Gateways: “Daedalus” by Rachel A Schrock read by Evin McQuistion



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Rachel A Schrock. Rachel is a Chicago-based writer, actress, comedian, and musician. You can check her out on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, all @Razmatini. This is “Daedalus”.

As a Content Note: this story contains violence and may not be acceptable for all audiences. Thank you for attending to self care in this story. 

 

I was just 13 when they took us to the Maze. I’m not sure how much time has passed since then. We tried to keep track, at first, but it wasn’t long before we realized that time doesn’t matter here; it’s such a fickle, abstract thing, and the monsters around us are very, very real.

I’d grown up, now. I thought. How would one know? If growing up was completing school, or raising a family, or travelling the world, I feared I would never be grown. If growing up was purely a biological process, I’d guess I was nearly there. But if growing up meant bearing the burden of your village’s safety on your back, I was certain I was fully an adult. 

They took us in the dead of night– Mom, Dad, Ari, and me. (I hope they let our cat go. I’d imagine her, sometimes, chasing mice on a farm, somewhere untouched by cruelty.) We joined the crowd they’d gathered. We were the last family, since we lived on the outskirts of town; they’d taken the whole village. They marched us all through cold, impenetrable darkness, until they got us to the Maze. Then they forced us inside and sealed us away.

While we were marching, a baby began to cry. They pried him away from his mother and slit his throat.

I asked Mom, “Why are they doing this to us?”

She told me: “We were in the way.”

The monsters in the Maze were quiet, and they were hungry. We all would have died long ago if we hadn’t stayed together, protecting each other. (Some of us had died, but we were never able to mourn; the monsters were always nearby.)

Every waking moment was spent on guard. I was young, and I was fast, so I usually helped look for food.

Early on in our time at the Maze, Fatima and I decided to take a break during our search. We stretched out in the sun and chatted away, like we used to. I closed my eyes for just a moment. I heard Fatima scream.

She was already halfway down the monster’s throat when I turned around. Its huge, white teeth, now stained with blood, glinted in the sunlight, a stark contrast to its jet-black skin. It was taller than both of us put together, even when it stood on all four of its feet. I leapt out of the way just as its claws crashed down where I’d been reclining seconds before.

I tried to fight back with the clumsy spear I’d made, but I could never take on one of these beasts by myself. If Jordan’s team hadn’t been nearby, I’d have been a goner, too.

Once we were rid of the beast, I joined Jordan and continued the search for food. There was nothing else I could do.

They used to check on us more often. The more they thought they’d broken us, the less they came. 

You might ask why we didn’t do this sooner. What you need to understand is that we would never have put up a fight, before. Back in the village, when I was barely more than a baby, the moment I learned that I could raise my hand in anger, I was taught to hold it out in friendship, instead. 

I guessed they did break us. Just not how they thought.

When the soldiers arrived again, we leapt upon their gargantuan war machine and tore their men limb from limb. Meanwhile, others of us squirrelled away whatever they’d brought with them. The real prize, though, was the machine itself. We hid its parts so that Dodie and I could rebuild it into something no one had ever seen before– not even us.

We had to be cruel. Dodie was concerned that, somehow, they could see us go after their men; we had to scare them off from coming back too soon.

In the chaos, I caught a glimpse of my brother– sweet, timid Ari, who used to mope for days if you killed a spider– peeling the skin off a soldier’s scalp. Tear tracks cut through the blood on his cheeks. 

After dark, Dodie and I surveyed the scraps of metal we’d retrieved. They looked nothing like the tiny clockwork pieces I’d tinkered with back home.

“Can we really do this?” I asked.

“We have to try,” she replied.

Our machine looked almost like a dragon. It had two spindly wings– skin shed from the monsters, stretched over a metal framework. Its hollowed-out back had space for everyone to sit. Dodie would navigate from the front, Jordan and Ari would turn the gears that flapped the wings, and I would be at the back, controlling our course with a long, tail-like rudder. We taught a second team to fly the machine, too– just in case.

I found myself smiling while we helped everyone board the flying machine. I didn’t know my face could still smile. I said to Dodie, “I can’t wait to be home.”

Dodie gave me a strange look. “I thought you knew,” she said. “We’re here because they wanted our land. There’s no home to go back to.”

“Then… Where are we going?”

“I don’t know.” Dodie turned her face towards the sun. “Somewhere safe.”

My heart sank. All I wanted– all I’d ever wanted, since coming to the Maze– was to curl up in my own bed, to go back to school, to return to how it was before. I was a fool, I realized, to think I was grown.

But there was nothing I could do. I had only a moment to be sad before it was time to take flight. I helped push the machine down a long, open stretch of the Maze, while Ari and Jordan turned the cranks to operate the wings. I’d never doubted Dodie, but I’d admit that I felt a measure of surprise when we started to lift. We scrambled aboard just in time to watch the machine break away from its wheels. We cleared the first wall of the Maze. I almost dared to feel safe.

Suddenly, the machine jolted. One of the monsters had leapt into the air, grabbing onto the tail. With its added weight, the machine shook. We all held in for dear life

For just a moment, I chanced a look back at my village. As the multitude of pupils contracted to pins, and the wings tore at the air around us, I knew at once that expecting salvation was utter hubris.

I leapt over the wall of the hull and threw myself at the monster. Immediately, it pierced me with its teeth and claws. I could hardly see from the blood seeping into my eyes, but I didn’t care– I’d done my part. 

Having loosened its grip to attack me, the monster fell off the tail, bringing me along with it.

I was free.

 Evin McQuistion is an actor/director who reads a lot of Shakespeare and digests a lot of sci-fi. He mostly blames the sci-fi (via Star Trek: The Next Generation) for getting him into the Shakespeare. he’s currently in rehearsals for Quicksilver Shakespeare’s Mercury Hamlet.


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