Just when he felt he was beginning to gain some understanding of the Middle Kingdom, Marco Polo finds himself back in the middle court of the airport terminal with the fiberglass pagoda and plastic ducks. He looks around for a monitor or a lounge number, but can only see advertisements for expensive perfumes and jewelry. He can’t even remember his lounge number. Was it E6 or E66? He searches instead for a friendly face to ask.
In the provinces, finger signals and smiles had always gotten him by. But he sees not a single face he considers could break its inscrutable blank stare into a smile. So he retraces his steps in the hope that it will take him back to where he had started from.
That had been his adage for several thousand unfamiliar miles. It didn’t matter how far you went from home, as you could always retrace your steps to get back again. The terminal building looks right, but the shops and advertisements here are new.
How can that be? He will raise this with the Great Khan, he resolves. But then he considers that maybe this is another of his cunning ploys, to confound any of the Mongol hordes that get past the Great Wall. Entrap them in a maze that goes round and round, never being able to find their way out again. Once again, he knows, the Westerners, for all their advancements, have much to learn from the Middle Kingdom!
Craig Cormick is an award-winning Australian author. He has published over 25 works of fiction and non-fiction, been a writer in Residence in Malaysia and an Arts Fellow in Antarctica. He enjoys messing with history as much as history seems to enjoy messing with him.