By Kala Séraphin
The group walked through the ruins of what use to be a magnificent garden. Broken statues lay as they fell long ago. There was the figure of a scholar, holding his marble tunic to his shoulder with one hand and holding out his other hand, pointing the way to knowledge. It lay on the ground, fingers towards to the sky. Vines wrapped around its body, leaving the hand aiming at the heavens exposed. The grass grew wild and long, dancing in the wind and revealing hidden treasures such as the drowned scholar. An old fountain could be found, broken and dry, holding only memories of a time when life was abundant and thriving. Now, the trees were sparse and small, barely any leaves growing. It was a quiet garden, without life to be seen. The slow flow of energy could be sensed by the most insensitive person. As one person from the group remarked: “How strange it is that such an open space with plenty of sun and removed from urban life did not grow wild and free.”
This cluster of tourist was no different than all the others that came before it; people from different cities curious to see green grass and trees. Some came to compare it with the history books, others; to get away from their busy lives that never stopped. Sometimes, there would come a person that simply wants to establish his superiority. They look at the withered trees and bushes and gloat as they compare it to their skyscrapers and high rise buildings; thinking humans evolved better than nature. All come to be a witness to life’s struggles; though they may or may not be conscious of it.
The guide was an old man who lived his whole life by the mountain. He collected stories of the garden and enjoyed sharing them with the few tourists who bothered to listen to him. He weaved tales of conspiracy and murder, claiming that once the fountain ran red with the blood of innocent citizens who chose a different way of life. He claimed that there was a time, when the garden still grew with glory, but not a soul could reach it. They would get lost in the mountain or lose their life trying. It was rumored that a ghost lived in the garden and would feed off of the people who tried to violate its sacred ground.
This old guide enjoyed sharing his knowledge yet very few believed or even listened to his stories. He would always start the same way, Once upon a time, not too long ago. In a far away land, much like yours and mine. With this particular group, it was no different. He walked with a young girl who had the dimming light of wanderlust in her eyes. Her smile would not even show itself on her thin lips.
“These tales sound like simple stories to put children to sleep.” She claimed, kicking a stray rock.
The old man giggled softly, rubbing his grey and white beard.
“You may be right, young lady. But what if they were real? Wouldn’t that make the way you see the world that much more lush?” He asked.
She chose to be skeptical, holding onto her childhood disappointments.
“ ‘What if’ is a waste of time. How can you succeed in life if all you’re thinking is how things could be different?” She sneered at the old man, seeing him as weak and foolish.
He simply smiled and tilted his head to the sun, enjoying the warmth. It was something he often did, whenever he had the opportunity. His grandmother always said that the presence of the sun is not guaranteed and that every day people should be grateful.
They continued walking in silence. The guide, enjoying the fresh air and scenery and the girl, feeling uncomfortable, as if she were wrapped in a latex suit.
“What’s this?” A middle aged man asked, holding his camera to a tall structure of vines and bushes intertwined. It had an opening perfect for a child to walk through. Everyone’s attention went to it, wondering if it was natural or man-made.
“It’s a maze,” the guide simply answered.
“Who made it? Was it one of your fairies?” The girl asked, already losing her interest in the garden.
“Well, what if it were?” He asked, winking at her. “My grandmother said it was called a maze-of-change. People looking for new perspectives regarding problems, relationships or life in general would go through the maze and come out a different person.” He explained.
“What a load of shit,” she mumbled, kicking another pebble towards the maze. It rolled through the entrance and landed just beyond, pointing the way in.
“If you don’t believe in it, maybe you should go through it Clara.” Her friend suggested with a smirk.
She had her gaze fixed on the pebble. She felt like it was calling out to her, showing her the way to what her subconscious was searching for.
“Go ahead, what do you have to lose but time?” Her friend continued, nudging her towards the entrance.
“How do I get through it?” Clara asked, still keeping her eyes on the pebble.
“Just keep your right hand on the wall and follow it. That’s the quickest way through. But, this is a maze to help you change. These things aren’t suppose to be rushed.” The old man explained.
“I don’t care about change. My life is fine the way it is.” Clara exclaimed, taking a step towards the maze.
“So why bother go through it,” was his next question.
“I just want to,” and she ducked through the entrance of the maze, feeling even more closed in than before. She looked up at the high walls, perceiving golden stones under the layers of wild vines. The voices of her travel group were muffled by the golden wall.
“Follow my right hand…” she whispered to herself and started walking, following the right side of the wall.
The sun was bright and hot, making it hard for Clara to look up. She hunched forward, studying the beaten path. How many feet did it take to kill the grass? So long ago, what was it that people wanted to change so badly? Were they like Clara, desperate for a full make over but unable to admit it out loud?
This reminded her of the problems waiting for her back in the City. There were overdue bills pilling up on her dresser. They were pieces of paper that threatened to slowly take away life’s comforts like heating, water and electricity among other things. She had trouble keeping a stable job to pay these bills. Clara’s personality made it hard for her to take orders from people she did not respect. Her last boss found this out the hard way. One night when her coworkers were busy closing up for the night, her boss slipped his hand under her skirt to feel if she wore silk or lace underwear. Clara did not hesitate to communicate her displeasure by imprinting the keyboard of her computer on his cheek. Needless to say, she did not return to that job.
The rage she had felt that moment came back. Her heart pounded, pumping blood hard through her constricted arteries. Her cheeks flushed and burned. It felt like acid was rising in her throat. Clara missed a beat and fell to her knees. It knocked the wind out of her and the rage kept escalating. She started to cry. The tears came hot down her cheeks, every drop another reason why she couldn’t sleep most nights. Her head pounded since she kept all of her worries, pain and dissatisfaction buried at the back of her mind.
“I give up!” She screamed. “I hate my life. I want it all to change! Everything!”
A banal silence greeted her. The ground vibrated so slightly that Clara barely noticed it and paid it no mind. She picked herself up and brushed the dust off. There was nothing left to do but to find her way out of the maze.
She placed her right hand on the wall again and was surprised that it felt like ice. Clara went on her way, dragging her feet, wondering why she bothered to find her way out.
“You are alive; is that not enough?” She spoke out loud, her mouth moved, but it wasn’t her voice or her thoughts. It was a softer voice. She might have sounded like that if she didn’t live a lifetime of disappointments.
“I’m tired of things always being a struggle,” was her shaky reply. Clara was comforted by the sound of her own voice.
“Everything is about choice. What would it be like if you chose to live with ease?” The voice asked.
Clara, walking slowly, keeping her right hand on the wall and following the path, shook her head. She could not even fathom a life with ease. It was so ingrained in her to fight that she always kept an aggressive stance with tense muscles and a permanent scowl.
“It is possible, Clara. You just need to let go,” the voice continued.
“Stop it! Just leave me alone!” Clara yelled, feeling insane for yelling at someone who wasn’t there. She stopped walking and looked around. Everything was still and quiet.
She continued to walk, focusing on the wall under her hand. It still felt cold under the vines. The gold was dark under all the plants. The wall was uneven yet smooth; as if the builders took so much time to make each individual stone perfect but forgot to make them the same size and just put all the pieces together anyways. The vines covered up the imperfection, letting the gold shine through sparingly.
“What changes would make you live the life you desire?” The voice suddenly asked.
Clara tried to ignore it. She kept walking and looking at the wall. Of course she thought that her life would be better if she didn’t have to struggle to pay the bills. How happy she would be if she had friends that loved and supported her instead of keeping her in the negative state she remained. She also thought that being able to look in the mirror and love the face that looked back would make her life that much more enjoyable.
Her hand started to tingle. She removed it from the wall and saw that it was red. With her other hand she touched the wall again. It was now scalding hot. Clara wondered how come it took so long for her body to notice it.
“When you get so use to something, you become numb and can’t feel when it’s time to let go.” The voice intoned.
Clara took a deep breath and decided to continue on, keeping her right hand to her chest. The throbbing pain that now started was all she could focus on.
“Letting go is hard, but it doesn’t have to be.” The voice tried to be sympathetic. Clara felt mocked for her weakness. Now all she could hear in her head was the voice whispering Let go over and over. At first it felt like a soft breeze blowing, then it escalated to a swirling storm of words and pain.
Finally, the foreign presence escalated to a piercing scream, filling her head with a pain so deep and ancient. Clara held her head and fell to her knees. It was too much to stay conscious and so the world went black.
Clara opened her eyes to a dark, starry night sky. She had never seen so many stars shine so brightly. It made her feel so small and insignificant. How could she hold on to all that hate, pain and fear when the world held so much wonder? She couldn’t see it before because she was too busy holding on to the person she thought she had to be. Now, Clara was too tired of carrying such a heavy burden as unhappiness. She let go of it, told her heart that it was time to move on to something new.
She sat up, smiling at the stars. Her hand still throbbed yet her head felt clear. Clara got back to her feet and found her way out of the maze.
The old guide was waiting for her, sitting under a withered tree, watching the exit. He smiled brightly as she emerged from the maze. Clara looked tired but she smiled just as brightly when she saw him. He knew that the maze had done its duty.
“You made it!” He exclaimed, laughing.
Clara just kept on smiling. They went on their way down the mountain. Now the silence between them felt light and comfortable.
“Tell me a story. One of those stories from a far away land much like yours and mine.” Clara asked, carefully taking her next step down the rocky path.
Every day is a chance for us to choose what is best for ourselves~ Do you take the time to see what’s before you?
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