I was reading an old letter as a part of my genealogical research. In a dingy corner of an obscure library in ancient Fremantle, Western Australia’s first port at the mouth of the Swan River. As I unfolded yet another page, for our ancestors were a verbose lot, a folded sheet of paper fell to the floor.
I bent to pick it up and discovered it was a very old illustrated map.
One illustration caught my eye immediately and I picked up my digital camera and snapped that section of the eastern Pacific. The attention of the swarthy-faced and turbanned librarian was caught and he came over to see what I had found so interesting.
The moment he saw the map his demeanor changed and he became very aggressive. He, not quite snatched but very firmly, took hold of the paper and demanded I tell him where I had found it. Concerned at his attitude, I surreptitiously removed the memory card from my camera as I told him and while he was staring at the lines on the map.
The old curator demanded in his thick accent that I show him my camera. He looked at the buttons and asked how it worked. I explained that it was not working and I showed him that it would not turn on. Thank goodness for digital cameras which fail to work if the card is not inserted. He seemed satisfied that no pictures had been taken.
From his agitated muttering I gathered that he had lost this map years before and I heard a word “Shogga”. At least I think I heard it. Along with something about el azred and some mad arab but I think they were dead relatives because he was saying something about “necro” and “my”. As he collected the pages of my great great grandfather’s letter he kept muttering and his accent became thicker finally changing to an unintelligible foreign language and I understood no more.
It can’t have been the map itself for that was quite unremarkable, with compass roses and dragon illustrations around the edges. The only unusual feature I noticed was the part in the middle which I had photographed. It must have been the letter. He may not have realised just what was in that envelope when he gave it to me.
He demanded that I leave immediately and despite my protestations was firmly shown the door. As I left he slammed the door behind me and I heard the bolts being shot.
I have no idea what was disturbing him so much. I looked back at the door and noticed a rather strange inscription. I spent some time deciphering it and was quite puzzled at the end result. I have no idea what it was about.
” That is not dead which canst eternal lie,
With strangest aeons even death mayst die.
Last night I saw a TV News report that that strange library I had visited earlier in the day had burned to the ground with the death of an unidentified person. There are also reports of a strange tide in Fremantle Harbour and a cray fishing boat has been found abandoned and drifting off the coast.
I am most upset because I had not finished taking notes from my ancestor’s letter. About his voyage to the new Colony from San Francisco and his adventures as he was swept south into seas full of ice bergs.
All I really have is that single photograph. Dragons are often seen on old maps. Giant squid are nowhere near as common.
I’ll post it here and then I’m off to go canoeing on the Swan River. I have an irresistable urge to get out onto the water.