5



It made no sense, but I found the sense it failed to make familiar.

An A.P. Roxborough made a map, a hypothetical bird's eye view, in 1918. It takes in the other side of the city's edge, far from Base Line, and the outlying area. I do not know if A.P. Roxborough made another map, lost to time, lost to the 1965 fire, perhaps, which shows my house, the house that shouldn't exist, with its worn late nineteenth century exterior offending the surrounding snout houses. An upstairs, which I rent to Gospherus and his cactus. But this map survives, and A.P. Roxborough sketched out something that would have gone unnoticed, had I not looked at so very many other maps and records.

A road, unnamed, possibly an old logger's road, runs just beyond the other side of the city, parallel to the old highway. It has a house, too, a solitary place where no building should be.

I can find no trace of house or road any other year. I can find no record of anyone building there. All the other maps show forest.

Perhaps I'm overreacting, overreading, overreaching. It could just be a logger's road that they stopped using, and A.P. Roxborough's house could be some shack the loggers built, a temporary lodging, long overlooked, long gone.

I have to know.

I head down the stairs of the building. It feels strangely deserted. The walls look wrong to me, and I assume it's because I'm tired. Bleary-eyed, I step out onto the street. It's warm for the time of year, but clouds have gathered. I see them both ahead of me and behind the cathedral. I see a procession of mourners. It takes me a few steps to process what I'm seeing.

They're dressed in the finery of another era, black and somber. Horses pull the hearse. I wonder if I've run into some kind of historical reenactment. It seems inappropriate to ask.

Some of the men wear military uniforms, also from another time and place.

The building across the street shouldn't be a haberdasher. I blink. All of the buildings are wrong.

Horse excrement litters the street though I see, at some distance, a motor-car, possibly electric toodling down the street. It stops when the driver sees the funeral. A passerby regards me oddly. He recognizes not the cut of my jib.

I flee down Cathedral Road and reach Base Line, as the storm clouds gather and the city crowds disperse. It's old Base Line, all right, and the two cornfields. In between stands a small wooded area and, sitting in the woods is my house.

Electricity charges the air.

The house stands taller than it does in my day. Below the familiar wood I can see the stony foundation. The cornerstone on my right bears engraved words. I want to see it, but I'm aware that the storm contains shadows and movement which others see as clouds.

I look to the sky.

They ride what one might call horses, or what a very talented artist might paint as horses if he himself had never seen one, and relied only on second-hand description.

The first horse, a white horse, carries a rider with a face positively skeletal, the rictus of a drying corpse. He's dressed in the manner of an old time country preacher or doctor. Crowning his head I see a broad-brimmed hat of the sort still seeing service in 1918, though a bit of an anachronism even then. He carries a bow saw. A little grey bird sits on his shoulder. Its name is Enza.

Next to him rides Mars, god of war, with centurion's breastplate and armour. Beneath his Cingulum Militare I see khaki green and combat boots. His helmet belongs to a German officer. A gas mask obscures his face. He rides a devil-red steed and has himself bare, red-devil arms. One bears a sword like lightning.

The black coat of the third horse seems a part of the storm clouds. I do not know if the rider is a man or a woman. The rider is old and wrinkled and carries a scale, such as one would have seen in a grocery store or apothecary of the sort I'm certain I'd find if I returned to town.

A pale horse carries the fourth rider, an animated woman's skeleton. She wears an old-fashioned nurse's cape, fastened with a red Ankh.

Their heads tower above the clouds, and yet they approach. They must be miles away, and miles high. The stools of the steeds would cover small villages. Horses and riders exhale the storm.

I feel dizzy. The clouds loose rain and the ground slips beneath me and away.

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