Songbird Trilogy Book 1: The Maze Girl (complete)
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 29
The Clearing

Nothing tries to kill Rory at all tonight. I guess the threat was empty, but I'm still cautious about the entire thing. If it was real, which I think it was.

It has to be almost midnight when I realize how hungry I really am. There doesn't appear to be any source of food in here. The sooner I find Soren's sister the better, so I decide that Rory and I can split up, while he goes on and I cut through the walls.

"I'm going to go left," I tell Rory as wwe approach an intersection.

"Okay," he says awkwardly, "We can go left."

"No, you go right. I'm going to find Soren's sister. I just have a feeling about this way," I say. That 'feeling', of course, is not true but it's an excuse.

"We really should stay together. I'm coming with you."

I shake my head. "I'm going alone!" I say. I'm thinking I shouldn't have replied so vehemently because I can see that he's hurt. "I'm sorry, Rory. I have to go alone."

He throws his hands up in a dismissive yet angry manner and turns to go right. Something tells me the conversation is done. I mimic his gesture and turn the other way. As soon as he's around the next corner I heave a sigh of relief. That was easier than I thought it would be.

Now comes the hard part. Where do I cut in? Does it matter? I reach dead end after dead end, cursing loudly with each one I come to. In frustration, I sit down on the muddy ground, not caring that I'm sitting in a puddle of dirty rainwater, and cross my arms over my chest.

I feel warm tears streaming down my face and wipe them away with the side of my hand. Now isn't the time for crying, it's the time for action. Preparing myself, I look around. Rory's long gone by now and I can't hear his footsteps. The maze is extrememly silent and dark, almost eerily so.

With no birds chirping and no other people in the vacinity, I can hear the ringing in my own ears. I can't stand the sound, so I tap a rhythm in the mud at my feet just for the noise it makes.

The sky is dark and there aren't any stars to accompany the small crescent shape of the silver moon above me. Thunder rolls distantly. I see the lightning ten seconds before I hear the deep rumbling.

The fierce hunger I feel drives me to finally stand up. I'm going in.

I part two large branches, but I still can't see the other side of the wall. For protection, I snap a hefty stick off of one plant and part the branches again.

Summoning up all of my courage, I plant my first foot between them. Then, as quick and agile as I can make myself, I dart even farther in.



I emerge within a few seconds to the other side. It looks exactly the same and I know what's happened. I'm simply in the neighboring corridor; nothing special happened.

Sighing to myself, I walk on, so discouraged that it takes me a long while to notice that there are no intersecting avenues or choices to make as to direction. There's only one way to go--and it has a purpose. To lead me somethere.

I hasten my pace a bit, taking the turns without hesitation, until I reach a wide open clearing. I come to a halt before I reach it initially. Soren's sister must be here somewhere, I tell myself.

The ground resembles a pond after all of the rain, full of murky, brown and green water. A number of other hallways lead into this clearing, each one marked with a wooden sign displaying a number.

I take a step inside, water splashing as I do so, but wheel around in horror as I realize what just happened. I face the entrance through which I just came, but my hands meet a thick wall of glass that faintly reflects my figure through the fogged-over pane.

I'm so panicked that I barely notice that a misty rain is falling again. I pull my hands away, their marks clear on the glass, and take in the fact that all other hallways have been blocked the same way. I am a prisoner, just like Soren's sister.

There's only one corridor that isn't sealed off and it's labeled with the number two. Something makes me think it's meant for me, so I don't approach it. Instead, I approach the glass to the left of it--avenue one--and feel the barrier.

It seems thin enough that, if I had a substantial force, I could break it. I curse myself for leaving my branch farther down before I reached the clearing. My hands alone won't be capable of the job.

My only option is to find something in here that I can use, or enter corridor two, walled with the same glass as the barriers are made out of, and risk whatever lies inside. Bending over to examine the "1" sign, I tug on the post. With all my strength, I manage to snap it, some help from my foot involved.

Armed with the sign, I nervously step into number two. The glass-like walls only just reflect my figure, transforming it into an eerie, dark shadow that seems to live inside the crystal itself; like if I shattered it, the creature would slip out like a spirit.

The corridor turns a few feet up ahead. I take care to look around the corner before rounding it. It seems safe, so I venture to keep going. The end comes just up ahead, but there's nothing special about it.

Then I turn around. Behind me, avenue number two has closed. I'm prisoner in this hallway, and now grateful I went through the splinters to grab this sign, because now I'm going to use it. My only choice is to break my way out of here. And with any luck, break into corridor two as well.



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