'As Blank as the Days Yet to Be' by Mark Valentine
The first story in The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Mazes is a typically erudite and subtle performance by Mark Valentine. The first-person narrator is that familiar person, a man of antiquarian pursuits with a particular interest in the odder byways of folklore. He subscribes to various journals - including The Atlantean and Logres - and goes on little excursions to explore England's lesser-known history. He undertakes a quest to find a cockatrice in a Hampshire village called Whirlwell, and befriends a local called Anthony who provides some information about a turf maze.
Anthony is an enigmatic figure - so much so that I almost took him for a ghost. Anthony leads our narrator to the field where the maze no longer appears, but he still remembers the pattern. The visitor follows the local through the labyrinth to its centre, and they must of course retrace their steps along precisely the same route. The maze is no longer visible, but that does not mean it is gone...
An enigmatic beginning, this, and an appropriate one. The theme of a lost rural heritage and the melancholy this provokes is a good place to start this anthology. Valentine is entertaining, as always, never taking himself too seriously but always thoughtful and humane. I found Anthony a gentler version of an Aickman character, someone strange and touched by otherworldly forces.
More about this mazy book very soon. Unless I get lost.