Throughout the Atarashia gazetteer, you will find extracts from Victoria Johnson’s journal. She claimed to be a “Victorian adventuress”, born into a wealthy family in England in 1837. In her early 30s she became an explorer, in the mould of David Livingstone, or Henry Morton Stanley. She disappeared in Africa around 1870, and was presumed dead, although her body was never found. Her journal was recovered, however, and it is this document that provides the main account of the strange land known as Atarashia.
Little else is known about Victoria, and no portraits or photographs of her exist. However, contemporary accounts describe her as a formidable lady, both in personality and physical presence, which no doubt explains her success in the exploration and subsequent description of Atarashia. The information you will find in the Atarashia gazetteer has been extracted and summarised from Victoria’s journal, although I have included several passages that are simply transcribed, in order to better illustrate her experiences.
Arrival in Atarashia
Whilst out alone in my small boat, on a lake fed via a tributary from the mighty Nile, a strange fog descended upon the waters. I thought it best to row straight to shore, but I must have become turned around, as the journey back took much longer than the one out. As I dragged the boat ashore, I looked about me, but the fog was so dense that I could barely see my hand in front of my face. There was an eerie silence to the mist, with only a constant dripping noise coming from the lake. I admit that I felt slightly unnerved, and so unpacked my express rifle from the boat, a fortunate act that no doubt saved my life.
As I checked the rifle, and wondered what I should do next, a sudden noise caused me to look up, just as the strangest little fellow ran out of the murk and straight into me. The little man fell to the ground, and I at first took him for a native in a colourful headdress, but as he struggled to his feet, I noticed his skin was pale, his ears were abnormally long and pointed, and what I had thought were feathers was actually his brightly-coloured hair. “Hullo there!” I started to say, when another man, this one much larger, came at me from the fog, swinging a weapon. I use the word “man”, but this brute barely qualified for the term. His forehead was low and sloping, his nose was upturned like a swine, his great jaw projected forwards alarmingly. In the diffuse light of the fog, his skin appeared to have a greenish cast to it. In short, he seemed the most savage specimen of homo sapiens that I had heretofore encountered.
I took a step backwards and raised my rifle, but the ferocious brute continued his charge and I was forced to fire. As luck would have it, the bullet took him clean through the heart and he fell forwards with a blood-curdling cry that seemed muted in the blanket of mist. The little fellow scrambled to his feet and began talking nineteen to the dozen in a native tongue I did not recognise. I have studied many of the languages in that part of Africa, and his speech resembled none of them. That fact, combined with his wild appearance, led me to believe that I had discovered a previously unknown tribe. When I did not respond, he tried again in another language, clearly different from the first, but also unfamiliar to me. Seeing that I still did not understand him, he grabbed hold of my sleeve and attempted to lead me off into the miasma. I took a moment to gather some ammunition, water and other supplies, and to make sure the boat was secure, then allowed myself to be led off. You may think this rather strange behaviour, and somewhat rash on my part. I confess that the thrill of discovering an unknown tribe was combined in equal measure with a certain trepidation in being left alone in the bleakness of the mist…