On the eve of Sentamorth our hero is about to become the first Gramoth to officially enter the maze. The maze has existed in the centre of the old city for as long as anyone can remember, and the city is very old. The ones that built the oldest part of the city and the maze were the Ingramoth, who are the ancient ancestors, the pre-Gramoth, who evolved into the race that now inhabits the moon, called Spet.
The maze is an enclosed jigsaw of tunnels that cut deep into the dirt and rocks. Underground for the most part, in recent times some structures have been built over the roofs of the upper tunnels. The roofs are very thick, as are the walls, and the myths tell us that the maze is not just on a single or level plane, but layers and levels deep. No one living knows for sure what form the structure takes, nor does anyone know what is in there, that is apart from the little she called Sogra, who everyone thinks is lost in there. The whole city has been searching for Sogra and everywhere has been searched. So the maze is the only answer to her sudden disappearance.
The only entrance to the maze that is known is in a cave like structure near Sogra’s house. Earth works solidly blocked the actual gateway into the maze until Sogra found a way in. The little she usually went into the cave to play, as she liked to explore the old city. How she got in we don’t know but there was evidence of digging, and a small wedge shaped hole, big enough for Sogra to squeeze through, in the back wall of the cave. This was the only evidence of her disappearance that pointed to her entering the maze; there could be no other explanation. Gramoth do not kidnap offspring, or steal from each other, as a matter of fact the whole of the Gramoth population felt the same angst as her parents when they discovered Sogra was missing. The Gramoth are compassionate, and their empathy is renowned across the universe. Sogra must be found, and as soon as possible for everyone’s peace of mind. Elders had ordered the widening of the hole in the wall so that a search could begin.
Emrath had volunteered to go into the maze in search of Sogra. He was handsome and strong, and his parents had put his name forward as the one to seek Sogra’s whereabouts, as Emrath had always been fascinated by the ancient history of the Gramoth and even had some minor knowledge of the maze.
As they widened the hole with digging sticks and shovels it became apparent just how thick the walls were. They were as wide as the height of the Gramoth, who was at that moment lying prone, while he was digging into the inner wall. Young Sogra must have been scooping away at the small hole she had managed to dig out, for many days. So it wasn’t just on a sudden whim that she went into the maze. It seemed that she had been helped by a slight rockslide, and perhaps a cave-in, a small amount of in-fill probably loosened the inside of the wall at just the right spot. Just the same it seems she was determined.
Everyone around the cave entrance felt the trepidation and anxiety that was coursing through Emrath as he said good-bye to his proud, but pushy parents. He was actually excited and very curious as well, which only seemed to heighten his anxiety. What would he find in there? Had Sogra taken light and provisions? Emrath had encased his body in a protective suit that would shield him from the cold, but little else. The elders had packed torches and flints, and for food he had the little insect cakes that his mother baked in the communal oven on even days, and fruits from the orchard, that were dried on racks behind their house. It was all in a pack that he could carry on his back so that his arms and wing-cape would be free.
The wing-cape was the current product of Gramoth evolution. It was known that the Ingramoth had flown with their wings, tough, leathery and very colourful, as well as intricately patterned. Large wings that carried them far and wide were now stunted and sat like a cape that arose from the centre of the thoracic spine. The once separate wings were joined now, and could be raised or lowered with the muscles in the back and neck. The colours of the intricate designs were still there and the cape was now very much a part of the body language of the modern day Gramoth. Nowadays the Gramoth walked everywhere or rode the short donkey-like creatures they called Verak.
Emrath glanced back once, as his mother and father, and the group of elders watched as his red and pink patterned wing-cape disappeared into the dark hole. There was silence as their feelings supported Emrath, and urged him further into the darkness of the tunnel. No one dared to follow him. He was on his own.
The darkness closed around him, it was darkness so thick that the flames of the torchlight didn’t penetrate far. Beside him the tunnel went both ways, and behind was the thin sliver of light that came in from the outside. Which way, right or left? He felt an intuitive urge to go to the left, but he needed to look for little Sogra. She must be distraught. He called her name, and jumped when his voice bounced back at him from the thick darkness. Putting the torch down to the floor of the tunnel, he saw next to his own feet, a smaller version of imprints in the ancient dust. As he moved the torch around his heart sank as he saw that they pointed to the right. As he straightened, the torch reflected off the walls, and for the first time he noticed that the large aperture, that had once been the gateway into the labyrinth was crowned by an intricately decorated arch. The patterns could have been a collection of the coloured designs of the Ingramoth wings recreated into a fresco around the gateway. It was very clever and beautiful. His large eyes were becoming more accustomed to the impinging gloom and he could now make out writing on the opposite wall. This was news; the Ingramoth wrote words, and as far as he could make out as he walked closer, the letters were a slightly different shape to that of modern Gramoth with the occasional unidentifiable word or letter. However, the calligraphy had a smooth rhythmical flow like an unbroken mountain stream. Such clean lines, Emrath was so fascinated to read this ancient script that it took a few moments to register just what he was deciphering. His heart sank again, by going to the right Sogra had taken not only the hard way, but the most dangerous route through the labyrinth. Apparently the left-hand route was an easy stroll by comparison.
Readjusting his pack he began tracking Sogra into who knew what? Sogra obviously hadn’t read the wall; her tracks looked like she was skipping along the centre of the tunnel.
Following Sogra was easy; her foot prints were almost centered in the wide tunnel. Emrath however was an explorer at heart and couldn’t help himself; he had to look more closely at the tunnel walls. So every twenty or so steps he would walk to the right or left to examine the walls. He noted the structure; in some places looked as though it had been bored through the earth, and in other places the rocks were precision cut and dovetailed so perfectly that they didn’t require mortar. He saw no more writing or decoration, and so he would cross back to the centre and take up Sogra’s trail again. At length his gut told him it was time to eat, and he squatted down over to one side of Sogra’s track, took off his pack and nibbled on some insect cake. Emrath had rammed the handle of the torch into the floor of the cave, and as he sat back on his heels he laughed as he caught sight of a disturbance in the soil nearby. Sogra had stopped here just ahead of him.
Emrath felt as though he had walked for a whole day and decided it was time to stop. Over to the left side of the tunnel he settled for a small snack of dried fruit and sleep. It wasn’t unusual for Gramoth to sleep on the ground. Many felt happiest lying close to nature. Emrath didn’t mind, but he was very glad that he had worn the suit. It was cold here. He wasn’t sure how far he had come, and he was pretty sure that he hadn’t passed by any cross tunnels or branches. His large eyes were becoming accustomed to the gloom and he was still on Sogra’s trail.
When he woke, Emrath used the flints and lit the torch. He had placed everything beside him so he knew where to reach in the pitch dark. As his eyes adjusted to the light he wondered why he couldn’t feel Sogra’s emotions. She was probably only a day ahead of him, but when he thought about it, he reasoned that it could be longer, maybe another day, if little Sogra had left in the middle of the night. He might feel her if she was distressed. For a little she, Sogra was very organized and he knew now the Gramoth might not know where she was, but Sogra was not lost. Sogra was not wandering aimlessly around down here; she could have followed her own tracks out as he would when the time came. No, he reasoned Sogra was on a deliberate mission to explore the maze.
After another few hours of walking Emrath felt a change in the tunnel, he wasn’t sure what it was at first, but because of the pattern he had been walking, he soon discovered a Y shaped branch ahead in the tunnel. Again there was a right or left choice. He looked at the walls here. There was no written word except for a series of dots. There were three in the inside wall of the left branch and six on the corresponding wall of the right. At first he thought it was Sogra’s work, but dismissed this when he examined them more closely. These painted dots were old. He had no idea what they stood for; Gramoth didn’t use these kinds of symbols in their numerology. Checking the floor, he saw that Sogra had done it again, gone down the right branch. In the middle of the tunnel her track disturbed the smooth surface of the ancient floor. The left branch was undisturbed. Emrath was beginning to detest these right turns they really felt wrong.
Another branch loomed up in the curve of the tunnel. This was the first time Emrath was aware of a curve; previously he had only felt that he was walking a straight line. The length of the maze awed him. On the surface it only took half a day to walk its length. It was obviously huge and had depths no-one had dreamt of, and he was sure he was still walking on the same level, but he must have been walking a slow decline taking him way beyond and below the maze that was apparent on the surface.
As he rounded the curve the branch went to the right again, Sogra’s prints went in and beside them came out. It must be a dead end. He checked the walls for marks or dots. Sure enough there was a painted mark on the inside wall of the branch. This was a circle like a zero; perhaps it meant a dead-end. Emrath didn’t bother to checkout the dead end, he continued to track Sogra in the direction of the curve and felt happy that it curved left for a change. It was so easy to loose track of the days down here, and he could only really go by his body clock, and he intuited it was the same for Sogra. He had passed her sleep sites, often close to his own, as he progressed along the tunnels. No writing or patterns, just walking, and it was becoming monotonous, Emrath was unaware at times that he was loosing concentration, and he was afraid of becoming disoriented. So he decided to pay strict attention to the details. Here the tunnel walls seemed to be hewn out of the natural rock. The tools must have been strong to enable the workers to cut a wide tunnel like this through solid rock.
Oh, this wasn’t good; Sogra had taken the right hand branch again and hadn’t come back out of any of the three branches facing him. The dots were there, six on the far right branch, three on the near left of it, and four dots on the far left. Sogra was following the sixes he reasoned, and of course so was he.
He decided to sleep at the entrance to the right branch, and he curled up under the seemingly inevitable, six painted dots. When he woke he ate an insect cake, and a piece of dried fruit, then he took off along the right hand branch that took such a sharp decline in places he was almost running downwards, it was so steep. In the tracks he saw that Sogra had rolled part way and he hoped she was unharmed. The tunnel bottomed out eventually and he slid to a standstill. He could see where Sogra had scrabbled to keep her footing on the lower part of the slope.
The torch sputtered out and he couldn’t get the flint to strike and so he felt his way along and nearly banged his beak into a wall that seemed to curve left in front of him. His hand led the way as it followed the curve. He felt the tunnel close in for a moment, and reaching out his left hand grazed his knuckles, on the now, not so far wall, and just as suddenly the pressure changed and he knew he was in a very large space. He tried the flint again and it struck. With the torch ablaze he saw that he was in a circular cavern. Exploring the cave he noticed that this was a natural feature, there were stalagmites and stalactites, still forming, and unlike the tunnels it smelt damp. There would be food in here. Whilst searching out insects he found a piece of Sogra’s pack. It was just a flap that had caught on a sharp rock. He hoped Sogra had dined as well as he was, the insects were different to those on the surface, but just as tasty.
Sogra was following sixes again, and as he followed he wondered what she knew that kept taking her this way, or was it just a whim? Emrath didn’t really know Sogra; he had seen her in the neighbourhood, around and about, but never actually met her or shared her feelings. Sogra was just a little bit younger than his age group, and whilst in the future her age might place her ready for partnership with his age group, at the moment that time was a long way off, and to Emrath a long way away. He hadn’t spoken to Sogra’s parents before he left because the circumstances and the empathy had pushed his entry into the hasty search. Too fast in hindsight, he was beginning to think and feel that there was more to Sogra and her journey than met the eye.
He could feel the pressure like a huge weight above, he decided that meant he was far below the surface tunnels now. Yet Sogra was still ahead and her track marched on. He called out at intervals several times each ‘day’. If Sogra had heard him she didn’t return his call. With the oppressive weight that seemed to enclose him he didn’t think the sound would travel far down here, it would simply soak into the walls. The tunnels had become like a warren now, he was sure he had turned several hook curves and had passed numerous dotted branch tunnels. Six seemed to be the number. Perhaps Sogra had gleaned some knowledge of the way; perhaps she found some ancient writing that gave her a formula to traverse the labyrinth.
The width of the tunnel was now only the width of his outstretched arms. If the Ingramoth only flew through here it would have been tricky negotiating this on the wing. They must have crawled through here. The tunnel narrowed again; it was so tight that he was scraping the sides with his wing-cape. He looked down at Sogra’s tracks, they continued on through the narrow gap, and so did he. As he squeezed through the slot, he emerged into a blind cul-de-sac. Surely he hadn’t been tracing Sogra’s backtrack in the wrong direction…. he turned to check and where he hadn’t trod on her footprints he was assured they only went one way…. into the cul-de-sac. He couldn’t afford to panic. He raised the torch and the light bounced off the walls, it flashed on the colours, on the intricate patterns and writing that told him to ‘look up’ or maybe it was ‘go up’. Emrath waved the torch high above his head and he saw steps, narrow steps made for small feet, that curved up a chimney to a higher level or maybe out of the maze altogether. In the far curve of the cul-de-sac he found evidence of Sogra’s resting-place and he slept soundly in the same spot.
Waking up in this space was not easy and he was feeling cramped and oppressed, it was then, as he was going to complain loudly, that he heard a sound. It pinged like pebbles hitting a larger stone. Several small, marble like pebbles were cascading down from above and hitting the sides of the steps, clattering. He called up the chimney to Sogra. Her voice came back, questioning him, from far above.
“Who was he? “Why was he following her?” and she sounded annoyed. He yelled back the answers. Did she really believe she could just disappear like that and no one would look for her? He told her to stay put, that he was coming up, and so began the climb of a lifetime. At least Sogra was safe. He reasoned that if Sogra stayed where she was he would reach her soon. He climbed and climbed, there was nowhere to stop, up and up the shaft, spiraling up the narrow steps he stopped, balancing as he ate his last piece of insect cake. Then up he went again. He called to Sogra once or twice but received no answer.
Suddenly he was at the top of the stairway, and it opened immediately into another tunnel. Sogra was not there waiting. Emrath was very annoyed with her and he called her name sharply. No answer came back. He looked around the tunnel floor for her footprints and they led back down the tunnel and out again on the other side, where she had begun climbing again. Here was a continuation of the steps, and the chimney was wider now so the spiral was wider as well. He rounded a few spirals and came to another cavernous tunnel that opened out on the opposite wall to the dead end below. This was another natural cavern and he could hear insects scrabbling about on, and under rocks. He would eat and explore at the same time. A movement caught his eye at the same moment as he was picking up a sweet tasting beetle. It was a spot of light moving along, and illuminating the underside of an overhang just to his right. Sogra! She was looking for the six dots and the right hand tunnel…. no doubt.
Emrath came up behind her and pounced, she was not getting away from him, and they would travel together from here. Sogra put up a mild struggle, but she quickly realized how much stronger her opponent was. She knew him by sight. She had seen him around the town. Sense always prevailed with the Gramoth and as they empathized with each other, they sat down together and ate sweet and succulent beetles. It was time for Sogra to share her reasons and any knowledge she had found that had led her here. Sogra could feel his annoyance, mixed with curiosity, and some relief that he had found her. Emrath felt that she was also annoyed at being found, and her relief that there was food here. Apparently she had emptied her pack of food two sleeps ago. Now he knew for sure that she had planned this trip into the maze.
Emrath listened, and Sogra talked. She had found a small piece of fresco on the outside wall of the cave. When the entrance had been filled in, ages ago, the ground outside had been chipped up, and the covering of rubble and dirt had been pounded down to make a flat area inside the cave entrance. Sogra had used the cave entrance for years as a playroom, as it was next to her house. Playing at being an explorer, she had often dug holes in the cave entrance floor, one day she had found a piece of fresco that she thought had come out of the tunnel. She pulled it out of her pack. It was about a hand-span, an Emrath hand-span, and it was red writing on a shiny brown surface. There were only a few words: “six dots to the right will take you far”. It had taken Sogra a long time to understand what it could mean, and when she came to her conclusions, she had begun planning her adventure. Emrath could feel her anticipation and excitement, and the dark and the seemingly endless tunnels hadn’t quelled her excitement. Emrath admired her courage and conviction and he said so.
Sogra had had enough to eat and she jumped to her feet ready to move on. Emrath suggested taking some beetles with them as they had no idea what might be ahead. With a meal of beetles in their packs, they each began looking for another tunnel with six dots. The entrance was behind a large curtain of stalactites, and as they climbed in, Emrath tuned in to Sogra’s excitement. His own feelings were mixed; he didn’t have any tracks to follow now they were making them together.
Sogra was a good companion and together their energies worked well. This tunnel felt different somehow but he wasn’t sure what the difference was. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t alone? It was only when Sogra verbalized the same thought moments later that they stopped to discuss it, and look around more carefully. They had only been using one torch, and so he asked Sogra to light hers as well. The extra illumination was a big help, they saw that the tunnel they were in wasn’t a made tunnel, but part of the same cave system as the cavern just behind them. This natural tunnel was wide but the roof was much lower than previous tunnels, any lower and Emrath would need to stoop. It was only the floor of the tunnel that had been deliberately leveled and made into a wide path. If the Ingramoth only flew why did they need paths, were they evolving already or did they always have arms and legs similar to the modern day Gramoth. These sorts of questions plagued Emrath as he had no answers. Still maintaining his vigilance, looking for writing, designs, branches and cross-tunnels, Emrath began to discuss his questions with Sogra.
Cross-species, that was Sogra’s idea, and she thought that somehow or other the Ingramoth had crossed with another specie, and that would explain how the powerful legs and arms developed. She continued with her theory: she thought that was why they ate insects and lived to breed, and more than that, they lived on after breeding, and because of that they didn’t fly anymore. All this theorizing came spilling from Sogra as she walked along down the middle of the tunnel a few steps ahead of Emrath. It was such a big theory for a little she. Emrath just had more questions. He didn’t agree or disagree with Sogra’s ideas, who knew?
They hadn’t walked much further when Emrath began to feel another change in the pressure on his body. Something was very different again. He walked carefully to the left and couldn’t find the wall. He held the torch above his head and couldn’t find the roof of the tunnel, so he moved cautiously to the right across Sogra’s centralised track. It was the same story; they must be in another giant cavern. At his request Sogra pointed her torch down to watch the floor they were walking over; he didn’t want the floor to disappear from under their feet. It didn’t disappear at all, but gently sloped to the right and ended at a wall. The wall was covered in writing and pictures, all framed by the intricate wing patterns of the Ingramoth.
Emrath couldn’t see around the wall so he side-steeped to the left and found he could walk that way on a ledge which ran along the front of the wall, until he came upon another wall. He continued walking, right shoulder to that wall and reached another, jutting out, from the last. All were covered in writing and pictures. They were so tall he couldn’t see the top half from where he was standing. He would have to be at a distance to see each wall completely and work out how to illuminate them.
Between them there were ten torches left, Emrath took seven of them and made his way to what seemed to be the beginning of the scripted walls and there he lit all the torches at once. With the extra illumination he saw that the natural cavern was even more vast than he had imagined. Sogra was making her way towards him, and her torchlight showed him that the walls were stepped back to the first wall they had encountered on entering the cavern, and he could just make out a platform of sorts that faced each wall. In fact there were viewing platforms for each wall.
They arranged the torches to their best advantage and made their way to the first platform, which was farthest from the entrance. Reading the wall-sized tablets was going to take an age and besides there were words and symbols here that neither could identify. Together they read out loud, discussing possible meanings of strange symbols and generally got the gist of what was written there on the wall before them. They were astounded.
In all there were five huge walls in this stand. The first wall told of a war, which was actually a campaign of genocide. The Gramoth had always known that there are other moons that orbit their mother planet, the parent of their moon that is called Spet. According to the writings, the Ingramoth had been invaded by a tribe from one of the moons called Ensegra, which is a small dark ball on the outer orbit of the mother planet. Apparently, the Ensegrans felt they had no other choice. They were not like the Ingramoth, who were then giant moth like beings, highly intelligent, intellectual beings whose compassion and empathy, and joy of living was highly spiritually evolved. The tribe from Ensegra were bi-pedal, with strong torsos and highly developed technology. They had spaceships and aircraft and a hunger for more territory in which to spread their progeny.
The Ingramoth were at first easily exterminated, they had soft bodies and without their wings could not travel far to get away, and eventually they were driven underground into this labyrinth which they had created, and connected throughout the subterranean depths of their moon. Emrath and Sogra had moved on to the platform of the second wall. They stood very close together as if for warmth, but it was the warmth of comfort they needed because maybe Sogra was right after all. Some other questions arose: If the maze pervaded the moon, where were they now? How far had they walked?
Reading on, they discovered that the Ensegra people had taken possession of the surface of Spet and the remaining Ingramoth had lived in this subterranean world, and because of who, and what they were they thrived. Ensegra colonists that included families of workers, technicians, engineers and scientists had followed the original invasion force. The Ensegra were unable to make Spet work for them in the longer term and over long generations began a natural attrition, until there were not enough left to run their cities or their craft. It was like a failure to thrive away from their mother moon. After a long time the Ensegra left the Ingramoth alone to live in relative safety and peace in the bowels and internal structures of their moon. Out of sight, out of mind Sogra thought out loud and Emrath agreed. He could feel the excitement building as they deciphered the third wall, rearranging the torches almost frantically in their need for further answers to this mystery. Eventually there were only a few Ensegra left, and in panic their scientists began a genetic breeding program. The trouble was they had been here so long, their judgement was skewed and they had become desperate. They were not spiritual beings, like the Ingramoth, and there was a lack of integrity and ethics in most of their experiments. The poorly designed experiments resulted in genetically modified Ingramoth and Ensegra appearing over the next generations. Reading the continuing surreal history of their species Sogra and Emrath concluded that the following thousands of generations had eventually given birth to the Gramoth, now standing here in this cavern. As the fifth wall affirmed they read about the demise of the last Ensegra, and the return to the surface of the Ingramoth, who then embraced the remaining Ensegra mutations into the population.
Exhausted by the emotions and revelations, Emrath ordered that they search for food and then sleep in the crevasses at the edge of this huge cavern. Emrath snuffed out all the torches but two. Sogra sought out insects, there were grubs and sweet beetles here, Gramoth didn’t eat moths of any kind, considering them sacred. They ate well and fell asleep easily. Sogra was tucked up in a cleft made by two rocky outcrops and Emrath was nearby, just around the rock and close to Sogra’s feet. It was a long and deep sleep for them both.
Emrath woke first and lit both of the torches. As Sogra hadn’t stirred he took one of the torches and leaving the other rammed into the dirt near her so it would shine on the arrow, he scratched into the dirt floor, to indicate the direction he was taking to circumnavigate the cavern. Sogra called to him when she awoke and he called back urgently, telling her to bring the torch and her pack, to see what he had found. Hurrying along his tracks she could feel his pulse racing and his head spinning. Nearly at the point of calling out her concern, she rounded another rocky outcrop in the path, when she saw him frozen to the spot like a statue, the last in a line of statues that had been carved out of the huge rocks that littered the cavern floor. He had placed his spare torches between 3 or 4 of them, but she could see that there were many more leading off into the darkness.
Emrath had literally walked into one of the statues that looked like a Gramoth, but whose wings were still separate. That was why Sogra had felt his heart hammering, he had been so surprised by the discovery that his heart had thumped in his chest.
They were looking at a record of the genetic and evolutionary changes of the Ingramoth/Ensegra up to the almost modern Gramoth. They explored for a long time, moving from statue to statue. Sogra had found where it started, two figures side by side, one Ensegra; that is where the original strong legs, and muscular torso and arms had come from; and the Ingramoth with his long beak, and wings, and the large eyes that had such a wide perspective. Backtracking along the gallery of life-size figurines, they saw how the changes to both species had evolved into themselves. However, this place had been lost and forgotten in the modern history of the Gramoth of Spet, because there was no statue that completed or rather continued the record. None of these resembled Sogra or Emrath.
Both of them decided that they would return here when they had spread the news. They would work together as a partnership, and they would continue to keep the history of the Gramoth of Spet making sure that the following generations did not forget.
It took them many, many sleeps to return home and on the way they found so much more to explore on future forays. When they emerged from the cave entrance next to Sogra’s house they were hailed as heroes or initially Emrath was for ‘saving’ Sogra. Later when they spoke of their findings and what their plans included they were both celebrated as the new trend in Gramoth society and everyone wanted to learn what they could teach.
There must have been something carried forward through their evolution, because very few Gramoth wanted to venture underground to see the evidence. Only a few of the younger generation took up with Emrath and Sogra to further explore the maze that was Spet.