by Peter Grandbois


  1. Use only a wine-dark spool—extra large.
  2. Place the tip of the thread between your lips and suck. (This will alleviate problems in step 3, but will also wet your courage for what is to come.)
  3. When threading the eye, close your own. (Not as accurate, but essential.)
  4. Pierce the eardrum quickly.
  5. Push the needle through the cochlea and down the auditory nerve. (It’s best if this is done in one action.)

We suggest taking a five-minute break, as it gets tricky from here on in. Before continuing, we have a few pointers for you:

  1. Remember to think three moves ahead.
  2. Remember to not think at all.
  3. Let a single thought guide your thread (Though none know what that thought may be).

It is important to remember that from this point on all is conjecture as few have made it through, and those who have will not speak of it. Still, rumors persist of vast asphalt deserts littered with the bones of those who tried and failed. Others whisper of corridors made from towering briars with thorns so sharp one prick brings immediate death. Still others hint of a thick fog that suffocates travelers before they’ve taken their seventh step. Given these considerations, we have come up with a plan that has at least a modicum of success.

  1. Move clockwise toward the west.
  2. Make a beeline east.
  3. Follow the moon until you reach the marble steps.
  4. Aim for a central shrine of singular enormity.
  5. Don’t stop until you reach the meadows of flame.

We are fairly certain that it is crucial at this point to create moments of stillness within the storm. Many travelers have lost their way simply because they panicked. Therefore, it may be important to:

  1. Listen for the whitewashed tomb.
  2. Watch for the whispered obscenities of children.

One last word of advice: The demon who possesses us lies in wait. Expect him at the center, or at the outer edge, or the exit. If you meet him—and you most certainly will—keep in mind that his job is to keep you in this little prison. He will say anything to get you to take a wrong turn, do anything to make you second-guess which path to take. He might even appear in disguise and trick you into handing over the thread. But then again, you know all this. You’ve attempted this journey before and most likely will again. You may even write these instructions one day. Perhaps you already did.


Peter Grandbois is the author of the novel The Gravedigger, a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” and Borders’ “Original Voices” selection and The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, chosen as one of the top five memoirs of 2009 by the Sacramento News and Review, as well as the forthcoming novel, Nahoonkara (Etruscan Press 2010). His short stories have appeared in journals such as: Boulevard, The Mississippi Review, New Orleans Review, Gargoyle, Post Road, Eleven Eleven, Word Riot, Failbetter, Pindeldyboz, and Zone 3, and received an honorable mention for the 2007 Pushcart Prize. He is a professor of creative writing and contemporary literature at California State University in Sacramento.