LABYRINTH: Into the Labyrinth By Sharon Collins

Week 1 Word: Labyrinth
Word Count 482

Into the Labyrinth
Sharon Collins

Another new hospital, she has not found all the stairwells yet. Claustrophobia barely under control, Ariadne presses B-3, Nuclear Medicine. Unexpectedly the rear doors opens, not the front; she is already lost. “Too bad I don’t have a spool of silk like my namesake. And too bad it’s not Theseus waiting for me at the end.” Two lefts and a right turn later, her cards, the green, hospital one, the insurance one, even the credit one are lost too. Surrendered at Intake. “No worry. You’ll get them back after the procedure,” apologizes a sincere smile. “A PET/CAT Scan requires so much paperwork. Have a seat.”

Worrying nail-bitten fingers, she imagines first an actual cat, twitching, ready to pounce. But she loves cats, no luck there. So she returns to her mythical allusion and sees instead a true Beast, a Minotaur, with its hungry mouth and beastly, unblinking red eyes. Lost in reverie, she is startled by the white uniform sent to collect her. Shredding Kleenex in her pocket and thinking, ‘Yep, he’s an acolyte in the temple of the beast,’ she follows.

Three more lefts and one right turn later, “Change in here. Everything off. Ties in the back. All valuables secured in the locker, please.” Alone, her shoes, still unlaced from the weigh-in, slip off, but not her socks. Pink, woolen toes wiggle in small defiance. “No bare feet for me!” she assures her distorted reflection staring back from the stainless locker, its door ajar, waiting to receive her effects. Shoes, jeans, underwear discretely tucked into a pocket, and shirt, join her purse, locked and anonymous. Standing, nearly naked, except for the mutinous socks, all she has left to identify herself is the locket. Heart-shaped and tarnished with age, it had been her mother’s and her grandmother’s before that. Now it is hers, a legacy shared, just like their deadly DNA. Fingers clumsy with nerves and unfortunate lack of nails, struggle against the clasp. Frustrated, she tugs hard and the silver filigree snaps. Three generations of love spin away, under the lockers, forever out of reach, just like Mum, gone seven years ago and Gram, seven years before that. Sacrifices in their own time.

“Blood work next; please follow…” a left, a right, another left, and she bleeds out three vials. Deep red, the only warmth in the sterile room, she is tempted to leave her mark, a bright splotch on a spotless floor. Instead, her disobedient, wool-covered toes smear it away. “Sorry,” she mumbles, though she’s really not.

One more left, “You’ll be called in turn.” Seven chairs, six occupied. Six sets of clasped hands. No one speaks, but twelve eyes welcome. Seven, elected by Fate, sacrifices to the monster called Cancer, Silently she waits to be offered to the equally terrifying monster thrumming in the next chamber, the one with unblinking red eyes and radioactive fangs.