The old house sat on top of the hill, looking down on the valley below. The fading light threw twisting shadows over chipped, cream-colored paint. The roof had long since caved in and the walls leaned haphazardly, but it held firm when I stepped inside. Switching on my flashlight, I swept the beam around the ground floor. Most of the interior walls had crumbled, making one big space. It was empty of anything valuable, gutted by a combination of vandals and weather. The charred remains of a fireplace were set into the far wall, and a single cracked window looked out over the setting sun. A rotting staircase blocked by rubble led up to the ruined second floor. I dropped my bag into a corner and knelt, pulling out the slim guide book and leafing through it.
I stopped at Egypt's page. A black X marred it, drawn so viciously it almost tore through the flimsy paper. That was where we'd been separated. Things had started to fall apart there. I couldn't go back. I flipped a few more pages and found a small pastel-colored village somewhere in Italy. A red pen had scrawled this was a terrible idea across the top. The next few pages were waterlogged and unreadable. A gap of missing pages followed it. We'd ripped out chunks of the book and burned them somewhere in the Andes. I flipped through the pages faster, looking for an unmarked page. Looking for somewhere I could go. Turkey flashed past, with an illegible paragraph circled. I grinned despite myself. Istanbul had been fun. New Zealand was next. There was one restaurant there that was just amazing, but we'd gotten stuck in that place once before and I wasn't keen to do it again. Someone had crossed out Spain with a Sharpie. Poland's page was charred, with most of the maps burned away completely. I was nearing the end of the book. Greece had been beautiful, but it wouldn't work for what I had in mind. Finally, I found what I was looking for. One last page. One last chance. I dog-eared it and unrolled my sleeping bag on the dirt covered floor. As I settled down, I tried to make a plan. Somehow, someway, I had to get from an abandoned farmhouse in eastern Canada to a far-flung and impossibly distant island off the coast of Australia. Maybe this time, just this time, it would be easy. But probably not.