art by Melissa Mead
Nova Verba, Mundus Novus
by Ken Liu
After one hundred and eighty-four days, the Sesquipedalian reached the end of the world.
The Atlantean Ocean poured over the edge in a magnificent waterfall. Scales on the tumbling fish reflected the setting sun like liquefied gold. The crew, awed, fell silent. Only the panicked squeaking of dolphins plunging into the abyss could be heard.
"The world is indeed flat," said Doctor Denham. "Captain, you have earned your place in history."
Captain Baffin nodded almost imperceptibly.
Everyone held their breath as the caravel drifted closer to the edge.
"Launch the aerostat," said Baffin. "This is merely a turn in the path. Plus ultra. We must go on, no matter where it takes us."
For a moment, as half the ship hung over the precipice, the crew, clinging to the rigging for dear life, thought the keel might break.
But then the aerostat, a billowing tent of waxed silk many times the size of the ship, puffed up with hot air from the flaming drums placed all over the deck. Tethered to the aerostat, the ship became airborne and began to slowly descend over the edge of the world.