Dried husks scratched their arms as they squeezed through the narrow isles of corn. Finding the entrance was a miracle as the pathways are barely discernable from the rows of planted corn.
Every year, Old Man Hanky builds a corn maze for the local kids, but hides the entrance. The farmer never had any children of his own and started the maze tradition as a way to bond with the neighborhood children. It was bragging rights in this town to find and complete Old Man Hanky’s maze before the corn is harvested.
“Anna, you know how quick it gets dark now! This is taking too long.”
“We have plenty of light and plenty of time. Besides, we can always follow someone else out.”
“Who, Anna? We’ve been in here over an hour and I haven’t seen anyone, or heard anyone for that matter, in the last 45 minutes.”
“We could always call Charlie. I’m sure he’d come find us and show us out.” Anna suggested.
“I already tried calling him twice. He didn’t answer. I texted him and told him to call me back.”
Anna looked around at the sea of corn stalks. It was impossible to tell where they’d already been and which direction was out.
“Just climb on my shoulders and see if you can figure out which direction we should be going.”
Sydney’s cheerleading skills were finally of practical use. She took a boost from Anna’s clasped hands and hopped onto her shoulders. Sydney could hardly see over the corn, but the smoke from the bonfire billowed as a beam of hope.
“Anna, I can see the smoke from the bonfire. I know which way we need to go. And, I think I saw some corn moving. Maybe those people know the way out!”
Harvest time was only a few days away. The girls did not want to be the only ones not to finish Old Man Hanky’s maze. Finding the entrance alone took hours, now if they could only find their way out. As they headed for the smoke, voices became audible. The other last minute maze goers must be nearby.
“Hello! Do you know the way out of here?” Anna yelled.
The meek voice materialized behind them with no warning. A small boy, no older than nine stood just inside the corn stalks staring at the girls.
“Hi, there. We’ve been in here almost two hours. Can you help us get out?” Anna asked the boy, as Sydney shot her an angry gaze.
“Sure. My daddy doesn’t like when I cheat. But, I like helping,” the boy chirped.
“You’re a sweet little boy. Do kids get lost in here a lot?”
“Yes. Most people get lost in our maze.”
“Our maze? Is that why you know your way out so well?”
“Yeah, my daddy built it. I helped. I like helping.” Looking more enthusiastic, the boy took Anna by the hand and started on his way.
“Um, Anna,” unmoving, Sydney called out. “Can I have a word with you?”
“What’s up, Sydney?”
“That little boy just said his daddy built this maze. I thought this was Old Man Hanky’s farm. He doesn’t have any kids.”
“So what? Maybe the kid and his dad helped out. What’s it matter anyway? He knows the way out.”
“He gives me the creeps, Anna. Didn’t you notice how he came out of nowhere?”
“Did you just watch Children of the Corn or something? You’re trippin’,” Anna smirked.
“Whatever. I just want out of here.”
Anna walked back to the boy and asked him to lead the way. He continued on silently, walking slowly and methodically. Without hesitation he made turn after turn down long stretches of barely visible pathways. The zigzagging seemed to take the girls further and further from the plumes of smoke still faintly visible in the darkening sky.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Anna asked the boy. He looked over his shoulder with a demented smile.
“Of course I do. We only have a little further to go. Daddy will be so glad to see you.”
Sydney noticed the drops of sweat forming on Anna’s forehead and reached for her phone again. This time Charlie answered. She turned around and whispered into the phone.
“Charlie, where have you been? We’re lost and need you to help us finish this maze. We’re following this kid and we’re not even close to being out. He’s freaking me out.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. What maze are you at?”
“What do you mean, Charlie? Old Man Hanky’s maze. What else would I be talking about?” Sydney asked, shooting a confused look over to Anna.
“Old Man Hanky has been in the hospital for a while now. He wasn’t able to do a corn maze this year.”
Sydney quickly hung up her phone and turned around, but the boy was gone. Sydney turned and ran through the corn back where they came from, Anna at her heels.
They ran until the cramps in their sides forced them to stop. Then they heard the boy’s voice again and saw his shadow just inside the corn like before.
“You can run girls, I won’t stop you. But I know the way out, you’re the one who’s lost. Besides, Daddy doesn’t like when I cheat. He likes when you find him on your own, it’s more exciting that way.”
Credit To – S.E. Helsinger