I knew the map that fell out of my granddad’s diary was something special the moment I saw it. It had his initials in the lower right corner, E.S for Everett Stewart.
My mom’s a Stewart, my dad’s a Dickerson. Our photo albums are full of old black and whites going back to Everett Stewart as a kid. Most of the ones with grandma and grandpa together were taken under the same maple tree where he proposed, and you could see it growing larger through the years.
The thing on the map that caught my eye was the saucer-shaped picture drawn right next to an unnaturally skinny figure with a disproportional head—much like the gray aliens reported in abductions all over the world. I also recognized a few landmarks he’d marked the dotted-line path with. What really fascinated me, though, were the words across the top. ‘Follow for something out of this world.’
I ran over to Damien’s house and pulled him out of a Battleship game with his sister to show him.
“What do you think? Is it legit?”
“I don’t know,” said Damien. “Out of this world can just mean ‘great’ or ‘fun,’ and this saucer thing could be anything, a pill, a ring, or a Bundt cake for all we know.”
“Yeah, but granddad was in the Air Force—he could’ve been involved in anything. Maybe he’s been to Area 51.”
Damien shook his head gravely. “All right. Let’s check it out.”
We called Howard and Al to meet them at Newman’s Convenient Store. The trail on the map started at Newman’s Soda Fountain, but I knew from my dad it changed its name before I was born.
We found the next few landmarks along the dotted trail, an arch in front of the Quakers’ graveyard, Bowleg Creek’s bend, and the old abandoned chapel, but it got harder after that. We eventually found them, but as we got to the end, passing through what turned out to be Main Street Park and dodging a bunch of kids with Supersoakers to get to the bolder that marked the tree at the end of the trail, several men in suits and sunglasses walked around the park, eating sandwiches and poking around.
“Feds,” said Al.
“No mistaking,” said Howard.
“We need to distract them,” I said.
“Leave it to me,” said Damien. He ran back to the kids with the Supersoakers and borrowed a couple, making a B-line for the feds.
We left the yelling behind, found the boulder right next to the maple tree on the map. There was a heart carved on the tree, but a very old one. The letter E was barely visible, but the rest of it had grown into a blur.
I don’t know what we expected, but with the feds around, there had to be something, right? We searched the area and waited to see if anything came up, but we didn’t find a thing. Perhaps there’s a secret entrance to a bunker we couldn’t find. Perhaps the aliens have invisibility shields. Maybe by beating the feds there we scared them off.
All we know for sure is that we followed a map true, and found ourselves at its end, nothing to mark the spot but an old carved heart. A mystery for the ages. At the bottom of page for case number twenty-four I wrote in big block letters—‘unsolved.’