• By Dorothy Hamilton (she/her)
  • Art “Labyrinth” by Brandon Yi (he/him)

Atop the bluff, the labyrinth: winding, snaking, coiling. The pathway from entrance to exit is clearly marked by stones resting on top of sand—really just stones resting on top of tinier stones.

The labyrinth wakes with the sun and can do nothing but wait as the day drags on. For the bulk of the daylight hours, nothing happens. Nothing for the labyrinth to do but sit and observe the shifting shadows of the trees around it as the sun moves across the sky. It can sense as what little moisture the night provides is sucked up and out and away, leaving behind dust and cracks for lizards to widen.

When the shadows get long and the sky begins trading its blinding light for patches of rich color, the people will come. They’ll walk by, most not stopping, though a good handful of them will approach the serpentine walkway to glance briefly and then turn back , eager to reach the edge of the beach before the sun recedes. A few will walk some of the outer rings, but lose patience. None of them will complete it yet. So she’ll wait a little longer—she’s fine with waiting. Her mind has learned to wander, but never far enough that she can’t pull it back in.

Next, dusk will fall—maybe gently, like a fainting Victorian woman, or maybe all at once, like a plant pushed off the counter by an over-eager feline—and the shadows will dissolve in the rest of the gray.

And every night, like clockwork, someone else will wander toward her. A straggler, too slow for their friends, who insisted on walking at a reasonably efficient pace, or, better yet, someone who came alone. Perhaps they thought the walk could clear their head. They’ll step onto her, but they won’t feel the imperceptible pulse of her beneath their feet. Though not dissimilar to a human heartbeat, it’s more uneven, less predictable. They’ll keep stepping, thinking well I might as well do the whole path since I’m here. As they move slowly towards her inner rings, they’ll start to walk slower, to sink. The rhythm of left right left right is punctuated by the squelching of each step. They won’t even notice until they’re almost to the center, when they’ll realize that the ground is suddenly moist, and almost hot, and it seems to be echoing their heartbeat back at them. And by the time they wrap their head around it, their head will have been submerged.

She’ll digest them overnight under the watchful eyes of the moon (who secretly delights in having a companion, even if she’s so many miles away). By the time the sun is ready to come back up, any trace of dinner will be gone. And then the labyrinth will wait. ▲