Nothing was brighter.
That had never been explicitly promised. But, somehow, I had expected it anyway.
And I was alone. I knew everyone was waiting for me, at the other end of the valley. We would celebrate. All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I had to get to them before night fell. At least then I might have help building the fire and making dinner. It wouldn’t all be on me.
I began to unbuckle my armour and let it slide off, clattering to the ground. My clothes were stiff with dried sweat and I noticed how bad I smelled. There were scratches and blisters on my skin, a couple of burns. They would heal, I hoped. I gently stretched. I felt heavy even without the armour.
My mother would have salve with her I was sure of it. My father would give me an appraisal and a pat on my aching shoulder. He’d probably laugh when I winced. I wanted him there to do that now.
I looked back over my shoulder at the huge maze I had just completed, the top of the ladder reaching up from the trench, my last climb to freedom. I could feel the dirt under my finger nails and the built-up grime from the…how long had I been in there?
Running my tongue over my teeth I felt the build-up of fuzz. A long time then. I closed my eyes and I breathed in deep. The air out here, on a gentle breeze, was fresher than the loamy, still air I had just left. It filled my lungs and I felt my chest expand almost painfully as I stretched myself out to take in as much as I could.
When I opened my eyes, nothing had changed. The sky wasn’t bluer nor the grass greener. The sun was shining but there were grey clouds rolling over head.
Hmm. It might even rain later.
I remembered the lead up to the maze. It had been the only choice I could make at the time, but it still felt as if there must have been another choice, somewhere, that I could have made. I just needed to find it.
Having suffered through it I was standing here on the other side and I suddenly realised how the world didn’t look any different. Why should it though, I had been fighting to get back here after all. It was the world I wanted to get to. Wasn’t it?
I looked at where I had just been and then in the direction I was headed. I glanced down at my armour. I still had to carry that with me. I didn’t want to lose it, I had fought hard to earn it. Surely it would be good for something in the future. Nothing hard won was ever a waste.
Piece by piece with stiff, cracked fingers I put the armour back on. It covered the bruises and cuts and kept some of the smell encased. That would be good as I travelled. I tested how fast I could walk. Not too fast.
Once it was all back on I set my gaze on my destination. Once I was there, with my family and friends, I would be able to rest. Possibly.
Well, maybe not right away.
But it would happen. I just had to get there first.
I had survived the maze. But I still had a way to go. I put one foot in front of the other and started walking.
I still couldn’t believe the world didn’t seem brighter. It was the same world I had left when I went into the maze. I was just on the other side.
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