Chapter 17 from the Ama audiobook
Jason could still hear the cries of anguish coming from the garden as he removed a small black rucksack from his wardrobe. As he fumbled with the bag, the sounds became no more than weak moans. He felt wretched for leaving the man to his fate, but as he had done four years ago after arriving at the hospital, he knew he must cast aside his humanity and become closed-off to any sense of empathy. “You better leave your humanity at the door with the rest of your possessions,” one inmate had advised him, “or you’ll become prey to monsters watching you from the shadows.”
He looked at a small picture frame on his bedside table—a photograph of Zoe, Emily and himself stood next to the prehistoric stone monument of Stonehenge. That was a good day, he thought, as he picked up the frame and removed the picture inside. He tore it in half and discarded his wife without a second glance, then looked at the remaining picture. “Whatever it takes,” he told Emily’s smiling face. He put the picture in the back pocket of his jeans.
A few minutes later he stood in the kitchen with the rucksack on his back, its contents grabbed as he ran through the house: a large kitchen knife; an old rusty hammer; a pair of binoculars. The two lighters he had found were out of fuel, so he threw a box of matches into the bag instead. The last two things to go in were the remaining plastic bottles of spring water, not to drink, but the water might still be useful. He also grabbed his Swiss army knife. It was a present Zoe had given him a few months after they met. “For my armchair survivalist,” she had said. He also pocketed the small blue stone button from the key tray.
He opened the side door and looked out at the blankets of sand—nothing but grey rolling dunes across an otherwise barren desert. He looked along the side of the house, towards the front garden. Although the screams of the man and the growl of the creature had stopped, he wasn’t about to check to see if they were still there. He stepped out and made his way to the back garden.
My paradise in the making, he thought as he scanned over his once determined, yet unfinished, attempt at a barbecue oasis. Decking and beams of wood lay scattered on a patchy carpet of uncut grass. Various flower beds edged the garden, although they had all withered under the encroaching sands of hell. How long until the house also became covered by sand? he wondered.
Remembering something he had once seen on a television programme about surviving in a desert without water, the same thought that had advised him to take the object in the first place, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the small blue stone button. He looked at it for a moment. Will it boil or turn to sand? he asked himself, or will it… “Fuck it!” He threw the button into his mouth. It didn’t boil, nor did it turn to sand, but remained as it had always been, a small blue stone. He flipped it over in his mouth with his blistered tongue. The saliva will come, he assured himself. Think of it as a mouth-watering sweet and keep sucking it—a succulent water-melon-flavoured sweet. Keep sucking and the saliva will come.
He took a deep breath and then stepped from the garden into the desert and walked in a straight line away from the back of the house.