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Maze
Unbearable Maze is the second story in Blood Bubble Bushes. It was first published in the July 1990 issue of Halloween Monthly. It was reprinted as the ninth chapter of Museum of Terror vol. 3

PlotEdit

Two friends, Noriko and Sayoko, go hiking deep into the mountains. They stumble upon an ancient temple, where dedicated believers practice a corrupt and esoteric version of Buddhism.

The two girls join in on the meditation and other rituals. They learn that the cult places a great deal of emphasis on suppressing the self. The highest honor is to be chosen for eternal meditation: to become a living mummy. They encounter groups of monks who are starving themselves, to prepare themselves spiritually for the rite. Noriko wants to leave, but Sayoko wants to stay; after overhearing cruel remarks made about her by classmates, she has become paranoid about people staring at her or watching her without her knowledge. While the girls debate, they meet another girl called Kuramoto, who has come to the temple to search for her long-lost brother.

One night, the two girls and Kuramoto observe a procession of gaunt monks heading into the woods, and they follow them. They find a massive underground maze at the base of a giant Buddha statue. Inside the maze, they discover something horrible: this is the place of eternal meditation, and the walls of the maze are lined with mummified monks who died standing.

Surrounded by the dead, they quickly become lost in the maze. After a great deal of walking, Kuramoto finds her brother, now a long-dead mummy. Wondering how any person could do this to themselves, she insists that the others go on ahead of her, as she wants to stay with her brother.

The further Noriko and Sayoko travel, the fresher the corpses become. The girls are freezing, thirsty and have no idea how long the maze goes on. Eventually, Sayoko collapses from physical and psychological exhaustion. She believes she is being punished for abandoning Kuramoto, and tells Noriko of her fear of being watched. Noriko says there's no way anyone could be watching them, but then sees that they are surrounded by still-living monks, freshly interred for their eternal meditation. The living dead look on curiously as Sayoko screams at them not to stare at her.

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