“Don’t you want to party with us, guy?” The fluffy, fiery... thing asks, grinning – or at least he thinks it’s grinning – at him amicably.
“...uh...” he manages.
“Who doesn’t want to party?” chimes in one of the others.
His back hits a tree, and that’s about as safe as it gets in this place. Not that he feels safe. There are three of them, and they have him surrounded.
“I really need to, um...” he clears his throat. In a moment of clarity, he manages, “I’ve got to make it to the center of the Labyrinth, you see and I... I’m...”
The attempt at a polite extrication from what has become an utterly bizarre social entanglement falls on tonedeaf ears.
“Whatever you gotta do today can wait until tomorrow, right?”
“Isn’t that what they say?”
“Ha! That’s what I say!”
“C’mon, guy – just a couple of hours, say – you got this far, you earned it.”
He is tired. Maybe he should push on, but he could use the break. Swallowing, he shrugs. “I guess... maybe an hour, wouldn’t hurt.”
“Ha!” one postures, while the other two cackle, “Hear that? He wants to party with us.”
They take him by his hands, and lead him to the bonfire fire. They feed him sweets, and hand him a drink that tastes of a deep, clouded summer night.
By morning, he’s forgotten why he’s there.
By evening, the party has resumed.
“I need to make it to the center of the Labyrinth,” he says, more to himself than to them. The creatures chatter among themselves, then the first raises its mug after refilling his.
“To the center of the Labyrinth!”
He can’t not toast to that. Soon, they’re toasting to the acorns in the fire and the gossamer of fairy’s wings.
By morning, he’s forgotten his own name.
By the end of the week, he’s forgotten he was once human.