The last two nights I’ve dreamed the same theme…
The maze was in my dream again last night and the night before. At first I walked its path easily, the maze nothing more than a design worked into bricks below my feet. I could stand and look forward, tracing my turns to avoid back tracks.
The longer I worked the maze though, unraveling its answer, the more it changed. It morphed from a pattern to one foot walls funneling me through. There was evidence of cheating, bricks kicked loose from the mortar, dusty footprints atop the walls. Still I traced my path with my eyes, trying to avoid deadends and make my way across.
On the other side of the maze was a bridge. I could hear rushing water far below, the rift in the land projecting the roar skyward. I kept looking up at that bridge as I woved back and forth through the brick walls.
My maze grew taller. If I looked at the bridge another line of bricks would be upon the walls. The same happened if I looked back. The walls were at shoulder height before I realized the correlation. I tried to avoid the issue, focusing instead on the task at hand. I could no longer see my path, relying instead on the old standby of making consistent turns.
Layer after layer of brick grew upon the wall, stopping when it reached six feet. I was glad they didn’t grow taller or the sky would have been blocked. Still I walked. I was tired. Keeping focused on my path became difficult. My feet hurt and I was thirsty. I’d been walking for a long time.
I turned a corner then immediately turned again, going back the way I had just come but on the other side of the wall. The brick here was in poor condition, mortar crumbling in the joints and crunching underfoot. The roar of the water suddenly seemed louder and I looked up. My path was clear, the brick walls unbroken for a hundred feet then opening to the left.
My pace hurried. I couldn’t help it. The angle of the sun had changed significantly since I began the puzzle. When I got to the opening I gasped. I was through the maze! I stepped out and frowned as something crunched and tinkled under my feet. The lane from the maze to the narrow bridge was paved with broken glass. The shards glinted in the sun, a shimmery fractal rainbow, hemmed in by a stacked stone wall. Rich, lush green grass spread out on either side.
“There is only one path to the bridge.”
I jumped and spun around. The maze was nothing but a fancy brick terrace again and a woman, eyes cloudy with age, thin skin pale and wrinkled, leaned on a cane at the edge.
“I don’t understand,” I answered. She nodded and stepped closer. She smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg, like she’d just walked from her kitchen where cookies cooled.
“If you wish to reach the bridge there is only one path and you must exchange your shoes for this.” She pulled a needle from her blouse, a thread pulled through its eye, and offered it to me. “It is the only way you’ll make it.”
I looked over my shoulder at the glass then at the bridge. I needed to cross it. My eyes tracked to the lush carpet of green on either side. Couldn’t I walk there? In the way of dreams, I knew I couldn’t, and that the woman was guiding me true.
I slipped my shoes off, settling my feet carefully onto the glass. She reached out and pushed the needle through the fabric of my blouse over my heart. “You’ll know when you need it,” she said before stooping to retrieve my shoes.
I nibbled at my lip, watching her walk back across the brick maze with no regard to the pattern. Sighing I turned and began to walk. Each foot I placed with care among the shards of glass, trying to avoid cutting myself. It was a futile endeavor. I imagined the soles of my feet glittered like gemstones before I had made it halfway along the path.
I hummed to myself, trying to distract my mind from the pain. I was beyond the point where stepping hurt. There was so much glass embedded in my skin my nerves screamed constantly. I could feel my body trying to react, flooding me with endorphins. I had stopped crying and as the end of the path approached I was faced with the prospect of the bridge.
A stone bench waited for me at the edge of the cliff. The glass was gone from the path, but still in my feet. Bloody footprints stained the ground before the bench, testament to others who had made the trek before me. I sat down and carefully picked the shards from my skin. The wounds healed as soon as I cleared them of glass. After a while I rested my feet on the ground and wiggled my toes. The echoes of pain lingered, but gone were the sharp stabs of agony.
I nibbled on my lip, anxious. The bridge belonged in a horror movie. It was a great ugly beast of twisted metal and wood, an old railroad trestle. The broad railroad ties remained in random spots, but there were more missing than remained. My stomach knotted and I pushed myself to my feet, bracing for the crossing.
The roar of the water below was deafening. The bridge stretched out into a bank of fog. I couldn’t see the other side. Far ahead of me I could see others making the crossing. I fingered the needle, making certain it was still there.
I would need it soon.
I woke as my foot took the first step onto the bridge.