A Visit

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Maze
The lightbulbs were glowing; the candles, ablaze.

I’d passed by the gate, wasn’t thinking of stopping-
Then realized I could do some last-minute shopping.
The place looked intriguing; I thought I might buy
Some nice fish to fry up, or a vial for Aunt Vi.
So I stepped through the gate and moved into the hall
Which had four doors of bronze and some papers-that’s all.

I had started to feel that this wasn’t a shop
And was ready to leave but one thing made me stop:
The teacup on door 26 made me think-
I was tired and chilled, I could use a hot drink.

But when I went through, what I saw was so weird.
Some trapdoors were opening; devils appeared!
In my panic I fled, taking door number 30-
Big letters? A tree? Now I started to worry…

And turned right around to go back whence I’d come
But I found the door locked! And then really felt dumb
To have come so far in. What’s the way out of here?
I took door 42 for my mother’s birth year
(Despite being tempted by 34’s gleam),
Made my way to the room, where I let out a scream
At the savage thing waiting to leap out at me-
But then sighed with relief. Only stuffed-there, you see?
You’re just being silly, I said in my head
As I surveyed the room, tried to tamp down my dread.

A pear and some scissors, salt, pepper, and dice-
Which door should I choose? A hint would have been nice.
The cane seemed to point, but then so did the bear.
I paced back and forth, scraped my hands through my hair-
When I realized that this was my fourth choice to make!
So perhaps the fourth door was the one I should take?

I chose door number 4. But wait, what was that sound?
My walk turned to a jog; my heart started to pound-
For I thought I could hear footsteps hard on my tail.
Or were they ahead? Then I felt myself quail

Because there in the shadows of room number 4
There was someone-or something-by arch 24.

I could not see him clearly, despite his great size…
Was he crowned with huge horns? Was that fire in his eyes?
I was ready to bolt, when he started to speak
In a low, ringing voice, and my knees went all weak.

“Enjoying the Maze? Well, I don’t mean to scare you.
I’m quite pleased to see you and did want to spare you
Discomfort or terror-I feel such delight
That you happened in here, on this night of all nights.”
I shrank back in fear, wondering, Am I still sane?
And he said, “You’re confused. So please let me explain.”

“I’m required to play by this damned House’s rules
In my role as the Guide for all visiting fools:
I can mislead my guests but I must let them choose.
They go free if they win, but then if they should lose,
They’re lost to the Abyss and it seems such a waste.
So unfair that I should be denied just a taste.

“That Thoughtful One, now, she’d have been so delicious.
As for you-well, the best one can hope is ‘nutritious.’
Still, better than nothing!” A sound came like sand
Against floor, or the rubbing of two massive hands.

“On this night I’ve decided to make my own rules.
(My stomach is rumbling-pardon my drool.)
And since it’s the holidays, let’s have some fun.
I’ll give you a chance-but mind you, just the one-

“If you find your way through into room 45
And then back out to 1, then you’ll leave here alive.
But make a mistake, and fall into my Trap,
Then you’re mine!” (Here I heard a revolting lip smack.)

I agreed to the deal-what else could I have done?
Then I looked all around to decide where to run.

I picked 29 at random, went through with a sob,
Then tripped over a staff and fell on a doorknob
And I realized that wasn’t a table at all
But a door. I went through to a tall, sandy hall

Where I saw the first goal of my peregrinations.
“It’s door 45!” I said with jubilation.

My Guide wasn’t happy; he grumbled and growled,
And his footsteps were loud as behind me he prowled.
I entered the room and I looked all around
There was stuff everywhere, on the walls and the ground.

The Guide said: “Most guests have to try for the riddle
But my belly’s empty-there’s no time to fiddle
With clues, for my patience will quickly run out
If I wait several years while you puzzle it out.
So I’ll tell you what rises up out of this din.
The riddle in here is ‘What house will all live in?’

“The answer is Earth. That’s a spoiler, I fear.
But let’s move on, sharpish!” I followed the spear
Into room 23, feeling warmed by the light,
And, avoiding glass shards, I picked 8-“Sun” felt right.

The rooms all began to seem blurred and entwined
From room 8 I took 12, then down to 39,
As the grumbling behind me got more and more awful.
Take 4… no, 11! While I stood and waffled,
The Guide made snide comments I strove to ignore,
And I tried to decide: Which way now, then? Which door?

Liquid courage, I thought, a wine bottle upending-
‘Twas empty, of course! With this bad luck portending
My doom I lost hope but then soon felt a tingling
As came a sweet sound like small jingle bells jingling.

The sound made me think of some Christmassy tunes:
Eight reindeer… divide… that’s the jingle hat clue!
The signs were quite clear. With no doubt any more
I then boldly went through into room number 4.

There I looked all around, tried to keep myself steady…
Was this a mistake? I had been here already…
But seeing two nails in a board-paradise!
I thought, This must mean that you see room 4 twice,
And the board points the way, so that’s where next I’ll flee.
I took door 43; the Guide bellowed with glee:

“It has been a good game, but I’m terribly famished.
Your time in my Maze has now finally vanished!”

His footfalls behind me, a crack to the back
Of my head-I saw stars-then stars faded to black.
But I heard him exclaim, as I dropped to the floor,
“Have you guessed my name yet? I am the-“