straight line for maybe half a mile, little passages lead off the sides of this long one but that wasn't what had made her gasp. The flare gun boxes were stationed at seventy yard intervals, all of them hung open. The flare guns missing and the flares crushed into the ground.
"Oh what fresh Hell is this?" Maurice sighed. Eileen and Earl immediately launched into a tirade of complaints which Maurice tried to quell. Amelia looked up at the fading light before turning her gaze back to the trashed flares, a little worm of unease was beginning to work its way up to her heart. She snapped her head to the right when the hedge rustled; a pale face stared at her for a moment before vanishing into the greenery. Amelia screamed and the fighting stopped immediately, Maurice flung himself in front of his wife.
"What? What happened?" asked Amelia. She gripped her mother's hand, both of them were shaking.
"I saw someone! He was staring at me through the hedge, right there!" Amelia pointed at the hedge; Maurice stepped forward and peered at the hedge. There was a slight gap as if something had been pushed through but there was nothing there now.
"Come on. We need to keep moving, let's just take left turns for now" he said. They all joined hands and edged their way through the growing darkness.
Less than thirty minutes later, it was dark and the only light came from the full moon overhead. Maurice was in the lead, his hand holding onto Earl who was clinging to his sister. Eileen was hanging onto her mother who was bringing up the rear. The hedge next to them suddenly rustled, Earl yelped and Eileen and Maurice were jerked forward as he was ripped from their grasp.
"Earl!" screamed Amelia. She was tearing at the hedge but she couldn't make any headway, she stopped when an ear splitting scream ripped the night.
"What was that?" whispered Eileen. She knew it was Earl but was too scared to acknowledge it. The scream came again but this time it ended in a choked gurgle, Eileen shouted her brother's name and clung to her mother.
"Stay here. I'm going to get him" said Maurice. Before they could stop him, he had dashed away from them and vanished into the darkness.
"Mum, I'm sorry but I'm really scared" whispered Eileen. Amelia held her close; they tried to stay in the middle of the passage and away from the hedges.
"Is your phone working yet?" whispered Amelia. Eileen pulled her mobile from her pocket but shook her head, there was no signal. Amelia sighed but then she grabbed Eileen and dragged her a few feet across the passage, one of the security cameras was sitting a few feet off the ground.
"It's too dark, they won't see us" whispered Eileen. Amelia didn't answer; she took her daughter's phone and pressed one of the buttons so that the screen lit up. She waved it in front of the security camera before typing a message and the holding it right up against the lens.
"Do you think that will work?" said Eileen. Amelia shrugged.
"It's worth a try."
"What do you think happened to Earl, mummy?" Amelia shook her head; she didn't want to think about it right now. Another scream split the air and the two women jumped, Eileen burst into tears and dropped to her knees. Amelia pocketed the phone and dropped to her knees beside her daughter.
"We'll be okay. We'll be okay." Amelia wasn't sure who she was trying to convince.
They found them just as the sun was coming up. Amelia and Eileen were cowering in the middle of a pathway, their eyes almost swollen shut from crying. They pounced on the security guards who apologised for the delay. Apparently they had to wait for the owner to give them clearance before they could go in and rescue the terrified women.
"Did you find my husband? Or my son?" asked Amelia. They climbed into a little jeep and took off, after a lot of twists and turns the exit was in sight. Amelia didn't like the fact that nobody had answered her question; she held Eileen's hand in a death grip and let the tears flow down her cheeks. They passed the gateway that acted as the entrance and they collapsed with relief. Eileen tugged her mother's sleeve and pointed behind her, Amelia turned and the blood froze in her veins. A tent had been erected and a uniformed policeman was guarding the entrance.
"Maurice! Earl!" Amelia howled the howled the names, her cried sounding like the shrieks of a wounded animal. She wrenched herself from Eileen's hands, ignoring all the voices that yelled at her to come back. The policeman saw her coming but he couldn't stop her, Amelia was a woman possessed and she wanted to know where the rest of her family was. The officer was knocked aside as if he was no more than a child and she burst through the flaps of the tent, stopping dead on the threshold.
Maurice and Earl were there alright, at least, parts of them were. They seemed to have been hacked into pieces; blood pooled everywhere plain clothed men retched in a corner. But that wasn't the worst part, it wasn't the part that would haunt Amelia and have her waking from nightmares for years the come. The pieces weren't just thrown around, oh no, they were carefully placed where they were to leave a message. A message Amelia agreed with once she stopped screaming.
AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN'T GO WITH HIM?