Support Your Local Labyrinth

(The estimated reading time for this is 4 minutes)

The following post is by DarkFuse author Nicole Cushing, written about her novella Children of No One.

You can find mazes and labyrinths carved into Stone Age tombs.  You can also find them in rat experimentation laboratories, Greek myths, coloring books, Chartres Cathedral, video games, Midwestern cornfields, Halloween haunted houses, New Age retreat centers, and at the end of Stanley Kubrik’s film adaptation of The Shining.

 They’re everywhere.

Mazes and labyrinths seem to exist at a fascinating intersection of frivolous amusement and spiritual discipline, at the intersection of that which people might call sinister and that which they might call holy.  Some of the oldest mazes may have been built by ancients looking for a way to trap evil spirits.  (The idea being that they’d be drawn into the maze, lose their way, and never escape.  Ironic, given the fate of The Shining’s Jack Torrance.)  They could have also existed as a way to define the path of a ritual dance.  In Renaissance Christendom, the labyrinth may have become a miniature walkway symbolic of the lengthy, expensive pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Among Native Americans, they may have been a way to commemorate a sacred route to a sacred ancestor.

I’m ambivalent about them, myself.  On the one hand, there is something genuinely calming  about slowly pacing a small, spiritual labyrinth designed to foster contemplation.  I don’t believe anything magical actually happens when I walk a labyrinth, but I think the slowed pace of walking meditation carries its own benefits.  I’m also a big fan of the Halloween corn mazes we have here in Indiana as well as mirror mazes and pitch-black mazes at haunted houses and the like.  But my hunch is that I only like them because they achieve the desired effect of freaking me out.

I guess you could say that I’m okay with labyrinths or mazes as long as I’m able to consciously choose to visit them.

On the other hand, I’d be terrified by having one imposed on me in my day-to-day life.  I’m too much of a free spirit to like the idea of only being able to travel a limited number of prearranged paths (some of which have been consciously designed to mislead me.) Were I to find myself suddenly teleported into a befuddling, real-life topiary maze, I’d likely try to emulate Bart Simpson (who, in a Simpson’s parody of The Shining, cut his way out of the Overlook’s maze with a chain saw).

But I suspect labyrinths are going to keep on chugging along throughout the ages, whether I like them or not.  They’ll be here as long as humanity’s here.  And while I said earlier that I only really like labyrinths when I consciously seek them out, there is one notable exception to that.

Namely, I never really planned to write a book about a maze.  I didn’t consciously seek it out.  It just happened.  I was minding my own business, reading “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges when a single line jumped out at me:  “I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.”  Borges’ narrator goes on to refer to this, in the very next line, as just one in a series of “illusory images”, but the line hit a nerve and I began to wonder what it would be like if someone made Borges’ illusion a reality.  What if someone literally built a miles-long, ever-expanding labyrinth? What if it was pitch black ?  What if children had been not simply imprisoned in such a labyrinth, but raised in it?  What if they’d been in the maze so long that they couldn’t clearly remember what life was like before?  What if, for all practical purposes, the maze was their world?  What if a practitioner of black magick came onto the scene to use the maze as a venue for raising a god of primordial nothingness?

In the course of answering all those “What If?”s, I wrote my first novella.  It’s called Children of No One, and it debuts as a DarkFuse limited edition hardcover and ebook in March.  I hesitate to admit that it was a “fun book to write”, because it’s so damned dark in places.  If I admit that I had a good time while writing it, you’re going to think I’m a sicko.  (But wait, I’m a horror author, that ship already sailed a long time ago).

So I’ll fess up.  I had a blast writing the book.  Here’s hoping readers have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

And while I’m making pitches, here’s another:  support your local labyrinth!  You may be surprised (I know I was) to find out just how many towns, churches, farms, or retreat centers have labyrinths set up that are either on public property or available to visit by appointment.  Just visit labyrinthlocator.com to find the one closest to you.  And, hey, maybe you can take your Kindle with you and read Children of No One while tucked away in a corner of the maze.  Something tells me that would be a fun experience (or, maybe, a profoundly disturbing one).

© 2013 – 2016, DarkFuse & individual contributors. All rights reserved.

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Nicole Cushing is the author of over twenty short stories published in the U.S. and U.K. Her fiction has appeared alongside stories by Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, and Chuck Palahniuk. Several of her stories have been (or are currently being) adapted for audio presentation on podcasts such as Tales to Terrify and Pseudopod. She lives with her husband in Indiana.

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