An extra post in homage to Side View, who has veered away from her usual themes and asked for a story this week.
Here is her opening, inspired by the Shrewsday maze shenanigans earlier in the week:
We reached the centre of the maze, somewhat disappointed that it appeared little different from the rest of the maze. Just a small wooden post with a bronze plaque stating “this is the centre, you now have two choices”.
But there was no explanation of what the choices were. Find our way out, stay and starve to death? Maybe those were them, but the lack of skeletons indicated no-one else seemed to have taken the second one.
I looked down, that shoelace had come undone again. These were the most obnoxious laces, always coming undone, even from a double knot. Anyone would think they were alive and seeking freedom.
As I was tying the lace I noticed an odd shape in the ground, a portion of a circle. I kicked at it and the friable soil moved away, disclosing a brass ring, attached by another ring to the round. Some more kicking away of the soil disclosed a wooden trapdoor.
We looked at each other. I said “do you suppose this is the second choice?”
We were spared further deliberation by an unexpected turn of events. The ring began to vibrate, not regularly but with furious flurries of activity followed by short spells of rest.
We shot backwards, our hearts hammering.
At times like this one’s intellect often struggles to keep up with events. One imagines some great dragon nudging the trapdoor from below, impatient to be up and eating adjacent children. Or perhaps there is some green-mannish ogre down there, awakened and made grumpy by our shuffling prying. Whatever the thing that was pushing the door, we were alone, and there were no dragon-fighting broadswords to hand, nor ogre-paralysing hexes. We were utterly defenceless: we could only wait for what the trap door brought to us.
But this is England, in the 21st century. The dragons lie beneath the dust as so many bones, and the ogres have all gone to work in banks. The trap door continued to vibrate and a voice could be heard, in staunch municipal tones. “Stand clear, please…thank you very much…stand clear….”
The door began to dance in its ancient seating. Who knows how long it had been sealed and forgotten? Perhaps its creator, a Cardinal of some note, had once intended to use it as an escape from a sore-tempered king.
The cardinal’s work was about to be rediscovered. After a furious jig, the door flew up in the air and a small man with glasses and not very much hair emerged.
He was kitted out in the bottle green livery of the Heritage organisation which ran the maze and its host mansion. And he was beetroot red, in a pleased sort of way, and very, very excited.
“Well!” he beamed at the two of us. “Who would have thought it?”
We were too dumbfounded to respond. And like many minor officials our new friend took silence as permission to proceed with an explanation.
“I was sitting below in the gardening vehicles department having my cup of tea,” he said, ” and I heard knocking coming from a little storeroom we rarely use. I ran in and the plaster began coming off the ceiling in great chunks. I thought I was for it! Is this the end, Wilf, I asked myself?”
There was a short silence as we digested the information. Our voices had deserted us. We contented ourselves with an attitude of polite enquiry.
Wilf needed no encouragement.
“So when the ceiling didn’t fall in I came out from under the table and there, in the ceiling, was this trap door. No-one knew it existed! This is a momentous discovery, children. I must congratulate you. The BBC will hear of this, make no mistake.”
He offered us a tour of the horticultural machinery department, just as soon as he could alert his superiors to this most significant of developments: a trap door at the centre of this historic maze.
And while our journey down through the trap door may not have had poetry, it did have a frisson of excitement.
And a lot of garden impressive machinery.