As the floating mountain-castle appeared, so did the land-killing desert grow.
Their deserts had joined and were now expanding toward their coasts across the rest of China, making most all the inhabitants of that once great land into nomadic refugees.
Refugees that no nation-state would accept.
After a series of plagues started here and swept the world, the borders to neighboring countries were permanently closed. Who could blame them?
All that was left of that people’s government was on top of a very large, floating rock.
By camel, it took weeks of crossing a dead desert to come to the dead, floating city that created it. And now we sat there, resting on our camels, in our hot caftans and turbans, halted in the thin shade of the immense mountain of rock floating above us.
The only entrance was by invitation. No mere magic worked here.
Lucky we had someone older than Earth itself to give us that invite.
Whether the persons up there agreed or not…
“Remind me, Sal, why we are here again?”
Above us floated a massive mountain of rock, which was showering us at every small breeze with tiny stones and sand dust.
Taking shelter in it’s thin shade for some relief from the moderate heat of the endless Gobi desert on all sides, it made for a very uncomfortable position. Even though the desert was cool compared to the Sahara and others, sweat was still a given at this time of day. Along with the sandpaper bath.
Sal just sat there on her own camel, dressed in her light brown caftan and matching turban, smiling at me like I’d just cracked a joke at my own expense.
“John, how many times can I say you’re cute?’
“If I tell you, will it get us on top of that big piece of rock – so we can start talking to the ghosts in charge of this mess?”
She shook her head no. “Sorry, John. We’re just waiting for someone to give us an invitation.”
I shrugged. “Someone we know, I hope?”
The sand rumbled beneath our feet, and the camels got fidgety. I was used to writing books, walking pastures, tending quiet cattle on foot. Even my riding horses was a long time ago. But the past few days had gotten me used to these long-legged desert-beasts. Or so I thought. For me, a nervous camel just meant one thing: hang on for dear life.
Right at that thought, a sand devil spun up between the two of us. At that, the camels calmed – not what I expected their reaction to be.
A female figure emerged as the whirling sand died away. Long and flowing coal black hair with silver highlights framed a smiling face shining out above her timeless and young body – dressed today in a tan silk blouse tucked into British horse-cavalry pants and tall, brown leather boots. As if she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine for desert tourists.
“Hi-ya John, Sal. Need a lift?”
Gaia. Earth goddess. One who loved a good entrance.
With a cluck and a nudge, the camels kneeled so we could join her on the sandy surface. Where she stood was more solid rock than sand.
She came forward to hug me, and then Sal. “You two are such a fine sight.”
Sal put her at arm’s length. “And take a look at you, Gaia – just as gorgeous as ever.”
Gaia chuckled. “I see that time you’ve been spending with John has left you with a nice little glow.”
Sal’s eyes twinkled when she glanced at me. “Well, having John all to myself does have its advantages.”
Gaia just shook her head and put a pout on her lower lip. “Don’t remind me about how the world’s goddesses and female spirit guides are all the poorer for your monopolizing him.” Her twinkling eyes gave the tease away.
They hugged again, smiling and chuckling.
With a breeze, I felt more rock and sand hitting my turbaned head. “Ladies, if you’re ready to continue this conversation at a higher elevation…”
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