Cartographer's Angel

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Literature Text

It was two months after he finished the map that Julian Merle was forced to admit he’d never actually left his home town. The sweeping mountain ranges and the clear streams that ran through them were just speculations, the roads and cities dotted along the river were mostly guess work and the coast in the east was a little more than mere fancy. Julian had assumed when he had drawn it up that the country had to end somewhere, and that somewhere might was well be an ocean because that meant less finicky lines to draw. Julian had even put mermaids in it for good measure, no one could resist mermaids. Then he had signed his name in the corner, in thin curving script, and sent it off to be printed.

Perhaps it was the mermaids, or perhaps it was something else, but soon every copy of Julian’s map had been sold. A second batch went out, and sponsor’s from far away were sending inquiries as to whether or not Julian would undertake some expeditions to bring back more maps. It was not long after that, however, that people started to realize that his map was no good. All the praise he had received quickly turned into criticism and Julian found himself, two months later, with a mob outside his door.

He put the chain on the door and closed all the curtains, before going to his study. Letters from various potential sponsors cluttered his desk, unanswered. Even in here, Julian could hear the shouts from outside, the banging on the front door. Realistically, it was only a matter of time until the rage spilled into the house and Julian’s existence would become more unpleasant then it already was.  He ran a shaking hand over his face, pale from all the days spent in windowless rooms, and sighed.

There was no point trying to escape out a window, the ones on the first floor were grated, and a broken leg from jumping out one on the second floor would be a hindrance rather than a help. The backdoor was no good either; Julian hadn’t been able to get it open for years. He regretted his lack of small wooden boxes, with little poison pills nestled on the inside. It was somewhat melodramatic, he would be the first to admit, but it was better than being dragged out into the street and beaten to death.

“I expected there to be more light.” said a voice from behind him.

Julian spun around to face the intruder. He had not heard the door open, if anything now, the sounds from outside seemed further away. The speaker was a short rotund man, in a dove grey suit with small spectacles perched on the end of his nose. He seemed brighter than the surrounding room, and a bit fuzzy around the shoulders as if there was more of him that Julian couldn’t see.  

Julian asked the obvious question,” Who are you?”

The man seemed to give this question a lengthy consideration, “My name is Farthingsworth. I sent you a letter?”

The last word rose at the end, as if he couldn’t remember if he had actually done so. Julian turned around and shuffled through the papers on his desk. Hidden in the middle of the pile was one that was signed, ‘Farthingsworth’, no first name.

“Ah, yes,” Julian said, holding it up. “Letter, aside, what are you doing here? And how did you get in. No, actually, never mind I think you should leave.”  He groped around behind him for something of weight that he could use to defend himself. A pointed metal compass came to his aid, Julian did his best to brandish it menacingly.

Farthingsworth reached out and plucked the compass from Julian’s hand. “Sit down, sit down,” he said.

Julian sat, although he didn’t know why. Farthingsworth went on, “A lot of people are very angry with you I should think. I however, have come to give you an opportunity.”

“I’m not interested,” Julian snapped. If he could have, he would have gotten out of the chair and ran right out of the study. The jump from the second story was starting to seem a little bit more appealing, something about this man made Julian intensely uncomfortable.

“Ah, well,” Farthingsworth smiled. It was a kindly smile, and set Julian’s teeth on edge. “You don’t have a choice but to be interested at the moment. I’m the only thing keeping the mob outside your house at bay. I am offering you a job, making proper maps no less. Maps of places no one has ever been before.”

“Will I get paid?” Julian asked.

“Handsomely,” Farthingsworth replied, “if you make the choice now. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you to your… business here.”

“Ha, well” Julian said hurriedly standing up, “let’s not be too hasty! I’ve been thinking about a change of pace for a while now. Your offer might be just the thing. Ehem, yes. Let me get my coat.”

He ran out of the room, doing his best not to meet Farthingsworth’s gaze. He fetched his coat, and threw his drawing supplies in a bag. Then he returned to the study, and stopped.

“How exactly,” he asked, “do you intend to get us out of here?”

“Well,” said Farthingsworth, “let’s agree to the deal first. Shake my hand, and we’ll be all settled.”

Julian grasped the man’s hand, and the moment he did so, he felt a shift. Farthingsworth was no longer strangely bright, instead it was Julian’s study that was dark. Julian shook Farthingsworth’s hand and then there was the sound of wings.

A few moments later, the crowd burst through the front door. They ransacked the house, searching for the cartographer, and though no one saw him leave, no one could find him. The only thing they did find was a large black feather on the floor of the study. For his part, Julian was never seen again.
1000 words exactly. This is for a writing challenge on the Terrible minds blog. I could have gone over word count as I was feeling a bit long winded but perhaps we'll find out exactly what happened to not-quite-a-proper-cartographer Julian Merle later. Fun fact, Farthingsworth was born in a throw away description I gave to my friend about the word 'rotund', which is why his name is sort of silly (it is also silly because he picked it himself)
© 2014 - 2021 Mertus
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A7XFan666's avatar
LadyBrookeCelebwen's avatar
I'm really intrigued by this. :D I want to know what happened to Merle quite a bit. 
Mertus's avatar
haha me too! I think there's probably going to be another installment sometime in the future, I just have some other stuff to write first. I'm very glad you liked it so much!
LadyBrookeCelebwen's avatar
I know how having other things to write first goes! Good luck getting those written. :) 
Mertus's avatar
Yep, hopefully they'll be done soon, since a lot of people are excited for the continuation of Merle and his fat feathered friend
arrawyn's avatar
Loved everything about this! Great job. I like be Chuck Wendig's flash fiction Friday stuff cuz Iget to read so many ggreat stories like this! :-)
Mertus's avatar
Haha well I'm trying to get a group on dA writing them, so we can get some more feedback and such than you would neccessarily get on the blog, so every time he posts a flash fiction challenge, I am going write a journal explaining it and cross posting a link and then everyone can (regardless of whether or not they follow the blog) can link their story in the journal comments (here's the first…
If I get enough steam going and enough people participating maybe I'll make a group for it. Seemed like a good way to get some of the writer's on here to come together and writing regularly :)
WhiteRavenLord's avatar
Wow, completely different then where I would have gone with the story, but intriguing none the less.
Mertus's avatar
Well, what would you have done sir?
WhiteRavenLord's avatar
I was thinking of a cartographer on a trip to the quote "edge of the world". When he gets there, he finds along with the crew that it is actually both a barrier between this world and the spiritual world but also that the world is incomplete. The crew is beset upon by demons, most of them die off, and the cartographer is save by a warrior angel assigned to protect the guy as he is now intrusted with the sacred task of completing the Earth.

Since, you know, the original designer vanished. But it would have been waaaaay too long for just 1000 words. XD
Mertus's avatar
Yeah, I had to run with a concept that would have fit a little bit better. Still, that is a good idea :) I was just aiming for something a little more... subtle
WhiteRavenLord's avatar
I could see that. What could that angel possibly want with a cartographer, and a black feather? So far as I know, there is only one angel in all of existence that has black/brownish wings like that. Curiouser and curiouser.
Mertus's avatar
yes, yes, so many questions!
Did I do it justice you think?
WhiteRavenLord's avatar
Mertus's avatar
xtcgm's avatar
I like it.  If you ever come over the pond, you must see Mappa Mundi.  You might even see Farthingsworth depicted there.
Mertus's avatar
Oh he'd be pleased as punch about that I'm sure! And if I do ever come over the pond, you might have to show me around (and I will definately see Mappa Mundi, because it sounds intreiguing to say the least)
I'm very glad you liked it. I was a little uncertain as it seemed to be a break from my usual style (do I have a style? I don't even know)
xtcgm's avatar
The 1000 word limit more or less forces a writer to leave things unsaid.  The words that are used, however, must allow the reader to build a clear picture of the situation.  The necessary implicit, as opposed to explicit, aspect of the writing precludes any talking down to a readership if any narrative ground is to be made.  I think the word is, "tight".  I think you did that well.  End of self-opinionated lecture.
Mertus's avatar
Well I quite like word limits, because most of the stuff I write is under 1000 words, and I quite like it. However, sometimes I'd like to go on with what happens next as opposed to expanding on what has happened already. I agree with you though, it does make for tight writing, if the piece is effective.
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