This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
Nadja told Jeffrey to go back the way he had come, and he followed her direction. A few steps away from the cave, Nadja began beaming thoughts to Jeffrey, unbidden. “I was not the first Earth exile to live and die in this place. The vortex likes to hover in an abandoned village, making it the center of this world. I tried to make my home in that village when I first arrived. It’s the only mark of civilization I’ve seen here and I’ve traveled through the forest, to the foot of the diamond mountains.”
“I thought that would get your attention. The mountains are beautiful and very, very big. Much too big for you to bring back with you.”
“Diamond is a brittle stone. I could chip off some pieces?”
“I’m probably exaggerating because of their beauty. The mountains are probably not made of diamond. Maybe you’d travel all that way to learn they were only common glass.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” He kept his eyes on his tracks as he retraced his earlier steps. “Maybe you’re trying to fake me out because you don’t want me to bring back a diamond that barely fits inside a wheelbarrow. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do after I talk to the vortex.” He paused to look around. “Will the world turn gray again?”
Nadja laughed raucously in his head. He wanted the nasty sound to stop immediately. It seemed like a disgusting forever before her thought-beams shifted back into words. “You saw gray before you came to my cave?”
“Yeah, everything was monochrome.” He started walking again.
“The color came with me, frog-man. You must have a very rigid mind. Did you like the gray?”
“What? No, of course not. It looked ugly.”
“You should thank me for the color I have brought to you. Go on, thank me.”
“Thanks. Sure. Whatever. How do I get to the village?”
“It will be visible from this shore once you travel in this direction far enough. The exiles that built it settled at the mouth of a river. If I remember right, it will be the very first river we come to. You won’t have to ford in between. A shame, because fording rivers here is the fun part.”
“Fun? Sounds inconvenient to me. I think I’ll pass on the fording. I’m amazed at how convenient this village sounds, to be honest with you.”
Nadja’s thought-beam sounded mournful. “I really wanted to live in the village. I liked it best there. The huts, the wild gardens. But the vortex wouldn’t leave, and we just don’t get along. So I made my cave as close to the village as I could stand to be close to the vortex.”
“Makes sense, I guess. So what’s between here and there?”
“Not much. Sand. Water. Me. You were right; to someone of your temperament, this is a very lonely place. I, however, just feel safe. There aren’t any animals here you don’t conjure up yourself from memory. At your level of sophistication, you wouldn’t be able to conjure anything that would last more than a few minutes. But you won’t get hungry here, so it’s not like you’ll need to hunt. If you miss eating, go inland, past the dunes, into the forest, and eat a plant. But you won’t need to, and while nothing here will poison you, nothing will taste good either. The plants from the village gardens were the only things I’ve found here that I actually wanted to eat.”
He wondered if Nadja had told him the truth. “So you’re seriously saying that all that’s between me and this vortex is a pile of sand?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“How many miles will I have to walk before I reach the village?”
“Stupid frog-man Jeffrey. Still thinking in miles. You’ll get there when you get there. Now let me sleep. All this bird speak-chattering has drained me. I don’t want to talk to you any more.”
He tried beaming some more thoughts into his shirt-sack but Nadja either couldn’t or wouldn’t think back to him any more. He guessed that she hadn’t been lying to him, and that nothing waited for him behind a dune. He didn’t particularly enjoy “talking” with Nadja anyway, although it did give him an excuse to theorize about his newfound telepathy. He wondered, as he walked, how it worked. What other powers would he discover here? Maybe he would stay, like she had. Maybe he too would see diamond mountains. Maybe he would travel even further than Nadja had. He could probably figure it all out after he talked with the vortex. Everything would fall into place then, he was sure.
Thank you for reading! Coming up next week: Jeffrey meets the vortex (much to his chagrin).
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