How we think the fight will go
Teresa sighed. She pursed her lips and closed her eyes for a bit. They burned while she held them closed, the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. She thought about what she was doing. She thought about where she was. She thought about not thinking about these things, what it might mean to finally be free of this ridiculous maze and away from the horror of the predicament she’d found herself in.
When she opened her eyes, she was still staring down at the list of code words in her hands. It was maddening how little sense the words made. She savored the thought of ripping it up and taking her rage out on the little sheet of paper. But it was their only way out of this terrible place. She had studied each map and each code word so much that she could taste the ink through her fingers.
“I’m heading out,” she said to nobody in particular. A few kids mumbled, but all heads remained down, studying the papers in front of them. She tossed the paper onto the table in the middle of the room and left. She walked out of the Homestead, past other Gladers working away under the grey, sunless sky. She needed a break. But where was she going to go? It’s not like she could find anywhere to hide herself here. There were Gladers everywhere.
As she stood looking up at the dreary sky above the maze, a soft, gentle breeze blew its way across the Glade. She felt it caress her hair as it glided from one corner of the maze to another. Her chest rose as she took a deep breath. Another breeze came along, rolling in the same direction as the last one, except there was something odd floating along with it. Either this maze had finally gotten to her, or she heard someone… singing? She looked around her, but all the Gladers were busy running around doing their chores. Nobody was singing. More than that, the voice she heard on the wind seemed way too… soft. Too gentle. There was no way what she heard could’ve come out of any of these guys’ mouths. She started to walk towards where she thought she heard it coming from, and as if on cue, there was another breeze to guide her along. This time the voice rang true, and she could hear the lilting tune dancing on the air like a ballerina.
Teresa turned to look at where the breeze came from, and found herself staring right into the Deadheads, the tiny spit of forest in the Glade. The trees rustled ever so quietly, inviting her in, teasing her with hints of a cool, refreshing afternoon away from everybody. How could she resist?
She began to make her way through the Deadheads. She listened to how the leaves would crack and tear underfoot as she walked through the brush. It was a marvel how different the ground felt when she crossed the threshold between the Deadlands and the Glade proper. If she let her senses go for just a moment, she could swear she felt as if she were floating away to somewhere, anywhere else. It was almost as if the world around her melted away. The sounds of working Gladers faded away behind her. The indescribable, almost… industrial smell of the maze was gone, replaced only with the scent of what she imagined spring must smell like. The wind was beginning to pick up, and so was the song that clung to it as if by magic. It rose and fell with the breeze, and before long, Teresa found herself chasing the wind, refusing to let the tantalizing voice escape her grasp.
For a time, the only thing she heard was the song and the wind whipping past her ears and through her hair. And that song… that sweet song. It teased her. She thought it was getting louder, that she was getting closer. She was lost in the chase, and that was fine for her.
Before long, she came upon a clearing. Why would the voice lead her here? There was nothing special about this place. She was sure she’d come upon the graveyard, but something was off.
It was quiet. It was peaceful. In the space of a breath, she figured it out.
She couldn’t hear the maze anymore.
She stepped further into the clearing. As she did, there was the barest whisper of grass being curled underfoot behind her. She took another step. A quick beat, and the grass rustled again. She spun around, trying to see what was behind her. There was a dark blur of what looked like hair flew out of her view. Her whole body turned as she turned to keep up. She spun in a full circle, almost two, before she heard the giggling.
Teresa stopped spinning and stood nearly face to face with a woman, who regarded her with a curious eye. But it wasn’t her eye that she was drawn to. No, she was drawn to how… nude this woman was. “Oh… oh, my God. You’re uh… you’re… are you cold?” She flushed, just the slightest hint of red as she noticed that she could answer her own question.
“cold? oh, no.” The other woman walked in a small circle around Teresa, as if appraising her. Suddenly it was Teresa who felt a little cold. “I am not cold. are you cold?” The woman pointedly tilted her head down to check. “you do not seem cold, either.”
“Who are you?” Teresa took a step back and tucked some of her hair behind her ear.
“How did you get here?”
“how did I get here? where do you think you are, mothering one? it is I who should ask you how you found yourself here.” She had stopped circling Teresa. Now, she was walking deeper into the clearing, towards a pile of pillows that Teresa hadn’t noticed earlier.
Teresa simply followed. “Well, where am I, then?”
The other woman sat down in the middle of the pillows. She gently patted the one next to her. In the span of a heartbeat, Teresa found herself sitting down next to her. “And who are you?” The woman sitting next to her cocked her head a little bit. She blinked, mulling over the question in her head. Now that they were a little closer, Teresa noticed that her eyelids looked like butterfly wings.
Suddenly, she started clapping. When she stopped, she rested her hands on top of Teresa’s. “a game! to answer your questions, we shall play a game.” Her smile somehow made the clearing just a little bit brighter.
“Okay… what kind of game?” Despite her misgivings, Teresa couldn’t help but smile at this other woman’s overflowing excitement.
“I ask a question, then you ask a question. we trade. it seems only fair, does it not? I shall even let you ask first.”
“Fine.” Teresa wasn’t sure how this was a game, but she was curious. “What is your name?”
The woman tapped her bottom lip, her eyebrows furrowed in thought. “my names are plentiful, a mouthful to say in many a language either mortal or fae. you are hardly the first to ask who I am, so I suppose you may call me…” She smiled, her gaze slid over Teresa’s face like silk. “… Felurian.”
“Felurian. Where is that name from?” Teresa stopped as Felurian put her finger to her lips to quiet her.
“ah-ah. hush now, sweet mother, your turn is all done. my question is next, so it better be good.” She bit her pink lip in concentration. “ah yes, I have it: how came by you these woods?”
“I simply just…” She looked around for the patch of trees she had come in through, but couldn’t recognize anything. “Well, I’m not entirely sure.” Felurian’s eyebrows arched, bidding her to go on. “I remember a voice singing, gentle and pure.” She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like Felurian blushed. “It came on the wind, as a leaf on the breeze. I simply had to chase after it. I followed with ease.
“Now with my next question, I don’t mean to offend. Are you an enemy, or are you…” She looked up and met Felurian’s gaze. “A friend?”
There was a flash of something almost predatory in Felurian’s smile. Teresa quickly perished the thought from her mind. It had simply been the lighting, of course. Felurian giggled a bit. “a friend? an enemy? sweet mother, you jest. I simply am what I am, such as the very heart in your chest. it knows not whether it is a friend or a foe, it simply beats on, because that’s what it knows.”
Teresa wasn’t sure if she was confused because of the incredibly cloudy answer or if it was because Felurian poked the center of her chest, right under the hollow of her neck, to punctuate her statement. “I, um… believe it’s your turn.”
“of course! there’s still a few things about you that I wish to learn. so if to you it’s just all the same, since i gave you mine, would you tell me your name?”
“My name is Teresa, though I’ve a feeling you’ve known.”
“why, how could that be? the only name that’s been uttered has just been my own.”
“You call me sweet mother yet I am without child, you see.”
“my dear mother Teresa, ‘twas simply a compliment to your personality.”
Teresa wasn’t buying it, but decided not to push. The two of them continued their game long into what should have been the night. Teresa told Felurian thrilling stories of the maze, and in exchange, Felurian told Teresa all the faerie stories she knew. A lot of Teresa’s memory was still missing, but she had a feeling that this is what she used to love doing with… with her friends. She didn’t realize how much she missed just being able to talk with someone, especially another woman.
She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was like to live without this. After all, it was the most natural thing in the world, Teresa thought, to just sit here with another girl in the middle of the forest telling stories. Oh, and one of them was naked. Yeah, perfectly natural.
Teresa squeezed her eyes shut. They burned in that way that they do when you’ve been up a little too late. When she opened them, Felurian was still looking at her, albeit a little more quizzically. There was a flash in the naked woman’s eyes, and her porcelain expression appeared to shatter a little bit, but it was only an illusion. Her gentle smile found its way back across her lips. “How long have I been here?” Teresa’s voice was a little shaky, as if she were afraid to find out the answer.
“a while, sweet mother. is everything okay?” Felurian’s lips pursed into the beginnings of a pout that almost crushed Teresa.
“No, no, wait. I mean yes. Everything’s fine. Don’t pout. It’s just that… I think I have to be leaving.”
Her lips were undeterred by this revelation. She pouted. “is my company not good enough?”
“No, it’s just that people are expecting me, and they must be worried about where I am right now.” Teresa started to stand up, but Felurian’s hand moved unnaturally fast to guide her to sit back down.
“don’t go. we’ve still so much to talk about. so much to… share.”
Teresa’s gaze traced over Felurian’s hand, up her arm, and into her eyes. It wouldn’t be so bad to stay for a little while longer… no. No. She had to go. She had to get back to the Glade. She had to… had to stay right… right here. Wait. No. The Glade. Thomas. She had to get back to Thomas.
“No… I’m sorry, Felurian.” Teresa made her move to stand up. It felt like she was weighted down with a load of bricks in each leg. When she was finally standing, she turned to look back down at Felurian. “How do I find my way back?”
Felurian was looking down, her long black hair a curtain hiding her face from Teresa’s gaze. “nobody has ever said no to me, before.” Her voice cracked and sent a tremor through Teresa’s own heart. She felt like she’d been plunged into cold water. She knelt down next to her, and put her hand on Felurian’s back.
“I really am sorry. I wish I could stay.” Teresa felt stabbing pains in her chest. Was this what heartbreak felt like?
“then stay.” Felurian’s voice was hopeful, but firm.
Now Teresa’s voice cracked. “It’s… not that easy.” She was on the verge of tears.
Felurian shrugged off Teresa’s hand, and quickly stood up. Teresa pulled her hand back as if she’d been stung. She wasn’t entirely sure she hadn’t.
“then leave. run back to your… your… manlings.” She spit out the last word as if it were poison. “see if any of them offer the same kind of companionship that I do. ha!” Her arms were crossed now, and she was no longer the vulnerable, dejected woman she had been not one moment ago. She seemed larger now. Her voice carried with it an air of command.
“go! what are you waiting for? if it is not easy to stay, then it must be easy to leave, no?”
She was pointing now. Teresa slowly got back up, visibly slackjawed. She wasn’t blinking back tears anymore, she just let them roll free. The wind began to pick up. It was as if the woods themselves were trying to push her back out into the Glade, back into the maze. She slowly started to walk back.
When she reached the edge of the clearing, she turned back around to see if Felurian was still watching.
All she saw were the Gladers’ grave markers.
Thomas and Minho came running back in through the West door. They had figured out the mystery of the Griever hole. They had finally found a way out of the maze. Thomas rushed back to the Homestead to tell Teresa the good news. But when he arrived, she wasn’t there.
None of the Gladers had seen her for quite some time, now. He reached out with his mind, to see if he could raise her with their telepathic bond.
One of the Gladers mentioned that he’d seen her go into Deadheads a while back, but she hadn’t returned. Thomas sprinted out of Homestead and into the forest. He went to the Graveyard and what he found made him wish that he hadn’t gone out into the maze with Minho earlier.
“… Thomas? Is that you?”
When she realized that Felurian wasn’t going to let her back in, Teresa fell to her knees. As she did, she noticed for the first time that her hair wasn’t the dark raven black it had been when she entered Felurian’s clearing. It was white. She reached up to examine it, but when she did, she froze. She brought her hands up to her face and studied the newfound wrinkles in horror.
How long had she been with Felurian? It felt only like hours, but now her body told her otherwise. She stood up and looked around. She yelled. She hobbled as quickly as she could. She HAD to get back to the clearing again. She HAD to get back to Felurian. She HAD to get back to her lost youth. She’d never escape the maze like this. Ever. But she couldn’t find her way back.
The wind blew, songless.
A rustle of leaves sounded behind her. She spun around, a smile on her face, expecting to see Felurian.
It was only Thomas.
Predicted Winner: Felurian
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Thursday, March 5, 2015, AT 11:59 PM, EST
Cage Match fans: We’re looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”)