Chapter 34 from the Ama audiobook
Jason caught up with the carriage without much effort, and he had to slow his pace so he didn’t get too close. He maintained a distance of about ten feet, from where he could see the driver’s head over the carriage roof and watched as his top hat bobbed up and down. One guy in the driver’s seat, he thought. But how many were inside the passenger compartment? Don’t take any chances. Don’t mess this up, because you need this ride.
Another crack of a whip caused him to stumble and add more distance to the chase. He adjusted his grip on the bat, readying for the attack. In his mind, he saw himself running up, pulling the driver from his seat and then smashing his skull and taking possession of “The Devil’s Taxi” with a few ruthless swings. I need it, he thought, if I’m to stand any chance of getting to that mountain.
What are you thinking? he asked himself. A little girl just took possession of you and forced you to brutalise another man. Who or whatever is driving that carriage could be ten times worse than that demon girl. And what if there is more than one? There could be four or more inside. Don’t be stupid; don’t be reckless. Jason stopped. He watched as it moved away at a steady pace. Another crack of the whip teased his weak resolve.
A shout from beyond the dune on the left drew his attention. He gripped the bat with both hands, readying to swing it at whoever or whatever came over. He heard a guttural voice calling out in anger. A metallic clattering joined the virulent call. He looked up at the wispy dune. It was a low one, reaching no more than thirty feet above him. Come on, you bastard, he thought. Come on! He swung the bat in a practise swing and then re-cocked his readiness.
More ferocious verbal anger could be heard, and then sand exploded from the top of the dune as a man in clattering armour jumped over it. The man lost his footing and rolled down, coming to an undignified rest a mere six feet away. The man looked up and yelled, his face sharp and menacing. Jason realised he was about to go toe-to-toe with a Roman soldier, an intimidating sight in full military regalia, complete with a gleaming short sword. The soldier got to his sandaled feet, glancing at Jason for a moment, but more interested in something that might be following him.
“Come on, you fucker,” Jason yelled, preparing to swing the bat.
The Roman ignored him and looked around as if waiting for the ground to swallow him, a petrified look on his bronzed, chiselled face. A moment later, he ran to the other side of the path and scrambled up the opposing dune.
Jason watched him climb, and then looked back up at the ridge from where the soldier had come. He saw the motionless silhouette of a caretaker. It watched the man scamper away. The moment the soldier disappeared from view, the creature’s form took to the air as a black silken stream, shooting from one side of the path to the other—following its prey. The defiant aggression of the Roman thundered out once more and then fell silent, replaced by a ground-shaking growl.
Jason resigned himself to taking the carriage for his own, no matter how stupid and reckless it may be. He ran as fast as he could. The carriage couldn’t be too far ahead of him. While he ran, he thought about the Roman soldier. Seeing someone who appeared to be from a time long ago was bizarre enough, but something about the man confused him. Each time you got burned, disintegrated and then snorted up by one of those creatures, you appeared back at the start, minus your clothes. The Roman must have been in hell for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and must have been reset many times. So how did he still have his clothes? He thought about Derwood, and how he appeared to have come from another time too. Are we all plucked from life’s infernal merry-go-round and thrown into the mix, regardless of where or when we came from? Lilith had showed her ability to control time. Although, maybe he’s not from ancient Rome after all, maybe he’s just an actor from the twenty-first century in costume. Just an ordinary guy from modern times who committed a sin while wearing the outfit of a Roman soldier. He’d said nothing, no words in Latin or any other ancient tongue. He’d just vented his rage with a torrent of animalistic shouts. Jason brushed off this futile train of thought as the carriage came back into view.
He focused on how he would take it from its current owner. Did he have enough aggression and strength to rush up and batter the driver and any possible passengers with the bat? A brief thought came to mind: just ask for a lift. There might be reasonable people in hell, people who have no desire to inflict pain and suffering on everyone they meet. Are you prepared to take that chance? he asked himself. They’ll be bloody sadistic psychos. Take that carriage by force and turn anyone who gets in your way into a screamer.