Maze Quest – A Text-Adventure Short Story

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A short story this time (just shy of 5,000 words) from a Reddit Writing Prompt. Written as 2nd person (a perspective I rarely read and up to now haven’t written in)… but it suited the “game” theme as many old point-and-click and text-adventure type games would employ this style. It’s written as if they’re scenes in a game.


The Prompt:

[WP] You are the protagonist of a point-and-click game.


The Story: Maze Quest

Standing South of the Mansion

You are standing in the once manicured grounds to the south of a white stately mansion, but what have now overgrown from neglect. The mansion has stood abandoned since the former owner died many years ago and now, as the sole heir to the Stackson family fortune, the mansion and the acres she stands on are now all yours.

As you survey the lands to the west, the legendary hedge maze that has formed part of the scenery for over four-hundred years fills your view. To the east stand the burial grounds with mausoleums and monuments to the long dead.

Knowing that every window and door were padlocked and boarded over to deter thieves, you brought along with a rucksack which contains:

  • A crow bar
  • A windup torch
  • A notepad and pen
  • Your wallet
  • Keys to the mansion door

A ferocious storm that passed through the area yesterday left piles of debris scattered around in its wake. As you carefully step your way over tree branches that have fallen onto the sandstone steps leading from the grounds up to the back door, a violent cracking sound comes from the burial ground. You look towards it and see an obelisk-shaped monument is now leaning at an alarming angle. You abandon the backdoor and walk back down the steps and across the grounds to investigate the obelisk.

***

Standing in the Burial Grounds

As you near the leaning obelisk, you notice the concrete pad which forms its base has cracked under the strain and has partially fallen away into what appears to be a sinkhole. Standing cautiously near the edge you peer down into the hole and find it isn’t a sinkhole at all; rather it’s a hidden stairway leading deep underground. The first ten steps or so are visible, but the others past them and where they lead to are engulfed in darkness.

You remove the windup torch from your rucksack and wind the handle. After half a minute of winding the torch is showing a full charge, so you turn it on and point the light into the stairway. You can now see around thirty stone steps leading to what appears to be a doorway. You decide reopening the old mansion can wait because exploring down promises much more fun, so you step through the hole at the base of the obelisk and walk down the stairs.

When you reach the bottom, you aim the torchlight through the doorway. Stretching out into the darkness before you is a tunnel. The entire tunnel looks to be made of sandstone blocks, some of which have glyphs and other symbols carved into their surface.

You take a deep breath to steady your nerves as you prepare to walk through the doorway. As you step towards the door, you notice a large gemstone inset into the wall to the right-hand side. It looks to be a ruby however on closer inspection you can see a faint, pulsing light within its depth is giving it colour. You reach out to pick it up and as your fingers touch its surface, it immediately turns emerald green and vibrates. Gripping the gem with your fingers you try to pull it free, but it refuses to budge. You decide to leave it alone for now as you’re sure you’ll visit this spot again.

The vibrations from the glowing gem are causing dust to fall from the ceiling, and too you realise the leaning obelisk above is moving again. With a thunderous crash the obelisk falls to the ground and completely covers the entrance to the tunnel.

In a mad panic you race back to the top of the stairs and try to move the broken chunks of obelisk away from the entrance. You find they’re impossible to budge, so you return to the bottom of the stairs in the hope of exit at the other end of the tunnel.

You walk through the doorway and into the dark tunnel.

***

Walking in the Dark Tunnel

You aim the torchlight down the tunnel trying to see the end, but it goes on for longer than the light can reach. You take a few tentative steps down the tunnel but stop when in the distance ahead of you two wooden torches mounted on the wall burst into flames.

You regain your composure and continue to walk along, and as you get further into the tunnel more wooden torches self-ignite. The light they provide allows you to see the carvings on the walls in greater detail. They are unlike anything you have ever seen before. They appear to be telling a story of some kind, but you are unable to make any sense of it.

After you take a few more steps, you notice another doorway carved into the wall to your left.  Like the door to the tunnel this door also has a ruby coloured gem, which also turns green and starts to vibrate when you touch it. You scratch your head and wonder what the meaning of the mysterious gems as they don’t appear to do anything else.

You shine your torch through the doorway and find a small room with no other exits other than the one you’re standing at. Looking around the room you see a treasure chest against one wall, so you enter the room and go over to it.

***

Inside the Small Room

Upon examining the treasure chest you find the lid is locked down with a rusty padlock, so you remove the crowbar from your rucksack and use it to hit the lock. The lock falls to the ground but the lid still resists your attempts to open it, and you now notice the hinges are rusted as well. Using the crowbar again you wedge it under the lid and lever it open.

You look inside and it’s full to the brim with precious gems of every kind. You reach in with both hands and grab a fistful of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. You laugh loudly as you can’t believe your good fortune and let the gems fall between your fingers like rainbow coloured raindrops. You scoop out handfuls of the gems into your rucksack but there are way more than you can carry. You take out the notepad and pen from your rucksack and draw a crude map of where you have been so far, marking your current position with treasure chest symbol.

As you’re placing the notepad, pen, and crowbar back into the rucksack you notice a glint of gold among the gemstones. You reach in a pick it out and discover it’s a solid gold coin with the numeral “1” embossed on its surface along with a currency denomination you don’t recognise.

“One up…one youpee… one oop,” you say aloud trying different pronunciations to help you think of where you may have heard of the currency before. It rings a faint bell, but doesn’t sound familiar enough to put a finger on so you just place the coin in the pocket of your jeans to think about later.

You take one final look around the room and find a diary hidden behind the treasure chest, which you pick up and open. There isn’t a name in the diary, but from the first few pages you read it’s obvious whoever owned it believed in magic and the occult. The first page talks of meeting a troll and bartering gold for safe passage through his woodlands. The next few pages talk of a wizard and the various magical artefacts he has shown the author.

One particular entry catches your eyes. It reads:

“July 10

Today I managed to procure from the wizard two of the most curious items I’ve ever seen that are most certainly magical in origin as no such things could possibly otherwise exist. The first is a small scrap of cloth he described as a “Portable ten-dimensional pocket” which he says will attach itself to any item of clothing. You can then put an unlimited amount of things of any size or weight into the pocket, and when you require an item all you need do is think about it and reach into the pocket and it’ll be in your hand.

The second object is a bottle containing a viscous black substance. He described it as a ‘Partially Liquid One-Trick Hole in a bottle’, which he claims will, when poured onto a suitable surface, create a one-use hole through to the other side. Once it has been used for its intended purpose it solidifies and is no longer usable, and the hole disappears.”

“What a load of rubbish,” you scoff loudly after reading the entry. “This is obviously some sort of joke! None of this can possibly be real.”

You put the diary into your rucksack to read later because you’re curious if it may contain information about whoever made this place and then head back into the tunnel.

***

Walking in the Dark Tunnel

As you make your way down the tunnel, your mind wanders as you think about what other treasures you might find before the day is out. You can’t help being a little worried you may not find another exit, but you try to reassure yourself by thinking anyone who went to so much trouble to build such and elaborate underground hiding place would have been smart enough to build more than one way in or out.

By your reckoning you guess you must have travelled around half the distance back towards the mansion. This thought fills you with hope there will be an exit into a room in the mansion. You walk on feeling much happier.

As you round a corner you find you’re standing in front of two doorways that fork the tunnel into two directions. The doorway on the left appears to continue in the general direction of the mansion, while the one on the right goes looks to lead you away, but it has an obvious incline leading you closer to the surface. Unsure of what to do, you take the gold coin from your pocket and flip it into the air, saying “Heads I go right, tails I go left,” as you do so.

You catch the coin and see the side facing up is engraved with a weird, mushroom-shaped looking person. You figure it looks enough like head for what you’re doing, so the right hand door it is.

Like all other doorways you’ve seen so far both have a ruby coloured gem inset next to them. Not expecting anything different, you press the ruby coloured gem next to the doorway and it turns green and vibrates. You’re not overly disappointed when nothing else happens.

Before entering the tunnel to the right, you take a handful of gems from your rucksack, place one on the ground and the rest into your pockets. While you maintain hope this tunnel leads you back to the surface, you feel it prudent to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, albeit very expensive breadcrumbs, just in case it doesn’t.

You step through the doorway into the right-hand tunnel, and some wooden torches self-ignite to illuminate your path.

***

Walking in the Right Tunnel

The incline of the right tunnel flattens out after a short while, then widens into a large, circular room. Spaced evenly around the edges are a six heavy-looking timber doors. You approach the closest one and try the handle but it doesn’t budge. You look at the other doors in the room and find the one on the far left is slightly ajar. As you make your way over to the far door, you try each door as you pass, but they are all locked.

You peek through the gap left by the door in the far left, but whatever lies behind is completely black. Gathering your courage you slowly pull the door open and it creaks loudly on hinges that sound like they haven’t moved in centuries. Once open far enough you shine your torch and are disappointed to find only another tunnel leading off into the distance, the only difference being this tunnel walls look like some kind of blue stone. By your reckoning this one will have you doubling back towards the mansion again. With a sigh you enter the blue stone tunnel and continue onwards, hoping you’ll soon find an exit.

***

Walking in the Blue Stone Tunnel

You walk for what feels like ages inside the blue tunnel, and you think by now you must have passed under the mansion. Up ahead you see what looks like a bend in the tunnel and you’re filled with hope you may finally be reaching the end. When you finally get there, you get disheartened when you find a solid marble wall blocking your path. The expletives you shout echo back and forth along the corridor.

After you calm down you examine the surface of the marble wall and the surrounding blue stone tunnel to see if there is a switch or level that might move the wall. There isn’t, the only thing you can see are some scratch marks in the marble running vertically.

Cursing loudly again, you turn and walk back towards the circular room to try the doors again.

***

In the Circular Room

Trying each of the remaining heavy timber doors in turn you find they are still completely and truly locked. You pull the crowbar from your rucksack and try to jimmy each one open, but you cannot get an adequate purchase for it to lever against, so they remain closed.

You smack one of the door handles with the crowbar in frustration and it flies off and bounces out of the room and down the tunnel, back towards where the tunnels forked. Seeing no alternative you head back to the two doorways and enter the left tunnel.

***

Walking in the Left Tunnel

The left tunnel is, if anything, even more disappointing than the right tunnel. It continues straight ahead, seemingly without end much like the blue stone tunnel did. Eventually you see there is definitely a doorway in the distance, and once again your hopes are raised for a way out. You run towards the doorway, and when you reach it you touch the ruby coloured gem without stopping as you run into the room.

You skid to a halt as the timber torches ignite and show you the expanse of the room. Everywhere you look there is treasure. Gold coins and trinkets lying in piles, gold statues and precious gems scattered on tables, artworks and sculptures to name just the first things your eyes land on.

***

In the Treasure Room

The light from the burning torches makes the all the gold and jewels flicker and shine and it’s almost too bright for you to look at. You look at the contents of the room and you eye catches a curio on a rickety table to your right. Everything in the room is of immense value except two items which stand out by their simple plainness.

The first item is a scrap of rectangular cloth a little larger than your hand. On closer inspection it’s embroidered in one corner with “PDP-10”. The second is a small, corked bottle filled with a black liquid of some sorts.

You laugh out loud, saying “These can’t be real!”

You take the diary from your rucksack and re-read the entry you read earlier.

“Portable 10-dimensional pocket,” you say as you look at the embroidery on the scrap of cloth. “I guess that’s what ‘PDP-10’ means then.”

You place the piece of cloth on the thigh of your jeans and it sticks immediately. You place your hand inside it, followed by your wrist, then your forearm. You’re astonished to find the pocket is indeed larger on the inside! You pick up a gold statue and drop in into your pocket. It disappears as it enters the pocket, and you can’t feel any extra weight pulling down. You pick up a few other items and drop them into your pocket to the same effect.

You look at the small bottle sitting on the table.

“Can it be?” you wonder.

You pick up the bottle and look at its contents, but you leave the cork stopper in the top. If it is single-use only you think it’d be best to save it in case you can’t find a way out. You carefully place it back on the table and wander further into the room.

After you are more than halfway into the room, your foot lands on a concealed pressure plate which drops into the floor causing you to lose your balance and trip over. A stone-on-stone scraping sound coming from behind you gets your attention and as you turn around, you see a large marble wall descending from the ceiling to cover your only way out. You jump to your feet and scramble for the door. In your haste you bump into the rickety table and causing the contents to spill onto the floor and you to trip to floor again. You can see you’ve just condemned yourself to be entombed forever in the room.

The marble wall slams into the floor sending plumes of dust into the air. You look dejectedly at the solid wall in front of you, then turn and stare blankly into the room and wonder how long it’ll take for the torches to burn up all the available oxygen in the room and you suffocate.

You walk back into the room, not watching where you are walking and you kick the small glass bottle lying on the floor. As it spins away across the room, you notice it is still mercifully intact. Coming to your senses you chase after it, grab it, and race back to the marble wall.

You pull the cork from the bottle which makes a satisfying pulled-cork sound and holding your breath you pour some onto the wall. You empty almost half of the bottle onto the wall before the black liquid is of a sufficient size.

Crouching down you stare at the scene in front of your eyes and can’t believe what they’re seeing and are having a hard time focusing. You can still see the shiny black surface of the liquid, but at the same time you can see the other side of the wall.

“Here’s goes nothing,” you say and press your hand against the liquid hole. It passes straight through and into the interior of the wall. Feeling encouraged, you jump forward through the hold and tumble out of the hole onto the floor on the other side. You look back at the marble wall and can still see the room full of treasure on the other side, but as you watch, it grows darker then disappears completely as the marble wall is whole again. You rub your hand across the cool surface but there’s no sign there was ever a hole.

You re-stopper the bottle and then it into your rucksack. You look at the ceiling and have an idea where the marble wall may have descended from. You head back along the tunnel until you come to the two doors and take the right tunnel again.

***

Walking in the Blue Stone Tunnel

After another long walk you are finally nearing the end of the blue stone tunnel. As you predicted the marble wall is no longer there, instead there is a doorway carved into the blue stone through which you can see what looks to be a small antechamber with a closed timber door on the far side. You reach out and press the ruby coloured gem inset into the wall next to the door, and just like all the previous times this one also does nothing apart from turn green and vibrate.

You shrug and walk through the door into the antechamber. The only things of note in the room are two statues on either side of the timber door. They appear to be made of bronze and are each holding a timber spear tipped with a broad bronze head. You pull at the handle on the timber door and it opens only slightly but with a loud creak of stiff hinges. You give it a hard pull and the entire door gives ways and falls on top of you. You’re bruised and sore but you manage to clamber out from underneath it.

You pull out your torch and point it into the room in front of you but can’t see anything. Slowly you move forward and almost drop your torch when it shines on a skeleton lying on the floor. You creep forward and as some timber torches self-ignite your skin tries to crawl of your body when you suddenly see a gargantuan monster standing in front of you.

Fear grips you completely until reason catches up with you, and you notice it’s just a gigantic stone gargoyle standing on a concrete plinth. You collapse to your knees to catch your breath and notice you’re kneeling on the skeleton. You gingerly move your knees off the bones and continue to try to slow your breathing.

Eventually your senses return to normal and you look at the skeleton in front of you. A glint of light catches your eye from within the ribcage. You move your head closer and you can what the light is reflecting off. You reach in trying to not touch the bones and retrieve a small gold hourglass filled with tiny grains of something like blue sand.

You stand and examine the room in more detail and find line is carved into the floor just in front of the skeleton. You angle your torch so you can see behind the stone gargoyle and you can’t help letting out an excited cry when you see a ladder leading up through the ceiling of the room.

You step forward towards the gargoyle to see if there is a way you can fit past to reach the ladder, and as you cross the carved line in the floor, the gargoyle suddenly twitches and comes to life. Sheets of stone fall from it as it steps down from its plinth and onto the floor. Burning yellow eyes look at you and into your soul and the gargoyle lets out a demonic howl.

Wasting no time, you turn and sprint from the room only to catch your foot on the timber door you left lying on the floor. You crash to the floor and the gold hourglass is thrown from your hands and bounces end over end across the floor. Just as it comes to rest against a wall the gargoyle grabs you by the neck.

The gold hourglass glows brighter and brighter until you can’t see anything, then suddenly the light is gone and so is the gargoyle. You rub your eyes and they slowly adjust, and you find you’re standing in the antechamber again. Frantically you look around for the gargoyle and see it is once again made of stone and standing in the other room.

You scratch your head as you try to figure out what just happened. You wander back into the large room with the gargoyle and take another look. The skeleton is still there and looks undisturbed, and the gargoyle is standing there looking like it hasn’t moved in centuries. In the end you decide you must have been hallucinating since it’s been a long day and you’re feeling very dehydrated. You walk over to the gargoyle again to see if you can get around it to the ladder.

Once again as you pass the line in the floor the gargoyle bursts into life, but this time your brain turns numb and you stand there gawping. The gargoyle howls and grabs you by the throat and lifts you off the ground. Realising you’re about to die your brain starts desperately trying to find something you can fight back with. The only thing you can reach though are your pockets, so you pull out handfuls of precious gems and throw them as hard as you can. The gems bounce harmlessly off the gargoyle and it increases its grip around your neck.

You reach into your pockets again and find the only thing left is the gold coin. You clench it in your fist as you ready to throw it in a last-ditch attempt to save your life, but the gargoyle twists your lower body with its free hand and severs your spine. It lets you go and you drop to the ground, dead.

***

Outside the Antechamber

You can hear a sound like a faraway ocean, but you can see nothing.

Slowly your sight returns and you find yourself standing in the blue stone tunnel just outside of the doorway to the anteroom. You hand is resting on the green vibrating gem inset into the wall. You look up and into the antechamber and through the doorway on the far wall, and you can see your lifeless body in the other room. Something pops and sparkles in the hand of your dead body before fizzing out.

You pinch and poke at yourself to convince yourself you do still exist.

“How am I here? I’m dead over there, I can see it. Me. I can see me, dead over there. But I’m here, alive.”

You walk into the antechamber and look into the other room. It’s most definitely your body lying there. The gargoyle is once again back on the stone plinth looking like it has never moved. You can’t understand how you can be both dead and alive, but you choose not to put too much thought into it in case reality catches up with you and decides you are most certainly dead.

You pull a spear from the hands of one of the bronze statues and creep into the large room.

***

In the Gargoyle’s Keep

You carefully step into the room and keeping the spear pointing towards the gargoyle, you slowly creep up to the line in the floor. You raise the spear and prepare yourself and then step over the line in the floor.

The gargoyle springs to life but this time you’re ready. You charge forward and thrust the spear into the head of the gargoyle. It howls in agony then turns to stone once again and crashes to the floor. You jump out of the way as large pieces of stone break apart and scatter across the floor.

You climb over the broken pieces of stone and onto the plinth. Looking up you can see the ladder disappears into the ceiling but it’s too dark to see where it leads. You figure it has to be closer to the surface than you’ve been since you first came here, so you climb the ladder.

When you reach the top of the ladder you find only a ruby coloured gem inset into the ceiling.

“Stupid damn useless buttons,” you say as you punch the gem.

It instantly turns green but instead of the gem starting to vibrate, this time the entire ceiling above you slides back and you’re blinded by daylight. You clamber out through the ceiling and find yourself in the pouring rain.

You look around to get your bearings and find you’re standing in a large open area of the hedge maze.

***

— Please Insert Disk 2 of “Maze Quest” to Continue Adventure —

***

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