Mar 31

Vignettes: A Wrong Turn



 A Wrong Turn

A scant moment after the little curly-haired boy disappeared into the mirror, Sam hurled himself in after him. He had never tried to chase anyone through the Maze before, but this was as close to the Piper as he had ever come; and he was darned sure he not going give up easily on the chance to catch the elusive creature.

“Doggone fellow has been dogging our steps for as long as I’ve been a Framerunner,” he said under his breath as he whirled around in search of movement — any movement. There was plenty of that, as it happened: nearly every portal he encountered peeped out into little bits and pieces of the city and the surrounding countryside. As a result he saw kids brushing their teeth, people walking along sidewalks outside of mirrored office buildings, the occasional flash of lips as a woman checked her lipstick in her compact. But these were minor distractions; what he was looking for was movement here within the Maze with him.

The Mirror Maze stretched in infinite directions up, down, and in all directions around him —  though all points of the compass. “All of space is here next to my fingertips,” Sam thought. “All I have to do is to push aside the portals I don’t need, and instantly, I can be anywhere on the planet.” It was a temptation to pride that he knew well, but quickly rejected. He understood that his gift was just that, and that it had been given him for some greater purpose.

As he was reminding himself about what it meant to be a Navigator, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He snapped his head up and to the right, and sure enough, he saw the curly-headed Piper running fleet-footed away from him and into the distant infinity of the Maze.

Sam sprang after him, pushing portals aside as they crowded around him. They were like thick snowflakes that obscured his vision as he ran. The Piper saw that he was following, and stopped abruptly before a large portal. Sam was nearly upon him when he saw the other boy grin broadly and plunge out of the Maze. Sam didn’t stop to think; he just jumped through after him.

He landed in some soft, powdery stuff that broke his fall. The light was a hazy reddish-gold all around him and the air was so dry and flinty that he had trouble breathing. “How can this place be on earth?!” he thought, remembering the many atmospheres he had endured on other worlds. But the Maze always took you within a world, never to a new one. So where exactly was he?

He looked around. Beyond the powdery sand on which he stood, there were very few other features. High sand dunes rose around him, and in the distance, threatening clouds were barely visible on a hazy horizon. The sky was nearly the same color as the sand itself.

“And, of course, there’s no sign of the Piper,” he thought. Then it occurred to him: where was the mirror that had brought him here in the first place? He looked around. There was no sign of one. In fact, there was no sign of any portal at all, despite the fact that he still had his Framerunning sapphire clasped tightly in his hand.

“Wait a darned minute!” he said aloud. “This isn’t possible! You can’t get somewhere without either a mirror or a frame to take you there! What sort of a place have I landed in?!!”

His only answer was the sound of the wind, which was rising. Sand began stinging his legs. He thought he heard, as the gale increased, the a faint melody riding atop the wind.

“The Piper laughing at me,” he grumbled, and shook his fist in the direction of the sound. But then he heard another sound, beneath the wind. It was like distant thunder, but it grew louder. Now he was nervous. He was in the middle of a desert with no shelter at hand, and with something coming his way: something big. He hunched down into a hollow of the dunes and tried to shelter his eyes from the flying sand.

Then he saw it: a shape so enormous that at first he thought he was seeing things through the tears in his eyes. But it was not so. A huge, elongated creature had erupted from the sand some distance from him and was headed his way.

“But this can’t be!” he said aloud. “The Maze couldn’t possibly have brought me here, of all places! I can’t have landed on…on…”

The word he couldn’t speak, the very name of the planet on which he had somehow, inexplicably landed, died upon his lips as the giant sandworm approached….


  o   o   o


“Samuel! Wake up, my good fellow! You’ve fallen asleep!” It was Mr. Luke. He was standing over Sam in the Gallery, ochre and cadmium-orange paint smeared on his hands.

Sam rubbed his eyes and looked around him. He had fallen asleep in an overstuffed chair near Mr. Luke’s easel. His friend’s latest painting was nearly finished, and once Sam’s eyes had adjusted to the bright floodlights, he looked at it more closely. It was a landscape with a hazy reddish-gold sky and sand dunes stretching out to the horizon. Sam half expected to see the sandworm again, but the landscape was empty except for a single figure in the foreground. It was of a curly-haired boy looking directly out of the canvas at the viewer. The figure was grinning broadly.

“Son of a gun!” Sam said, pursing his lips.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>