Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Two: Aunt Aloysia (continued)
Previously: Zack and Gina were given a mysterious Map and told, “It’s time.”
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Mom was suspicious. Why was Aloysia so nervous? And why were Gina and Zack so dental ad smiley? When Aloysia begged off dinner, Mom knew something was up.
“Can’t stay, eh,” the big woman explained. “Got an appointment to buy an antique dog sled from some Eskimos in Saskatchewan. Got to brush up on my Inukitut, eh.” Aloysia’s international antiquities business kept her constantly moving. As a result, she had no mailing address. Which made sense. But she also had no phone. Which made no sense. The Dore’s simply saw her when they saw her.
Aunt Aloysia kissed Mom goodbye, then walked with Zack and Gina to the front door. There, she grabbed them by the shoulders and spoke imperatively: “There’s magic in the world. And it’s waiting to be found!” She’d said the words a million times before, but somehow this time was different. Urgent. As if it were no longer merely a motto, but a mission.
The double moon disappeared half an hour after Aunt Aloysia left, and was replaced forthwith by Middleton’s mundane orb. Few noticed. But Gina and Zack did.
Dad came home at 5:42. He was disappointed to learn about Aloysia’s hasty exit. His almost-handsome features crumpled, mirroring Mom’s pout. The Dore kids had never learned why Aunt Aloysia was so important to their parents—she wasn’t even a real aunt—or when or how they had met her. Momandad simply accepted her for who she was: a shooting star, a mystical breeze, a glimpse of Northern Lights. More than that, they seemed positively grateful for her. But why?
Dinner was usually a talky affair. Not tonight. Momandad were morose (“She only wanted to see the kids”) and Zack and Gina were distracted. Mom suggested “a nice walk.” She always suggested a nice walk—her idea of a “nice walk” being slightly slower than a Greyhound bus—and Dad always protested. The Children Who’d Forgotten How to Speak suddenly turned vocal:
“Go! You’ll have a great time!”
The minute Momandad left, Gina and Zack snuck the Map up to Gina’s room. It was too big for the toy chest, so they, i.e. Gina, decided it would live in Gina’s room. They rolled it open in the big ex-Barbie space next to Gina’s bed.
It was made of thick, yellowed parchment, badly worn at the edges. The real surprise was that it wasn’t complete. It was nearly six feet tall, but had been torn down the middle so that its original width was uncertain. The whole map might have been as much as nine or ten feet wide; the portion they had was only about five.
It depicted a place, places really, with names like Gar (North) and Sur (South) Kellan, Smensk, Gerd, and Frenga. It was decorated with images of mythical creatures: dragons, sea monsters, trolls, genies, and more. Elevations were marked in “murs” and distances in “quamtomurs.” In the lower left-hand corner was a lavish coat of arms with the legend, The Ten Kingdoms of Ismara.
Although the Map wasn’t in English, or in any known alphabet, Gina and Zack were able to read it. That had something to do with what had happened when they first touched it—it had become a part of them.
They tried for days to figure out where the Ten Kingdoms of Ismara were, to no avail. Gina poured through Dad’s old Britannica, Zack combed the Internet. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
There was no Ismara anywhere, never had been. Who would go to the trouble of making a huge, detailed map of a place that didn’t exist? And why did the Dore siblings feel so certain that Aunt Aloysia meant for them to go there? And how could their minds have been flooded with images of non-existent places? And why did they long for Ismara the way people long for home?
They eventually gave up hope. Yet, oddly, the less they looked, the more they dreamed of Ismara:
Gina dreamed of a forest filled with glowing copper-barked trees, of fields of yellow-green grain, and a kingdom made entirely of ice. And something else invaded her dreams, or rather someone: a tall figure shrouded in a heavy cloak, whose face was obscured by a strange purple-gold helmet. She was inexplicably drawn to him (she felt certain it was a him).
Only his eyes were visible, but, oh, those eyes. They were deep-set and coffee-dark, with an unfathomable sorrow. The moment he saw her, each time, he would reach for her, but then she would wake up. Shaking. Excited. Relieved. Disappointed.
Zack dreamed of mountains so high they seemed to hold up the sky, and of a city that was half in the tree tops and half underground. But his dreams were also invaded by something else, something horrible and inexplicable: First he would see dark-cowled figures dragging terrified animals toward a stone platform—he didn’t recognize their species but he recognized their pain, because in his dreams he would become one of them. Then, after being nailed to the stone platform, he would look up into the feral eyes of a sallow-faced man.
Zack would struggle at first, but then surrender as the pain swallowed his body; he would watch as the man lifted a gleaming violet blade and cut into his living flesh, removing his organs one by one. The agony was beyond mere pain—it was as if the man were cutting away his soul. And then the sound of his own moaning would wake him up, and he would find himself…
tangled in a knot of sweat-soaked sheets.
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Thoughts: Are our dreams nothing more than mash-ups of waking life? Or are they sometimes whispers of things beyond this life?
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