The gate rose up unexpectedly from in-between the trees. Rose stopped and frowned up at the barrier before her. The trail she had been on lead straight down towards it and though it was not well tread, the dirt path was clear enough of overgrown plants. Birds sing over heard, tweeting merrily and the waters of the brook sounded like fairy laughter.
Rose walked closely, wondering why she had only just discovered this section of the woods. For years, she had walked amongst the trees and paddle in the brooks. She knew all the pathways like the bloodlines showing in her hands. Yet, here was a place she had never been before.
Stopping before the gates, she saw that they were made of tree branches and had been designed to look like a bare tree reaching upwards. A sign arching above stated ‘Labyrinth’. Rose reached out and touched the gate, the wood felt a little cold and damp, but was natural. The gate swung open.
She snatched her hand back, knowing she hadn’t but that much pressure on the gate to open it. Looking though, she saw the path continued as did the trees and undergrowth. She glanced back the way she had come and realised she couldn’t tell the different between the two views.
Shrugging, Rose walked through the gate then closed it behind her.
The path felt no different under her thin hiking booted feet. She reached out and touched the trunk of a beech tree. A small piece of a white bark came off in her hand, but there was nothing unusual about it. Walking on, she followed the path around a corner and entered a shadier area. Tall trees formed an arch over her head, their branches and leaves brushing together.
Rose stopped, glad for a chance to escape the hot summer’s day. She watched a white butterfly flapping around a clump of purple foxgloves and listened to the chittering of a pair of birds. Just as she was about to move off, she heard a low child-like laugh. Glancing around she saw nothing and deciding it was properly some children playing nearby, she walked on.
Coming out from under the arched trees, Rose found herself at a cross roads. The dirt path forked off three ways and they all looked the same to her. She frowned and studied each path.
I really have no memory of this, Rose thought, but how hard can this labyrinth be? I bet it was made of kids. That’s probably, why I’ve never come here because it’s next to the play area.
Rose half turned and thought about going back. Then, decided that because she was here she might as well go on. She choice the left way and walked down a little dirt yellow path. The bushes grew thickly on either side, threating to overtake the path. Rose squeezed through, feeling the tips of branches scratching against her bare arms. She walked down a dip and found the path split. One snaked to the right heading up hill and the other carried on downwards.
She picked the left again and carried on. The path widened and she found herself walking alongside a lazy river. A small slope was all that separated her and the clear water. White spit like foam floated on top and Rose felt drawn to stop. She sat down on the path edge, resting her legs on the slop and wiggled off her backpack.
She dug out a bottle of water and drank a few gulps. Light laughter and notes of music tickled her ears. Puzzled, she looked around, but couldn’t see anything but trees and scrubland. Rose listened harder, but couldn’t hear anything else. The river bubbled and rumbled around rocks as a breeze rubbed branches together. The birds were still singing and she felt oddly glad about that.
I wonder if I’ll meet David Bowie, Rose thought then giggled aloud. Images from the movie blossomed in her mind and she shook them away. A traditional Labyrinth should be circular with only one way to the centre as well as one entrance/exit, she told herself. Frowning, she wondered how she knew that, then decided she must have read it somewhere.
Getting up she walked on and found that the path she was following did seem to curve in. When she reached another cross roads, she took the furthest pathway and walked uphill. From then on whenever the path divided, Rose took the right one believing it would take her to the centre. Slowly, she found herself going around large sweeping curves and the path seemed more open.
She stopped once to try and see over some tall bushes, but couldn’t see anything other than the blue sky above. Starting to get fed-up, she picked up her pace and at the next path divided, decided to go off it and walk through the trees.
The ground under her feet changed to dry soil and she snapped over fallen twigs. She walked in a straight line and in a few moments entered a large circle were a small fountain sat. Water trickled out from the mouths of four jumping frogs and splashed back into the shallow pool they appeared to be jumping out of.
Rose signed and went to sit on one of four benches that had been placed at the edges of the circle. She drank some more water and had a chocolate bar. She thought about the best way to get out of here and finally decided that she’d just walk in a straight line ahead. Packing up her things, she set off doing just that.
She crossed over a number of paths, but stuck with her plan. She walked around trees and bushes feeling only a little frustrated. The idea that if she had been a child lost in this labyrinth came to her. She imagined that it could be a lot scary. She thought she heard a soft crying and paused.
The noise faded, replaced with birds and the breeze. Rose shook her head and carried on walking. A few minutes later, she stepped down onto a path and saw across from her a wired fence. Smiling, she joined the path and let it lead her back to the gate. Strangely, she felt disappointed that nothing magical or scary had happened.
Opening the gate, she stepped out and cast a look behind her. Everything still looked the same. Closing the gate, she walked back up and into the play area, expecting to see the children who she had heard laughing and crying. The playground was empty and a single swing was moving by itself.
Shrugging, Rose went and sat on a bench, catching her breath back. She dug a thin blue jacket from her bag and used it to wipe away the sweat from her face and neck. Dropping the jacket over her lap, she pulled out the bottle of water and finished it off. She felt glad she had brought it and other bottle with her.
She felt a light tugging on the edge of her jacket and looked down thinking she had simply caught it. There was nothing there, just the edge of the jacket floating in the breeze. Rose frowned and thought she must have imagined it. Balling the jacket up, she shoved it back in her bag and did the zip up.
She checked the time on her phone. The numbers blurred into what looked like; 2:05pm.
‘How’d it get so late?’ Rose gushed, ‘I must have been in that labyrinth for almost an hour!’
Putting her phone away, she stood up and went to put on her backpack. One of the straps snagged on the bench and she bent to free it, she saw something out of the corner of her eye.
Pausing, she watched the lower leaves of a bush shaking. It had been green and pink, she reflected, or at least it seem that way. Maye it was just a squirrel?
High pitched laughter suddenly came to her. The backpack slipped from her fingers and clunked down on the bench. No child could’ve made that sound her common sense told her, nor an adult.
‘I’m just dehydrated, my mind’s playing tricks on me,’ Rose declared.
She unzipped her bag and dug around for the other water bottle.
The leaves rustled to her right and she looked over. There on the ground was a tiny green felt hat with feathers and leaves sticking out of a yellow ribbon band. Abandoning her water and bag, she went over and picked it up.
It must have coming off a kid’s toy, she mused.
Placing it back, she went and had a drink of water and sit down on the bench again. She shut her eyes and thought about how hot it was and how she was glad the birds were still singing. The second you can no longer hear the birds is the moment things start to happen, she reminded herself, at least that’s how it always goes in movies. She laughed to herself and opened her eyes.
Scolding herself for being silly, she collected her things again and made to leave. Standing up, she walked over to the swing set and stopped the single swing that had still been moving all this time. Feeling less creeped out, she got back on the path and walked away.