Charles Voortrekker had lived his entire life in the small towns of the Alberta-Saskatchewan-Montana border; few could recall any family members (and even then it was a dim recollection at best) and he was known to react violently to intruders and any suggestion that he leave his hometown. Needless to say, the man’s sudden appearance–famished and sunburned–to the crew of a survey station on remote Kerguelen Island in the southern Indian Ocean was a cause for some puzzlement to many, Smithson most of all.

As Smithson delved deeper into the records, similar cases emerged. A gentleman who lived in and refused to leave the village of Gatteville-le-Phare, near Cherbourg in France, who was known to disappear for months at a time. Rescued by a New Zealand navy cruiser from a castaway hut on the desolate Antipode Islands; died before he could give an account of how he came to be there.

A Vietnamese woman who refused to travel inland or to visit relatives in America vanished, only for her body to be found in the Peruvian Andes.

A Hawaiian man who reacted violently when family tried to convince him to move off the Big Island. Vanished, only for some of his personal effects to turn up in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

The only thing they had in common? They were all antipodal points, on opposite sides of the globe.

The Range Rover was an official vehicle of the Botswana government, and had felt more than its share of shimmering waves of heat, broken by the occasional cloudburst or rondo of dust. The bright chrome “RANGE ROVER” letters on the tailgate had grown broken and pitted; letters and parts of letters had been shorn away, leaving the proud veteran labeled a “HANG OVER.”

Karibu noted this with some bemusement as the vehicle pulled up to the Francistown hostel where she’d crashed. After all, if it hadn’t been for last night’s revelry at Tsepo’s Bar and Grill, she never would have met the British survey crew that had agreed to give her a lift into the African sandveld.

Their leader, a wiry man named Nigel, threw Karibu’s faded knapsack in the expedition’s trailer and seated her in the Rover’s cabin between two members of his crew. The air reeked of sweat and old cigarette smoke.

The Rover had been bouncing along for twenty minutes, the concrete Francistown giving way to brown grass and acacia, when Nigel turned to Karibu and offered up a toothy smile. “Apologies, love,” he said, “but my boys didn’t give me your name when they told me we’d be giving you a lift to Shinamba.”