This Map Will Change

Gabrielle Griffis

Audrey made a map of all the apple trees in the neighboring coastal towns. Scouting apple trees had become a pastime of hers over the years, and she had become an expert at identification. Her eyes selectively attuned to see and distinguish ovate leaves, spring blossoms.

Oak and scrub pine grew from sandy soil after being deforested. Away from the shore, the soil was richer. Cedar, juniper, and holly grew evergreen, while maple, cherry, and beech dropped their leaves in autumn. Birch and hickory were rare, wild apples even rarer.

Old trees grew along historic roads. They were thicker and taller. Their presence possessed a solemnity younger trees lacked. Perennial seasons of birth and death etched into their bark. In winter, great horned owls perched in their branches. Voles made homes among their roots.

Fruit trees rarely got so large, or old. They were impermanent, like most vegetation, vulnerable to disease, susceptible to shifting temperatures and conditions. Overwhelmed by competitors, the soft soil was a carpet of mutable green.

Audrey knew the map wouldn’t be useful forever: over time, trees would wither, some would grow in their place. An apple tree’s life expectancy was anywhere from fifty to a hundred years. Mature, fruit bearing trees emerged as their elders died. Seeds would migrate. Descendant fruit quality was subject to change: sweeter, softer, more sour, unpredictable and unreliable as a child’s characteristics.

Still, the map was useful to her. Knowing where apple trees were made her feel more oriented, as if she had a true treasure. One could make a map of many things: electrical lines, water pipes, railroad tracks. Audrey tried to make a map of herself because she didn’t know where she was going.

She drew her thoughts like roads.

Her friend said apple trees were evidence of ghosts.

She walked a gnarled path, tracing wind patterns along twisted trunks.

Seeds carried through the guts of birds.

Everything changed before she turned around. The tide went out. Summer came and went. The moon spun around her. It was drifting away, so she laid down, and thought about waves crashing into her, how a stone in the sky made seeds swell with moisture. How she felt like a chunk of rock that fell too hard into something.

Her friend said you could graft a hundred types of apple into one tree. Their thoughts fused like branches. She tried to figure out which limbs belonged to her, and realized she needed a diagram. She didn’t know how she worked or where she was.

In her diagram she had a trash bin full of masks. She had no interest in performing for anyone. She traced her chest in black and blue, her throat choked red.

Left alone, she could walk in circles for days.  Until something scared her out of her comfortable, numbing scenery. She walked backwards and pretended it was a different path. She put a microscope to details and forgot about everything, except familiar thoughts. They made the world simple and safe.

Along a haunted, narrow road, she watched houses emerge from the sand. Birds and deer ate the small acidic apples at the edge of a graveyard. She read names etched in granite: mother, father, baby. Shadows fell on epitaphs. She sat on a tombstone, and wondered if there was an algorithm for figuring out if she was a passive person.

She made a checklist in her head.

Makes maps.

Seeks out apple treasure.

Basically a pirate for taking food otherwise enjoyed by wildlife.

Sunlight edged along the clouds. Audrey tried to sort conscious and unconscious decisions, but it was impossible, so she went to a party dressed as a skeleton. She looked for her friend, but he wasn’t there, so she drank beer and sat on a couch with a guy who claimed to be an architect. One could never know about these guys. The skin under his eyes looked puffy, like he was medicating himself from reality. They talked about bone caves, ancient humans, how fossil oddities told stories. She said her fossil would be full of arsenic.

Smoke filled the room. People wearing fur and horns stood outside, dancing beneath a crescent moon. Laughter floated from the darkness. So often, people appeared out of nowhere, like subliminal thoughts, or saplings beneath the leaf litter. Usually her mind ignored them, but sometimes they got her attention.  Her vision would expand to see some kind of specter, maybe an architect, who built homes to trap bored housewives.

They walked to the ocean. Acid burning all the sea life, casualties of human error. Images of dolphins succumbing to flesh rotting disease stained her retinas. Audrey told the architect about her map. How she heard paradise was a sort of orchard, instead of something random and ruined like a second growth forest. The word was rooted in an apple grove. Stories of sages entering paradise lost their minds, killed the trees, or perished. Except one sage, who made it out alive. 

They theorized why the fourth sage lived. Surmising it was because they figured out the puzzle, like a rat in a maze, something about free will, luck, decay, the corpses people carried around as bodies. 

Sometimes she felt so dead, an antidote to the terror that lay dormant in her veins. Her life, being composed of such dull moments, she found herself attracted to the panic, if only to disrupt the illusion that everything was okay.


Gabrielle Griffis is a musician, writer, and multimedia artist. She works as a librarian on Cape Cod. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Wigleaf, Split Lip, Monkeybicycle, XRAY, NecessaryFiction, Gone Lawn, Matchbook, and elsewhere. You can visit her website at or follow her at @ggriffiss