I first heard about the Museum of Lost Geographies from my cousin, Noah. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but he had come into town for my father’s funeral, and we were both eager to get caught up on each other’s lives. At first, we merely talked about jobs we’d had, places we’d travelled, relationships we’d been in since we last saw each other. Soon, though, we fell to talking about obscure bits of information and half-remembered stories we’d heard, just as we’d done when we were both much younger. Although now we drank beer while we talked.
“I was meeting a client in Chicago a few weeks ago,” he told me. “One of those guys who had hit it big during the Dot Com Boom then lost it all when the bubble burst. Some of those people had just gone for whatever corporate jobs they could find. Others had picked themselves up and rebuilt themselves, finding new ways to be entrepreneurs. But this guy was one of those who just lost it all. His spirit had been broken. He was the IT manager for a school system in the Chicago ‘burbs, but his heart wasn’t in it at all. We were meeting to discuss some software I was developing for the schools, but he didn’t even really care. When we met, he seemed to be barely paying attention to what I was saying. His eyes were constantly distracted and far away.”
“Probably just bored with his job,” I said. “I know a lot of people like that. I’ve been someone like that. I can sympathize.”
“No, he wasn’t just bored with the job,” Noah countered, “he was bored with life. At the same time, he was looking for something to make him interested again. He was looking for that spark, you know?”
I shuddered and shook my head. “Being around people like that depresses me.”
Noah nodded. “Sure. But this was a job, so…” He took a swig of beer, then continued, “Anyway, I’m explaining to him how long it will take to install the software the first time, when he interrupts me and asks me if I’ve ever been to the Museum of Lost Geographies.”
“The what?” I asked.
“The Museum of Lost Geographies.”
“Never heard of it. Is that a real place?”
“That’s what I wondered,” Noah said. “I’d never heard of it either. And it was odd how he just brought it up out of the blue. Broke my train of thought. Derailed it completely. So I asked him where the museum was, and he said–and this was really damn weird–he said, ‘It was in a dream I had the other night.'”
“Wait, what? He said it was in a dream?”
“Yeah. I asked him how I could have ever been there if it was in his dream.”
“Well, sure,” I said. “I mean…what the hell?”
“I know!” Noah took another sip of beer. “And get this, he said I’d been in his dream.”
Noah nodded and smiled. “Right? Like my appearance in his dream meant I had actually been there. I didn’t know what to say.”
“Really damn weird,” Noah said.
And I said, “Yeah.”
A couple of weeks later, I had mostly forgotten Noah’s story. I was working at the library reference desk one day when an older woman, in her 80s I would have guessed, shuffled up to the desk, her legs stiff and awkward, and she asked me in a strange, faraway voice, “Do you have any maps for the Museum of Lost Geographies?”
“Excuse me?” I said. I was hit by a wave of dizziness. I could feel a thin film of sweat break out on my forehead, but I tried to keep my composure. “Did you say…the Museum of Lost Geographies?”
“Oh yes,” she said. Her eyes wandered around the room, refusing to look directly at me. “I know it seems silly to ask for a map to that place, but I can’t seem to find it again. I’ve lost my way, I suppose you could say.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I’ve never heard of…that place. I’m not even sure where I’d look to find out more about it.”
“Really?” She broke into a crooked, sleepy smile. “When I dreamed about it last week, you were there with me. I assumed you would know how to find it. Or at least how to find the way to get back there.”
“I was in your dream? Have we…” I looked down at my hands. They were starting to shake slightly. I looked back up at her. “Have we met before?”
“Of course!” she said. “We met in my dream. In the museum.”
I shook my head. “No, I mean, have we met before this…this dream of yours?”
“Oh no,” she said. “We met at the museum. Like I said.”
“But I’ve never been to this museum. I don’t even know what it is!”
“Of course you’ve been there,” she said, patting my shaking hand like she pitied my feeblemindedness. “You were there in my dream.”
“That was just a dream!”
“No one ‘just dreams’ about the Museum of Lost Geographies,” she said. “You’ll see.” She nodded, turned, and walked away, leaving me standing at the desk in a daze.
“Okay,” I said to myself, probably louder than I should have, “that was really damn weird.”