Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prompt: The map is wrong

“Where is it?! It should be right here! But there’s nothing…” Kevin growled and stormed, stomping around the thin ridge overlooking the mountains east of Novosibirsk. He drained the last of his canteen and threw it against the ancient Jeep.

Inessa ignored him, idly twisting her long braid and studying the holomap, tilting it up and down until she matched it to the view from the ridge.

Kevin continued ranting. “Four hundred thousand pesos, and what do we have to show for it? Seven months of planning, weeks on that hellish ship, and for what? Nothing?”

Inessa made no response, gazing out to the west of the ridge, following their route back down into the valley toward Kazhak territory. With typical Argentine arrogance, he converted their hard-earned and quickly spent lira and roubles into the currency of his youth. Most of it had gone to line the pockets of officials from the port along their arduous route to the mountains. If they didn’t find what they were looking for, there was no way they could safely make the return trip.

She stared back at the map while she searched her eidetic memory for everything her father had taught her about the lost Alexander scroll. She had only seen the scroll once, when he first brought it back from the excavation near Kabul. Carefully rolling it onto his home lab bench, Papa had pulled her up on his lap to see the stiff, yellowed parchment.

“Look, Inessa. Here’s the route everyone knows that Alexander took through the south.” He traced the route, his finger hovering above the map. “But this shows his route north of Mongolia. Just think, he could have made it all the way to the Kara Sea! What if Alexander had seen how big the world was beyond the Caucuses?” Papa swung her up as he stood, carrying her out of the lab and up to bed.

“Tell me a story, Papa,” she begged as he tucked her in. It was their nightly ritual, even before Mama left. He laughed and kissed her forehead, tracing Alexander’s route over her bedspread as he told her about the conqueror’s adventures in the wild northern world. It made her giggle to think of the southern Caspian Sea resorts that way.

Thinking of those bedtime stories, Inessa looked at the holo map again, then out past the northern mountains.

“It’s not here,” she said in quiet realization.

Kevin stopped his ranting long enough to sneer. “Oh really? Well, glad you noticed that. Your precious maps are freaking worthless…”

Inessa shook her head and pointed north. “It’s not here, at Novosibirsk.” She pointed to the holo map, drawing a line with her finger hovering above it. “Novosibirsk is too new. It was built in the late 19th century. We have to go farther north. Alexander’s Gate is at Seversk.”

Kevin recoiled. “Through Tomsk? You want to go through the old nuclear center? Are you insane?” He picked up his canteen and threw it in the back of the Jeep. “I should leave you here and forget about this whole crazy thing.”

“You could,” Inessa said calmly. She knew him with a twin’s intimacy. “But you won’t. You want to know if Papa was right as much as I do…”

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~1 hour, with some initial research

October word count:


  1. Prompt: The map is wrong

    The carriage clattered to a stop. “Argh!”

    Reilla poked her head out the door, cautiously, cuddling her infant son to her chest. “Iclara?” she asked. They were at the top of a small rise in a short flowered meadow, with a smaller road – consisting only of two wagon tracks instead of a broad surface – heading off to the right.

    “Double argh!” Iclara leapt to the ground and stamped her feet.

    “Feel better?” Reilla could not help but smile at her twin’s antics, reminding her of the two of them as children in their mother’s cottage.

    Iclara put fists on her hips. “I do, thanks.” She folded her legs and abruptly sat. “I’m sorry, I’ve gotten us hopelessly lost. We were supposed to take the first left after Haymark, and I haven’t seen anything go left for hours.”

    “Would you like me to drive?”

    “No, that’s fine. You just stay with Jurman. We’ll get... somewhere... eventually.” Iclara stood and climbed up the front of the carriage, and then back down with the rolled map. “But help me here.” She unrolled the map on the step of the carriage. “See, here is Haymark. We’re to go left, there.” She pointed at what should have been a major junction.

    “Maybe the map is wrong?”

    Iclara shook her head and wiped an eye with a fist. “We paid enough for it. It had better not be.”

    “Don’t worry, Sis,” Reilla said, reaching out to stroke Iclara’s head. “We’ll get there. They can’t start without you.”

    Time writing: 15 minutes

    1. Oh, I like it! Great characterization between the sisters. I have a sneaking suspicion that Reilla isn't as "weak" as she first struck me. That whole protective mother thing...Hmm, what could they be heading to?

  2. Wow, we both did twins! Yours is much more interesting, however. I still have no idea where my twins are headed...