Caleb Wilson

Some things 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 railroad bridge.
      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 swamp air.
      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 a casket.
      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.
      Xu dead-ends.
      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.