Writing prompt: maps
It hadn’t been a very good day and it seemed to be getting worse all the time. We had buried my favorite grandmother, one of my only relatives whose company I actually liked. And to top it off, my born-again aunt pitched a fit over the ring Gammie left me in her will. She had apparently had her eye on it ever since she was a kid. We never really got on, Maire and I, and the older I got the more she seemed to resent me. A lot of ugly ancient stuff was dragged into the argument and the accusation of my mom condemning Gammie to hell with the secular service she had requested was the last straw for me. By the time I managed to excuse myself, all of them, my aunt, my mother and their brother, were all shouting at each other at the top of their voices. My uncle’s wife took up a seat and pretended to read all through it, quipping only to “leave me out of… whatever this is.” when someone mentioned her. But I’m digressing.
I walked upstairs annoyed and miserable and even a little bit happy that no one noticed me leaving the living room. I was seriously thinking about just giving my stupid aunt the stupid ring. But it was all I had left of Gammie. Well that, and my sense of adventure. Even when she was too sick to leave her bed – no, especially then – Gammie would always try to make me see the adventure in every day and help me go out and conquer any obstacles with the attitude of a dragon slayer. She would ask me to read for her, even make up my own stories. Sometimes Gammie would tell of her own adventures but on those occasions I was always left with the feeling that she was leaving something out. But I’m digressing again. The point is, Gammie was never much for physical tokens of affection. Which is why, I suppose, my aunt pitched a fit over the ring she left me.
I sat down upstairs, in Gammie’s bedroom in an alcove that had once housed the crib for each of Gammie’s children in turn but was now empty except for the armchair Gammie used to sit in when she told us grand-children stories and fairy-tales. I sat on the other side of the small opening, facing the wall, looking out through the small window that covered most of the vertical space between the sloping roof and the floor.
I stared at the ring, turning it around in my hands, remembering all the times I had admired it in hers. It was nothing really special in a sense. It was just a thin, silver band with a setting for a pearl. It’s so old that the pearl may actually be real. What makes it special was the fact that it had been hers. Finally, just to see what it looked like I put the ring on my finger. For a second I thought I might have gone hysterical from grief because I was sure I could feel it humming! Startled, I drew my hand back towards myself and noticed that the pearl grew dimmer as I did so. The humming stopped too. Mesmerized, I slowly pushed my hand toward Gammie’s chair and the humming started up again together with the pearl growing brighter. Slowly, I crawled toward the chair on my hands and knees, the humming getting stronger and more insistent by the inch.
Still on my hands and knees I reached the chair and started running the ringed hand all over it as if it were a security wand. I realized that the humming was slightly stronger toward the back of the chair which was covered by an overlay. I hastily yanked the cover up and found a hidden space underneath the seat. In it was a thick file full of different color papers bound together with paper string looking almost like a present. Stuck on to the cover was a letter and it was addressed to me! I plonked the file on to the chair and sat down, hiding the file behind my back. Just in case.
“My dear,” the letter said “If you are reading this I’m most likely dead and I’m sorry for that. I wished not to lay this burden on to your shoulders but there is no one else who can carry on my work. The file you found contains much more detail and together with the ring you’re wearing they will be your guide through this quest I must ask you to complete. You are young, barely even out of school and it will be dangerous. I hope you will not consider less of me for not having told you before about any of it, but as I mentioned, I had hoped to complete it before my death.
“I will always love you.” the letter finished and I stared down at it in confusion. What quest? I opened the file and a small piece of paper fell out of it. I realized it was a map, with small, green skulls spread all over it. Some of them had red checkmarks or crosses upon them, one especially vigorously crossed had actually pierced the paper. There was something dark reddish brown in one corner of the map that I’m sure was blood. I had to wonder, if it was Gammie’s or someone else’s. I stared down at the papers and maps and pages upon pages of mission reports undersigned by Gammie.
The stairs creaked and I hastily shoved the papers into the file and hid them behind my back, sitting back in the chair just as my mother poked her head around the corner and smiled weakly. “There you are kiddo. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, mom. Are you guys done fighting?”
“For now, I think so. I’m sorry you had to see that. I think we’re all a little jealous that she left you the ring but I never thought Maire would just go off like that.”
“It’s all right. I’m a big girl, I can take it.”
“You coming downstairs? We ought to eat something before we leave. You still want me to drop you off at your place, don’t you?”
“Yeah, in a minute.” I listened to her descend the steps downstairs and felt like a heel for not showing her the file. After all, Gammie hadn’t requested for secrecy in her letter or the files. But somehow I had made the decision to keep this between just me and her. The ring after all was my map to Gammie’s adventures.