s a m    m a r t o n e

Our Mathematical Labyrinth


It is after midnight when I go looking for her, where I know she will be, somewhere in the immense maze of the math and science building. I tie a thread to the handle on the front door and let it unwind behind me as I walk. I wander through the angled hallways, up and down the tight industrial cement staircases. The corridors stretch out forever in front of me, illuminated by fluorescent lights hanging high above my head. Posters of the Periodic Table and laminated star charts and echoes of my footsteps cling to the walls. I turn each corner afraid a Minotaur in a lab coat or a Sphinx with physics problems will appear. Every classroom I check is empty, only chairs and desks and that space between them. This building’s library, too, with its books full of numbers instead of words, is vacant. In the psychology wing, I see small white mazes, no trace of the rats that roam there during the day. I look to the security cameras in the corner and wonder who is watching me, who is jotting down my every movement. When it seems my thread has crisscrossed every inch of the upper floors, I make my way to the basement, the furnace’s hum closing in, and there beneath the ground, I find her in one of the dim labs, slumped over her chemistry books. On the chalkboard, her equations have turned into outlines of the state where she was born. She sleeptalks as I pack up her things, as I lift her out of the chair, words I understand no more than the formulas in her books. “Let’s get you home,” I say, and help her up the stairs, following the convoluted paths of my thread until we are out of the building. When we arrive at her apartment, she stares at her blank yellow room and says, “This isn’t home at all.” In the morning, I wake to find her gone, the names of all the lakes in Minnesota written on the walls.



SAM MARTONE grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and attends Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he still gets lost in the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center on those rare occasions when he takes a psychology or statistics course. His friends who spend more time in this building laugh when they see him wandering the same hallway for a third time. He figures out where he is by listening for the bird calls coming from the aviary in the biology wing basement or by testing the pH of the nearest water fountain. Sam Martone always, eventually, finds his way out, but he worries one day he will emerge to find years have passed, the world a changed place where he will still feel lost. The atoms in Sam Martone’s writing are mostly noble gases, although bromine and other halogens have been known to appear as well.

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