Sunshine and flowers peek through patches of mist. Pebbles on a familar garden path crunch beneath Christopher’s feet. He knows this path, this garden, yet it winds into a less trodden area, at least for him.
The mist clears, revealing rows of leafy green and fern-like fronds of ripening carrots in the ground. A stout woman with a dusty scarf wrapped around her head and long skirts tugs, pulling one of the carrots out of the earth.
Map: (for it is Map) There. Not too much. Just enough to stay solid. To stay real.
She drops the carrot in a waiting bag at her feet, wipes her dusky face. Wrinkles line her brow, reminding Christopher of the grooves in trees. Eyes as dark as the hollow of a trees filled with hidden sprigs of green fix themselves upon him.
Map: Oh, it’s you. Gotten lost again, have you?
Christopher: I’m not sure. Do I know you?
Map: (snorts) Forgot me again, did you? After all the time I spend looking after what you leave behind.
Christopher: What are you talking about?
Map: Danyel and Tayel. You’d better not have forgotten about them.
Christopher: No! Of course I haven’t, but how do you know them?
Map: How do I know them? Hmph! (She picks up the bag of carrots at her feet and starts trudging down the path.) Must be nice, being able to walk down any road, find any world you want. No worries, no responsibilities.
Christopher: (hurrying after that her) That’s not true!
Map: No? You do just enough to stay solid, never enough to stay in one place.
Christopher: I have a place!
He pauses to look at the roses blooming around them, a gazebo nearby. Yes, this part of the path is more familiar.
Map: Sure. Sure you spent a lot of time here. Basking in the beauty of the flowers while they basked in you.
Christopher: (brindling) Just what is wrong with that?
Map: Ever dig for vegetables in this garden?
Christopher: No. I don’t eat much.
Map: You should eat more. Dig more. I’m trying to get my boys to that, but they’re too much like you. Wandering around the pretty flowers. Starting at shadows. Getting lost.
Christopher: I’m not exactly…wait. Your boys. Are you talking about Danyel and Tayel?
Map: And their older brother.
Christopher: Have you become their mother?
Map: They already have a mother. Or they should.
Christopher: What do you mean?
Map doesn’t answer at first. She keeps walking down the path, past the roses, past the tall rows of foxglove to a familar wooden gate. Christopher recognizes it from Omphalos.
Map: Too many people get lost among the flowers and shadows. Someone has to look after those left behind.
She opens the gate.
Christopher stops, expecting the familar street lined with dwellings up the cobblestone path. There is no cobblestone path. No dwellings except for a single cottage in a field dotten with flowers below an incline. Forest borders the field on either side.
Christopher: I thought I recognize this place, but I don’t.
Map: Yes, you did. This was Omphalos. And it will be Omphalos again, given time, villagers, and folly.
Christopher: How is that?
Map doesn’t answer. She just passes through the gate and heads for the cottage.
Curious, Christopher follows her.
(To be continued next Monday)
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