by Sarah Zama
a short story
Copyright 2017 by Sarah Zama
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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THE FROZEN MAZE
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Ingeborg decended the marble stairway wrapping her wool coat around her, her eyes already on the maze in front of her.
It had been years since last she came. In fact, she hadn’t come back to Schneezwerg since her father died at war. How could she ever walk the maze without him? But now she was here, the maze was the place she wanted to be.
Dry leaves and morning frost crunched under her city shoes as she slowly crossed the meadow that led to the entrance of the maze. The day was cold, no animal called or moved, no sound came from the deserted mansion.
Would she still remember her way in the maze? Would she still know?
As she approached what used to be the arched entrance, she faltered. How odd. She had walked the maze with her father in many seasons, but now she only remembered it in summer, green and bustling with life. Some of the bushes would bear flowers and the ground would be covered in soft grass. The smell of flowers, grass and sun would be everywhere and the light brushed everything gently. Although there was the uncertainty of the way, the maze was a place of harmony and tidiness. The bushes would be clean cut and would form a perfect design. Dad made sure of that.
What she saw now was a messy gap in a wall of shrubs. The branches that gracefully arched over the entrance were tangles of branches. Twigs had overgrown everywhere and nearly filled the gap. Everything was grey and dry. Dead.
Her mind considered giving up.
But her heart – no, her heart wanted to go. It wanted to be there, whatever she may find. And her feet moved on that spur and she found herself inside the maze before she knew she was questioning her decision.
It was dark inside. The branches had overgrown here too and formed a canopy over the unclear path. Twigs tore at the her coat, her cloche, her scarf. She had to moved them apart with her gloved hands.
Nothing looked like she remembered. There must be grass on the ground, though now it was covered with frosted dew crackling under her feet, an ominous sound that made her uneasy. In places, her feet sank in the freezing mud under the dead leaves. Even if she remembered the way clearly, it would be hard to see it in this mess.
Ingeborg stopped at the first turn. She knew she had to turn right, instead she paused. This wasn’t a good idea. She had known it. She should just—
She walked on along the next branch of the maze, pushing branches aside, squinting in the dusk. She turned left at the next split, then right again.
She almost missed it. Almost. Because she knew it was there.
“Professor,” she called softly.
A small boulder sat on the side of the path, nearly engulfed by the shrubs. It was round and smooth, and although it looked just like a boulder in the dusk of this maze, Ingeborg knew it was actually carved. Into a dwarf. One of the seven she knew guarded the maze.
As she stepped closer, she started to see the shape of the dwarf. It looked very ancient, as if it had been carved so long ago time and weather had its way with it. But she could see the big round head and the ponderous beard as well as a few detail of the clothing, one hand resting on his stomach – maybe clutching a sword, as her father said, though she had always thought that was actually a cane. The same way she thought the round circles around the dwarf’s eyes were not the slits in his helmet, but the frame of spectacles. He definitely raised a hand, palm open, welcoming any newcomer.
Ingeborg walked up to him, smiling, and touched the smooth stone of the helmet. A gesture she had done so many times since when she was as small as the dwarf, who now stood barely up to her waist.
“I’m back,” she whispered.
And her hand wasn’t cold anymore, as it brushed the surface of the stone, and she smelled summer radiating from the stone.
Her eyes stung, unexpectedly.
She crouched down, put her arms around the Professor and rested her cheek against his round head.
“I am back.” She closed her eyes.
She stood and turned toward the voice, her hands still on the stone.
A smile crept over her face. Aunt Dagmar. Ingeborg ran back.
Dagmar stood on the last step of the stairway. The big white mansion, with the black shutters and the red roof loomed behind her and she looked like the mistress of the house and the maid as well. Tall, straight, her chin high, but her coat simple, almost plain, her scarf and hat looked to be of undyed wool, she wore no gloves. Her face lit up when she saw Ingeborg.
“Ingeborg. Child.” She opened her arms and Ingeborg ran into them.
Dagmar laughed, holding her tight. Ingeborg’s eyes stung.
Dagmar gently pulled her away and, her hands on Ingeborg’s shoulders, looked into her face.
“Ah. Not a child anymore,” she said, her smile kind of sad, but also bold.
Ingeborg couldn’t say anything, the knot in her throat choked her.
“I knew I’d find you in the maze,” Dagmar said. Her face still bore her beauty, though lines had appeared at the corner of her eyes. But the wool hat she wore gave her a hint of naughtiness in spite of the plain coat. And her earrings –they dangled from hooks that were clearly of some common, tarnished metal, two droplets that sparkled like precious gems, catching the light of the overcast sky and reflecting it with an inner strength. But they were not gems.
“You look like a posh university student come from the big city,” Dagmar said with a mock scold.
Ingeborg laughed. “Maybe because that’s what I am.”
“Are you cold?” Dagmar asked, her face becoming worried. “You look pale.”
Ingeborg smiled sheepishly. “A bit. I forgot how cold it is out here.”
Dagmar took Ingeborg’s hands in hers and squeezed tight. “So we should go inside and have a warm cup of tea. I got the kitchen going when I knew you were coming.” She started up the stairs. “You’ll excuse if the mansion looks gloomy. I normally live in the village, and even when I’m here, I only use a few rooms. It’s lonely.”
Ingeborg looked at her aunt’s profile as they reached the terrace in front of the big glass door. Dagmar turned to her. Again, Ingeborg saw that sadness in the lines of her smile.
“A house is supposed to be lived in, you know,” Dagmar said. “It’s supposed to be home.”
There was no reproaching tone in Dagmar’s voice, still Ingeborg dropped her gaze. A little pang tagged at her heart.
She started when a honk shattered the silence.
Dagmar didn’t turn, but a mischievous expression appeared on her face. “Well,” she said, “Sounds like Grete has arrived.”
Grete’s big touring motorcar was parked in front of the house. Her heeled leather shoes clicked on the flagstones leading up to the door. Her red lips curled charmingly as she approached them.
“Girls. How splendid to see you.”
With her perfect, modern make-up, her very elegant deco-designed clothes and her fashion cut coat with her enormous fur collar, Grete would not have been out of place beside any film celebrity.
She reached for Inbegorg and affectionately squeezed her shoulders – before sizing her up from head to toe.
“Your make-up isn’t up to date, my child,” Grete said, wriggling a black-gloved finger in front of her. “And what is this?” Grete grabbed the lapels of Ingeborg’s coat and turned them up. “Why didn’t you tell me you needed a new coat? We live in the same city. I could have given you one.”
Ingeborg nearly shook her head. “This one is fine, Grete. It does the job.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Grete scolded slightly. “People will always judge you by your appearance, remember that.”
Dagmar cleared her voice. “So, will you tell us what this is all about?”
Grete waved the matter away. Ingeborg wondered whether she practiced that movement in front of the mirror so elegant it appeared.
“I’ll tell you everything over dinner.”
“Why.” Dagmar didn’t quite sound surprised. “Are you getting remarried?”
The scold Grete shot back didn’t lack amusement. “No.” Grete raised her chin. “Now, shouldn’t we go in? It’s quite cold.”
“I was telling Ingeborg we should have a cup of tea,” Dagmar said turning to the house.
“That’s an excellent idea,” Grete said. “I hope you’ve taken out the porcelain set.”
Ingeborg pushed the food around in her plate.
“Don’t you like it, my dear?” Grete asked.
Ingeborg looked toward Grete, sitting at the head of the long table. She wore a dinner dress of that new fabric, sequin, that seem to take the best off the light from the crystal chandelier in the middle of the ceiling.
“Oh no, Grete, it’s lovely.”
“I would think so.” Grete curved her red lips in an elegant smile. “I had to pay quite dearly to secure this chef. Besides, lots of things are settled over a good meal in my line of business.”
Ingeborg frowned. What kind of business did she want to settle tonight?
“Is something troubling you, dear?” Dagmar sat opposite Ingeborg, and had eaten very little herself.
“No, no,” Ingeborg said. “I was just thinking.”
“Of your dad?”
Ingeborg didn’t glance at the other end of the table. Her father had sat there, as always, the last night they had dinner together. Her stomach clenched. She lay the fork down beside the place.
“Julian fought to protect us.” A steely strength rang in Grete’s voice. “He knew he might die, but he went nonetheless. To make sure we would live.” Her voice trembled in the end, her steely eyes lowered. She pressed her lips together. When she raised her face again, her mask of self-confidence was back in place.
“He was a clever man too. He knew I would take care of the family business at the best.”
Dagmar sat still and straight in her chair and didn’t say anything.
Ingeborg fidgeted at the cutlery.
Dad had entrusted the entirety of the Wassers’ wealth to Grete, all but Scheezwerg, which was always Ingeborg’s, and Grete had administered it skilfully, always sharing the profits as dad requested.
“The war was a rough time for the business,” Grete went on. “Last year’s hyperinflation was a hard blow too, but I weathered it.”
“We’re grateful, for your generous work, Grete,” Dagmar said. Her face was stern. “You surely know that.”
Grete signalled the maid to clear the table and while the girl did, Grete lit a cigarette. Ingeborg knew she only smoked when she was upset and started to feel upset too.
“Now it’s actually going exceptionally well,” Grete went on. “The city dwellers all love keeping beautiful and active. The beauty centres are always full. There is room for expansion. So I thought—”
She looked at Ingeborg. Then at Dagmar.
“I thought we could turn this manor into a beauty centre.”
Dagmar shattered it. Darkly. “That’s not a decision you can make.”
“I’m not making it, am I?” Grete snapped. She brought the cigarette to her lips, smoke swirling around her, then turned to Ingeborg. “This is the perfect place. With the forest out there and the meadows. We could build swimming pools and tennis courts and horse paddocks. People will kill to come here.”
“And where do you plan to build all that stuff?” Dagmar asked.
Grete did that elegant swatting move, which didn’t dispel the smoke. “There will be plenty of space when we take down the maze.”
Ingeborg’s back snapped straight. “Take down the maze?”
“We are doing no such thing,” Dagmar stated.
Grete glared at her, then leaned to Ingeborg. “You certainly see it’s necessary, darling, don’t you? That place is devilish. People can get lost in it.”
“Julian would have never agreed.” Dagmar’s voice was both colder and darker.
Grete barely turned to her. “Times change, Dagmar.”
“But some things don’t.”
“This place is dying, don’t you see?”
Dagmar pressed her lips together.
“If we don’t do something, it will soon start to eat at our earnings.”
“It isn’t money what’s needed here.”
Grete snapped straight. The two of them exchanged a fiery glance and Ingeborg perceived unspoken things between them. She saw the effort under Grete’s elegant, intentional move to relax.
“I understand you, Dagmar,” Grete said with a smooth smile. Dagmar’s glare said she doubted it. “I know you love this place. And like Ingeborg, I’m grateful for all the care you’ve given to it. But we cannot afford to just leave it anymore. Expenses will rise. We have to find a way to cover them.”
“Don’t you think this is something Ingeborg should decide?”
“Sure.” Grete ground the cigarette in the crystal ashtray. “But don’t you think I can provide guidance? While you’ve looked after the people who live here and Ingeborg studied at the university, I taught myself how things can be used profitably in today’s world. At first, people thought a woman doing business was interesting. But I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good. I want to be the best. I have grown our wealth. I found my way next to the magnates who live in the city. People listen to me when they decide how to spend their money. Now tell me, dear sister. Who do you think is the smartest of us all?”
They looked into each other. Dagmar, with her clean face, her fiery eyes, the broken glass sparkling at her lobes and her wool, plain dress. And Grete, perfectly coiffed and made-up even for their informal family dinner, wearing the latest fashion of the city, with expensive jewellery at her lobes, neck and wrists.
“That would be you, Grete,” Dagmar said darkly, causing Grete’s lips to twitch into a smile. “If money were the only measurement.”
Grete’s face darkened. She leaned toward Ingeborg again. “You understand what I’m saying, darling, don’t you? The maze has become unmanageable. You’ll have to take it down anyway. Give me the estate and I’ll turn it into a fairy tale.”
Ingeborg wavered. Then shook her head. “I can’t decide. Not now.” She stood. “Please, excuse me.”
Ingeborg had nightmares all though the night. She dreamed of running in the maze, not knowing where to go. She dreamed of her father guiding her in the maze, then disappear, leaving her lost and alone. She dreamed of the young men she had met in the streets of the big city, who had come back from the war broken in every possible way.
When she opened her eyes and saw the bright light of a new day, it felt as if she had surfaced after being underwater so long she might have died.
Feeling every part of her body aching, she rose and, fastening the silk belt of her gown, walked to the window. She could see all of the maze from there. What had once been the maze. It was just a mass of grey, wintry plants with no forms or design, now, which in the distance merged with the forest as if it was the same thing.
A confounding place. Almost scary.
A sense of loss seized her so hard she felt her eyes stinging.
That was when she saw Dagmar, standing on the last step of the stairways just like yesterday, wrapped in her simple wool coat.
Quickly, Ingeborg dressed. She hasted out and walked up to her aunt, who didn’t move as she approached. In silence, they looked out on the maze. After a while, Dagmar turned to her with a sad crease of her lips and rubbed Ingeborg’s arm affectionately.
Ingeborg’s heart shrunk.
“I don’t know what to do, aunt Dagmar,” she whispered.
Dagmar squeezed her arm tight. “Shell we have a stroll in the maze?”
It had frozen during the night and part of that frost was still in the ground. It penetrated through Ingeborg’s soles, giving her a sense of discomfort. The path was barely visible. The unruly branches tugged at her clothes, as if trying to stop her. Everything looked grey, naked, cold. Dead.
“It used to be so beautiful,” Ingeborg said.
“It used to be cared for,” Dagmar said.
The ground crunched under their feet. Ingeborg kept her eyes down.
“I miss Scheezwerg, aunt Dagmar,” she said. “But I’d miss the city life too, if I renounced it.”
“Is that why you’re hesitant?” There was a special warmth in Dagmar’s voice. “Because you think it’s one or the other?”
Ingeborg wavered. She raised her gaze and looked ahead – and she spotted the Professor. A sense of relief spread over her, as if she had expected not to find him. She hastened up to him, and like yesterday, she hugged him. The cold and the greyness was forgotten. It was nice to be here.
“Did you know I call him Professor?” she said to Dagmar. “Don’t you think the design of the helmet look like spectacles?” And she traced the rim with a finger.
Dagmar chuckled. “I’ve always called him the Alte Einz, because he looked the older. The first one.”
Ingeborg caressed the top of the statue lovingly, then they walked on. The crunch under their feet was the only sound accompanying them.
“Do you think the maze is devilish?” Ingeborg asked in the silence.
“Grete sure thinks so.” Dagmar voice darkened.
“Dad used to say the maze is magic.”
They stopped and looked at each other. Then Dagmar turned her gaze ahead and smiled. Following her gaze, Ingeborg merely made out a arm with a reaching hand from the bushy wall. Dagmar walked on and took the hand as if to shake it.
“Do you have a name for him too?” she asked.
Ingeborg came closer and saw the second dwarf squatting inside the vegetation wall, almost completely swallowed by the shrub. Stocky like the first one, but reaching up to Ingeborg’s shoulder.
“I’ve always called him Willcommen.”
The welcoming one. Ingeborg’s heart inexplicably squeezed a little.
Dagmar nodded. “That’s how your father and I also called him.” Then she walked on. After a hesitation, Ingeborg followed.
“Who cared for the maze?” she asked walking beside Dgmar. “Dad never had many gardeners.”
“He didn’t need to. He cared for the maze himself.”
That surprised Ingeborg. She didn’t recall her father ever trimming or doing any gardening in the maze.
Dagmar was silent. Her gaze looked ahead, in the gloom of the inner maze. The ground moaned under her feet. Eventually, she said, “During the war, Scheezwerg was very near the front. It didn’t take long before wounded started coming in. It was frightening at first. There was no doctor here. Our people didn’t know what to do and they turned to me.”
She crossed her arms on her chest and rubbed at her forearms. Might have been for the cold. It was getting really frigid out here.
“I asked one of the doctors with the wounded to stay. He said he would as long as some of us learned how to tend to the wounded, then he would have to go. There were too many soldiers to look after at the front. If I was willing to help, he blessed me, but I had to take care of that by myself.”
They stopped in front of the third dwarf. Ingeborg had always hear it called that, though he was taller than both her and Dagmar. He stood with his feet apart, a big axe resting its head in between his feet and his head reclined. Because he stood on a corner, he was mostly visible.
“I thought about Julian.” Dagmar’s voice cracked. “What if he were be brought here and nobody could help him? I couldn’t bear to think about it, so I learned whatever I could and when the doctor left, I continued with the help of whomever would. Tens and tens of soldiers came, and then hundreds. And they weren’t just Germans. There were French, and British, and Belgian and Polish. Our people protested against it. They said, we shouldn’t tend to the enemy.”
They walked on. The ground cracked under their feet. Dagmar’s earrings occasionally caught little shards of light.
“I thought the same, at first. But then I though, what if Julian ends up in a French hospital, instead of here? The Red Cross didn’t mind a soldier’s uniform, they just cared for his life. I figured I should do the same, and I hoped, I hoped so much, that someone on the other side thought the same.”
She smiled ruefully at Ingeborg.
“I know it sounds stupid. What I was doing didn’t make any difference on the other side. But… you know. Maybe it might have. Maybe someone was thinking the same on the other side, fearing for a loved one.”
She fell silent again, looking ahead in the indistinguishable path in front of them. Her mirror earrings caught the feeble light and seemed to be the only light in that grey no-man’s land.
“Do you think caring made the difference?” Ingeborg asked.
Again they stopped. In front of them stood a giant with the build of a dwarf, his feet wide apart, his arms spread out as if to bar their path – or to point in two different directions. That was the farthest Ingeborg had ever gone inside the maze.
“People expected from me to be patriotic,” Dagmar said. “And I think I was. I cared for my soldiers, and I also cared for other young men who were as wounded and lost as ours. I don’t think I ever betrayed my country, but caring showed me a new path. My own path.”
Ingeborg looked at the dwarf’s stern face. She felt a need to go on, but she could not decide which turn to take.
“Have you ever crossed the maze, aunt Dagmar?” she finally asked.
Dagmar smiled tenderly to her. She cupped Ingeborg’s face in her hands, then took Ingeborg’s hands in hers.
“There isn’t just one path through the maze,” she said. “You can’t learn it by heart and just follow it. You have to uncover it every single time. Choose what way to go, every single time.”
Ingeborg stared at her aunt’s face. So… wouldn’t she teach her? How was she supposed to cross the maze without guidance? The cold froze her heart right inside her chest. Her lips trembled.
Dagmar’s earring sparkled. Somehow they caught the light inside the gloom of the maze.
Dagmar smiled and brushed one earring with her fingertips. Then she unhooked them from her lobes and placed them in Ingeborg’s cold hands.
Ingeborg looked up in surprise.
“I’ve seen you looking at my earrings often. You can have them, if you like them.”
Ingeborg looked down at the earrings in her hands. They had a simple metal hook and from it dangled a droplet made of clay on which Dagmar had cast little faces of broken mirrors.
“Why do you use this broken glass for your jewellery, aunty?” she asked. “You can create such beautiful things. The city people would love it, if you used more precious materials.”
“The clay comes from our land,” Dagmar said. “The mirror from our people. The first time I used it, it was during the war. A woman was throwing away her mirror. I asked her to give it to me instead, and she did it because she thought it had become useless.”
She brushed the droplets in Ingeborg’s hands softly.
“But I thought in its shards, the mirror had a possibility to multiply its use. If its old life was over, it could become something completely new and beautiful. Still a mirror, but not just.” She smiled. “It could be one and the other.”
Ingeborg looked down at the shards of mirror in her hands. She looked up at the stern face of the dwarf and something inside her pulled. She looked toward the path at her left. Then to the one at her right.
She closed her hand around Dagmar’s gift.
“I think we should go back, now.”
Ingeborg looked in the mirror of the vanity in her bedroom. Dad had bought her that mirror at a fair, not far from Schneezwerg, when she was fifteen, because she had fallen in love with the motive of branches and apples carved in its frame.
She could barely see them, now. Her room was lit by a petrol lamp, because electricity only worked at the ground floor.
The mirror was dark. She could hardly see her reflection in it. She squinted to see in that darkness.
The door clicked open.
“May I come in?” Grete asked.
Ingeborg had turned on the stool. “Of course,” she said. Grete had been strangely subdued all though the day. She never mentioned her offer of last night, and Ingeborg had known she was waiting for the right moment to talk to her face to face.
Grete glided in, silent and sensuous and stood beside Ingeborg by the mirror.
“You should use the lipstick on your cheeks too,” she said. “Just a smidgen, it will light up your face in a way rouge can’t. Then cover with powder and it will take a natural look. You look too pale, my dear.”
“I’ll remember that, Grete. Thanks.”
Grete rested her hands on Ingeborg’s shoulders and leaned to look at the reflection. Her face appeared suspended in the darkness just above Ingeborg’s left shoulder.
“Have I ever advised you badly, child?” Grete asked.
Ingeborg shook her head.
“Have you thought about my offer?”
Ingeborg nodded, but said nothing.
Grete’s eyes narrowed. Became catlike. “This world is changing and so fast. The sooner we adjust, the better we’ll fare. This place is dying. Let me rejuvenate it.”
The world was indeed changing. Even too fast. Adjusting was difficult even for young people like Ingeborg. And she couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that she was in danger of losing something important.
“This has been our family’s place for such a long time,” she said. “I suppose it went through a lot of changes.” She pressed her lips together. “But the maze is still here.”
Grete pressed her red lips together too.
“Dad said the maze is magic.” Ingeborg’s heart beat slower. She wished so hard dad were here with her.
“It isn’t magic, Ingeborg. It’s witchcraft.” Grete’s voice was dark. “You may get lost in that thing. Your father knew how to navigate it. But he’s dead. That time has passed. It’s time to move on.”
Ingeborg looked at the reflection of Grete’s face, barely revealed by the darkness.
“Have you ever crossed the maze, Grete?”
Grete’s face hardened.
“Dad told me mum crossed the maze the very first time she entered it.” Grete’s face had turned into stone, pale under the make-up. “He told me I would too, when the time comes.”
She searched Grete’s reflection. “Have you ever?”
Grete snapped straight, snatching her hands away from Ingeborg.
“I will never need to,” Grete said in a low voice that almost sounded threatening. “We don’t need that thing, Ingeborg, you’ll see. What we need is a clean land, ready to be moulded. That’s how we create our future.”
She strode back to the door, and there she stopped. “You’ll see it, child. I’m sure of it.”
That conversation unsettled her. As soon as Grete was out the door, Ingeborg started to feel restless. Could Grete be right? Could the maze be an evil place? But how so? Dad had always loved it. He had taken care of it, as aunt Dagmar said herself. Could the maze become evil if no one cared about it?
But aunt Dagmar had always cared. She never left, she’d always looked after the estate in Ingeborg’s stead.
Ingeborg froze in front of the window as she stared out at the dark mass that was the maze at night.
In her stead.
Have I ever truly tried? Ingeborg wondered. Dad had always said she would cross the maze when the time came, but Ingeborg had never allow that time to come. She fled to the city with Grete when she was barely adult. She started a new life in the city, thinking that was the most suitable one and never gave the maze a fair chance.
What if, instead, that had merely been the only path she had allowed herself to tread? When in fact, there are many paths across the maze.
Before she knew what she was doing, she put her coat over her night gown, grabbed the gas lamp and went down, to the stairway. She stopped on the last step and looked toward the maze.
She didn’t see anything but darkness. A solid darkness she could not penetrate. She had to step closer.
So she crossed the meadow between the mansion and the maze, guessing her path in the dark. The lamp lit a little portion of the way in front of her, but only when she was there, did Ingeborg see the entrance to the maze. A mass of twigs.
Her slippers were soaked. Her feet and hands cold. The lamp gave only little warmth and light. This was truly not a good idea. She should at least wait for the light of day.
But no. Dad said she would do it, when the time comes.
She stepped in.
It was a tunnel of darkness where the light from the lamp uncovered only a very small part of the path. A mockery. It was of no use. She would get lost.
Ingeborg stopped, panting.
She would go as far as the Professor. Would she be able to?
She moved on, peering into the night. The crack of the ground and her own heavy breathing were the only sounds she heard. She didn’t see anything, but this was the part of the maze she knew best. She would find the Professor. She knew she could.
And she did.
She smiled as she made out the rounded form of the Professor. She ran to him and hugged him. She did it. She knew she could.
The stone of the professor was strangely warm in all that cold. Ingeborg rested her cheek on his rounded head and listened. She heard nothing.
So you did it. Time to go back, now.
Ingeborg straightened. She’d come so far. Why shouldn’t she go the next stretch, as far as Willcommen? She’d done that part of the maze many times before too.
She raised the lamp to illuminate around the Professor. Had there always been three ways parting from there? Ingeborg was pretty sure there had been two that morning, when she walked the maze with Dagmar.
The darkness is playing tricks on you. Good reason to go back now.
But although there were three ways to choose, Ingeborg was particularly attracted by one, the further-most on the right. She didn’t know why. She didn’t quite remember, but she knew that was the way.
Wanting to test her intuition, she walked on.
Carefully, her feet starting to hurt from the cold, Ingeborg went on. And after a while, she heard something. A crunch, as if someone walked behind her. She turned, panting hard, but she could see only darkness, even if she raised the lamp high on her head.
There’s no one. Who would be here but you?
She turned back to her way and soon, in the night, she saw Willcommen’s hand reaching for her.
She smiled and ran to him and in the same moment she heard, “Ingeborg!”
Ingeborg turned back. What was Grete doing here? Hugging Willcommen’s arm, Ingeborg called back, “Grete!”
Grete emerged from the darkness. Still in the dinner dress she had when she spoke to her in her room, and a face pale like snow under her make-up, an electric torch in her hand.
“Ingeborg.” Relief lit her face, then soon the mask came down. “What is this madness? What do you think you’re doing, here at night. You’ll get lost! Come back with me.”
Grete arched her perfect brows.
“I’m not getting lost,” Ingeborg said.
She knew she wouldn’t and before Grete could say anything else, Ingeborg walked on.
“Ingeborg! Come back. You’ve gone crazy!” Grete’s voice echoed in the darkness.
Crazy? Maybe. But she had to do this. She had to know, before she decided whether to let Grete go on with her project or not. It was up to her. Schneezwerg was Ingeborg’s responsibility, she had to make the decision.
She nearly stumbled upon the next dwarf, the one with the reclined head. Ingeborg let out a nervous chuckled. “You scared me,” she said to the dwarf, patting his shoulder.
Grete emerged from a dark passageway, panting.
“Ingeborg.” She stepped forward, her nostrils flaring, her eyes darting around in the darkness. “Stop this madness. We need to go back. We’re just going to get lost and we’ll freeze.”
“I need to know, Grete,” Ingeborg said, stepping up to her. “How can I decide about your offer, otherwise. I need to know.”
Grete grabbed her arm so tight it hurt. “This is an evil place, Ingeborg, I’m telling you,” she hissed, her face eerily lit by her torch and Ingeborg’s lamp. “It’s designed to get you lost. It doesn’t want you to get the secret.”
Ingeborg wrenched her arm free.
No. Grete must be wrong.
“It’s a maze, Ingeborg,” Grete said, her voice a warning. “There is no straight way, no straight answer. It’s a trick. A deceit.”
Ingeborg stepped back, shaking her head not. That couldn’t be. Her mum and dad, they—
She found herself with her back against the dwarf. Her heart was pounding. Her feet were frozen, had started to hurt. Her fingers too, grabbing the lamp handle was getting difficult. But there, against the stone of the moaning dwarf, she felt some kind of comfort. Some kind of warmth. As if the dwarf were hugging her. Comforting her.
“No,” she said. “No, Grete. I’ll find the way.”
And she ran ahead.
“Ingeborg!” She heard her calling. “Ingeborg!”
But she kept running, taking ways at random, just wanting to go on, go on, find the other end. She ran and she ran, and she finally found a dwarf.
Ingeborg stood still, blinking. Had she come back? How had that happened? She turned to the way she had come from – or did she? She saw three ways parting from Willcommen. It hadn’t been like that that morning, and not even the last time she passed this way. Was the maze truly trying to trick her?
She heard Grete still calling for her from afar. She considered waiting for her. But then Ingeborg took one of the way, randomly, and hasten on. Her heart pounded. Her mind was on the verge of panic. She had no idea what she was doing, other than she wanted to cross the maze.
She dashed against a stone. It was the moaning dwarf. Right on the corner of a bend. Hadn’t there been a widening when she had talked to Grete just minutes ago? Ingeborg let herself leaning to the dwarf and felt tears roll down her cheeks. She wasn’t doing it. She was getting lost. Grete was right. She wasn’t good enough. Her mum and dad were. Aunt Dagmar was. But she wasn’t, she had to cope with that. And as she cried against the cold stone, she felt that sensation again. That warm arm wrapping around her shoulder. Then a little nudge.
She looked up. She could barely see the dwarf’s face in the flickering light of her lamp. She felt the nudge again and she turned toward the direction. There was a path. She heard Grete calling for her again, panic growing in her voice. Ingeborg’s heart pounded in response, but she went in the direction she was nudged toward.
She stepped carefully, forcing herself not to run. Forcing her eyes to watch. Forcing her mind to stay calm.
The light of her lamp uncovered the way, and up ahead she saw the fourth dwarf, the one with his arms spread. She stopped in front of him. This was the furthest place she ever came into the maze. She saw the light of the lamp trembling. Grete’s voice came to her but she barely heard it. She tried to listen to something else, instead. Something she sensed that morning with aunt Dagmar, but she refused to listen.
Another nudge came.
Ingeborg turned and walked the path resolutely. Her lamp only lit a short stretch of path in front of her. The idea she might go back as she had already done scared her, but she tried to keep that thought at bay. She was going ahead. She just knew it.
Then the light of the lamp took a form out of the darkness. A tall statue, stone, carved. Taller than the dwarf with the spread arms. The fifth dwarf wasn’t looking at her. He was looking ahead, an arm raised, the hand pointing ahead.
Ingeborg stood still. Her heart pounded directly in the back of her skull.
Be still, she thought. Be calm. Listen. Feel. Don’t be afraid.
She closed her eyes. She felt the cold in her body, the warmth of the flame from the lamp. She heard the silence all around.
But no, there was a whisper. As if the bushes around tried to tell her something. It was such a tiny voice she nearly missed it. What did the voice said? She didn’t know. But she let her body react to it. Opening her eyes, she stepped forward, walking slowly, peering in the dark, still trying to listen. And then – the light of the lamp was engulfed by darkness. No more walls of shrubs around her. No path in front of her. Just darkness.
Had she stumbled out of the maze unwittingly?
Where was she?
Her heart raced.
Be calm. Be calm.
She didn’t see anything in spite of the lamplight. She walked ahead tentatively in the absolute black void. Step by step.
Her heart skipped one beat when she saw a boulder just in front. She hastened ahead. It was a statue. She let the lamplight run over the statue. A gigantic dwarf standing tall over her, one arm raised, his axe in his hand. Reaching out so to cross with another identical axe, in the hand of a specular dwarf on the other side.
The last two dwarves.
A smile crept on Ingeborg’s face, even as she panted. She turned to the way she came from.
“Grete!” she called. “Grete, come! We’ve done it! We’ve crossed the maze!”
But no answer came. She didn’t hear Grete’s voice anymore. At that point she faltered. She nearly went back. But there was another call that she heard with her heart, not with her ears.
She turned to the portal. Only darkness beyond it. The forest, as Ingeborg knew. The sprawling Black Forest, unknown to her. She just couldn’t cross in the night, like this. She was going to get lost. But there was that calling.
Ingeborg stepped nearer, and as she did, the space inside the portal moved. It rippled, trying to take a form.
Ingeborg faltered. Was the maze truly magic? The portal ripple and slowly, Ingeborg could see a shape emerged, becoming clearer, until she could recognise it. Then she smiled. She had no fear of crossing the portal.
Ingeborg opened her eyes to the milky morning sun and stretched in her bad. She turned her face to the window. It was a misty morning.
Slowly, last night came back to her. She remembered stepping out of the maze and finding Grete, Dagmar and the staff of the mansion all coming for her, lamps in hand.
Grete ran to her and hugged her tight, crying. That must have been the first time she had seen Grete losing her control, and in public too. Ingeborg hugged her back, but over Grete’s shoulder she saw Dagmer, a smile on her face and a knowing in her eyes.
And she remembered, the mirror in the portal. The woman she saw reflected in it. Not her own reflection, but that of a woman she had never met, and had seen only in grey photographs.
Ingeborg rose and put on her gown, walking to the window. She looked out toward the maze – and gasped, clamping a hand to her mouth.
The maze still stood there, not a mess anymore. It was clean and trimmed and the design was sharp. The bushes still were naked and grey, but they had the form Ingeborg had always known. And she could see the maze as far as it went, far away to the forest. She could almost see every path, knowing exactly where it went.
Her eyes opened wide, she leaned on the windowsill, disbelievingly.
That was when she heard her aunt calling, “Grete, you don’t have to do this. Wait.”
Down on the terrace, she saw Grete, a suitcase in her hand, and before Ingeborg knew it, she was running down to meet her.
“Just speak to Ingeborg,” Dagmar was saying when Ingeborg reached them. “You came to speak to her.”
“Grete,” Ingeborg called. “Where are you going? Why are you leaving?” She asked taking Grete’s free hand in hers.
Grete wavered. Her face was stern. “I know when I’m not in my place,” she said. “I’m going back to where I belong.”
Ingeborg’s mind couldn’t grasp the meaning of it.
“What are you talking about? This is your home.”
“No, Ingeborg. This is your home,” she said resolutely, and flashed a glanced sideways toward the maze.
“But… but… this means it’s your home too.” Ingeborg pulled at her.
Grete’s face softened, a way Ingeborg had seldom saw. A small, sad smile curved her red lips. Grete freed her hand and caressed Ingeborg’s cheek. Then her face went back to stern. “I’ll see you in the city, child. When you’ll be back at university.” Then she turned and walked to the front of the mansion, where her car was waiting.
Ingeborg ran after her, but she was too slow to stop Grete. She sensed Dagmar behind her and turned.
“Aunt Dagmar,” she grabbed her aunt’s hand. “What’s happening? Why she’s running away? This is her home.”
Dagmar held her hands tight. “Not everyone has the strength to look in the mirror, Ingeborg,” she said, and Ingeborg immediately understood.
Dagmar’s hand was warm as she dried the tear rolling down Ingeborg’s cheek. “But Grete is a strong woman, Julian always knew that. She will be back.”
Ingeborg took in a shuddering breath, then turned to the road leading out of Schneezwerg. Grete’s black car drove away as snow started to fall.
Susie left Simon’s table and crossed the speakeasy toward the bandstand.
The club was dusky, smoky, chock-full with people. She knew most of these people, at least by sight. The smoke and the soft light had become so familiar to her that they now wrapped around her like a warm protection.
She squeezed in between two men standing beside a table with cocktails in hand. One of them winked at her. She smiled back but didn’t stop. The show would start momentarily. Susie found a chair waiting for her by the bandstand and sat, watching the crowd ease off the dance floor as the band finished their number. As always, before the show, her heart beat faster. She liked that sensation. The music embracing her, taking control of her body — it lit a flame inside her every single time.
She watched her fellow dancers take their positions on a line of chairs on the other side of the dance floor, all dressed in yellow and showing off their legs and shoulders. All sporting black bobs adorned with white feathers.
Susie dropped her gaze to her hands as she fanned her fingers. Even her nails were polished red. Red like her lips and her dress. It took her a while, but she had become accustomed to her new look. She actually liked it, now. Her fingers were steady, didn’t tremble like the first time she danced right here in this club. Was it only two years ago?
She looked across the floor for Simon. He sat in the dusk of the far corner, his face lit by the golden glow of the stained-glass lamp on the table, a finger tapping his cocktail glass at the rhythm of the fading music.
He smiled at her when their gazes met. A small smile curled the corners of Susie’s mouth.
She raised her chin and straightened her back. The song died out and the murmur of customers took over.
A brush on her shoulder, and she thought a feather might have fallen from her headband. Its gentle touch breathed down her back, causing a shiver that wasn’t unpleasant, but when she turned, she saw no stray feathers. Her gaze then rose to the entrance by its own accord.
That’s when she saw him.
Only people familiar to the doorman would enter, or people introduced by a customer, and she had never seen this man before. Lithe and willowy and dressed in a grey suit with a matching fedora, a grey coat draped on his shoulders. A black man with black curly hair reaching past his shoulders — and she was staring at him.
She tore her gaze away and saw his companion, taller, bigger and watchful. He wore a black suit, black fedora, black long coat and when he stopped beside his friend and leaned to speak to him, Susie saw he wore his dark hair in a long braid on his back.
Back in China, all men wore their hair in braids even longer than that, but she had never seen it here in Chicago. Simon didn’t wear it like that.
And this man was not Chinese.
Her gaze moved back to the black stranger in the grey suit. She couldn’t look away. Was he really a stranger? Hadn’t she seen him before?
Don’t stare, that’s so rude.
The music burst alive. Susie started and jumped up, joining the dance a second later.
Michael paced lazily toward Blood who had stopped in among the tables.
“So, what is it?” he asked, leaning slightly to him.
Blood didn’t react. He was scanning the place, looking for something — as if they had anything to do with a place like this.
“Are you going to tell me why we talked that bunch of kids into letting us enter with them?”
Michael had been in more saloons than he ever wished in South Dakota, but it was the first time he set foot in a speakeasy here in Chicago. And he had been perfectly fine with it.
Blood finally turned to him. There was the hint of a question in his eyes, but when he spoke, he said, “I needed to get in.”
Michael frowned. “Is that supposed to be an answer?”
“I hope you realize you won’t keep me here with that excuse,” Michael said.
Blood laughed. “Come on, relax. We won’t be here for long.”
Michael shook his head helplessly. His skin crawled with the need to get out, but he knew Blood wasn’t going to leave.
“Are we getting a table?” he asked. He started to move when the music exploded. Applause, whistles, cat-calling rose from the people crammed around the dance floor. In the thin spaces between patrons, Michael saw a show had started.
A group of dancers, all girls with a flapper air about them, whirled, kicked their dancing feet and waved their naked arms in the center of the dance floor. Their lustrous bobbed hair gleamed under the spotlight, blacker in the contrast with the white feathers clipped to their headbands. All wore yellow dresses — all except one, who wore red.
Blood was staring at the red girl. He had stopped dead in among the tables and was staring at her as if he had just seen the light.
Michael grabbed his arm and jerked. “You must be kidding me,” he hissed. He dragged him to a table in the corner, where he pushed him down on one of the three chairs around it. Blood let him but he never turned his gaze from the dancers.
Michael sat beside him and sighed. Fine, let him take her in. He turned his attention to the club.
It didn’t look like a saloon at all. People came for basically the same purpose — get drunk — but the place was completely different. First, there were women. Lots of them. Was this what made all the difference in the feel and look? Possibly. It wasn’t a classy place, but it was obvious it strived to look like one. The tables were arranged around the dance floor not randomly but in a spiral pattern. All the tables had a round, stone top. All the chairs matched. A thick candle inside a big stained-glass lamp stood on each table together with a glass ashtray. The two waiters — Chinese like the whole staff except the jazz band — wore matching, tidy uniforms of a dark color Michael could not quite distinguish through the dusk in the club. Sconces shone at regular intervals on the walls, dim haloes in contrast to the spotlight on the dance floor. It wasn’t a bad place, even though it was a speakeasy.
The people matched the place. No one was really elegant, but everyone had carefully dressed to the best of their ability. Women especially. None wore the latest fashions, but they were all made up and covered in jewelry.
Michael and Blood snapped their heads up. One of the waiters, a young fellow with a big smile, had materialized at their table. “What can I get you?”
There was an awkward moment of silence filled with the fast jazz music. As the young fellow’s smile faltered, Blood said, “Two Old Fashioneds,” which was likely the only cocktail name he knew, and was one more than Michael knew himself.
The waiter hesitated just long enough for Michael to notice, then he smiled again as Blood handed him money enough for the drinks and a tip.
“I’ll be right back,” the waiter said and disappeared toward the bar.
Michael looked sideways at Blood, narrowing his eyes.
Blood shot back an awkward glance.
“We can’t sit here and have nothing,” he said. “Now can we?”
Michael leaned back on the chair. “And what else do you plan on doing other than wasting our money on alcohol neither of us is going to drink?”
A smile crept onto Blood’s lips.
“I want to dance.” He turned to the dance floor and Michael followed the line of his gaze.
People crowded the edge of the dance floor, clapping their hands at the rhythm of the song, trying to imitate the dancers’ steps. In the narrow spaces between them, Michael saw a flash of red.
He looked back at Blood. “What about her?”
Blood’s smile faded. A long hesitation. “She’s calling,” he said.
Michael thought for a moment. “She’s calling… you?”
Blood let his gaze float down to the tabletop and roam as if looking for something. Then he looked up at Michael. “She’s calling,” he said again. Simply.
He started when the waiter reappeared. Michael straightened up.
“Here you are.” The waiter took a tumbler from the tray and placed it on the table.
A sickening feeling settled in Michael’s stomach. A hitch bothered him between his shoulder blades and his skin crawled as he distinctly perceived the temperature drop. The sound of the music bent in his ear in such a weird way and then screeched, making his teeth grate.
Michael looked down at the hand placing the glass on the table. Had the light dimmed too? It was hard to see even near the light of the candle. It hadn’t been so hard before. And the light from the candle hadn’t been that weak and that cold. In the bluish glow of the lamp, he saw that the guy’s hand was now a claw of bones and skin as dark as old leather. Or parchment. So thin it split at the knuckles as Michael watched. It peeled away and a nail fell from a finger as the hand retreated.
The music didn’t sound like jazz at all. It sounded like nails scratching a blackboard and Michael couldn’t say whether that was what sent a chill down his spine or the intensifying cold.
He looked up at the waiter’s skeletal arm. Pus filtered through rotten tissue, maggots slithered out of tattered clothes. On the man’s chest, ribs punctured the skin and protruded like a fiend’s toothy jaw. The neck barely sustained the weight of the skull covered in parched skin, stretched over angular cheekbones and bared teeth. Hair fell from a dry scalp. Yellow blind eyes stared down at him.
The music grated hard at Michael’s brain, then his sight cleared. The cold dispelled. He saw the young fellow again, whose smile had now faded entirely. Michael wasn’t surprised to see him take a step back, swaying enough to notice, then turn and run away.
When he looked, Blood was studying the two tumblers, his brow creased as if he expected the cocktail to jump. He looked up and Michael knew Blood hadn’t seen it, but he had sensed it. He had smelled it.
They were not alone.
Susie danced and forgot everything. As it had always been. She had discovered jazz in America and the music did something to her. It set her body free. When she danced, it was as if she was another version of herself, the Susie who didn’t dance in a dark, underground, smoky speakeasy, but free in another, brighter place.
Her trained ear heard all the inflections of the music and the cadence that signaled the final bars of the song. She felt a little pang. She knew soon she had to leave her place of light and freedom and go back to the speakeasy. When she heard the last notes, she whirled toward the edge of the ring as she and all her fellow dancers did every night, so to leave the dance floor free for customers. But before she stopped as she was supposed to, a hand wrapped around her waist and she halted against a man’s body.
No. Simon never danced with her. It wasn’t dignified.
She looked up and met the stranger’s gaze.
Her heart skipped. The music stopped.
His eyes were chestnut and a smile brightened them. She couldn’t look away. People — men — seldom smiled to her with their eyes.
Odd. Dangerous? Possibly, her mind thought, but her body felt comfortable inside his embrace. When the music started again and the stranger prompted her to the dance floor, she let him guide her back inside the music.
They danced and they danced and she never changed partners. A few men asked her, as customers always did. To each of them she said, “Maybe the next one.” But the next one was always for the stranger and she never tried to explain that to herself. It was a good sensation, moving inside the music with him, feeling their bodies move at the same rhythm. It was different, but she didn’t try to work out how that was. She was there and she enjoyed it. As long as it would last.
He never said anything. She didn’t need him to. When the time for the last show came, she said, “I must go, now,” in such a little voice she thought he might not hear.
Instead he nodded. He searched her eyes with his and she felt the most peculiar warmth bloom in her chest. She stepped back. His hand kept hers across the space between them. A moment. Just one moment. And when their hands finally let go, that warmth slowly died out.
As she reached her spot on the dance floor she looked for him. She looked for him while dancing, she looked for him when the show ended. She didn’t find him. The pang of disappointment that pierced her gut surprised her.
The speakeasy emptied as dawn approached outside. She said goodnight to customers that came to exchange a few words with her, then she walked down the back corridor, where all dressing rooms stood open. Susie exchanged jokes and laughs with the dancers lingering there for some company, a smoke and a drink.
“Come have a drink before bedtime,” a girl called to her, winking and raising a glass.
Susie laughed. “Not tonight, gals. I’m kind of tired.”
She walked down to the very end of the corridor. A metal door stood there, its big, heavy handle cold under her touch. She turned the handle and pushed the door with her entire body. The door was open most of the time, but none of the girls had ever wandered beyond it. When Susie closed it behind her, the bustling world of the club remained on the other side and the darkness of the stockroom greeted her.
She knew what the stockroom looked like in the daylight. A huge room with no walls within its perimeter. Little windows clung to the upper part of the walls letting light in during the day. By that light she could see the wide rectangle of the ceiling and the many piles of wooden crates stored in there. Some were piled three or four one over the other, and formed walls that created a maze she had never tried to brave.
At night, it was even more intimidating. The ceiling was invisible in the dark and the walls of crates barely emerged from the night of the stockroom. The invisible walls seemed to lean over, to curve over that labyrinth and gave her a sense of oppression even if the place was as cold as the night outside.
The yellow light of the elevator called for her from a short distance away, though the darkness in between seemed to stretch indefinitely. She strode quickly across it, her heels clicking on the concrete floor. Such an eerie sound.
She was inside the freight elevator’s light when she stopped and turned. Her heart quickened.
It’s voices, she thought. Don’t you know there will be voices? Simon would do his business at one of the club tables, but sometimes he would come here. Why, she could not fathom. Susie tried to listen for his confident tone, but the voices were too muffled.
Not your business, anyway, that was what Simon would have told her.
The rail of the elevator screeched as she opened then closed it, scratching the silence of the stockroom like nails on a blackboard. She sighed deep and her shoulders relaxed when the underground floor disappeared from her sight. She passed by the first floor, where the restaurant was. Passed the second floor where Simon’s offices for his import/export company were. Passed the third floor where three apartments were, none of which were rented at the moment, and stopped at the top floor.
She opened the elevator and walked down a short corridor to the only door standing there. A heavy, polished, carved mahogany door that was always unlocked, because nobody came to the fourth floor unless Simon wanted them to.
She opened the door — and her throat tightened. She flashed her gaze across the darkened living room seeing everything that was familiar to her: the glass coffee table in the centre of the room, the couch on one side, the two armchairs on the other, the big chest of drawers next to the heavy, dark curtain hiding the corridor leading inside the inner apartment. The big window on one side and the weak lights of the night filtering in, reflecting on the mirror on the opposite wall, gleaming off the vases and glasses and bottles on the little bar corner.
Her hand flew to the light switch next to her. Someone was there!
The light went on. She flinched.
“Ma Shu.” Stupid me! She worked a smile on her lips through her labored breath. “You startled me.”
Simon didn’t move from the couch he slouched on.
Susie walked up to him. Her legs felt strangely unsteady. “How is it that you’re up here so early?”
Simon sat upright and took her hand. The switch she had used had only turned on the two sconces by the entrance door, two on each side of the curtain. That must be the reason why shadows seemed to cling around his eyes.
“Business was slow, tonight,” he said in a low voice. “I thought I’d rather be with you.”
She thought about joking, What do you need to make up for with me? but she swallowed it down. Uneasiness still lingered in her throat, and joking with him wasn’t proper.
He pulled her down and Susie sat on his lap. Shadow still circled his eyes.
She caressed his cheek hoping to dispel that darkness.
“Are you worried about something?” she asked in a whisper. She thought about putting her arms around his shoulders. He was her closest friend. This was her home and Ma Shu had given it to her. A queen’s apartment, filled with beautiful things. Nice dresses. An exciting nightlife. He had taught her to speak English, to deal with Americans. He had given her more freedom than she could have dreamed of in China.
She trusted him.
She still didn’t put her arms around his shoulders.
He cupped her face in his hands and pulled her to him.
They kissed. She leaned to him and finally slid her hand down his back.
“I haven’t been with you as much as I wanted, lately,” he whispered in her ear and kissed her neck.
She found his mouth with hers and kissed him long.
“We’re both here now, right?” she whispered back and smiled.
He smiled too. His lips did. Did his eyes smile?
She remembered eyes smiling at her. As Simon’s burning lips kissed her skin and she closed her eyes, she remembered the stranger smiling at her.
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Bookseller in Verona (Italy), Sarah Zama has always lived surrounded by books. Always a fantasy reader and writer, she’s recently found her home in the dieselpunk community.
Since 2010 she’s been working at a trilogy set in Chicago in 1926, historically as accurate as possible but also (as all her stories are) definitely fantasy. She’s currently seeking representation for the first book in the Ghost Trilogy, Ghostly Smell Around.
In 2016, her first book comes out, Give in to the Feeling.
She’s worked for QuiEdit, publisher and bookseller in Verona, for the last ten years.
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Germany, 1924. Ingeborg left the family estate during the war and never came, especially after her fatherâ€™s death. But now her stepmother wants to make big changes and especially she wants to destroy the ancient maze. Thatâ€™s an evil place, she says. But Ingeborgâ€™s father â€“ he used to say the maze is magic. Ingeborg as to cross the maze â€“ if she can â€“ and discover whatâ€™s on the other side.