Short Story
                          Labyrinth
                                  
By Cynthia (cina) Pelayo


  When I sat down at the bar and ordered a Tecate, Gloria Elena said “If I
could slice your throat right now I would but I’d be too scared to clean up your
blood, fearful it may splash on me and make me a monster like you.”

  I was pulled by my collar off the stool and as I fell, I felt a brutal blow to my
cheek.  A foot soon followed, striking me in the ribs.  Another kick and then
another.  Oscar de la Vega grabbed my chin and pointed a plump finger at
me.  “You’re not dead today because I promised your father when I saw him
at the funeral that I’ll leave you alone…today.  Tomorrow, you’re dead.”

  The onlookers eating their dinner of arroz con pollo or bistec con papas
remained quiet as I was raised to my feet and pushed outside of the
restaurant I had spent almost every evening in and where I would no longer
ever belong.  Outside, I looked through the restaurant storefront glass.  I
watched as people continued with their evening; talking, laughing, and
eating.  Things I would never do again it seemed.  I found my reflection in the
glass and what looked back at me was a pathetic thing that hadn’t eaten a
proper meal in weeks but had drank enough to sustain an army for months.  
The lack of a razor’s press against my skin resulted in the unkempt beard
that made me a stranger to myself.  I shivered, realizing my jacket was left on
the stool inside.  As soon as I thought this, it was tossed out from the door.  A
homeless man passing by wearing tattered brown slacks and years old
sneakers held together by duct tape, snatched it mid-air.  He peered at me
from beneath a grimy blue baseball cap and spat at my feet. “Murderer,” he
said and then was off.

   I shoved my hands in my pocket and a sharp, ripping biting pain sliced
down the length of my palm.  Raising my hand to my face I found its flesh
mangled, blood poured out of a vicious wound that rolled down my grey
jacket sleeve and dripped onto the snow covered concrete.  A shard from a
broken mirror jutted from my index finger.  Maria’s mirror.  She told me to
keep it close, that with it on me everywhere she would be with me, even in
death.  It must have broken as I was being kicked.         

   Snowflakes danced around me as the wind shook them lose from the
ground.  I crossed the street and took a seat on a bench at the corner of
Humboldt Park.  The winding asphalt paths swerved and dipped, leaving
veined routes that led into the darkness.  The sun was setting but I had no
home now.  It was time to bury the shattered memories of Maria, as I had
buried her this morning, crippled by disease and failed by hopeless cures.

   “Take my mirror, Jose.  Look into it and you’ll find me there, everywhere.”

   The faded asphalt path dusted with flakes glimmered with the light from the
sodium street lamps.  As I passed the park’s lagoon I found myself flanked by
ominous trees.  Their long, twisted and leafless branches formed a canopy
over my path.

   “Jose.”

   My name was a whisper of ice and snow.  I turned around and found myself
down a long stretch, lined on either side by these menacing trees.  Darkness
was my guide, as well as a hint of light that illuminated the soft snow covered
ground.  I squeezed myself through the wall of tress holding my still bleeding
hand against my chest.  “I am in a Borges dream,” the words escaped my
chapped, shaking lips.

  The shortcut proved fruitless.  I was again in the labyrinthine world.  
Running down the path now I came to a crossroads.  Right, I thought.  If I
keep turning right I will find the exit.  A right turn and then I sprinted.  Thunder
sounded, announcing a torrent that began to fall within seconds.  The world
began to weep.  Freezing rain drenched my clothes.  Puddles of water grew
around me.  My feet splashed as I continued to run, forgetting now which
direction was right, left, center.  A protruding tree root met my left foot and I
flew forward; landing in the slushy mixture of rain, ice, snow and mud.  I
pressed my hands into the earth; mud filled the gaping broken flesh of my
hand.  Numb from it all, the wound and mourning, I rolled onto my back
allowing the tears from above to cover me.

   “I killed her!” I cried. “I turned off her respirator because I couldn’t watch
her die another day!”

   I cried as I’ve never cried before.  Guilted sobs.  Reaching now for the
remains of Maria’s mirror, I gathered them into a pile, trying to recreate their
circle shape as water rose, but I couldn’t; the puzzle had no solution.  Like
myself, the broken mirror fell victim to mud and rain.  In moments they sank
into the earth and as the last gleaming bit of mirror began to sink into the
ground, I glimpsed Maria’s green eye.  I shouted and reached for it, for her, a
piece of her that maybe I could finally protect and save, but it was gone now
and so was rain and the trees and the mud, ice, and snow.

  I found myself again on the park bench alone.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
About Cynthia Pelayo

Cynthia (cina) Pelayo is the
author of short story
collection Loteria and the
young adult horror novel
Santa Muerte published by
Post Mortem Press. Her
short stories and poems
have appeared in Danse
Macabre, Weird Year,
Flashes in the Dark, SNM
Horror Magazine, Seedpod,
Static Movement, and more.
Pelayo is the
Publisher/Gravedigger of
Burial Day Books and is a
member of the Horror
Writers Association. She is
currently at work on two
novels and a series of short
stories and poems. You can
find her on Twitter at
@cinapelayo or at
cinapelayo.com