Ahead, a thin strip of white stood stark against the brown of the peat bogs and the gray-black asphalt of the road.
Aisling stopped walking and looked all around. “The conversation distracted me,” she said. “We should be back by now. This is the road out of town, not the road back to the hostel. We’re at the edge of town. Beyond that sign is just the rest of the world.”
Jay walked up to the sign. Down the post from the top, brown-black letters spelled “CLIFDEN.” Time and weather had cracked and dulled the post’s white paint, but light seemed to intensify as it reflected off the surface. Nailed all over the post, the arrowed ends of white boards showed the way to the parts of the world they pointed to:
New York, USA. 4,881 km/3,033 miles
Cairo, Egypt. 4,214 km/2,618 miles
Dublin, Ireland. 251 km/156 miles
Agamuskara, India. 8,225 km/5,111 miles
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. 13,136 km/8,163 miles
Sydney, Australia. 17,375 km/10,796 miles
Bangkok, Thailand. 10,094 km/6,272 miles
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“Tier-nuh-nog?” Jay asked.
“It’s said to be the Land of the Young,” Aisling replied. “The land of everlasting youth and life. A sort of heaven. Stories say it’s an island far to the west of Ireland.”
“So why does the sign say we’re right on it?”
“Some might say this used to be it. But the wise would say that heaven is right where you are standing.”
“I helped put up the sign when I was a girl,” Aisling said. “My grandmother brought in this man, and they did most of the work. He was dressed all in black, and there was something about his face. It’s like he could have been from anywhere.” Her mind went back all those years. “He and Grandmother said the sign would be a nice way to remind everyone how much world there is and how, of course, Ireland is at the center of it all.” She didn’t mention the rest—how when they were done, the man had touched her shoulders and locked the gaze of his brown-black eyes on hers. “You will be magnificent,” he said. “And one day, you will see me again.”
“The Celtic Meridian?” Jay asked, pulling her back to the present.
“Precisely,” Aisling said. “That’s actually what we call it.” She frowned. “Funny, though. I don’t remember some of these. Agamuskara, India?” She glanced at Jay, then back to the sign. “Never heard of it.”
If he had heard her voice shake, he didn’t show it.
At the time, Aisling thought, I figured it would be a simple sign that showed Clifden’s distance to other major cities, though I never understood then why anyone would ever think of Clifden as a major city. There was nothing important about Clifden, I believed at the time. Grandmother had just smiled at me when I told her this. Said that perhaps someday I’d see my home differently.
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