Johnson’s Journal – Extract 2

Amongst the Gnomes

I have spent three weeks now amongst the gnomes, as these people call themselves. Haljit, the fellow I met in the mist, took me back to their encampment. Perhaps thirty of these colourful folks were huddled around a campfire, encircled by several wooden caravans, similar in style to Gypsy wagons. I was introduced to his tribe in general, and in particular to an elderly lady who appeared to be the matriarch of the clan. She attempted to address me in the same tongue as Haljit, with the same lack of success. I, in turn, greeted her in English, but met with similar failure.

A sudden notion took me, and I produced a string of Venetian millefiori beads from my knapsack and offered it to her as a gift. She took the necklace, and smiled widely, holding it up in the light, turning it this way and that. Then she took out a small clay model from a pouch at her waist. It seemed to be a pyramid or ziggurat and, at first, I thought it was meant as a gift for me. However, instead of offering the model to me, she began to chant in a completely different language. To my astonishment, the clay pyramid dissolved into a cloud of dust. She then reached forward and took my hand. I felt a tingling sensation run up my arm, and into my ears and throat. She spoke again and, although I heard the same language as before, inside my head I clearly understood the words, as if they had been spoken in English: “Welcome, human. My name is Keshjit. You saved my son from the orc, and you have my thanks. You will always find a safe place at our fire.”

For a moment, I was so completely astounded, that speech failed me altogether. Keshjit waited patiently, yet expectantly. Eventually my faculties returned to some semblance of normality, and I replied to her, “You are most welcome, I thank you for your kindness.” Although I formed the words in English in my mind, when I spoke, the language was the same as Keshjit had used. I have always thought of myself as a rational person, and I have previously denounced the practice of spiritualism that is currently popular amongst many of my peers. However, when faced with empirical evidence of the supernatural, one must perforce alter one’s views to accommodate this new information.

I had a thousand questions for Keshjit, but I began with one in the forefront of my mind, “Where am I? What is this place?” It was now clear to me that I was no longer in Africa. I half thought that I had died and passed over to the other side. Keshjit smiled widely again, and replied, “To answer that question, we must return to the very beginning. To the start of all things.” She sat up straighter, and spoke in a more formal tone, almost a chant.

“I have heard it said that, before all else came to pass, there was One Being. This being was consciousness, without content. Then a thought came: light and order and creation. And with it, another thought: darkness and freedom and destruction. And so, the One Being divided, whilst at the same remaining whole and untouched…”

Thus, Keshjit began my education as to the nature of Atarashia, the strange new world in which I now find myself. The fog lifted the very next morning, revealing a warm savannah, much as one might find in Africa. Haljit and I took a wagon to the nearby lake to retrieve my boat and other possessions. This, I discovered, was the Great Lake, and the gnomes had recently visited a town at the edge of the lake called Wesport. Now they were beginning a slow, circular tour of the savannah that would not see them return to the lake for several months.

The gnomes invited me to join them on their journey, and I readily agreed. Every day I asked Keshjit more questions, and the past three weeks have been a wild introduction to the history, religions, geography and politics of this diverse and wonderful land. I will do my best to faithfully record her teachings, so that any who read this journal might more easily understand, and indeed survive, in this remarkable but often hostile place.