I want to tell you about the bleeding maze at the center of our town. People who aren’t from around here don’t know anything about it. It’s not referenced on any website or in any travel book, and most of us like it that way. We don’t share the knowledge of its existence with just anyone because it’s a very personal thing, the maze. We all have longstanding relationships with it that began at a young age. See, when kids in our town turn eighteen, we force them to enter it, like our parents did to us and their parents did to them. Inside the maze we have unique experiences, formative experiences. Most of us return from these experiences just fine—or, fine enough, at least. The others . . . well, I’ll get to them later. The point here is: the maze underscores our lives. You might even say that, in several important ways, it’s inescapable.
Now, I don’t want you to think our town and the people in it are anything out of the ordinary. They’re not. Our town is economically middling and our townsfolk are generally content in their strife, just like in most places around the world. We have no special talents or knowledge, no outstanding attractions that differentiate us from a million other forgettable locales. The maze just happens to be here. It could be anywhere else and it would still function the same way. For all I know, everyone has a maze in their town and doesn’t tell anyone else for the same reasons we give. In fact, maybe, right now, you’re thinking “I already know about the maze. I bet yours isn’t any different from ours.” But, then again, maybe not. Maybe there’s only one maze, our maze, the maze, ever ready for new entrants and ever ready to spit them out.
So, assuming you don’t know about it already, you’re probably wondering “What is this maze, exactly?” As best as I can explain, it’s one of those traditional labyrinth deals, I guess, like in the ancient Greek mythological sense. It’s pentagonal, with a perimeter of over three miles on last measurement, but it used to be smaller. Much smaller. Town records show that it’s grown more expansive over the years, swallowing up and demolishing homes and businesses in its path. No one admits to having built new corridors or walls, so we can’t explain the increasing size deviations, nor do we try. Even though it may one day consume the entire town, it’s really in everyone’s interest not to think about certain facts of the maze. We all sleep better that way.
Structurally, the maze is comprised of cold, gray stone polished ice-smooth. At least, we think it’s stone. There’s every possibility that it’s not. After all, the walls of the maze take no damage even when battered with hammers, chisels, and axes. Standing over nine feet high, they have never been scaled by any climbers, either. Anyone that tries slips off and comes crashing back to earth, as if the stone actively resists attempts at mastery. Rock collectors among us say the “stone” of the maze walls seems like granite, except for its abnormal hardness. That hardness is really the lesser of its abnormalities, though, as it’s also infused with something our local mineral and stone enthusiasts can’t come close to identifying: dark red flecks impenetrable as the rest of the stone one minute and permeable the next. When these flecks become permeable, a syrupy liquid of the same dark red color seeps from them and coats the maze. There’s no mistaking that the liquid is anything other than blood.
A few months ago, the senior biology teacher in our high school decided to collect a sample of the blood and send it off to a lab for genetic testing. The lab responded with a letter that explained how the tests couldn’t be completed because the blood seemed to be from not one discrete individual, but an amalgam of people. However, it could not estimate how many people with any certainty, as every strand of DNA examined appeared to be of a separate origin from the others. What meaning this result provided is unclear, but it made us extremely uneasy. We resolved to never inspect the blood that closely again.
How long the maze has been here is impossible to say. Some of us believe it’s always been where it is, ageless and indestructible, a universal constant of a sort. Some of us believe it was built when the first people arrived here, however many hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago that might have been. And some of us believe it’s part of a conspiracy, that it’s a newer structure built to look ancient, that our parents and their parents never actually stumbled through the maze, but claim they did so that we would go in and, later, send our own children to do the same. Regardless of the truth of its age, everyone in our town accepts that it’s part of a scheme much greater and much more complex than our individual lives or even the life of the town.
Navigating the maze is difficult due to its layout and its size. It has, seemingly, four entry points, but we know that these are really just a paired set of entrances and exits. How do we know? Because the maze calls to us. Certain kinds of people always gravitate toward a particular entrance. No one ever enters an exit. Some families try to coach their children to choose one entrance over the other, but, in the end, no one is ever entirely sure who will walk which side of the maze. Families who coach their kids to choose a particular path are often distressed when their child emerges from the exit that’s paired with the opposite entrance. Some of those families see this emergence as a conscious betrayal of their advice, their teaching. Others are merely disappointed in the choices their children made within the maze that brought them to an alternative end. A few among these families even stop talking to their children altogether if they return from the “wrong” exit. As far as we can tell, though, there is little variation in the two paths. They both twist and turn in bizarre, chaotic patterns. They both result in journeys of indeterminate duration. They both lead to exits that stand no more than ten feet from one another. And, at the end, everyone who passes through either one returns soaked in blood, if, indeed, they return.
What happens to us inside the maze is that which I suppose sociologists might call a coming of age ritual, though it’s a distinctly different experience for everyone. Some of us try to run through as quickly as our legs and lungs will allow; some of us attempt to stroll or make a game of it; some of us hope to camp out and spend the night. It doesn’t matter the tactic used, because the maze itself determines how long our journeys take.
For many, traversing the maze is a process of mere hours. Those who fall into this category usually arrive with compasses and coordinates and GPS systems all set to guide them. They map out their trajectory with help from older family and friends who’ve already wandered the maze and can recall bits and pieces of it. They know where they’re headed—or, they believe they do, at least—and they make every effort to stick to their plans. The ones who are successful in this endeavor return slicked in gore, as it’s impossible to roam the maze’s tight alleyways without rubbing up against shed blood, but none the worse for wear. In truth, many of these teens will find themselves energized by the trek and become the maze’s most vocal supporters in their adult years. They find nothing unusual or upsetting inside the maze, yet something in these quick and easy finishers seems missing. They shake hands too firmly, speak their opinions too loudly, and never, ever, apologize to anyone for any reason. They take comfort in their self-certainty and general assuredness, rarely admitting a need for anything or anyone beyond their gods, especially the one they worship in the mirror. When you meet one of these people, you’ll be left with either a chill in your heart or a thorn in your mind, and you’ll be just as happy to never meet with them again. So it is with the easy finishers.
In contrast, the teens who plan and map and use all the resources in the world but still struggle to locate an exit have stories to tell—stories that betoken both the depth of the teens themselves and the strangeness of the maze, stories similar to those who lack such supplies and preparation.
Here I must impress upon you the glaring fact that not every family in our town has the means to outfit their children for the maze. Some are in want of the knowledge required to properly lay out a guiding route. Some possess no funds to purchase supplies. Others simply don’t care what their kids do within the maze, or if they find a way back out. For the teens in these families, the maze is a shifting, confusing thing, beset with hardships and taking many days, weeks, months, or even years to finish. They return through guile, intelligence, fortitude, strength, and luck. Many are worn to a nub in body and spirit. Some are hardened to steel. A few never re-emerge from the maze whatsoever. As I said, though, like the failed planners, the less prepared among us who do come back usually return with remarkable stories to tell, each one unique in its intricacies. Let me give you some examples.
One of our oldest residents, Theresa Chubb, walked into the maze as a young woman with only a single canteen of water, but exited a week later with two satchels full of jewel-encrusted human skulls. As she explained upon returning, “In the maze, I met a peculiar man without any features I can recall. He was neither handsome nor homely, short nor tall, stocky nor thin. His skin wasn’t black or white or brown or red or yellow, but somehow all those colors at once. He wore a threadbare gray suit and carried with him a pair of shiny silver sickles. He told me he could lead me through the maze, but that I had to help him first. He said the maze was infested with parasites and that it was his job to get rid of them. He asked if I could sing to lure them out of hiding. He said they loved to hear young women and young men. Well, that made my decision for me. He called me a woman rather than a girl or a lady. No one had ever done that before, so I said I could help him. And I did. I sang all the show tunes I knew, and the man led me through the maze.
“At first, I didn’t think we’d see anything. I thought the man was a little crazy, maybe. But as we kept moving, I heard rustling around us. I was scared by it. I should’ve been scared by the peculiar man and his sickles, I suppose, but it was the rustling that didn’t seem right to me. I couldn’t understand where it was coming from. Well, the rustling grew louder, and the walls of the maze started bleeding, and I heard something like an explosion. That’s when the gilded men appeared. Two of them, to be exact, fully naked. Their skin glinted in the sun and their eyes had no color other than gold. They smiled at me and their teeth, pointed like a shark’s, glittered red and blue and green. They began stalking toward me, and I worried what their smiles meant.
“The peculiar man, though, moved in a flash. It was almost as if he popped in and out of space. He was in front of me one second, then behind the gilded men the next, then slashing his sickle across their necks from right in front of them the next. Three seconds, and their heads rolled off their bodies. That’s all it took. They bled gold, but the peculiar man had no interest in the blood. Instead, he carved the shiny skin from the heads and rolled it into scrolls like parchment, then pulled a satchel from thin air and placed the heads inside it. He handed me the bag and said I should take the heads back with me, that they’d be worth more where I was going.
“We spent a long time repeating the same sequence. Walking, singing, beheading. Walking, singing, beheading. The walls continued to ooze around us and the gilded men lurched toward me leering every time they appeared, but the peculiar man’s sickles sliced clean and true again and again. We filled two bags with heads. So many heads. So much violence.
“Here’s the thing about it, though: I didn’t feel scared or disgusted by what we were doing. I didn’t feel any guilt. No, no. I felt pride. I felt alive and respected, like I was part of something very important and necessary, something beyond the usual ideas of right and wrong—some sort of balancing, maybe. I can’t explain why I felt that way, but I did.
“Well, after a time, I couldn’t say how long, I became tired and hungry. I’d brushed up against the maze so many times that my clothes were caked in dried blood. I told the peculiar man I needed food and a shower. He said I’d helped him a great deal but that I needed to leave for those things, unless I wanted to stay in the maze forever. I didn’t, and said so. The man nodded and led me around a few corners and curves, to a long corridor. I saw the exit at its end. The peculiar man thanked me again and told me he’d look for me in the next maze. Then he vanished. I have no idea what he meant by that last, but I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t have left. I’ve never had the same sense of accomplishment out here that I did in there.”
Another of our residents, Kyle Fuller, remained inside the maze for two months. Editor of our high school’s newspaper and president of the school’s Key Club, he entered as an idealistic and energetic kid. By the time he exited, however, he had become a specter of himself. As he later told people, “I didn’t plan on being in the maze more than a day. Yeah, I had a backpack stuffed with provisions for a week, but I didn’t think I’d use them. In and out with ease. That was my plan. The maze has its own plans for you, though. And its plan for me was to get caught up in a war. That sounds ridiculous, but I don’t know what else to call it. It was a war.
“About an hour after going into the maze, I started to think the whole tradition was all a big joke parents played on their kids. I was like, ‘This is just walking around, finding your way by the sun. No sweat.’ But then everything went real dark—the middle of a deep cave kind of dark. I couldn’t see my own feet, much less the maze walls. When I looked up, there were no stars. I thought maybe I’d suddenly suffered a stroke and gone blind. But then a red streak of light shot across the sky—a flare of some sort, I think—and the bright cone of a searchlight swung overhead. It lit up enough of the maze to allow me to see that I was suddenly standing in a trench surrounded by a group of people—only they weren’t exactly people. They had arms and legs and unremarkable bodies, but their heads were just small, fleshy mounds dominated by enormous mouths. These beings—whatever they were—all wore uniforms that looked like army fatigues with huge, red letter Ts embroidered on the chests, and each of them carried a little stick that glowed red.
“These things focused on me and began shouting to one another in a language I’d never heard. The sound of their voices tore at my ears and my eyes. I don’t know if it was the pitch or the frequency or what, but I thought my head was going to explode. As they spoke, one of them pointed its glowing stick at me and I crumpled to the ground for no apparent reason. I felt confused, more confused than I had any other time in my entire life. I couldn’t remember how to stand or talk. I had to concentrate just to blink and breathe. They’d done something to my brain, made it almost shut down.
“Fear took hold of me and I started to shiver. I couldn’t stop shivering. One of the mouth-beings kicked me hard in the stomach and another kicked at my head. I couldn’t understand why they were hurting me. I wanted to cry out for help, but couldn’t remember how to. And that’s when the attack came.
“Something flew out of the darkness and shot straight through one of the mouth-beings, blowing its chest apart in a fine mist. Two more of the mouth-beings blew apart almost immediately after the first. The remainder of the beings took off running through the trench, shouting in their incomprehensible language. Their little red sticks shot beams of crimson light into the pitch black sky. Like lasers, sort of, but with more width and intensity.
“They kept running, leaving me curled up where I lay. Above me, I heard noises like electricity sizzling through wires, like buzz saws cutting through tin. I heard explosions all around, too, and I smelled charred meat. I got up and walked the opposite direction the mouth-things had gone, making sure to stay low. As I moved along, I found hundreds, probably thousands, of exploded bodies in the trench. Some were mouth-beings and some were average-looking people with huge, ballooned heads, like in cheesy alien movies from the 1950s. Every so often I’d hear weird rattling footsteps or the mouth-things’ screamed language and I’d lay down among the dead and cover myself with dismembered limbs and loose organs until the sounds faded.
“I went on like this for what was apparently two months. It felt longer. A lot longer. When I ran out of water, I was forced to drink from puddles I found in the trench. Sometimes I’d throw up afterward, the water—if it was even water—burning my tongue and throat. When I ran out of food, I ignored my hunger for as long as I could, but my legs eventually failed me and I collapsed, shaking and weak as a kitten, among the piles of the battle-torn. God help me, I was out of options. I could die in a war I didn’t understand, a victim of a place I didn’t belong, or I could survive. I chose to survive, and paid the high price survival costs. I grabbed handfuls of shredded corpse meat from around me and stuffed it in my mouth and swallowed. It didn’t always stay down. Even when it did, I suffered from a constant gnawing pain in my stomach and my intestines. Was it cannibalism? I don’t know. It kept me alive. I didn’t want to reveal myself to the mouth-beings or the balloon heads, so I made the only choice I could.
“I kept traveling in darkness and sickness and fear. The explosions and the other weird noises never let up. Day never came. Every time I slept, I covered myself with the blanket of a mangled corpse. Sometimes I thought about giving up, lying down with the broken bodies and letting myself drift off. But I didn’t. Some part of me wanted to find out where the war and the darkness ended, if they ended at all.
“I never did, though. I might have, if I’d stayed long enough, but, instead, I woke sprawled in sunlight just inside one of the maze’s exits after one of my barely restful ‘nights.’ There was no apparent reason as to why I came back, why I was spared that dark place. I went home in a daze and received a huge celebration from my family and friends. But it didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. It still doesn’t. When everything is quiet, it’s almost as if I can hear distant echoes of explosions and buzz saws and the mouth-things’ blaring speech. When I blink, the darkness holds on for a millisecond longer than it used to. And food, all food, tastes a little like the putrid flesh in those trenches. Some days I wonder if I should’ve let myself die in that war-torn place. Some days I wonder if I actually did.”
Perhaps one of the strangest stories of the maze comes from just a few years ago, courtesy of Alexis Flores, who, despite below-average grades through most of her grade school career, is now a graduate student in biochemistry on a full scholarship at a major state university, perhaps thanks to her unusual experiences during her maze journey. Alexis said of the bizarre events that “I never expected anything odd or scary would happen in the maze. We all hear the stories and the rumors, but I don’t think most of the kids believe them. I certainly didn’t. For years, I’d thought the maze was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. I thought just about everything in life was ridiculous, really. So I didn’t care about the maze and I didn’t bother to take much with me when I went in. Just a bottle of water and my phone. My parents complained, but that’s what parents do. Taking just my phone and some water was both a mistake and a blessing, though.
“Once I was in the maze, things got spooky really fast. As soon as I turned the first corner and left the entrance out of sight, my phone started ringing. The caller ID was unknown, and the number was just a string of open and closed parentheses. I answered, because how do you not answer a call as weird as that? I wanted to know who it was. But after I said ‘hello,’ no one spoke. The only thing on the other end was creepy, crackly music, like from an old, beat up record player or a super old-timey phonograph. It sounded out of tune—so out of tune that it stung my ears. I said ‘hello’ again and the music got louder. I tried to hang up, but even after I hit the ‘end call’ button, the music kept playing and kept getting louder.
“The whole time I was listening to my phone, I didn’t notice that my bottle of water was changing color, turning bright blue. I didn’t realize it until the bottle started getting cooler. Freezing cold. Cold enough to hurt my hand. I dropped it, but even at a distance I could feel the cold growing more fierce.
“So there I was, weird music blaring from my phone and echoing through the maze, my water bottle undergoing an icy transformation, and above it all, I heard a voice speak. It had the same distorted pitch and off-kilter rhythm as the music on the phone. It said, ‘Release the medium.’ I looked in every direction, but I didn’t see anyone attached to the voice. ‘Release the medium,’ it said again. I assumed it meant the water in the bottle, but I wasn’t about to open that thing. You don’t just accept commands from random disembodied voices, you know?
“I didn’t have any idea what else to do at that point, so I took off running. Creepy music was still blasting from my phone, but at least I could leave the bottle behind. Or so I thought. When I turned the next corner, there was the bottle again, lying in the middle of the maze. I ran past it, turned another corner, and there it was again, right in front of me, glowing blue. By now, I could see my breath steaming in the air, even though it was July. Frost was forming on the walls. That’s how cold the bottle was making the whole maze.
“The voice again told me to ‘Release the medium.’ I shouted back, ‘Nope, sorry!’ and landed a running kick to the bottle. It hurt my foot like hell, sort of flash froze it, but I managed to send that bottle flying. It hit a maze wall and exploded in a flash of winter. Arctic temperatures ripped through the maze. My fingers and nose and ears all went numb. I think the blood on the walls might’ve even gone hard.
“Out of the bottle fragments, something started moving. It was blue and glowing like the bottle had been, but it had no shape. It moved in waves, like ripples on a pond. That movement entranced me. For no reason I could explain, I wanted to dive into this thing, swim in it, maybe even drink it up. I crept up close to it, even though I was definitely getting frostbite on every bit of exposed skin, and tried to figure out what it was.
“While I stared at it, I heard the voice again. It asked, ‘Is this a new medium?’ Maybe I should’ve backed away. Maybe I should’ve run. Instead, I reached out to the blue thing. As soon as I did, it flew at my face. I opened my mouth, half in surprise and half because, like I said, I kind of wanted to drink this thing, and the blue stuff blasted in. It didn’t choke me or leak into my lungs or anything. In fact, I think it evaporated when it hit my tongue and the roof of my mouth, because when it got inside me, I inhaled a puff of the coldest, sharpest air I’ve ever felt. My heart skipped a couple beats and my teeth throbbed from the sudden freeze, but otherwise I was fine.
“I collected myself and ran. I reached the exit an hour or two later. I might say that what happened to me in the maze was just a bizarre hallucination or something, without any consequence, but that would be a lie. The night I left the maze, I started to think about cells and organelles and peptides and enzymes and all sorts of biology ideas that I didn’t even know I’d learned. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. I needed to know more. I needed to research and experiment. I needed to rearrange the building blocks of life. I’d never been so impassioned about anything before this. It was like a whole string of lights had turned on in my head.
“I guess what happened to me in the maze was good in that way. It gave me purpose, made me care. It turned me into an A student and opened new vistas of thought to me. That’s all great. But there’s another side. I can’t tolerate heat anymore, and my resting body temperature never rises much above ninety-four degrees. I have strange, surreal dreams and waking visions of vast jellyfish-like things. It makes me wonder how much of the motivation and passion I feel is actually my own, and how much was poured into me that day in the maze, by something else. Maybe it’s an academic point, but I think, somehow, that answer explains everything about what happens to people in the maze. Maybe it explains even more than that.”
So what do stories such as these tell us? If we can draw any conclusions from them, which some of us argue we can’t, it seems the most important is that the maze is far more vast than its strange stone facade suggests. The structure would be an oddity even without these incidents occurring within its walls, but the nature of the experiences seems to altogether imply transit to an altogether distinctly separate sphere of consciousness or reality. Something lies under the maze, something with an untapped potential for change both constructive and destructive, uplifting and terrifying. Does this something reside in the stone walls themselves, in the unnatural blood oozing from them, in a supernatural realm beyond our ken, or within our own hearts from the very start? Who can say? All that’s certain is many of us—the anxious majority, actually—can tell mind-boggling stories of our unlikely travels within the maze.
Now, as I mentioned before, there are some teens who enter the maze and never return. We mourn these kids, lost forever in the bleeding stone. What becomes of them is wholly unknown. Some believe they live out their days in whatever instance of the maze they’ve fallen into, making homes for themselves and perhaps even cultivating families and prosperity of some sort. Others believe they’re all dead at the hands of unimaginable horrors, plain and simple. Occam’s hungry Razor, I suppose. A few of us have proposed that these missing teens may become the blood in the walls, that the maze only expands because it keeps consuming more of its entrants. This explains the aggregate nature of the blood, at least. Whichever may be the case, we try to provide for the families of these missing teens. We bring them homemade foods and sit with them in prickly silence, but it doesn’t much help. Without bodies, there is no closure. Without reasonable answers, there is no solace. We cannot hug away the mystery.
You might be thinking, “Why don’t you go searching for those kids? Why don’t you run into that maze in parties and pull them out?” In the past, adults tried this, or so we’re told. They went in packing compasses and lights and maps and weapons—all the accoutrements of proper search and rescues. Despite their best efforts at navigation, however, the maze led them in endless circles and forced them to backtrack to its entrances when they used up their supplies. No matter how many times they subsequently resupplied and reentered and tried to solve the maze, they failed. This same fate befell so many rescue teams over the years that eventually the people of our town stopped organizing them or even discussing them as options. Now, we simply accept occasional disappearances as the way things are and continue on with our business as best we can. As I’ve said before, sometimes it’s best to not dwell on the vagaries of the maze.
Here, you might wonder why, with the magic of technology, we don’t just mount trail cameras inside the maze or fly drones over top of it to find those kids who don’t return. The answer to that question is simple: recording devices don’t record anything discernible when near the maze. They still run through their mechanical and technological functions, but the videos and pictures they return are grotesquely pixelated or blurred, the resulting images composed of nothing more than abstractions. In this, then, they are of no more use in returning the teens than a vivid dream or a child’s fingerpainting might be.
Given the maze’s predilection for swallowing up youths, the suggestion to abandon our tradition raises its head every few years. Though many of us secretly wish for such an outcome, we are fearful of what the maze may become without us and, likewise, what we may become without the maze. When the subject is raised loudly enough and frequently enough, we debate the pros and the cons of our tradition at town meetings. These meetings are, however, more like pressure release valves for the aggrieved than referendums for action because, by the end of the debates, everyone’s voice has been heard and everyone’s opinion has been noted, but nothing is changed. Call it apathy or disinterest or the comfort of stasis—whatever the cause, most ground swells of anger over our traditions quickly dissipate in the aftermath of the town meetings. Simply speaking of a problem seems to satisfy the majority of us.
Of course, none of this is to say that our citizens don’t, rarely, shape their dissent into objects more solid than words. A tiny percentage of family members and friends of disappeared teens have attempted to destroy the maze. In days of yore, these people used pickaxes, hammers, chisels, and dynamite to try to break the maze. More modern efforts at destruction have included jackhammers, bulldozers, and industrial acids. It’s from these rebels and their ferocity that we know the maze cannot be damaged, no matter the implements used to dismantle it. Pickaxes bounce off it harmlessly; explosives detonate and leave no mark. Bulldozers and jackhammers blow compressors and crack pistons long before scratching the maze’s surface. For all the anger levied against it, the maze remains unbroken. We cannot destroy it. We cannot move it. We cannot prevent its growth. And thus enters the bare and basic inevitability, the fact too many of us only come to understand as weathered adults: the maze will always be with us, for better or worse. And if the maze remains, you can be certain we will send our children into its maw.
So there you have it—the bleeding maze.
Why did I tell you about it? Why burden you with its knowledge? Well, because, if you already have a maze in your town, then it too undoubtedly grows, and if it grows, I fear the day your maze and our maze meet. What will happen then? What is the fate of a people caught between an immovable object and an unstoppable force? I worry that we may be crushed. I worry that our mazes might merge and intertwine and create something far more compelling and far more dangerous than either of our individual mazes. If you have a maze, we need to plan, together, to navigate that meeting, that fused maze, and, perhaps, to eventually flee from it and leave it behind us all.
If you don’t have a maze in your town, however, I believe that someday you will. I believe our maze will continue to creep beyond its borders. I believe there will come a time when there is only maze, anywhere, everywhere. When this time arrives, we will no longer be able to discern maze from not-maze nor assert with any certainty what reality “is.” We will only know the experience of our journeys through the maze, with its strange fantasies and unexplained terrors. We will dimly seek for an exit, but we will find none, and we will disappear into those bleeding walls—as a people, as a species, as a world. I want you to know I believe this future awaits. I want you to understand what living with the maze means. And I want you to prepare for it as best you see fit. It’s too late for our town to back away from our traditions without complete collapse, but it might not be too late for you, if you so choose. As we say to our children, “Good luck, choose your path carefully, and try not to get too bloody.”