Quest For Atlantis: Fragments and Maps (Prologue)

From the journal of Celeste Kavanaugh

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Prologue: Fragments and Maps

Imagine for a moment that you were me. Imagine that you walked into the bookshop, heart full of hope and mind full of doubt. You knew this will probably be another in a long line of disappointments. Another wasted journey.

You spoke to the man at the counter and he directs you into the back. You looked over those shelves, knowing you won’t find it…

There it was. You could see the corner of the folded yellowed parchment sticking out of the torn lining of the battered book.

This was it. The thing you’d searched for for so long. The thing that had consumed your every waking thought, had dominated your mind. The thing that had almost driven you to madness. The thing that had ruined your life as you pushed everything, everyone, away in pursuit of your obsession.

And now…

Now you could just reach out and take it, folded up so nicely in the old book. It almost seemed to glow.

For a moment, you held back. What if after all this searching, there was nothing?

But you knew there was only one way to find out. You stretched out your hand and pick up the battered book, running your fingers along the ancient spine.

It’s just lain here in this dusty bookshop for fifty years. Nobody had any idea what it was. Just an odd little volume with a loose page tucked inside.

Carefully, you opened the cover and saw the words that make your heart leap.

Property of Sir Jonathon Kavanaugh.

This was his book. His last secret.

You pull out the parchment, pushed up against the spine. The map.

Tears stream down your face as you read the word at the top of the page, sprawled in black ink.

Atlantis.

***

When people are gone, all we have left are the fragments. The things they left behind, the memories we have, the stories they told.

That was the way it was with my grandfather. Sir Jonathon Kavanaugh. In Africa, they called him Thunder because of the roar of his gun. Most of the museums in London owe their collections to him: little pieces he collected, taken from around the world.

I can barely remember him now. It’s only through the stories, through the artefacts, that I feel close to him.

There was one memory, when my parents brought me back from India for a visit. His house was old and creaking, full of relics and shadows. The walls were hung with the heads of big game. Swords and guns glistened behind glass. Everything was piled up with dust.

And there he was, sitting in an armchair. He was ancient, his skin wrinkled as an elephant – we had a lot of those in India – and his mustache white as snow – which we didn’t have. He peered at me through his glasses and smiled.

“Hello, Celeste,” he’d said, “I’m your grandfather.”

He’d taken me around the house, leaning on an old walking stick, and told me all his stories. I listened to every word and I knew that when I was older, I wanted nothing more than to be like him – not a proper lady like mother and father wanted me to be, but a digger and a fighter. I wanted to be in the trenches and the jungles.

I can remember bits of that day, but he’s fading. When I picture him, I’m not picturing what I saw. I’m picturing the photograph from the museum. And his voice… I can’t hear it at all. I can’t even remember if he sounded Irish or English.

This is what happens when someone dies. You lose them, piece-by-piece, and you struggle to hold onto what’s left.

I remember the one thing in the house he wouldn’t talk about – the map and journal I found in a library, tucked in a drawer.

“Leave those be, Celeste,” he said. He suddenly sounded so old. “Leave them be.”

I did as he said, but I remembered the word at the top of the map: Atlantis.

Years passed. I grew up, in the heat of the sun and the revolution. And my grandfather died. I wasn’t there. I was a continent away, at the edge of a crumbling empire.

The empire fell and we came home: mother, father, me. We came to an England that was changed, an England broken by bombs and fire. When you walked the streets of devastated London, when you tasted the rationed food, when you listened to the radio, you knew that this was a world that had left us behind. No more empire. No more adventurers. It was a world of harsh realities.

I searched endlessly through grandfather’s thing, looking for that map and that journal. I never found either. It seemed that his books had been sold by my father – a piece of paper signed a continent away dispersing an entire library across the country.

It had to be in one of those books. Everyone told me it was nonsense, the imagination of a child, but I knew it was more. It had to be more.

And then I found it, in some tiny, cramped bookshop. His map, shoved unceremoniously into an encyclopedia. I had the map. My legacy.

Getting the money wasn’t that difficult. Father had passed away as well, not long after we returned. His money had come to me – thousands of pounds at my disposal.

I told Mother what I’d found and where I was going. She shook her head.

“Find a husband,” she said, clasping my brown hand in hers. “Have children. Be happy. Leave this madness to someone else.”

I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.

I was – I am – Celeste Kavanagh. Nobody told me what to do.

I didn’t know then what lay ahead. Perhaps if I had…

But there is no use dwelling on “perhaps.”

***

I had waited years for this day: a childhood spent hoping, six years of searching, an agonizing nine months of planning. I felt as if I were being stretched upon the rack by some Elizabethan torturer. Each day had seemed to last forever.

Here it was at last. The day we began.

I put a hand on the side of the plane. It seemed so surreal to think that at last we would be underway: first to Greece and then…

Then there. Following the faded map in the old book.

“You ready, Miss Kavanaugh?”

I looked up to see my pilot – Arthur Caine – sitting in the cockpit, flight jacket on, goggles sitting over his thick mustache. That was when it really hit me. This was actually happening.

So rather than saying something fittingly noble and heroic to mark the occasion, I simply muttered a meek “Uh-huh,” nodded, and climbed into the plane as if in a daydream.

The sound of the propeller filled my ears as we started down the runway, speeding past green fields. In a moment we were soaring over houses that seemed like scale models.

We were on our way.

And Atlantis was waiting.

To be continued…

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