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Maps and Charts

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He could feel Annabelle Lee's absence from the moment he changed her wet decks and billowing sails for dry, hot asphalt and cloudless skies. She was a caged beast now; confined to the docks until such time as he could muster the funds or the reason to travel with her again.

He could not sleep in feather beds, nor would he be happy inside her hold while she was in still waters. He was old now, and one night over gin, he caught himself thinking that maybe it was time to leave it all behind him, to live on the land.

That night, in his sleep, he heard the soft thud of her halyards against the masts, the sounds of her sails unfurling and filling with the breeze, the cries of two dozen men tending to her. She had carried him around the world so many times over he'd lost count, and though the men came and went, she was constant like the Northern Star.

He awoke with a yearning in his heart, and a plan. After breakfast, he dusted off his pencils and compasses, his rulers and magnifying glasses, and bought a dozen sheets of fine cream paper at the stationer's. Even an out-of-the-way place like this one had an admiralty office, and a library, and an archivist who really loved maps.

He never enjoyed this part, but it was always necessary preparation for a voyage. Day after day saw him drag ruler and compass across the maps and sea charts, frantically scribbling numbers on the cream paper.

On the fifth day, when the numbers started dancing before his very eyes, the archivist brought him a cup of coffee out of kindness and asked how he was progressing. He smiled at her kindly and thanked her for the coffee, pretended he had not heard her question. He could see the pity in her eyes all too clearly. She left him shortly after, and he stared into the brown liquid, wondering again, with a pang of his heart, if this was really worthwhile.

When he gazed at his writing again, there was an oddity in the numbers that he had not seen before. Something was not quite adding up here... there had to be land...

He compared map to chart, chart to calculation sheet, around and around in a circle until finally his fist came down on the table in a triumphant gesture. There was yet undiscovered land - the numbers were clear proof of that - now all he had to do was to convince them -

He passed by the harbour on his way back to his lodgings and looked over to where Annabelle lay; patient; waiting; ready. He raised a shaking hand to her hull, felt like he should say something, share the good news, but the words were stuck in his throat and would not come out. So he just closed his eyes and hoped she would understand his silent, gentle gesture.

He went to sleep with the negative of a faraway coastline burned inside his eyelids and in the firm knowledge that Annabelle and him would be together again very soon, very soon.