The Mirror Maze

The first story I have for you is one I wrote a few months ago for a Creative Writing module I took in First year. Let me tell you, pouring your heart and soul into a story only to have it ripped apart by your peer group and seminar leader is not the most enjoyable thing to do. But I survived. I took most of their comments into account and edited it before handing it in, finding myself leaving in aspects that they hated because I loved them too much to delete. I may be a bit stubborn. 
This story is a bit longer than I plan on making future pieces, but I thought it was a good place to start. Enjoy!

The Mirror Maze

‘Isn’t this great?’ asked Scott, raising his voice above the buzzing atmosphere of the annual county fair. Heather knew he had said something to her but couldn’t decipher it, she was too busy watching the neon lights on the rollercoasters fill the sky. She laughed, glanced at him, and smiled sweetly.

‘Wanna get some cotton candy?’ suggested Heather, motioning towards the long strip of brightly decorated pop-up shops. ‘Christina was telling me about it at school today. She came here last night and raved about it.’ Heather could feel herself nervously rambling. After all, she considered being asked out by the school’s quarterback her biggest achievement to date.

‘Yeah, sure,’ Scott replied, confidently slipping his hand into hers with purpose and no affection. The pair of them walked towards the cotton candy stall, finding familiar faces in the vast crowd. Their town was a dull one, and so the end of summer fair was looked forward to by every teenager at their school. Bright lights, loud noises and no overbearing parents was a dream for small-town kids.

Heather and Scott hadn’t walked far before a group of rowdy boys made a beeline for them. Her ears were attacked by boyish howls and Scott’s name on repeat. Once her ear-drums had recovered, she realised they were in the same jersey as Scott. Scott immediately dropped her hand like a piece of litter and was engulfed by the group of boys before her. While he forgot all about her, Heather drew in a deep breath and soaked up what the fair had to offer. By this time, the sun had gone down and the moon seemed larger than ever, shining proudly over the bustling crowd. The people around her all had the same fake smile plastered across their faces. Their movements seemed robotic and without emotion, except for the exaggerated joy beaming from their faces, as if they were under a spell. Everyone was having a better time than she was. She turned her gaze to the ground, mesmerised by people’s elongated shadows playing with each other. Scott caught her attention and snapped her out of her trance. The boys said their goodbyes with murmurings of ‘hope you get lucky’, which Heather pretended not to hear, and then it was back to the two of them again.

‘You still want cotton candy?’ asked Scott, with no remorse for deserting her for his friends in the middle of their date. Heather nodded. She watched Scott exchange forced pleasantries with the man behind the cotton candy stall and then wandered towards a clear patch of grass to sit and eat. Heather twirled her hair with her fingers and pretended to be interested in what Scott was saying when she saw a mysterious caravan with a circular entrance in the corner of her eye. She could tell the caravan had once been painted a vibrant red and green, but the colours were barely visible now. All the other attractions at the fair had plenty of people scuttling around outside them, but no one was even close to the caravan. There was a rickety ladder leading up to the entrance and a sign on the door, but she couldn’t read it from where she was sitting.

‘Scott, you all done here?’ asked Heather, interrupting his pointless rambling.

‘Yeah, sure,’ he replied, slightly insulted at being cut off. ‘Where do you want to go next?’

‘That caravan.’

‘As long as we go to the Mirror Maze after,’ demanded Scott as he helped her up from the grass and held her hand once again. The two of them wandered down the line of busy stalls, which made the caravan seem lifeless and eerie in comparison. As they got closer, Heather noticed the paint was peeling away, showing the old wood behind it, and the wheels were missing spokes.

‘They tried way too hard to make this look scary,’ laughed Scott. ‘What even is it?’

HYPNOSIS,’ Heather read aloud from the sign above the doorway, followed by a moment of hesitation before either of them said anything.

‘Bullshit,’ scoffed Scott, ‘hypnosis is utter bullshit. They just take your money and give you a show, making you think something happened when it didn’t. Nothing ever happens.’ But Heather’s gut feeling told her it was more than just a money-making scam. There was something uncannily authentic about it.

‘If you think its bullshit then you won’t mind having a session, will you?’ asked Heather.

‘Well, it won’t be worth it. Just a waste of money and it won’t work on me, Heather… I can’t believe you actually think this’ll work.’ Heather noticed beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

‘It sounds like you’re scared, Scott.’

‘No, I’m– ‘

‘I dare you to get hypnotised,’ she interjected. For the first time on their date, Heather was filled with a sense of power over Scott. If there was anything Scott couldn’t refuse, it was a dare to prove his manhood. He glanced at her to make sure she was serious. He shrugged his shoulders, tugged on his jersey and confidently walked up the steps to the caravan. Heather smiled to herself, and then followed him.

When Scott pulled back the thick, red curtain at the entrance, the two of them were hit with the stench of incense and a wall of humid air. All four walls of the caravan were lined with the same velvety curtain as the entrance and small candles were the only source of light. The incense stung Heather’s eyes and the stifling air made Scott cough repeatedly, at which point movement stirred at the back of the dark room.

‘Hello?’ The tone of Scott’s voice showed he saw it as a joke, which made Heather uneasy. ‘I’m here to be hypnotised,’ Scott stated, adding ‘supposedly,’ under his breath. Heather rolled her eyes.

‘I will only allow one person in my caravan at a time,’ boomed a voice from the darkness. The voice was low and raspy, but also gave the impression it had something wise to say, something worth listening to. Heather’s eyes adjusted to the darkness until she could see a large feminine figure sat behind a very small desk. The only thing she could see clearly was the reflection of candle light from the rings on the woman’s bony fingers. ‘Which one of you wishes to be hypnotised?’

‘That would be me,’ replied Scott, and bowed as if he were the lead actor in a play. ‘I guess you have to wait outside, Heather.’ She glanced at him apprehensively. The caravan was starting to make her nervous, and she didn’t want to be left outside in the dark, alone. After a few seconds of deliberation, she reluctantly turned around and pulled the curtain shut on her way out. She paused for a moment at the top of the stairs with her hands still on the curtain, exhaling sharply to calm herself down before climbing down the stairs.

Heather waited outside. The night had gotten colder, which her thin cardigan couldn’t protect her from. She could still hear the loud music, indistinct conversations and happy shrieks coming from the busier parts of the fair, making her feel even more alone. Just as she was finding it unbearable to wait any longer, Scott appeared in front of the curtain. He stood motionless at the top of the steps, staring blankly into space.

‘Everyone… Must… Die…’ he said, emotionlessly under his breath. Heather could not believe her eyes. Scott stayed completely still for a few seconds until he couldn’t keep his act up any longer, and doubled over laughing.

‘Mr Ives always tells me I can’t act,’ Scott exclaimed as he continued to laugh. Heather was embarrassed that she let herself get scared, and so she pretended she knew he was joking all along.

‘Yeah, you really can’t,’ sneered Heather, relaxing. Scott walked down the stairs to meet her, still laughing.

‘Well,’ Scott threw his arms in the air in a shrug, letting them slap his thighs on the way down. ‘I feel no different. I told you it wasn’t real.’

‘I know, I was just curious,’ she replied. Scott smiled victoriously.

‘Mirror Maze?’ he asked. Heather nodded.

The Mirror Maze was the most popular attraction at the fair. It was a staple, every year it returned. From a distance, Heather could already see lots of people flowing in and out of the maze. As soon as Heather and Scott approached it, the maze seemed to have caught the attention of the whole fair, drawing all of them in like a magnet. As they got closer, she was intimidated by its size. The large wooden structure that acted as the entrance was painted a deep purple, making the words ‘MIRROR MAZE’ in a classic yellow font stand out. The flashing lights around the entrance gave an impression of urgency, lighting up Scott’s face as he smiled from ear-to-ear. He grabbed Heather’s hand and charged towards the giant mouth of the maze that was patiently waiting to swallow them.

As soon as they stepped inside, Scott’s demeanour changed. His smile turned into pursed lips and furrowed eyebrows. His shoulders tensed as he let go of Heather’s hand and stood to his full height of five foot eleven inches, towering over her and those around them. Heather glanced at him, confused, only to be received by a blank stare and heavy breathing. Before she could question him, he boldly walked further into the maze.

There were few lights dotted around, tinted blue and emitting just enough for them to see an outline of their reflections in the multitude of mirrors, but not enough to see each other clearly. Scott took long strides through the maze as if he knew every twist and turn by heart, and stayed a few yards ahead of Heather at all times. Heather, deserted by a familiar face, quickened her pace to keep him within her eyesight. The crowd inside was just as bustling as it had been outside, exacerbated by the narrow corridors and optical illusions. Before she knew it, Heather was caught in a tide of people. She constantly bounced off them and into others, apologising, but not acknowledged by any of them.

Distracted by the constant activity around her, Heather’s eyes widened as she realised Scott wasn’t around. She couldn’t tell in which direction he had gone and was panic-stricken by being left in a dark room full of strangers. She frantically looked around where she was standing only to be met by her own desperate reflection again and again. Determined to find him, she turned the corner and walked faster. Without warning, the floor disappeared from beneath her. Heather’s hands and knees stung and they scraped along the floor, causing adrenaline to fill her body. As she glanced back, she saw she had tripped on a missing floorboard. The edges of the hole in the floor were snagged and sharp, leaving scratches on her leg. She got up and charged forward twice as determined as before.

The deeper into the maze Heather went, the fewer people she saw. Each corner she turned seemed to bring more loneliness than the last, but the empty space only allowed her to walk faster. She was beginning to think she was the only one left when a high-pitched scream from deeper within the maze stopped her dead in her tracks. Goosebumps rippled along her skin. Slowly but surely, Heather turned the next corner, searching for the source of the scream.  

But this corner was different. Instead of the hard, wooden floor she was expecting, Heather’s foot landed on something softer. She immediately recoiled her foot and inspected the sole of her shoe with her hands, revealing a thick, sticky liquid dripping from her fingers. As she looked up, she saw the silhouette of a teenage boy’s body slumped face down into a corner, wearing the same jersey Scott and his teammates wore with pride.

‘Excuse me? Are you okay?’ Heather asked timidly, but there was no reply. As she got closer, she saw the jersey had been slashed open, and the skin along with it, revealing a gaping hole in the boy’s flesh. Heather could not escape the nightmare; the countless mirrors surrounding her projected the image of the dead boy and his blood pooling at her feet, with streaks of blood dripping down the mirrors themselves. Before she had time to act, more screams echoed throughout the maze, filling Heather’s brain with sheer panic. Adrenaline engulfed her body as she sprinted away from the boy, desperately trying to find the exit. The further she got, the more bodies she saw slumped in corners with the same slash across their skin and blood pouring from the wound. Her heart was thudding against her chest almost as hard as her feet were landing on the wooden ground, splashing blood onto her clothes and face, blurring her vision. Corner after corner, corridor after corridor, bodies littered the maze.

For what felt like hours, Heather’s world was full of screams, blood, and mirrors. She was convinced she was having a nightmare when the mirrors started to reflect something other than dead bodies: bright light. Heather’s heart raced as she rushed towards the exit, desensitised by that point to the masses of bodies she passed.

She stumbled through the exit into the empty fair. Her eyes struggled to adjust to the bright floodlights surrounding her. As she continued to walk away from the maze in shock, she noticed a silhouette. A few hundred yards ahead of her, Scott was sitting on the grass, looking up at the stars. Beside him lay a piece of wood, covered in blood, that perfectly fit the hole in the floor Heather had tripped on. Blood stained his arms from his hands to his elbows, and splattered across his jersey and face.

‘Hello, stranger’ Scott said, happily; his tone was out of place. Heather stared straight at him, too shocked to reply. ‘I thought you got lost, you took so long in there. Where were you? Where is everyone else?’ he asked, looking around them. From his facial expression, Heather could tell he was oblivious. Heather’s glance strayed from his face to the rest of the fair. They were the only ones left. The silence was unbearable. All the attractions still stood in their places, but there were no excitable teenagers to bring them to life. As she turned around to look behind her, she noticed there was one stall missing: the caravan.


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