When I left a labyrinth full of unsettling creatures, I went out through the wrong exit. Ahead, a simple wooden gate, twice my height with a neat pitched roof, blocked my way forward, more wooden fencing stretching to either side.
Almost as if to keep those strange cave creatures from getting out this way. Although what good a wooden fence would do, I didn’t see.
I consulted my fabric map of the labyrinth. As I suspected, this had not been my intended exit, but I wanted to leave all the same. Even walking all the way around the mountains instead of through, as I’d meant, would be preferable to going back.
The green scent of moss and water wafted on the breeze, tall bamboo trees swaying on the other side of the fence. Inviting. As I approached, I noted carvings on the outside walls of the cave. Images of sages and community leaders entering the cave to consult the otherworldly creatures. For wisdom? For trade?
When I reached for the gate latch, an electric snap sounded. A force punched me in the stomach, throwing me to my back. From there, when my vision cleared, I saw painted sigils on the under side of the roof. Marks for repelling the unearthly, for the most part. Defined as things not-of-this-world. Anyone else could pass through unharmed.
Wheezing, I sat up. So the rules applied to me too, it seemed. Clearly, something had changed since these people had communed with the others. I could call out, persuade someone to let me through. But my inability to open the gate myself was all the evidence anyone would need that they should not let me in. Out.
Oh, I wanted out of that labyrinth.
I turned around and headed back the way I had come.
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