Patrick was dead. Diana was gone, probably dead too. Harold was unresponsive. Even if it took 10 minutes for our parents to know we were missing, that could be months for us, if not longer…or ever.
We were alone, trapped and hungry. Somewhere out there, the Minotaur was waiting for us. We’d have to deal with him eventually.
If we even survived the night.
Harold’s moaning wasn’t particularly loud, but I had a feeling that if the Minotaur was half the predator Harold claimed it was, it wouldn’t have trouble picking out even the smallest of sounds, physical ears or not. I couldn’t blame Harold though, I felt like curling up into a ball and waiting for someone to find us, to put full faith in a hero to save the day and just give up all self-reliance. But despite how much my body achingly told me to quit, I knew we’d never get out of here if I did. But what could I do? Patrick had managed to find a weapon, for all the good that did him. I had…sticks? Somehow I didn’t think the Minotaur would be defeated by a couple of branches.
We had to run, then. Harold had said the only exit out of the forest was through the open chamber the Minotaur protected, but I wondered if it would be distracted enough in its search for us that we could sneak past. We’d be out in the open as we made our way through that area, and there was no guarantee the Minotaur wouldn’t just continue to chase us after we left. There was also the possibility that the world outside the forest was even more dangerous and deadly, but at least we had a chance. Harold had survived on his own for a few months, but just barely. It wouldn’t be much of a life, hiding in the forest, picking off scraps of food from the ground, constantly being hunted. I had a brief flash of Harold and I living together, spending all our time together, growing closer, possibly even…
And honestly, it was probably the thought of that happening that spurred me to action the most.
“Harold,” I whispered. “You need to pull it together.”
He looked at me with big, blubbery eyes. “W-Why?”
“Because you’re giving away our location, and I don’t really want to die here.”
“What’s it matter? He’ll find us no matter what we do.”
“You don’t know that. He hasn’t found us yet.”
Harold laughed bitterly. “It’s part of the hunt. No fun if he just kills us. Sometimes he keeps his prey trapped for days, waiting for their will to break.”
That was a distressing thought. At least Harold wasn’t crying anymore. “And you know this because…?”
He glared at me and I saw a second Harold underneath his nerdy exterior. Someone who had been through something I couldn’t comprehend. Someone feral. “I know this because it’s been the only thing I’ve been thinking about for the past few months,” he said. “That’s how I managed to survive for so long. I know the Minotaur’s habits, his patterns. I know how he hunts, and his favorite ways to kill. The moment I stop being careful, I’m dead. And now, thanks to you, here I am.”
I wanted to yell, but I managed to speak in a pointed hush, “Woah, excuse me, but there’s no way in hell you’re going to pin all of this on me. We came to rescue you.”
“With no plan and no way to get back home. That worked out great.”
Would the Minotaur hear it if I beat the crap out of him? I half considered it, but I decided it wouldn’t be worth the risk. “You’re the one who came here first anyway!”
“By accident! It’s not like I tried to get sucked up into a magical portal.”
Something about the way he said that made me stop. Maybe it was the way his eyes shifted away from me. Maybe it was the way his voice quivered on that last bit. Whatever it was, I knew. He was lying.
“You came here on purpose,” I said.
He snorted, “Yeah, I totally wanted to spend the rest of my life being chased by a monster in some creepy forest. Great deduction there, Sherlock.”
No, there was something else going on. But that didn’t make any sense. How would he have known about the portal? For that matter, how was there a portal in the first place?
“If you’re hiding something from me that could potentially get us out of here-“
He turned away. “There isn’t any way out. The Minotaur will find us. He has our scent. I told you, I’ve seen what he can do.”
Wait…that was it!
“Harold, you said you’ve memorized the Minotaur’s hunting patterns right?”
He still refused to face me. “Yeah, so?”
“I think I know a way we can use your knowledge to escape the forest.”
There was something fishy about Harold I couldn’t place my finger on, and it worried me more than I could explain. The whole situation was messed up, but I knew it wouldn’t help to focus on everything all at once. I was way out of my element, but if I took it step by step, hopefully it would all would fall into place. I could deal with the Harold’s lies later. For now, I had a plan.