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Life’s Labyrinth


Harry Buschman

Except for the old man the room was empty – dark, just a single light over the table. It illuminated the labyrinth lying unattended – a bewildering maze of pathways beginning at the start and ending at the finish. The old man gave up reluctantly and signalled the Gatekeeper he was through. They left the room together, closing the door softly behind them. As they left, the Gatekeeper took a fresh pencil out of the jar and left it for the next player.

The old man had been tracing the years of his life back through the labyrinth to his very first day. He was now at a cul-de-sac and he timidly asked the Gatekeeper if he could back up a little and try another path. “I haven’t gotten to the exit,” he reasoned. “I’m sure I could find another path to the exit.”

“The game is not played that way, my friend. You’ve done quite well you know. Look how far you’ve come.”

“I’m sure I could go further.”

“The pencil is indelible you know, and the path you’ve taken cannot be erased.” He put his hand on the old man’s shoulder. “Thousands of people started with you at the same time and look, hardly any of them are still playing.”

The Gatekeeper showed him the thousands of routes that began on the very day his did. Almost all of them ended at blank walls far back of him.

“Doesn’t anyone win the game? Do any of us reach the exit?”

“No, my friend. That’s not why we play the game. The journey is the important thing. Look at all these people ...” He showed the old man a cul-de-sac far back where millions of people ended their play abruptly. “That was the war,” he said. “Remember? The great war?”

“Yes, I remember it well,” the old man said. “It wasn’t fair. They missed so much.”

“What did they miss?”

“Everything. Everything since then, marriage, family, career. Happiness – everything life is supposed to be. They finished the game before they got to play.”

“You had all those things, didn’t you?”

The old man hung his head. “Yes, I did,” he said.

“Remember them. You can take your memory with you ... you know.”

“What’s it like ... where I’m going, I mean?”

“Another game. Another chance to play.”

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