The map

Alexei spread out the map on the boxcar floor. It looked to be part black ink, part charcoal, with hatchings and smudgings and punctuated arrows. But in the centre, right in the centre of that tattered old parchment, was a blood red cross. He jammed his finger down on it. “This is where we’ll find it, right here!” His face twisted in surprised pain, and he fell back, eyes closed.

Sasha looked out at the mountains jagging snow upwards to the perfect sky, at the reflected clouds scudding across the crystal lake. Slowly, he screwed the parchment into a ball and threw it out of the door. It was gone.

That was the story my grandfather told me anyway, about his grandfather Sasha. And so here I am, spending my life on the Khabarovsk line, looking out over the taiga for that tattered piece of parchment that will change my life.

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