Mapping by Erika Eckart

It is about uncharted territory, the screaming that is. His mind has mapped the known world, his known world, and it expands only fitfully and under great duress. This is like the early cartographers, who suffered at the hands of tar pits and wild beasts and the elements in order to document the shape of our world. Their legacy is the early maps, the connected blooms, veined with rivers, like watercolor seeped into paper, slowly expanding in a dilute and uncertain way at the edges, cauliflower-floret-shaped images of all recorded space—and beyond black lakes of nothing, of extreme danger, what some thought was a cliff, a diving board to nowhere, or at the very least hostile places, never before seen by man, or at least not the men on your team and who knows what is out there. Every time we push 5 or 10 miles into new space he screams, thrashes, begs to turn back, barters all he loves for a retreat. In his mind, he is out on the inky black seas of the void, Natives have poison-tipped arrows at the ready, there is the descending darkness of nightfall and nowhere safe to camp, the world could end at any moment, we could plummet into the black stretches of ink and all be erased. And then the car stops and he emits a few final violent screams birthing this new place into the charted world. He walks around, registers the space. He chronicles its contours and qualities. On the way back, he is quiet. We are now in mapped territory, pink and blue and green, safe and sound. He gazes out the window happy to be in the known dominion with no memory of the dark time before.

Erika Eckart is a writer, mom and English teacher near Chicago. Her work has appeared in Double Room, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Nano Fiction and Quiditty, among others. Her prose poetry book The Tyranny of Heirlooms is being released by Sundress  Publications in 2018.