Badgerbrough housed a lot of different people. The streets were long and winding, tangled up in each other, much like people's minds.
"Thoughts get lost", Billobi's father used to say. "It's as if they start their journey fully aware of where they're going, but forget it halfway there. Thoughts get lost, and seldom are found. Just like the people here. They start out hungry, and decide to walk over to my shop to buy something, but get lost halfway here and instead they end up at that bloody Clarke's Candy! I hate that man!"
Billobi sat on a bench in his father's bakery with pen and paper in hand. He had just received a short message from the editor at the Inquisitive that said:
"Bill! Funds are low, so can't send you anywhere. Please find juicy story here in town. Exercise good for you."
But mysteries didn't just show up whenever someone wanted them to, and despite all the strange things Billobi had seen up till now, none of it had happened inside his father's bakery.
"How about a funny story?" Billobi's father asked. "I know quite a few! There's the one about the horse in a hat..."
"No, thank you, please. Not even mother finds those funny."
"Alright, Mr. Critic, I guess you'd know. How about writing about your father's lovely bakery?"
"There's nothing exotic about bread, father."
"There's dried fruit in some of them."
"Not exotic enough, father."
"Alright. But can't you write something about all the rats in Clarke's basement, that licks on all the candy that he sells?"
"There are not rats in his basement and you know it."
"Really? Then why is his candy so sticky, hmm? Stupid Clarke and his stupid, cheap candy..."
A loud voice from outside cut through the open door, and Billobi walked outside to see what the fuss was all about. Across the street from his father's bakery, a bald, thin man in rags were shouting about secret maps, although no one seemed to care. Billobi walked over to him and said hello.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAH!" the man said with a toothless smile. "A CUSSCHDRMER! CAN I IMTRESTE YOO WITH A SCHEECREK MAB?"
"Absolutely", Billobi answered and started talking notes. "I just need your name first, kind Sir."
"NAME? NAME? YOO MAE CAA ME DE CATAGRAFEE!"
"The Cartographer? Is that because you make maps?"
The old man nodded with his eyes closed, and held up a bunch of papers.
"ONE FER HALF, FIVE FER TEN!"
"ONE FER HALF, FIVE FER TEN! BAJ FIVE TO SCHAVE MONEY!"
"And what kind of maps are these? I heard you mentioning something about secret maps?"
"YESCH! THE MOST SCHERECECS MABS THER ISCH! GOLD! TESSURSCHS! DJAGONS! EH...WIMMEN! BAE-SCHESDED WIMMEN! PENTY OF WIMMEN!"
"So...it's maps to fortune?"
"YESCH! YESCH! ONE FER HALF!"
"LIES!" a voice cried out. "ALL LIES!" It came from an old woman, that approached them from behind. Besides having a full set of teeth and being female, they resembled each other quite a bit.
"SCHUT YOOR MOUSCH!" the old man responded. "TISCH MY CUSCHDERMER!"
"DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS MAN!" the woman continued. "HE IS NOTHING MORE THAN A DISGRACE TO THE REST OF US!"
"Us?" Billobi asked.
The woman grabbed Billobi with her right hand while slowly raising her left, revealing a bunch of papers.
"CARTOGRAPHERS!" she bellowed solemnly. "WE WHO CRAFT SECRET MAPS! WE WHO GUIDE PEOPLE THROUGH LOSTHOOD TO RICHNESS AND FOUNDHOOD."
"YOOR DE FRAAD! MY MABS AA AAWAYS RAJT! ONE FER FIVE!"
"I'm sorry, 'losthood'?" Billobi asked while writing frenetically. "Do you also draw maps that leads to treasures?"
"NOT ALSO - I AM THE ONLY ONE! HE IS THE FRAUD! A DISGRACE!"
"So you also sell secret maps?" Billobi asked the old woman.
"YES, I DO. BUT MY MAPS ARE NOT FALSE, LIKE THE ONES THIS FRAUD CRAFTS!"
"HUSCH YOOR FRAAD! MINES SCHEEPER!""
"Why don't we compare your maps?"
The suggestion was met with blank stares and complete silence. A feeling struck him, not unlike the one that used to creep up on him when he was young and was caught doing something he shouldn't.
"I...eh...I mean, since I work for the Inquisitive...free advertisement, and so on..."
"DISCHCOUNT FER WEPORTERSH! ONE FER A QUARTER!"
"I URGE YOU TO BUY MY MAPS, DEAR REPORTER, LEST YOU NOT FOREVER WALK IN LOSTHOOD! AND THIS MAN IS A FRAUD, AFTER ALL."
"CWAZY HAG! HEE, I MAKE MAB FER YOO FER FEE!"
The old man pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew something quickly on it. He then handed it to Billobi.
"SCHECREC MAB FER YOO WEPORTER! GOLD! WIMMEN! FEMAI DJAGONS!"
Billobi inspected the so called map - or rather, the lack of it. The paper he was given didn't contain much information for treasure hunting.
"It's just a line", Billobi said. "Two dots connected by a straight line. And this leads to great treasure?"
"ABSCHULOTLY! SCHTARK HEE" - the old man pointed at the first dot, and ran his finger along the line to the second - "END HEE."
Billobi turned around with map in front of him, while examining the surroundings. He turned around and gave the map back.
"Your map leads me to that bakery across the street."
"YESCH! YESCH! GEAT TESSCHORES! WIMMEN!"
"I doubt that. That's my father's bakery."
"HERE, DEAR REPORTER", the old woman said and handed Billobi a more detailed map. "FOUNDHOOD GUARANTEED."
"Great, let's follow it."
They left the old man under heavy, teethless cursing, and walked further down the street. The map contained a lot of swirls, and while it lacked any street names it was fairly accurate in terms of conjunctions and intersections.
After walking for a while, they finally arrived at their destination: Clarke's Candy.
"Great treasures, eh?" Billobi said with a sceptic voice.
"AS A TRUE CARTOGRAPHER I AM ALWAYS RIGHT."
The door to the boutique opened up, and a round man with a colourful apron peeked out.
"Yes?" he said with a smile. "We're closing early today, but do come back tomorrow! Oh, is it you, Bill?"
"Hello Mr. Clarke. I was just following this so called treasure map, and it lead me here."
"IT IS INDEED A TREASURE MAP!" the old woman bellowed.
"Well, yes... Sorry for bothering you, I'll leave now."
"No worry, Bill. Tell your father about our sale next week!" he said and laughed.
"I will! Come on now."
"BUT THERE IS GREAT TREASURE IN THERE! GOLD IN THE BASEMENT, PER MY SECRET MAP'S DIRECTIONS!"
"Yes, yes..." Billobi said and started the long walk back, with the old woman close behind,
Mr. Clarke waited until they had disappeared completely, and then locked up the front door. He flipped the "OPEN"-sign to "CLOSE", pulled the curtains and headed quickly downstairs, where the small, golden statuette pulsated in the darkness. A slow whisper, almost like breathing, dragged him to his knees, where he promised it his soul in exchange for fame and fortune. He could've sworn it smiled at him.
People who sell maps that allegedly leads to great treasure, are said to have caught cartographer's disease. They will manufacture maps of all kind of sizes, if the price is right.
They loathe others who do the same.
Persistence may pay off in the end, as 1% of the maps produced by those that are truly affected by this disease will lead to a great treasure.
It is not contagious, only slightly annoying.
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
1 hour ago