We reached the centre of the maze, somewhat disappointed that it appeared little different from the rest of the maze. Just a small wooden post with a bronze plaque stating “this is the centre, you now have two choices”. But there was no explanation of what the choices were. Find our way out, stay and starve to death? Maybe those were them, but the lack of skeletons indicated no-one else seemed to have taken the second one.
I looked down, that shoelace had come undone again. These were the most obnoxious laces, always coming undone, even from a double knot. Anyone would think they were alive and seeking freedom.
As I was tying the lace I noticed an odd shape in the ground, a portion of a circle. I kicked at it and the friable soil moved away, disclosing a brass ring, attached by another ring to the ground. Some more kicking away of the soil disclosed a wooden trapdoor.
We looked at each other. I said “do you suppose this is the second choice?”
David looked at me oddly, and said “It probably just covers up the drainage system. Come on let’s find our way out and go have a pint and some lunch”.
I couldn’t help it, I was curious, so I tugged at the brass ring, nothing budged. So I walked along kicking off the soil until the whole outline of the trapdoor was revealed. The wood looked old but very solid. No wonder I couldn’t budge it.
“Please help me David” I begged “I just have to know what is under here”.
“You and your curiosity” he replied, walking over and tugging at it. Again nothing moved.
He twisted the brass ring and we could hear something grinding along as he did so. Then the trapdoor seemed to loosen slightly. We both reached for the brass ring and pulled. Up came the trapdoor, letting some of the soil fall inside with a soft clatter. We peered in. There seemed to be some source of lighting because it wasn’t completely dark inside. Steps, quite steep led downwards.
I started down, David hung back. “Oh come on David, this is interesting” I said, moving on downwards.
At the bottom there was a short passage leading to vaulted room. The room contained only a table. On the table were 2 boxes. I walked over, each was inscribed on the top, and the ambient lighting was sufficient to read them clearly.
The first read “Inside me is the key to beauty, riches and the way to be unique”
The second read “Inside me is the key to love, happiness and the way to be fully human”
I immediately stretched out my hand to the first box. I am unique, artistic; I believe beauty is the answer to everything.
David reached out to the second, typical of him, he doesn’t understand life is unbearable without being special.
Each box contained a little bottle, with the label “Drink me”
I laughed, “Just like Alice in Wonderland” and drank mine.
David took his. “What are you going to do with it?” I laughed. “Share it with Mary” he said.
We climbed the stairs to the outside where it was already growing dark. We seemed to have been down there for a long time, even though it felt like just a few minutes.
- - - -
That was many years ago. I had a brilliant career as an artist of stage and screen, living in the most romantic places. My 3 wives each had been beautiful, but each eventually left. My fantasy life, complete in every fine detail, except for the irritations of ex-wives and children who refuse to acknowledge I am their father.
Millions love me.
Last week I was driving through a small coastal town. There on the waterfront, feeding the seagulls were a pair of almost familiar people. David and Mary. They looked so ordinary, boring clothes; definitely not designed by anyone with a whit of taste.
I stopped and went to talk to them. What a warm greeting I received. They invited me home for a cuppa. Well, David certainly hadn’t done very well. The house was small and furnished with cheap furniture. It didn’t sparkle as my apartment did.
Plain cups and saucers, homemade biscuits (why on earth couldn’t Mary learn to make biscotti?)
I drove on later feeling somehow restless.
Poor David, stuck with Mary still.
- - - -
Today I had the oddest meeting. My old friend Anton (now famous) found us somehow. He seems so alone, poor chap. Mary and I had him round for a cup of tea. He told us a lot about the grandeur of his life, but never a word of whom he loves and who loves him.
When we went to bed Mary and I, cuddled up together for our end of day chat, when Mary said something odd.
“Do you remember the evening you proposed to me and we drank from that special bottle of yours? I think that was the first time I ever saw Anton look so cold and remote. It’s really reached his soul now. Poor man is like a statue, beautiful but lifeless. I still wonder where you two went when I couldn’t find you in that maze that afternoon.”
Should I tell her of our choices made that day?