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The Lost Caravan & The Golden City

The Lost Caravan & The Golden City

This is a Project Sanctuary story from 1998. That's quite a while back and at a time, when the central sanctuary had been fully established and all sorts of challenges and problems in the environment surrounding it had already been resolved.

So this story is about finding out more about the wider realms of this personal universe, and this flying mission, involving a desert with a poisoned oasis, a lost caravan and a Golden City, was quite a revelation ...

I just went for a little flight above the sanctuary cause there‘s nothing much better to do. I‘m not in the mood for company tonight, I feel like a bit of solitude to get my head together. So I head out west over the town of the people who used to be oppressed, lights on, looking snug in its valley at dusk. I fly due west some more into the night. Below is grassland and the odd tree, a river here and there, and here and there a hill but nothing very interesting.

Eventually, the landscape thins out and I find it turns to desert. The moon is rising and the desert is very beautiful. It calls me a little over towards the south west and I find an oasis. Its weird how they just sit in the middle of nowhere. I circle the oasis and it seems very empty, no people and so I put down a little way in the desert away from it. It is very still and quiet and looks both welcoming yet I have a disturbed feeling about the place. I‘m feeling quite paranoid by now but I approach the waterhole anyway, keep looking and listening but there seems no-one around. The waterhole looks romantic. I go closer and kneel to put my finger into the water, I test it and sniff it and there‘s definitely something very wrong with it. It‘s poisoned in some way, yet I‘m thinking it‘s not hurting the plants and there‘s no obvious sign of skeletons or anything around. The place gives me the creeps. I manifest a small glass and silver bottle and catch a bit of that water with a view to analyse it in some way. The feeling of creepiness gets worse and worse and I take straight off up into the starlit sky the instant I‘ve secured the top on the bottle and tucked it into my trouser pockets.

The night is cool and somehow cleansing and as soon as I‘ve got some distance between me and that place the creepy feeling recedes more and more until I feel myself again. I want to go home but it seems I‘m not done yet as I get drawn further into the heart of the desert towards the south west. After what seems a long time flying very high up and fast I spot a twinkling. Closing in on it, I recognise a camp fire of a caravan. I hover invisibly above to get a look at them.

There are about a dozen camels lying on the ground, two battered and dusty tents, and perhaps twenty people or so who look tired and careworn. They are very skinny and not really dressed like nomads, more like gypsies. They seem to have very little food and drink and no-one‘s talking, they‘re just sitting around and drooping. It occurs to me that they should be travelling now as surely it must be too hot in the daytime. As I hover a bit more closely, a child amongst the group looks straight up at me and points. He shouldn‘t be able to see me as I‘m invisible but he does, and all the others look but can‘t see me but start mumbling and making gestures in my general direction.

I decide to talk with them, uncloak and hover upright above the fire. There‘s multiple freaking and so I just hover there until they‘ve sorted themselves out, the ones who wanted to run had run, the ones who wanted to hide had hidden, and the boy and about five or so others remained, staring at me.

Good evening, I said.

Another two ran away at that point, but the boy just said back, very nicely. Good evening to you, desert demon.

I smile and hover myself down on the other side of the fire before replying, And I thought you were a desert demon.

The boy looks at me and shakes his head. The three older people - an old man, a woman and a young man - stare at me, clearly fearful. So I started again.
Hi. My name is Silvia. And who are you?

The boy replied automatically, My name is Sujosi. And that‘s my mother, uncle and grandfather over there, pointing in their general direction.

I smiled at him and sat down. Nice to meet you Sujosi, I said. You‘ve got a special talent, haven‘t you.

He nods serenely and declares, I have the sight.

I smile and nod as well. So you have. Tell me, what are you doing here?

The boy sighs and looks at his family, who are still rigid and staring.

I think we are lost. he says, sadly.

Where were you going?

The boy thinks and then his eyes light up and he says quickly, We were going to the golden city in the green and prosperous lands, but we‘ve been travelling for ages and we can‘t find it and now we‘re out of water and food for the camels.

I think it‘s time now for the grown ups to join the conversation and so I look directly at the older man and address him, Is this true, Sujosis grandfather? The old man swallows hard and the woman whispers something to him, but he shakes his head and forces himself to face me. It is true, he said, hesitantly. We are lost.

I motion them to sit by the fire and they do. From the shadows, I can feel the others stirring and creeping closer to try and listen. I smile to myself and quickly drop my head to hide it. Where‘s this golden city? I ask

The old man shakes his head and lifts his shoulders in a helpless gesture. We don‘t know. We were given - traded a map but it lead to nowhere. we searched and then our supplies ran low. We’re not going to make it back, even if we could go back.

So where did you come from?

He points southwest. We were gypsies in the homeland cities, he said and frowned.

I put my head to one side. It wasn‘t a good life for you?

He sighs and the others too shake their heads and sigh.

We were outcasts, the old man said.

No-one was ever allowed to play with me, Sujosi said, sadly.

Would you allow me to look at your map? I asked. I may be able to help in some way.

They exchange glances, and the young man sprints off and dissappears into the larger of the two tents. A camel makes a strange sound and everyone jumps a little.

The boy asks, What are you? Are you lost too?

I smile a bit sadly, In a way, I‘m lost too but not like you are. I am - that‘s a bit difficult to explain. I‘m a queen from the east, I suppose you could say.

The boy thought about that for a while and then said, Can all queens in the east fly and make themselves invisible?

I smile at that. I suppose so. I‘m the only queen I know.

The boy says, You don‘t look like a queen and I can‘t surpress a giggle.

So how many queens do you know Sujosi? I ask him

He considers this and then nods. I don‘t know any, he admits, but adds, I thought you would wear clothes of gold and a star on your head.

I laugh out loud. Clothes of gold would be very uncomfortable, especially when flying. And as to a star on your head, I only wear that if I‘m going to a party.

The boy nods, and then the young man is back, carrying a roll of some material. He stops and looks around. I come around the fire and gesture for him to give it to the grandfather. He complies but backs off of me as far as he can as quickly as he can. I turn to all of them and raise my voice to public resonance.

Be calm. I mean you no harm.

They don‘t seem too happy but the grandfather relaxes a little and unrolls the map. I look at it with interest because I‘ve not seen any of this realm.

It shows a shoreline, seven cities and a big river, as well as the desert. In the centre of the desert, there is the city marked the golden city, and it has trees and birds painted all around it. the map doesn‘t extend any further than the desert, and my realms are not on it. I note with interest that the oasis I saw earlier is marked on it and there‘s a big skull painted by the side of it.

What‘s with this? I ask of the old man.

Ah this is a demon possessed oasis, he replies. We saw it two days ago but sujosi said not to go near it. We trust in his sights.

You were well to do so. I was there too and there‘s something very bad there, I say, and they all exchange glances.
According to this map, I say quickly, this golden city is very near. You haven‘t seen any clue to its existence?

The old man shakes his head and sighs. We‘ve been looking around for two weeks and there‘s nothing, nothing at all. Just a bit of paint on this lying piece of papyrus.
For a moment only thefire crackles and the camels shift and groan. Then, the old man finished his sentence with, And we‘re all going to die here because of it.

I smile at him and say, No, you‘re in luck. I found you and I can help you.

You? he asks incredulously and very suspiciously, But how, and why?

How is easy, I reply. I have magic. Why is easy too. Because you need help and I‘m happy to be of assistance.

But what will it cost us?

I look him straight in the eye. I don‘t know yet, I answer honestly. But I promise you won‘t find it difficult to come up with a payment.

He is getting very nervous indeed, he probably thinks I‘m the devil and I want all his souls for breakfast, I don‘t blame him. So few people ever help each other without bad thoughts behind it. So I just say, How long will you last out with your supplies, and he answers me, another two days at the most, then we will have to start killing the camels. Then, perhaps ten days, two weeks. He sighs deeply again.

I go towards Sujosi and kneel down in front of him. I extend both hands to him and without hesitation, he puts his thin brown dirty little hands into mine. I look into his eyes and say, tell your people, little one with the sight, that I will help and I mean no harm. I will search for the golden city and I will return with news and with provisions before the two days are up.

He nods serenely and I release his hands and take off straight into the sky. Along the horizon line, a tinge of purple tells me the sun will rise within an hour or so. I go higher and higher to give me a wider view of the area and it gets lighter as I rise. I scan the desert below, but there‘s absolutely nothing, just an ocean of never ending sand. I rise so high that I can see the land just like it was on the map, I can even make out the cities far to the south west, and the camp is a teensy dot below me, as is the demon plagued oasis. I can‘t help feeling that the key is the oasis, and I de-materialise myself and go home.

At home, I put the liquid I got from the oasis into an analytical machine.

It turns out that the water contains a very strong hallucogenic and something else that can’t be identified.

I stand in the lab and stare at the water bottle. I have the sense that if I was to drink this water, I would be able to find the lost city. But I wasn’t sure if I would return.

Decisions, decisions.
I decided to try a little bit to find out how it would effect me. I got a pipette and drew out a single drop, put it on my tongue. Immediately, my tongue and then my whole mouth goes strange, numb yet vibrating, and this is spreading across my neck and shoulders, into my face, into my head. When it reaches my eyes, the lab shifts and starts to phase and fade into another existence – the lab is still there but there is another level behind it, underneath it, in the same place and at the same time. and that world is not like the lab.

There are no buildings here at all, it is just land, completely uninhabited, completely virgin, and the only thing that is here also is the liquid in the bottle, but not the bottle itself.

I already know exactly that the Golden City they are seeking is there.

I fetch the bottle of water – a strange experience as I am halfway in and out of both dimensions and I can see the shadow of the lab and my hand as well as the virgin landscape beneath – and I take off, back to the desert, high I fly, and it is extraordinary how there are more than a single land beneath me as I fly. There are different skies too and different nights happening, and it is extraordinary, so amazing and yet familiar to me in the strangest way – it’s like this way of it being like this makes so much more sense than the single landscapes I used to view and found lacking, inspite of their majesty and beauty.

I find the tired caravan, now huddled against the fierce morning which is about to turn into a monstrous onslaught of day, and yet below them are groves of green, all around them is shadow, life, water and gentle breezes, and they cannot know as they suffer.
I hasten my flight for I can feel their pain and desperation clearly and when I turn to the oasis, there it is – the threshold and the pathway, and there lies the Golden City, just where the map had declared it to be, in a valley green and gold, with lakes and rivers, springs and mountains in the distance, all of it dancing with life.

Yet the Golden City is devoid of people, there’s no-one living there, and I understand that there was a time when these two planes went out of sync and the people went to the desert instead of staying with the green and gold.

This makes me sad, but on the other hand, at least I know now what to do to help the boy and his family.

All they need to do to enter here is to overcome their fear of the oasis and its waters; to take a leap of faith and they will phase across into the green luscious valley of their dreams.

It is day and they cannot yet pack up and get moving, so I have time and with the time, I walk through the halls of marble and the empty streets that lie waiting for their inhabitants, have lain waiting for a very long time already but there is no disrepair here, no sense of any time having passed at all.

I think that time will start with the arrival of the people here; I don’t know how it works but perhaps you need people to have time moving at all, but it doesn’t matter.
This is a very beautiful place, a place where no need exists at all and where one may settle down and heal, and turn to the stars to learn their songs because that’s all that’s left to do.

Time passes swiftly here and I learn to tune between the worlds; the water from the oasis is only a trigger mechanism to show the way in the first place. There are others, too, some further away and some far stranger than I have a stomach to explore today; for now, I eat the fruit that grows here in abundance, smile at the multi-coloured lizards streaking by and the strange birds above, and I drink from a well that is fine and clear, and much lighter than the heavy water I remember from before.
As night falls on the other plane, and the fiery sun has given now a space for resurrection, I make my way back to the tribe in the desert.

I tell them what needs to be done, and when they cry out in fear, I soothe their fear alone so they may make a free decision as to what their lives are worth, and whether they would trust in ancient warnings all the way to that degree.

They surrender in the end to their own need to stay alive and find the oasis, they drink the water as do their beasts and so they phase across, and shift across into the green and moisture of the valley on the other side.

I watch them go with a sense of interest and of inspiration; then I return and fly much higher than I used to do, much faster too, and somehow with much more delight.

SH, 1998

Posted on Friday, February 18 2005
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