you will need are a full tank of gas, a flashlight, an axe, a bicycle.
Heading north on Route 110, turn left onto
Entwhistle. The street will be paved in dark, fresh asphalt and tree-lined.
The web of shadows, light dark light, will fall through the teeth of the
leaves onto the windshield. Drive through four lights and beneath an iron
Turn right onto Jackabash. Hold the steering
wheel tightly, the car's suspension might lurch as the asphalt gives way
to gravel. You'll trail behind the rear bumper a roostertail of dust.
The foliage will have grown thicker, and wilder, hanging over the road,
pinching the sky to a slender blue thread. You will approach a clearing
on your left, in the center of which, in a field of golden grass, sits
a circular stone barn. Atop it you will see a weathercock that spins furiously
in the dead calm.
Jackabash dead-ends at Tuhlooloo. Tuhlooloo
is sun-baked dirt, with wilted weeds cresting the ridge between the ruts.
Turn right. You'll need to drive slowly, the road has but one lane and
if you should meet another vehicle you might have to pull onto the shoulder.
The greenery alongside will have thickened to a hedge, and will be strung
with all manner of vines, creepers and stranglers that hang low with the
weight of their blossoms, yellow, pink, white and pale green. A black
bloom might show itself, in the shade. Passing through a glade, you will
notice a sunken pond on your right, with walls of green stone, and glassily
still even in the new-sprung breeze.
Turn left onto Bowlandiron, paved in moss-slippery
bricks. The road will be wider here, but do not forgo caution, as the
ground drops away from both shoulders into bog-land. Cheerful though they
look, the hummocks, peeking from bright pools of green scum, hide quicksand
and fossil flats. Roll up your windows, chemical balloons and witch fires
often seep, bubble, or flare from the mud and confound proper brain functions.
You will approach a mangrove big as a house with thousands of roots and
stems grasping at water and mud. Should the offshoots have blockaded the
road, you are permitted to exit the vehicle and cut them away with your
axe, although remember, hold your breath when exposed directly to the
Past the mangrove turn right onto Shingraglia.
The ground on either side will drain and rise, till the shoulders are
a yard higher than the road itself, which is paved in coins. Do not bother
trying to pry them free, as the states and nations which minted them no
longer exist. The terrain will be hilly, with a carpet of tough grass
and heather broken by lumps of stone like teeth in a gum. You'll turn
a sharp corner to the left, to a sudden view of the River Vino, and onto
a bridge which jumps the bank out over the red water. Look down into the
river as you drive across the bridge and you'll doubtless notice that
the car is being paced by elongated forms paddling just beneath the surface.
Do not panic, you will meet them soon enough, at the midway point, where
a fence woven of metal slats blocks the road. Stop the car, turn off the
engine, open the gas tank. The Wine-men will emerge from the river, dripping
red puddles from their wrinkled, glossy skins, and gather round your car.
Do not be afraid, they only want to collect the toll. They will unfurl
their long, tubular tongues and drink deeply from the gas tank, gorging
on the gasoline within. Unless a crowd of more than five Wine-men gathers
or your tank is low, you will be unharmed, otherwise, in lieu of the proper
payment, they will take what they are owed in blood from your veins. Once
the toll is paid, they will move the gate aside and you will be allowed
to continue across. The shoulders will rise and rise until they are walls
of earth, and the road narrow and narrow, coins pinging beneath the wheels,
until you reach the inevitable spot where the car can no longer squeeze
through. You will need to continue a short distance along Shingraglia
on bicycle, keeping watch on the left for a cairn of skulls, inhabited
by a swarm of bees.
The cairn of bees marks a low, pointed
archway. Go through it. This is Krift. Krift is paved, or rather floored,
with beams of worn oak, which will knock and clatter as you cycle over
them. Hedges of yew and boxwood will line the way, and the white berries
spotting the bushes will begin to glow as the darkness falls. Attach your
flashlight to the handlebars and be wary of nocturnal animals, raccoons
and deft marsupials, perhaps a translucent night viper, its meal of rats
and insects still visible in its crystalline gullet. After some time,
you'll ride through a forest of varnished pillars supporting the ossuaries
erected by long-dead heretic priests. Now the shadow patterns strobe on
the spokes of bicycle wheels, dark light dark, moonlight filtering through
a lattice of skeletons. Listen carefully and if you hear the telltale
clatter of bones from above, duck your head. This is the sign of a mischievous
bone-parrot about to bombard you with crushed relic pellets stolen from
Turn right onto Xu. It will be very cold.
The grinding whisper from under the tires is due to the fact that Xu is
paved in fingernail clippings. You might now wish to extinguish your flashlight.
The sights to the left and right are not fit to be seen by human eyes.
Ride in darkness, in contemplation.
And there I shall wait for you.
In Vermont where I grew up there's a
stock character, the old farmer by the side of the road who gives unhelpfully
elaborate directions: "Drive past a red barn and a little white house
that belongs to my cousin then turn left at the church; if you see the
covered bridge you've gone too far..." No doubt he was somewhere
in the back of my mind when I wrote this story. The fingernails-as-construction-material
I borrowed from Norse mythology.