AMONG THE STALKS
By Melissa L. Webb
Pic by Melissa L. Webb
A light breeze blew through the corn, causing a stray stalk to stir. It bent and toppled over across the path. Austin batted it back out of the way with a grunt. It was bad enough he was lost in here, but now the corn was conspiring against him.
He stopped and looked back at the path he had just come down. There was nothing but corn as far as the eye could see. Austin sighed. Why had he ever agreed to come in this corn maze in the first place? His friends had ditched him, and now, he was lost.
Austin shook his head and started forward again, giving the corn another smack as he went.
He turned the corner, pressing through the corn that surrounded him on both sides, and stopped in his tracks. Tucked in between several stalks of corn was a cheesy looking skeleton. It grinned at Austin in a sly, mocking way.
“What?” Austin shouted. “I’ve already seen you, twice.” His shoulders slumped as his situation became clear. He was going in complete circles.
He lifted his head up and watched the sun as it seemed to sink lower in the sky. Austin had been wandering around for the last hour and still hadn’t made any progress. At this rate, he’d be late for dinner. Not to mention be stuck in the maze after dark. Fear slithered in his stomach at that thought. He definitely didn’t want to be lost among the stalks when night came.
Austin trudged past the skeleton reluctantly. He didn’t want to walk anymore, but standing still wasn’t going to get him out. The sweat on his brow dripped as the sun beat down on him. Boy, he’d kill for a bottle of water right now. Wiping his forehead, he turned another corner and made his way down a long straight path, passing more Halloween decorations as he went.
Austin came to a stop and stared at the four new paths branching out in front of him. Had he come this way before? The corn all looked the same to him. With a shrug, he picked a path and ventured down it.
“Austin.” a voice whispered from somewhere in the corn.
He stopped and looked around him. “Hello? Is someone there?” he called to the voice. Had someone come looking for him? Maybe he wouldn’t be late to dinner after all. “I’m over here!”
A slight rustling in the corn was the only response. It grew louder as if someone was cutting through the corn.
“Hello?” Austin called again, softly. He suddenly felt uneasy as the rustling grew louder. If they had sent someone in to rescue him, they would be coming up the path. Not breaking down the corn. This was something else. Something that was coming straight for him.
He turned and ran, sprinting down the paths as fast as he could. He had to find his way out of this maze. It was his only chance. Austin turned another corner and found himself in a dead-end. Panic rose up in his throat as he realized he’d have to turn around.
Austin spun around, a prayer on his lips as he raced back down the path. He quickly found another opening in the stalks and darted through them. His feet pounded against the dirt as he weaved through the living maze. The leaves seemed to claw at him as he pressed forward, desperate to find his way out.
Austin’s foot tangled with something and he fell to the ground, hard. He quickly pushed himself up, but his foot was still caught. Glancing down, he realized a root had snagged his shoe. He quickly ripped it away and got back to his feet.
The corn was eerily quiet around him. Nothing stirred in the plants. Austin inhaled deeply, trying to catch his breath. His body relaxed slightly as the fear started to ebb. There wasn’t anything chasing him. He was alone in the maze. It was just him and the corn.
When he felt like he could breathe again, Austin started forward. A smile grew on his face as he spotted a giant Halloween spider he hadn’t seen before. He was making progress. He had somehow found his way into new territory.
Austin straightened up a little as he moved down a new path. He could do this. He wouldn’t let a corn maze beat him. He would solve it.
A breeze picked up again, cooling his flushed skin as he followed the twist and turns of the maze. Austin slowly began to realize he could hear the busy sounds of the pumpkin farm around him once again. He was getting closer. He would be out of the maze in no time.
He picked a new path and followed it around a corner. He stopped short as he found himself face to face with another dead end. With a grunt, Austin spun around to head back down the path. A gasp escaped his lips as he found himself facing another wall of corn. He was now standing in an empty square of ground, completely walled in by the stalks.
Austin shook his head. This was impossible. He had come through an open path. Terror took a hold of him as he realized he was trapped. There was no way past these walls.
The shuffling sounds started again. It echoed all around him, as if the corn itself was moving closer.
Austin turned, desperately seeking a break in the corn. He watched as a stalk seemed to step forward. Leaves parted suddenly, exposing a giant ear of corn. It seemed to twist and contort on the stalk.
He watched in horror as a face formed in the corn that lined the cob. Its eyes blinked suddenly as a mouth opened, revealing rows of rotten teeth.
“Austin,” it whispered, the smell of decaying corn punctuating the word.
Austin backed up, putting as much distance between him and the thing as he could. He looked up at the sky, watching the sun sink even lower. It was over. This time the maze had won.
©2010 Melissa L. Webb