The Edge of the Map

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The map is not a relic of the past. Take careful note of the plotted course. Once you have your bearing, follow it as straight and true as possible. When your compass becomes useless, you’re close. When the sun never sets, just hangs high above, you’re closer. When you’ve sailed as far as you dare, you’re right there. Just a little further, you’re off the map now, and the edge of the world awaits.

Here the sea does not drain down into the void. It soars up and flows toward the sky becoming another sea with another world within it. Sailing from one sea to the other is difficult. The transition is a delicate balance as up and sideways turn around each other. Many ships have drowned or tipped or flipped. Get your speed up, race along the edge, turn into and up the wall of water. A good captain may still wet her sails on the bend.

Once past the edge, a world like, but unlike, your own awaits. Tropical islands, snow-covered islands, sandbars, vast coastlines of forests, deserts, swamps, mountains, and more. These lands are not for the taking. The people are friendly no matter how startling their appearance. In less than a day, you will forget about their third eye. In less than a week, you will overlook their fifth and sixth arms. In less than a month, you will be used to their armored skin. In less than a year, their claws will seem no different than your own fingernails.

Be cautious in the harbor cities you visit. Be wary if traveling over land for any distance. Thieves and pirates live on both sides of the bend. To be marooned here is to cast your fate into the sand. Native ships do not cross to your world. None from these lands will risk it. Your ship could make the return voyage if you can make the transition again.

But why would you leave? This world is a glory to behold. A captain could sail her whole life on this sea and gaze upon only a fraction of it all.

For the more adventurous, you need only remember a map has four edges.

Homeward Bound

A woman drives through the night on back roads. The only light comes from the headlights of the car. It’s a good car but old. Long flat lines, a solid frame, and power steering. Not a classic by any standard but it suits her needs. At a crossroads, she stops to check her map and notes. The paper map has been unfolded and refolded so many times it doesn’t remember how to lay flat. She unfolds a section and then another and a third before finding the crossroads. So far from where she thought she was and farther still from where she wants to be.

The classic rock from the radio ends and local news begins. The radio like the car is from an earlier era. No digital tuning or LCD displays, not even a cassette deck. Just two knobs and a row of mechanical preset buttons. She hears a name, Mr. Prescott. She knew a Mr. Prescott when she was younger. Could it be the same Mr. Prescott? A city name is mentioned. She makes a note and checks her map. It’s not far. The leads she gets are never far.

She just wants to go home but it alludes her. After high school she left the small town she grew up in and hasn’t been back. Now she can’t seem to find her way there. The roads seem to twist and turn away from where she wants to go. Every turn she makes is the wrong one.

She turns left at the crossroads and the radio signal begins to grow weak. She presses the preset buttons until a new station come through clearly. Country music fills several hours until another local news broadcast breaks in. Another name: Mrs. Garcia. Did she know a Mrs. Garcia? Was she the old lady on the corner? She mowed her lawn in the summers for ten dollars. The news ended with a bumper ad for the station. She makes a note of the town’s name.

The sky lightens and the back road blends into a two lane highway. She slows as she enters a town and cuts off the radio. The gas stations, the fast food restaurants, the local diner, the motel, and the signs to historic downtown. It all looks familiar but not quite right. A lot could have changed in the years since she had left, so she will take the day to drive downtown and around a few blocks. This isn’t home, she feels, but she has to check.

In the evening, she will drive out of town and turn onto a back road. She will turn on the radio and listen for something to lead her home.