Daniel charged forwards. The walls were claustrophobic and he could see the spiders crawling down them, but he pushed on, running faster and faster, twisting and turning. He saw the light at the end and ran for it. Bursting free he halted in front of the drill sergeant, panting.
“Congratulations cadet. Now do it again.”
It took a moment for the words to sink in, but Daniel turned to face the maze again. At a nod from the sergeant he took off. The walls were narrower now, the spiders closer. By the time he reached the original entrance he was wheezing hard.
The sergeant was waiting for him, tablet in hand. He merely raised a finger and pointed back to the maze. Daniel composed himself as quickly as he could. Sweat had begun to soak the back of his shirt. He pushed off, squeezing through the gaps. He had to swat at the spiders now, crushing them underfoot.
“You stop, you fail,” the sergeant said as soon as he emerged for the third time. “Unless you want to give up.”
Daniel felt his frustrations rising. He wouldn’t give up. He’d beat this. He muttered angrily to himself, not even caring for the falling horrors anymore. On and on it went. Back and forth. The walls were always a little closer, the spiders starting to fill the gaps so that he was all but wading through them. He had to hold from screaming. Not from the fear or the exhaustion.
From the sheer futility of it all.
On the seventeenth run he broke.
“It’s pointless!” he shouted at the instructor. “I’ve made it through your maze. I’ve passed the test. Over and over!”
“Yes, you have.”
Daniel dropped to a knee, pulling in lungfuls of air as the last few spiders scurried away. He looked up at the calm sergeant.
“So why do I have to continue?”
The sergeant glanced, left and right, then took a knee himself beside the boy.
“Most people, they’re pretty simple. Clowns or darkness. Some kid couldn’t stand the sight of butter. But you,” he said, tapping on the tablet. “You’re scared it’ll never end. Your whole life you’ve completed tasks, always on time, got good grades. But out there, on the frontlines, it doesn’t end. There’s no light at the end of the maze, there’s just the maze and everyday you have to wake up and do it all over again.”
He stood, looking back at the maze, now swarming with darkness.
“If you can’t handle running this maze without knowing when you’ll be allowed to finish, you can’t handle fighting in the war.”
Daniel wiped the phlegm from his mouth, stood and walked back towards the maze. He’d won the battle, raced through it. But he had to learn how to win the war.
Prompt originally posted by astarforyourbucks on reddit and received 1 upvotes.