Jamie was born with a rather unusual birthmark. It had the look of a tree’s inner rings, almost a perfect circle on his wrist just below his palm. The uniqueness of it got a lot of attention as he grew up, but he himself never paid it much mind. It was as familiar as the top of his nose, and not worth staring at.
He was nine before he noticed there was a new line on his birthmark. He had been looking at old baby photos with his mother when she pointed out the first image taken of his birthmark. It looked off, somehow, but Jamie couldn’t tell why. Maybe because his wrist had grown so much. He examined his wrist again, looking back and forth between it and the picture. It was different. There was a new line creasing between two of the original lines. It followed along, weaving between conjoined points between the two lines like backing away from dead ends, until it was exactly nine “rings” into the birthmark.
He always knew the birthmark had thirty-five rings. Other kids joked that he would only live to thirty-five. Except trees gained rings as they aged–they didn’t start out with exactly how many rings they’d have before dying. How would they know?
No, this birthmark wasn’t like the inner rings of a tree. It was a maze.
He noticed a cutoff point in the fifth ring where the new line backtracked and followed a different path. When he was five, he changed schools when his parents moved, and he had to all but start over. It was just kindergarten, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was a big change in his life. Another dead-end on his birthmark appeared in the eighth ring–the previous year, when his parents were divorced and Jamie chose with great difficulty to stay with his father. The divorce took a big toll on the man, who took to drinking and was ultimately fired from his job. Unable to support himself, let alone Jamie, Jamie’s mother took him back, causing him to move cities yet again.
His mother considered it childish fantasy that Jamie linked the dead-ends in the birthmark to life events, but as Jamie grew older he paid more attention to where the new line was growing. When choosing which high school to attend, he began filling out the form for the nearest school, which had a reputation for having the best AP courses. But after submitting, he noticed the line on his birthmark heading toward a dead-end. Curious, he went for his second high school choice instead, and on the first day of classes noticed the birthmark line re-routed toward the “proper” path.
Jamie continued to test the theory on prospective girlfriends, career choices, and other big decisions. He ignored the line’s progression to a convergence when he thought he had the right girl, only to be cheated on. Every other time, he veered his decision-making away from those that led to such disasters. No one believed him, but he knew he had to follow the maze. He didn’t want to know what would happen if he remained at a dead-end for too long.
The only problem was, he only had thirty-five rings. Did he want to rush to the end? Even if they were the right choices? Or would he lock himself into a dead-end, just for the chance at a longer life?
He was thirty-four and unsure. The line kept moving toward the centre. He was happy and fulfilled, and he was approaching a fork in the maze. One led to the centre and one led to a convergence. He had his agent on the phone, discussing a book publisher who was willing to publish his book. It was amazing, they said–it would change the world. Would he sign the publishing deal?
“Jamie?” his agent asked. “I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime decision, bud, but you’ve gotta make it now. What’ll it be?”
Jamie stared at the line. It was perfectly in the middle of the fork.
Day 365’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A maze,” “A map to nowhere,” and, “Stay on the path.”
BOOM. That’s it. We’re done. Donezo! Doneskies! Three hundred and sixty-five days of writing prompts. Every single day. When I started this thing a year ago, I was earnest the way I always am with new projects, but I’ve seen so many of them fizzle away and I had no idea if this one would too. But it didn’t. I’m still here. I made it.
Expect a post-mortem blog post soon. But not for a few days. I think I’ve earned my holiday this year. 365 days in a row ought to accrue a little bit of vacation time. 😉
Thanks so much for joining me on this adventure, dear Reader. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Please shoot me a comment or hit me up at KyleRHubbard[at]gmail if you want to get ahold of me. I’d love to know if there were any prompts you particularly liked or worlds I built that you’d want to see more of (such as Meta Detective, Sky Trek, the magic scholar, cowboy wizards, or any others!).
Until next time! This is H., checking out.