FOUR

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“What’s the Vara of Yima?”

“It is what people of my origin call their Garden of Eden. You have heard of this Garden of Eden?”

“I’ve heard of it. Yeah.”

“When I was a girl we were taught about a shepherd named Yima. The great god Ahura Mazda asked him to create a vara, and to fill this vara with the fittest of men and women, and two of each animal, bird and plant, because of a terrible natural disaster coming. You have heard this story? Or one similar?”

“Noah’s Ark,” Sammy said. “Noah took two of each animal into his ark to keep them safe when the earth flooded. So the vara’s a boat?”

“No. A vast enclosure, a great realm. Noah’s ark is the Christian variation of the story. But Noah is also in the Islamic Qur’an and in Jewish literature. In fact, there are also great floods in the mythology of the Greeks and in Indian texts. Many religions tell stories of people and animals rescued from floods and disasters. In my faith, Zoroastrianism, our great disaster is an ice age and our Noah is Yima. Yima created this vara with buildings, roads and cities, then sealed it from the world with a golden ring. People throughout history have searched for this place, believing it to be a perfect land, the real Garden of Eden.” Esther sighed. “Which at one time it probably was, long before it became polluted by a great evil. Now it is time for the chosen to return and restore light to the lands of Perseopia.”

“Have you tried unlocking it?”

“I have tried, but I don’t have the gift.” Esther took a long breath. “I’ve travelled the whole world to find someone who does. And I believe you do. That is why I followed you.”

Sammy stared at the bracelet. She desperately wanted to believe she was special, but it couldn’t be true. “Let me get this straight,” she said. “I’m the chosen one that can unlock the dial and travel to the Garden of Eden. And when I get there I will restore light to the lands of that-place-you-just-said? Do you also happen to have sweets and puppy dogs to help entice me into the back of your van? You know, just to seal the deal.”

“You aren’t the chosen one.”

“Say what? You said I have the gift.”

“You have a gift. One that can unlock the dial. But you aren’t the chosen one. I am.”

“You’re not doing a good job of selling me this dumb fantasy. I’m not climbing into the back of your van if I have to be Robin. I’m Batman. That’s how these things work.”

“I don’t own a van,” Esther said. “Would you like to know what the words around the clasp say?” She leant across the table and ran her finger over the text. “It is written in Avestan. Not many can read such a language.”

Sammy shrugged. She didn’t really care any more. She wasn’t the chosen one so what was the point? “Let me guess. You can read it, because you’re the chosen one?”

“It is the language of my youth. I have not spoken it in many years, but I can still read it.” Esther traced the letters with her fingers.

“Raise your hands to the skies,

“On the tone of midnight,

“And you will travel to the land,

“Of endless twilight.”

 

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