“Come on, it’s got to be around here somewhere!” He told himself determinedly. He’d said it many times before in the past, but the words gradually felt auto-piloted with every time they’d been spoken.
The maze’s walls curved outward away from the center in a circlular shape, as though it’d originally been a spiral twisting into where the heart of the maze once stood, and then filled up with dead ends and passages. Spike always tries to use that to his strategy; maybe if he kept following the curved outline of the maze and kept going straight inward he could find the end. Other times he’d tried his hand at just running around blindly, as if thinking the maze was using reverse psychology to mislead him.
He couldn’t tell how long he’d been in there, running at any path he’d felt he’d never taken before. He couldn’t even remember where he started off. Many times the fresh encounter of finding a unique little kink in the maze he was yet to see seemed to redeem the belief that he wasn’t running through some sort of Quixote journey, but of course, every single time it’d lead him nowhere. Just to another square, white wall putting a halt in his journey, and then the cycle’d start all over again.
Any time he’d reach a dead end, it’d always send a stinging jab into his heart, which already felt like there was an empty space in the tissue pumping life through his body. Somewhere, somewhere, there was something. Something. An elusive something, something he barely even knew what it’d bring him, but it was…well, something. Something to search for. Something to be found. Something that stood for every day for the rest of his life.
…it was something. There had to be something.
But now, after years of confusion and isolation spent playing games with the seemingly infinite prison around him, a small smirk tugged up at his lips as he ran with a noticeable perk in his stride.
This is it. He thought again. This has to be it!
In his hands he was hugging a bright, ruby red gem the size of a baseball against his chest. It was carved into the shape of a heart, with a brass frame forming the outline to extenuate the romantic design. He’d found it a few sometimes ago, laying alone on the ground. Another rat in the maze as he was, albeit one without the privilege to walk. As if out of sympathy, he took it with him on his quest.
As time went by, however, his keepsake became something far more significant to him. He could feel a faint warmth inside that slowly grew, a feeling that he took a liking to in the cold lifelessness of the empty twists and turns. But it became more than a soothing comfort on his journey. He could also feel a well of energy inside that coursed through the contact of his fingers and into his body, filling him with a spark of confidence.
To him, it felt as though it’d been a gift from heaven above to aid him on his quest. In a second wind his pace quickened, giggling excitedly as he relished in the presence of his traveling companion. By some instinct he could tell that it was the key to everything; that somehow it would lead the way.
As he sped up into a brisk run, the floor itself seemed to glow a nonexistent color, forming a path through the twisting map of the labyrinth. He ran along, following a long, steady curve in the rotary landscape, staying faithful to the imaginary path until it reached a sudden elbow traveling inward and he banked around the corner, running the opposite way along the path closer toward the center.
“I knew I had the right idea!” He boasted.
Some distance later he met another elbow going inward, again bringing him closer to the center. Off of all the times he’d been surprised and hopeful of the mysterious parts of the maze, this one was like a gold mine. The route kept zig-zagging in long, wrapping streaks with no other forks in the paths aside from the banks bringing him deeper, the ground slowly growing bright enough in his mind that he could almost feel the warmth of the gem in the floor itself, while the gem itself seemed to be glowing in soft pulses, like a beating heart. His pace exploded into a mighty stride, his eyes wide with a his face shining a giddy smile.
“I”M ALMOST THERE!!!” He screamed in pure joy. The silence of the maze suddenly felt like it was filled with the holy voices of a church choir. “THIS IS IT!!! THIS IS IT THIS IS IT THIS IS-”
But as Spike hit another elbow, he couldn’t react to stop himself as he slammed into a dead end, knocking him back down.
“…guh…” He groaned painfully, a decent-sized purple lump forming on his forehead. Shaking his head back into his senses, he looked up and gawked at the monolithic wall putting an end to his bout of exhilaration. The holy voices were gone, filled with the dead hum of silence. The floor looked the same, without nothing to distinguish it from the wall.
…and, alas, as he picked up the gem he was overwhelmed with despair to feel that it felt completely cold.
Tears slowly welled up in the dragon’s eyes as something that’d brought him so much excitement and love for such a long time was reduced to nothing. It’s clinking noise mixed with his heartbroken whimpers as he let it roll from his hands and onto the ground, hugging his hind legs against his chest and began to cry. Even as diminutive as he already was, he looked more like a small speck alone in the vast, empty space of the labyrinth.
He stayed there for quite some time, snifflign loudly and wallowing in sorrow until he finally found the muscle to slowly get back on his feet, leaving the gem where it sat to collect dust as he began to retread his path.
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