Images swim within Map’s eyes, images which not everyone can see. Flickers of torchlight, accompanied by angry cries, the heavy echo of footsteps, and labored breathing. All washed out in a crimson pool.
Christopher sees himself rising from the pool. Its bloody hue softens, suffused by blue, green, and refracted light. It bubbles, the bubbles floating from the surface to pop around him while he clutches an egg to his chest.
He sees himself again, leaning over the edge of another pool of water. Cooler, quieter, yet colors still float across the surface. A hand stretches out from the pool, beckoning with pale fingers.
Christopher: Is this how you see me?
Map: I see another Omphalos reflected in your eyes. You were happy there, but you couldn’t help chasing after what you couldn’t have.
Christopher: I have no sense of direction. I needed my…Map. (He stares at her, eyes widening).
Map: (nods with a sad little smile) I’ve had many names, but I always been fond of Map. The name you and Ashleigh gave me.
Christopher: You became our Map. You gave us direction, a place to go when we badly needed it. How could have I forgotten you?
Map: You keep opening Doors, getting lost in gardens, or other people. You and Ashleigh both.
Christopher: You didn’t forget us.
Map: I try not to open Doors. I stay right here, even when another Omphalos vanishes or burns down around me.
Christopher: I’m sure I’ve seen you on the other side of the Door. Even if I no longer recognized you.
Map: I said I try not to. I never said I didn’t. There’s a part of me that wants to chase after you. To find everyone else I’ve lost.
Christopher: Have you?
Map: I found Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel. You and Ashleigh for brief moments, but I’ve never been able to hold onto you. Sometimes others. My boys are the only ones I’ve managed to bring back.
Christopher: Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel.
Map: Yes. They’ve become my children. Drawn to dangerous things, all of them, but we’ve managed to form a family here.
Christopher: Where did you find them?
Map: I already told you. On the other side of the Door.
Christopher: That’s a big place. The Shadow Forest is huge and it’s always changing.
Map: Aye, and it’s not always a Forest.
Christopher: And you managed to bring these children back.
Map: Not without help.
Christopher: Whose help?
Map: You’ll find out soon enough.
Christopher: You’re very mysterious.
Map: There’s too much to reveal you’re not ready for yet. I just wanted to show you this cottage. To see you, sitting here once more.
She bows her head. Christopher can feel the grief, pulling down her shoulders, hanging in the air.
He reaches for her hand.
Christopher: I’m sorry, Map. I’m sorry you’ve had to bear this alone.
Map: (lifting his head, managing a grim smile) It’s not like I didn’t chose bear it. Someone has to take care of the cottage. Make certain there’s a home to return to.
Christopher: I think in a way you’re like Gabrielle. She’s doing what you’re doing. Waiting in the Navel for people to come to her.
Map: Is she, now? (Her smile broadens a bit.) I’m glad you’ve found someone solid to ground you. You kept attaching yourself to people who disappear.
Christopher: (it’s his turn to smile sadly) I’m afraid that hasn’t changed.
Map: No, it wouldn’t, would it?
(To be continued Monday)