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Martyr's Run

The Maze


As the others got up and walked off, I remained where I was, too deep in my own thoughts that were thankfully slowly returning back to me to care about anything else.

After experiencing some of the horrors of the Institution, I had completely overlooked that one great obstacle which I had, thankfully, avoided: the Maze. Martyr’s Run.

A martyr: someone who dies for what they believe in.

Run: well, a travelling pace faster than a walk.

Put them together, and you could describe Martyr’s Run.

In Europe, a Dreamer had three chances at being caught. The first was a six month ‘re-education’ Institution sentence. The second was a one to fifteen year Institution sentence. The third was the Operation.

At least over there, you were guaranteed three chances. Over here in America, we weren’t so lucky.

For us, the first chance was a six month Institution sentence; same as over there. The second, however, was Martyr’s Run.

The Run, or the Maze, was a gameshow. A new kind of sick, twisted gameshow, invented by a team that included Tamara Lomax. And Dreamers were the contestants.

There were two stages to the Maze: Low Stakes and High Stakes. Naturally, the public preferred High Stakes, so Low Stakes was only used when there was a shortage of new, second-time Dreamers being caught. In Low Stakes, which was when they needed more participants, they would go into Institutions, looking for people who had been in there for three to five months. They would force them on the show—of course we didn’t get a choice in it—and if they won, they were straight out of the Institution. Well, after a particularly heavy dose of drugs, anyway. If they failed, however, they were back in for another three months. Being in the Institution was when you really hit rock bottom, so the only thing left to threaten the Dreamers with was longer in that hellhole.

As for High Stakes; their favourite, well, that was even sicker. Any Dreamer who was convicted who had already been in an Institution once before was automatically sentenced to Martyr’s Run. If they made it through the maze, they got a sentence in the Institution between one and ten years. If they failed, they were put in for the Operation. No questions; no trials; no appeals. If they failed, they lost the right to a brain.

This was even worse than Europe. At least in Europe they were guaranteed two sentences before the Operation. Over here, we had to stick with one. Of course, if a Dreamer made it through, and then was convicted a third time, they were still straight for the Operation regardless, but another chance often made the difference between life and death. Back at the LA base, I knew of two people who had been in and survived Martyr’s Run. They didn’t like to talk about it, but we’d all involuntarily seen it on the TV at some time or another—none of us wanted to watch it, but sometimes it was on as often as once or twice a month, somewhere in America, Canada or Mexico, and it was hard to be completely oblivious to it. Unfortunately, I knew of at least ten who had gone on the show and never come back.

The idea for Martyr’s Run came when the new, tough Minister for Imagination Regulation and Control (or MIRC, as they were informally known) was appointed about ten years ago along with Tamara Lomax being given the position of Minister of Media. Along with USBN, the leading TV broadcaster in America, who also had a newly appointed manager, they devised this new sick, twisted gameshow. And, living in this disturbed society, the first show broke many records for the number of viewers right across the continent. Being separated from Europe meant that their people didn’t have to face such horrors, and their governments didn’t come up with these new ideas, but it also meant that they were oblivious to some of the darkest secrets that were held this side of the Atlantic.

The aim of the game was simple. A Dreamer; sometimes two if the government had new incentives to catch more of us, was taken to the Maze. Even though there were sometimes only two or three weeks in between each episode, there were dedicated workers who constructed a slightly different maze each time. It was all inside a colossal building, much of which was underground and all of which was top-secret; its whereabouts unknown; and the aim was simply to reach the end of the Maze before time ran out, or before you succumbed to one of the numerous terrors that lurked within the great metal walls. Again, these terrors were a little different each time, but they mostly consisted of tough obstacles to traverse, confusing puzzles to solve, psychological horrors that apparently could only be fully understood once one was within those walls, or various people and objects simply meant to hurt, wound, knock unconscious or trap, rendering the Dreamer powerless as the sands drained from the hour glass and they could do nothing but await their fate.

The ones with multiple Dreamers in there were the most ‘interesting’ ones, according to the sick people that watched it. Only the first person to the exit could win their way out, and this desperate shot at freedom, combined with the insane psychology of the Maze, often caused Dreamers to go insane; to become violent and irrational, and sometimes even turn on one another.

One thing was for sure: those who entered Martyr’s Run never came out quite the same again.

‘Are you coming, Simeon?’

Jake and Tim had wandered on, deep in conversation with each other, but Rina was watching me with those wide eyes that looked permanently startled.

‘Where?’ I asked sceptically.

‘Jake wants to go back to Mexico...’ she trailed off, realising what I was hinting at. I didn’t care what they wanted; I wanted to get to Europe.

Could I make it alone? If that was the choice: to go back to San Francisco with Tim, and possibly Jake and Rina too, or make my way across the country, undetected and totally alone.

I had always liked being in charge, but that didn’t make me a solitary worker. I felt far more comfortable now that we were travelling in a small group. And yet, how could this all be for nothing? Because at this rate, we may have escaped the Operation by the skin of our teeth once, but it was not going to happen again. Everyone’s luck ran out at some point.

I caught up with Rina, and Tim and Jake were both only a few metres ahead, waiting for us.

‘You alright, Sim?’ asked Tim casually.

‘Yuh,’ I lied, a little dreary, still deep in thought. Along with the Institution and the Operation, Martyr’s Run also played heavily on my mind. How could I have completely forgotten about that terror?

‘So, San Francisco then?’ Tim suggested with an easy smile. I should be happy; I was going home. The others weren’t so lucky. Though San Francisco was great for them, it wasn’t home. For me, it was.

But I would still trade it for Europe unquestionably.

‘It would make the most sense,’ Jake said in way of agreement.

‘Whatever,’ I mumbled. They knew I wasn’t happy about it; they also weren’t going to do anything about that fact.

‘Come on, cheer up mate,’ said Tim far too happily. ‘You’re gonna see all your people again.’

‘It’s not that that’s making me annoyed,’ I said in way of response.

Jake rolled his eyes and folded his arms. ‘Well what is then?’

‘I wanna go to Europe.’ I said it simply and without fuss or grandeur. I wasn’t normally this open with people, but I felt that if they knew the whole story, they might, just might come around to agreeing with me.

‘It won’t work.’ Jake’s tone was just as curt and without fuss.

‘We have cars,’ I said. ‘We can drive.’

‘You know there’s border controls at every state boundary,’ Rina said. She sounded sympathetic, almost to the point of pity, but I wasn’t interested in pity right now.

‘Only on the main roads,’ Tim pointed out. I glanced sharply at him. Was he agreeing with me?

‘Hey,’ he said, raising his hands in mock defence at Jake and Rina’s stern glares. ‘I’m not saying Sim’s right. I’m just saying there is another way of doing it, if that’s what we want to do, which we don’t.’

His confusion made Rina smirk, and a smile brushed across even Jake’s face. I considered Tim’s support as a very minor victory and, as Jake turned and made his way off down the path in a seemingly random direction, I decided to let Europe go. For the moment, anyway.


I had no idea where I was actually going—none of us had a map or even a compass, but by sheer luck we made it to a roadside. We were still in the middle of the forest; the road was like a snake winding its way through the trees, carving out a path for itself right through the heart of the dense foliage, but at least if we kept to the road we wouldn’t end up getting lost or running in circles. The road had to lead out of the forest eventually.

‘Okay guys: left or right?’ asked Simeon, moving to the front. He seemed like a natural leader so I was somewhat happy to let him take control. I would have liked to be in charge, yes, but I was nowhere near as good at that sort of thing as he was. I was an independent person, but I wasn’t a leader. That wasn’t me.

‘Right,’ said Tim confidently. Rina laughed and gave him a perplexed look.

‘Any reason why?’ she asked.

‘Nope,’ he said, just as confident and casual sounding. ‘But none of us have any idea. And I’m right-handed. So I pick right.’

‘If you say so,’ she said. ‘I’ll agree with that on the basis of your atrocious logic.’

I glanced at the treetops that surrounded us. I could just about see the sun peeping up above their canopy, back the way we had come.

Surely that meant we had to go left. Left meant north, and north very loosely meant San Francisco.

Simeon and Tim began marching off to the right, keeping in the trees just enough so that passing cars wouldn’t see them. Rina glanced at me before turning, about to follow them.

‘Uh, guys?’ I called out. They didn’t hear me.

‘Guys? Simeon?’

They were so deep in conversation that they still didn’t take any notice. Rina did though; she heard me calling out from a few paces behind.

‘What’s wrong, Jake?’ she asked.

‘We need to be heading the other way,’ I said, sounding a little awkward. But it was true. I knew that for a fact. Now that the sky had cleared of this morning’s rain, the sun was out and guiding our way as clear as a lighthouse.

I knew that the Institution was right on the outskirts of San Diego, south-east of the city, but I was totally disorientated by the time we left the forest and continued down the smallest roads we could find, heading aimlessly north and north-east. We passed a massive lake, but I wouldn’t have been able to say what it was called or where it was. I was pretty confident we were still in California; beyond that, I had little idea.
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I feel like an evil genius, tormenting my characters because seeing them suffer makes me happy (and makes for a better story).

I hope the description of Martyr's Run was alright. :/ I wasn't sure if it just seemed like a bit of an information overload.