Chapter 13. The Desert

Meanwhile in the Arabian Desert. At night.

“You came by camel, Sheikh. Alone?”

“Alone on the back of my camel. So it is, Evgeny.”

“I thank God that we are allowed to meet.”

“Allowed? By whom? If I may.”

“By each other first. And by confidents who seek peace. And by…”

“…Allah, as you thankfully mentioned. Peace be with you, Evgeny.”

“And with you, Sheikh.”

“Let us sit. Tea?”

“You’ve brought no servants and you offer me tea?”

“I do, Evgeny. Chai. White. On ice. Boiled it myself.”

The Sheikh opens a thermos, fills the cap with the mentioned liquid, hands it to Evgeny, who sips a couple of times then returns the cap to the Sheikh who sips at his turn. One time.

“The night before I dreamed of snowflakes falling all over Arabia. You know, the sand seemed still dry and white, but a whiter carpet of fresh snow was settling upon our lands. I looked at my hands and they were trembling. I then realized that I was there, out in the cold, freezing to death. I prayed to God, to save me. The winds of the North intensified over my face. So I prayed more, falling on my knees. I begged God to do something. He woke me up, out of this nightmare. I felt still cold, coughing and sneezing. The dawns neared and I decided to call you.”

“Where were you sleeping when you had this dream, Sheikh?”

“There, next to those palm trees. Can you interpret the meaning of it, Evgeny?”

“Can you?”

“I am afraid to speak out.”

“Dare on. It is the only way.”

“Snow storms come from the North, from the far North, from your country. Will Russia crush us?”

“It is a simple dream, your dream. And it fits quite well into the new balance of power. What else can you remember from your dream?”

“Nothing. I suppose.”

“Think!”

“I can’t… I don’t think I can remember.”

“I know. This is why I tell you again: Think!”

“Think of what?”

“The snow covering the sand. Was it covering the dunes too?”

“There were no dunes in my dream.”

“Look around. The moon reveals a few dunes in the distance. Did you see them in your dream?”

“I don’t remember seeing these dunes. No. I can remember seeing no dunes at all. I am certain. The horizon was clear. A straight line between the lands and the skies.”

“Have you looked up, at the skies?”

“I did.”

“And?”

“Stars were glowing. And the moon was shining. Too big the shining moon. Way too big.”

“As it snowed?”

“It was a dream. Yes. No clouds. The skies of the night were clear. And snowflakes fell from them. Covering the sands of the desert. No dunes as far as I could see. And a huge moon.”

“Did you turn around, in your dream?”

“I did. Yes. Several times.”

“Did you notice those palm trees?”

“No. I didn’t. No palm trees. But wait. There were two elongated shadows on the snow. Vague by the moonlight. Intrigued, I raised my eyes and saw two men far away. Where the skies were meeting the lands.”

“On the horizon?”

“Yes. On the horizon line. It was like they were walking that line. A surreal vision if you consider that humans are too tiny to have their silhouettes make a difference at the horizon.”

“Your dream is not from this earth, Sheikh. Besides, it is not even a dream.”

“But what was it then? And from where it came?”

“It was a journey. To Enceladus. I wished you join us, for a few moments time.”

“Enceladus?”

“A tiny icy moon of Saturn.”

“Us? Join us? Us who?”

“Saturn and yours truly.”

“I understand that Enceladus is a moon of Saturn. But who was the other person, next to you, on the horizon?”

“Saturn!”

“Not the planet, the person I mean.”

“There is a person with the name Saturn. Like the planet. But a person.”

“More chai? I am sure I need a cool drink.” Hurriedly fingers pouring the liquid out of the thermos. The Sheikh bottoms up. Then pours some more. Hands the cap to Evgeny. He sips. Twice. And returns the cap to the Sheikh – who bottoms it up again.

“I am not supposed to disclose this to you, Sheikh.”

“Then why are you disclosing this?”

“Because we’re two bastards. The craziest bastards on the face of the earth.”

“Only because I am a disowned child to kings of the desert? Your father was the Tsarevich of Russia. Your bloodline runs to the noblest dynasties of Europe and Ancient Yasreal. I don’t understand why do you care so much for me.”

“Well, you’ll never know where these genealogy trees might lead you. Do you?”

“Don’t you start again with the present that King Solomon gave to the Queen of Sheba. This won’t explain why me and not my brothers, or any other noble family of Arabia.”

“Over a century ago, my imperial family (who never admitted I ever existed) has been shot to death by Soviet executioners. Less than six centuries ago, an earlier version of this family—the Palaiologos—forfeited their throne and empire to the Ottoman Turks. Arrogance had blinded my ancestors. The same arrogance is blinding your family today. But you and me, we have never tasted the prideful wine (assorted with venom) of the kings and emperors. This makes us brothers. Like it or not, Sheikh.”

“What about this Saturn, the person?”

“What about him?”

“You took me in my sleep, out of my cozy tent, to freeze on some moon, unheard of, to watch you and this Saturn walk the horizon. What about him?”

“He is the last son of Astarte and the first son of Kronos. Do you remember who was the first son of Astarte?”

“A-aaa-a… This is happening, brother. The end of the world. The Dajjal! You took me to see the Deceiving Messiah. When will he reach the earth? Oh, but wait a minute, why were you chatting with him?”

“I’m chatting with you as well, don’t I?”

“You bastard.”

“Now let me tell you something, between us bastards. This guy Saturn is not the Dajjal. He is an anticipator. No need to freak out. There is more to see in the coming century than our fathers could dream in the late millennium.”

“What do you mean: an anticipator?”

“He anticipates the arrival of the Dajjal. And because of Saturn, because of his work, the Dajjal cannot come until this one, or others, would have consumed their raison d’être.”

“What is my raison d’être, brother bastard?”

“Inshallah, you’ll have to become the first President of Arabia.”

“I give up! You tell me that I’ll be the Dajjal now?”

“Not now, nor ever. I tell you to move your ass, and your brothers’ asses, to play your cards right, before Vlad will iron a trustful peace with the French, the Germans and the British. Look at the world, Sheikh, it is not new and it is not old either. America is gone, eaten by its own democracy. Remember that funny guy with the lightning rods?”

“Benjamin Franklin?”

“Yes, him. He said that “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” You are the lamb here, brother.”

“The kings are looking to China.”

“This is why I took you with me on Enceladus. So you can see a friend of Russia yet not one of China.”

“The anticipator helps the Russians?”

“Along with helping anyone trusting Isa as the only begotten Son of Allah.”

“You mean, Saturn is a Christian?”

“Like me and like you.”

“Shhh. Don’t say that out loud. I want to keep my head on my shoulders.”

“Good. I like your head where it is. When looking at your face, I even make efforts to find the tiniest resemblance that could lead us back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Enormous efforts!”

“What should I do? Tell me.”

“Build a pyramid.”

“I do not understand. Why would anyone need a pyramid here, in the Arabian Desert?”

“Why did they need them back in Egypt?”

“Pharaohs of old blowing out some steam. Maybe. Don’t know.”

“Think, my bastard brother, think!”

“I know! Pyramids used to be power plants. They generated electricity. Free WIFI power out of the aether.”

“Told you that you’re smart. Give free power to your people. Share new scientifically proven healing methods. Rejuvenate your old folks. Care for your neighbors. Love them as you love yourself. Toss the oil industry to oblivion. Earn your votes, Sheikh, and rule like an angel.”

“Sounds splendid. Where do I start? Where is the first brick for my first pyramid?”

“Patience, bro. I’ll put you in touch with a shipyard in Denmark.”

“Iron pyramids?”

“Stainless steel. Shiny. Stellar pyramids with your name engraved on each facet.”

“Sheikh, Prince. Nice.”

“What about my brothers?”

“What about them?”

“They’ll want me dead. It was a miracle that they didn’t kill me so far. While I stayed a total outsider.”

“A miracle? Do you believe in miracles, Sheikh?”

“I do. Don’t you?”

“Not any more. If I could update my beliefs, so can you.”

“And my brothers?”

“They won’t touch a hair on your head, or beard for that matter.”

“Are you sure?”

“As I see you and as you see me.”

“How is that?”

“Can you resist temptation?”

“I can resist everything but temptation.”

“I’d rather not tempt you with more information, or persons.”

“Then don’t. Better this way.”

“See?”