This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read the short story “The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide.” You can read it for free here…
True to its name, this story is written in an informal, guidebook style. The narrator never names themselves or gives personal details; really they just detail a mysterious maze that resides in the middle of the narrator’s small town which grows by the year. The maze features bleeding walls and presents those who enter it with off-kilter characters and eerie tasks. And of course, not all who enter the maze find an exit. Why enter at all? you might ask. As only suits a magical maze, this labyrinth has a mysterious pull on the townsfolk, tempting all resident teens to enter in what essentially becomes a local coming-of-age ritual.
This is the kind of story where suspension of disbelief only gets you so far. You can feel the author trying to pull us along towards believing, throwing in lines here and there to quell questions and preserve the mystery. One example: drone technology to fly over the maze for observation doesn’t work, for reasons. There are a lot of explanations like this to keep the story going.
You might be thinking, “Why don’t you go searching for those kids? Why don’t you run into that maze in parties and pull them out?” In the past, adults tried this, or so we’re told. They went in packing compasses and lights and maps and weapons—all the accoutrements of proper search and rescues. Despite their best efforts at navigation, however, the maze led them in endless circles and forced them to backtrack to its entrances when they used up their supplies. No matter how many times they subsequently resupplied and reentered and tried to solve the maze, they failed.
Nevertheless, it’s a fun read, and I did enjoy the accounts from the townsfolk who entered the maze. Some extended anecdotes from the local townspeople weren’t very convincing in terms of realistic dialogue… but frankly speaking, extended dialogue for the purposes of storytelling is a difficult thing to pull off if your aim is realism in how people actually talk. I’d say if you’re up for a short story that kind of feels like a hokey House of Leaves, then give this one a chance.