Sunday April 14th, 2013

The exercise:

Write about: a forgotten place.

Because all the way up to Penticton today I could not, for the life of me, remember the name of the coffee shop I wanted to go to.

It was Opus, just for the record.


In my years of research I have uncovered many maps, each created by a different hand. Though they all depict the same place, they have personal touches; landmarks deemed significant by one are ignored by the rest.

Unless, of course, the landscape changed drastically between each cartographer's arrival. Unlikely, certainly, but I refuse to place anything beyond the realm of possibility when this mysterious area is involved.

In musty basements, in secret backrooms, even, once, on a blustery rooftop, I have studied them all. From faded black ink to vibrant red, labelled in elegant letters or nearly indecipherable scratchings, they are my dearest friends. I could never choose a favorite.

Despite their differences, they do share one aspect in common. One infuriating quality unites them. One... flaw, a man might call it.

As they approach the center of each drawing, roads end, trees disappear, landmarks vanish, leaving a gaping hole in each explorer's history of this land. As though, upon departing, each one has forgotten that this parcel of land exists.

I have made it my mission, my life's work, to discover why. What is it about this uncharted domain that must remain hidden? Its secret will not escape my curious grasp.

Though I must admit... I have a lingering suspicion that this is not the first time I have made that declaration.


Greg said...

Heh, I get that; I blame having a head full of information – sometimes the piece I'm after gets trapped in the piles of other information and is hard to dig out. Actually, that's not a bad image :)
That's an intriguing little story, and I love the notion of a place that forces you to forget it when you leave. And all the maps that show just the empty space, as though the cartographers don't even realise that there's something wrong with the map!

The forgotten place
Mathieson sat back and rubbed his eyes; they were sore and gritty from staring too long at paper in poor light. He coughed; his lungs ached from the fumes from the chemicals he used to age the paper. His fingertips looked bruised, shaded by the different inks he used to draw his maps. The latest one was complete at last, and he could take a break.
The map lay on the desk, artificially aged to look a couple of hundred years old, and the geography of the place subtly distorted from other maps he'd drawn of the same area. He'd now drawn over forty maps, making changes and alterations, just enough to make it seem like each maps had been done by someone else.
Of course, in the middle of each map was a hole; there was no way he was recording the village where his ex-wife lived.

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Huzzah for unplanned continuations! =D
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Professor St. Clare?"

The professor---and subsequently the visitor---jumped. He regained himself quickly and cleared his throat with practiced curmudgeony. While not actually particularly old, book dust and the hours enthralled in academia had settled on Lucas St. Clare a little heavier than his colleagues. Not that it did him any ill, it instilled respect in his students.

"Hm, yes? What is it?" he asked brusquely. "You know my policy on paper extensions."

"I'm sorry, Professor, I don't, I'm not in any of your classes. I'm Toni Winchester, I'm a student working in the archives. You've a collection in maps, yes?"

Even St. Clare couldn't suppress a flicker of giddy pride. "Why yes, that is so. Has the most recent been catalogued?"

She nodded. "Logged in and filed away, sir. I was hoping I could ask a couple questions, though."

"I suppose." He raised an eyebrow.

Winchester fidgeted a little. "I had asked Dr. Hoffman to show me some of the others in the collection---I love maps, but I'm terrible with geography---and they're all remarkable specimens, but I noticed they're all incomplete somehow."

"Yes, yes, they're all missing the same parcel of land. Very curious indeed."

"And some of the names I either didn't know or couldn't read, but there were some big-name mapmakers floating through. Vespucci, le Moyne, I think there was even an Al-Idrisi and an Ortelius in there."

St. Clare nodded, impressed. "You know your maps, my friend."

"It's an incredible collection. Have you ever had them examined, appraised?"

Ah, academic naivete. He leaned back and steepled his fingers. "When you've been in the stacks as long as I have, you get a pretty good idea of how old and how much these maps are."

"Of course, sir, I understand. But doesn't it seem odd, that across all these different mapmakers from all over, they all miss this one spot, in almost exactly the same way, and never mention any part of it?"

His bridged fingers folded as he leaned forward again. "How do you mean, almost exactly the same way?"

"I checked the microfilms. Aside from a stray line here and there, when they're scaled the same they all cut out this one spot in the exact same way. And of course I haven't read all map documentation ever---though I wouldn't be surprised if you have, sir---but there's never any mention of missing a middle part of land, either during or after the fact. Plus the paper's curiously different---"

St. Clare put up a hand, and was surprised he had not done so earlier. He was also surprised he hadn't driven her out at her first question, and just as surprised at the next words that came. "Show me the overlay."

"Of course, sir."

Just barely remembering to shut his office door, he followed Winchester down the hall, down the stairs, and out towards the library. She had stayed quiet and had stayed a half a step behind the professor most of the way, but took the lead as they descended into the archives. So he was behind her by a few steps when she asked, "Have you ever been to the spot yourself, Professor?", and had time to catch back up with her when he recovered himself.

He was most surprised that this had not occurred to him previously.

Gargi said...

They surround me today
the long lost memories of yesterday
the paintings of places long bygone
coffee and conversations of yore
of the loving long letters I wrote
to forgotten souls living in faraway places
of the endless words I strung for poems
on the endless lonely moonless nights
of the days where nothing seemed all that right
and of some still unfair but perfect for me
of the bright purple dress I once had
with the pretty flowers on the hem of the hand
lot has changed between then and now
my heart still holds in it those silent forgotten places
and of my undefeated love miraculously clearing the wrongs.

Marc said...

Greg - indeed, that's a rather good image, I'd say!

Hah, cheeky. So many possible explanations for this empty space on the maps...

g2 - this definitely gets a huzzah out of me :)

Very intriguing. Love the two characters you've brought to life here. A tale worth exploring further, I think.

Gargi - really, really lovely work here. I like this a whole lot.