One Long Panel of Stones – Chapter 25

Again, sleep doesn’t come. Which I guess doesn’t really surprise me. Instead of tossing and turning all night like I’d normally do, I decide to draw.

My mind instantly goes to the fake map I drew for Melinda. I start drawing it again from memory, with each single track trail marked with a carefully dotted line, and each wider road lined with more weight.

When I drew the map for the pamphlet, I’d based it in the New Age style usually found on community boards at fanciful book shops and yoga studios. I’d used choatic chicken scratch markings, nearly illegible, like something you’d see on a flyer for a party deep in the woods. This time, I’m meticulous. I want to make something more substantial, more worthy of the imagined world I’m trying to sell.

When I get to the vortex locations, I pause. What symbol describes a vortex? What meaning do I need to convey?

I go back through all my notes and materials. Athanasius described them as portals to another universe. Melinda seems to suggest they’re merely places of power.

I like Athanasius’ explanation best. I decide to mark them with an icon that looks something like the top-town view of a tornado, a sort of Wizard of Oz-inspired spiral. Consulting back to the original map of vortices–I’ll never get used to that word–the town already has at least three major ones, with countless other supposed smaller sites. The people around here seem to side with Melinda, believing these are locations that accent human power. Sit down and meditate at a vortex, they’ll say, and you’ll experience some sort of super meditation.

The idea that certain places in the world can affect us in ways others cannot doesn’t feel particularly insightful to me. We’ve all had those moments where a place felt right or wrong, and it has nothing to do with the place itself. It only has to do with us. We rarely share these moments collectively, nor the memories that form afterward.

I think back to the first time I stood on a mountain peak, with the vertigo rushing through me, my dad held my shoulders, grounding me enough to allow me to look out across the landscape. I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time, but I felt a new emotion, something I now recognize as clarity. Few other people we saw even bothered to take in the view. They were there to mark another fourteener off their checklist.

Another world feels more likely. Whether a vortex or a portal, I’m sure whatever I’m picturing is wrong. I don’t expect to arrive to find a hole in reality. Or a glowing red orb that transports me to a new land. As I draw the vortex symbols on the map, I temper my expectations and force myself to hold back on the design. A map is like a hint to a reader, offering a guide for what to expect without spoiling the end result. You have to be careful not to reveal everything at a glance.

When I finish, I realize it’s already one of my favorite maps. Perhaps because it’s based in reality. Or at least, based more in reality than anything else I’ve made. It feels powerful to wield something like this. I’ve only made a slight tweak to the truth, but it feels like I’ve altered history. If all this is nonsense, what’s it matter if I just add another layer?

In this moment it strikes me how much of what we’ve been chasing is still a myth. I try to play out all the different realities we’ve been presented over the last few weeks. Each has their quirks. None of them can feel real to me until we find the vault.

I can feel dawn coming as I finally start to get drowsy.