Your swollen eyelids slide reluctantly apart, sluggish with the weight of sleep. The bleak blue of the sky makes you dizzy and the dirt beneath your forearms is moist with yesterday's downpour. Your eyes widen.
Flexing your fingers, you feel soil creep beneath your nails. Images of Egyptian Cotton swim in your mind, and you shoot up to your feet, panicked. What the—? Where's your bed? You attempt to understand your surroundings but stumble when blood rushes to your head. Nothing but your body is familiar, and even that feels foreign in this moment.
Where are you?
Your vision proves unreliable as your focus slips away. Ivy walls lose detail as your head spins. You fall to one knee, overwhelmed, and inhale deeply. With a head shake and a neck crack, you find yourself steady enough to stand. Your eyes lock on something you hadn't noticed before. You feel your heart in your throat. The words ring in your ears despite only reading them, though you're not sure how. Your pupils dilate and you spin on your heel. Burning legs propel you away from the dead end.
you have one hour
dont touch the walls
You swear you hear laughing but you shake it off—you're probably just imagining things. You need to focus. Every fork in the road elicits pangs in your gut akin to nothing you've felt before. Vomit bubbles in your throat and you swallow it down. You don't know how long it's been; you can't afford to waste time humoring your body.
PJ pants aren't good for much besides sleeping, you decide, as another seam pops. They just aren't suited for running. You liked these pants, too.
Laughter chases you through the maze again. There's no way you imagined that.
The sound is brimming with malice and it reverberates in your ears like a tolling bell. It doesn't echo, but you can't help feeling that it should. The silence after every syllable speaks of something deeply evil, something intangible but bloodthirsty and poised to strike.
Your carcass pivots and suddenly you're moving down the right path. A sparkle gleams in the corner of your eye. Does that mean you're headed in the correct direction? Your curiosity gets the better of you, and you stoop down to investigate the small shimmering object despite the time limit.
The sparkle proves to be a small gem about the size of the nail on your pinky finger. It's blue, but barely so, and is shaped like a teardrop. It feels heavier than it should in your hands. You decide to keep an eye out for more of these, and you toss the gem back in the general area you found it.
You start moving again, only now worrying about how much time you spent staring at a tiny rock.
Another fork in the maze becomes apparent and you wager you have enough time to test your hypothesis. Dropping to your knees, you crawl around in search of another gem. You scan the ground near the entrances to both pathways until the prize catches your eye.
It's a gem, red this time, and you leap to your feet. A sense of victory fills the space between your ears as you pump your legs. You shoot down the ivy corridor and the laugh sounds off once again.
Betting your life on these gems, you careen down every path that catches your eye. If this fails… well, it was nice being alive, you suppose.
As you run, the air feels lighter, freer. You pray to God that you're not just imagining things.
Your vision blurs and you collapse, body displeased by your tyrannical monopolization of its resources—your brain needs oxygen, too. The horizon bends as you heave, inhaling so deeply your eyes roll back. A ticking clock startles you to your feet.
"Five more minutes," A lilting voices purrs, from all directions, as if the air itself spoke unto you.
Once again, you run. You run through the labyrinth with a renewed vigor, slicing through the fog with every flex of your muscles, and making the ground quake with every thunderous step. You will do this.
You lurch around a bend and crash face first into something wooden and rotten. The odor of decay makes you nauseas but you swallow it down, determined to reach the end.
It's the sign.
The one from before.
You're where you started.