Those Places Where Maps Cannot Touch
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These are the sacred places. The places we can be free. Though the Jailors' sight feels infinite, nobody can see forever. These are their blind spots, where we can finally live our lives without fear of being captured and imprisoned. The hidden places, on the edge of worlds. The places where maps cannot touch.

The first city to change was Othrunda, and the first part of that was the center garden. A caretaker had woken up one day and found the wild vines and branches converted to smooth marble. The stone spread slowly in the beginning, creeping along the streets and alleys, ensnaring buildings, pets, and people. When the rest of the world took notice, the city had already been completely changed, and the stone was spreading beyond.

The ruler's empire fell slowly but surely. Desreda, Illiut, Porstorix, each land was consumed and absorbed by the pox. All the magic and power at his disposal wasn't enough to stop its advance. It advanced without halt to every corner of his world, save for one. His castle remained untouched, until now. Every one of his kingdoms has been destroyed. The marble is encircling his fortress. He cannot sleep because of the sound of it cracking the earth. He cannot protect himself. He can only drink his wine, and wait for the stone to come.

On another Earth, beneath the cities and garbage and pollution and violence and waste, God sleeps. Eventually He will wake. One day He will emerge from the ground and purge the world of those who have corrupted its beauty. The sky will come alive and devour the steel that infects it. The oceans will overflow. Humanity will beg for forgiveness.

Until then, he sleeps. But the sleep of God is not to be taken lightly. It warps and changes the world around it. The differences are minute, but they are there. A man walking to work goes down the same street endlessly. A bluejay sitting on a fence splits, amoeba-like, into two birds. Then those birds split, until the entire fence and yards is covered with a chirping, multiplying blue swarm. Children come to school and find a dead angel teaching their class. A dog envisions a flying machine, and its masters wake to discover it building an ornithopter.

God turns over in his place of rest and continues to dream.

Far beyond, there is a great ocean. Some would say it is the greatest ocean- vast and powerful and churning, long ago having eroded any land in its path. Its depths are vast and uncharted. The horrors that lurk inside are unknown to the simple people who live on the surface in their floating boat-cities. They live peaceful lives above the waves, farming the grass and plants that grow there and catching the animals unlucky enough to come near.

One day, a shadow appears under the boat. The people are entranced by it. Many come to the edges of their boats to stare and wonder what great beast could create such a thing. It stays for many moons, following the boats as they drift through the sea. The novelty of it soon runs out, and the boat-people resume their simple lives. And when they do, the shadow moves.

It begins with a noise. A great howling noise, like wind through a massive tunnel. The water rises. The boats are lifted up by the swell. A massive hand rushes upward from the sea, grabbing them, then sinks back below the waves, taking the boat-people with it. The ocean is still again.

A thousand universes away, there exists a garden. Nobody knows how long it has existed, or if there ever was a point in time when it didn't. A few more people than nobody know that it exists at all. It floats through space, undisturbed and peaceful.

A rocket approaches it. On the rocket is a man, the last survivor of a humanity that has destroyed itself. Like the garden, nobody knows how long he has been floating through the emptiness, only that it has been a long, long time. It drifts, slowly, into the garden, and lands between the flowers. A light goes on inside. A door opens inside. The man stumbles out. He takes in his surroundings with tired eyes- the beautiful blue and red and yellow flowers, the animals crawling through the foliage, the insects that hum through the air. He pushes his way through the bushes, the thorns that scratch against his face, steps over a thin brook, bubbling and full of fish, and finds himself in a clearing. In the center of it is a tall gray statue of a man. The statue is covered in moss and crawling animals, and as he looks upon it, he knows that he'll be happy here.

Far away, so many miles that it would be impossible to measure, there is a great machine. It was built in the distant past, by a race that it has long since destroyed, for purposes that nobody remembers. The planet that it rests on is dead, existing only as fuel for its belly-fire. It is being eroded slowly by the massive gears and scoops. Every day, a great claw will extend from the metal and take a large scoop of earth. No one knows what happens to the taken earth, and few want to, but at the end of the day, the great machine will shudder, and emit a thick belch of smoke. Sometimes, there will be other things. Once a man emerged from the machine. He took a few shaky steps onto the surface of the planet before collapsing, dead. Another time a second, smaller machine flew out, and disappeared into the sky. Most recently, a steel bird flapped out, and now circles the machine, screaming.

In a many years the planet will collapse. What the machine will do then, no one knows. Perhaps it will find another world to fuel its existence. Perhaps it will collapse back into scrap. But until then, it will continue to consume earth and spew smoke.

In a distant time and place, there exists a theater. Once it was a lively place, attended by people from every corner of the world. Kings and queens, lords and merchants, criminals and beggars. The performances were spectacular, unmatched by those in any other theater that has ever or will ever exist. Many thought it would exist forever. Sadly, it did not.

Now, the halls and stages are empty, home only to memories. The props are dusty and worn. The costumes are ripped. The lights are broken. A small, round thing floats through the air. It whirs as it flies, powered by stray atoms it scoops from the air and converts to fuel. It is here to observe the lost theater. Who sent it, it cannot remember. If it could remember, it probably wouldn't care. What matters is the data: pictures, measurements, and samples that it will collect.

A noise from the right grabs its attention. Floating into the offending room, it sees something unexpected- a woman, climbing onto the broken stages. She stands motionless for a moment, with her eyes closed. Then she looks straight at the machine. A smile comes to her lips. From a source the machine cannot identify, music starts to play. The woman holds her arms in front of her, takes a step forward, and begins to dance.

Close to all of these, and also very far away, exists a Library. In the library there is a man. The man is sitting at a desk, with two books and a pen. One of them is small, and full of words. The other is large, and empty. He treats both with care as he turns through their pages. Every so often, he will lean in close to the small book. Then he will take his pen, dip it in the inkwell, and write a word in the large book. The word then disappears, absorbed into the pages, and he continues to read. Sometimes a patron will pass and ask what he's doing, but he'll ignore them. There is no reason to stop for fools. This is his life's work, and soon it will be complete. Soon, the world will know his name.

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