Chapter 36 from the Ama audiobook
The woman helped Jason free himself from the barbed wire, then to his feet, and supported his balance as he hobbled away from Lee’s body and the screamer floating above. He couldn’t put any weight on his wounded leg so resorted to moving in small hops. He looked around as he moved and noticed the storm had lost most of its anger and the clouds of sand were settling.
“I didn’t have time to thank you,” she said.
“For what? I didn’t help, I couldn’t…”
“You wanted to, though, and you tried. Most people you meet here don’t give you a second glance unless they want to attack you. Like the kid back at the well.” She brushed golden hair from her eyes with a frightened hand. “A fifty-something kid.”
“What about the man in the well with you?” Jason asked as he sat on the edge of the path and leaned back against the soft rise of the dune. “Do you know if he’s okay?”
She joined him but didn’t lean back. At the slightest sound or movement, her eyes would blaze with anxiety and dart to find the cause. Even though her fear was apparent, she held herself with an elegant poise. Jason couldn’t help but be captivated as he watched the relaxed waves of her hair glance her shoulders.
“I don’t know. I found him wandering near the well. He’d just arrived here and didn’t understand where here was. I tried to help him… Then the man with the bat came and… But you stopped him, and you left his clothes out for me. You’ve no idea how grateful I am for some clothes.”
“You’re welcome. I thought the trainers might be a little too big for you,” he said, watching her bare feet push into the sand—as if the two were enjoying a lazy moment on a beach somewhere far from here. “And you found the screwdriver. I’m glad you heard me.”
A tear trickled down her cheek. “You can hear and see everything while… it happens.” She wiped the tear away.
Jason thought of the man in his garden. “I’ve seen the same thing happen to someone else. Why does that happen to you?”
“Because I didn’t raise a hand to help. That’s what that evil woman told me.”
“Yes, Lilith is one of her names, although she has many: Lilit, Lilitu. I’ve also heard her referred to as a screech owl… Whatever that is.”
“How long have you been here?” he asked, and then smiled through his pain as he added, “Jason, by the way.”
Her eyes sparkled and her face shone a beautiful warm smile back at him. “Lucia. My God, it’s a long time since I’ve said my name aloud. It’s good to meet you, Jason.” She looked over at Lee’s soul burning within the black flame and winced. “All I know is I went to sleep in a hospital bed—I had a rather angry little tumour—and woke up here, looking twenty years younger. Since then I’ve been on this road six times. I keep going for as long as I can until my body… stops working.” She leaned forward and rested her head on her knees.
“Because you didn’t help?”
“My husband had an affair… well, multiple affairs. One day that promiscuous bastard fell down that well…”
“The well is where you return to each time?”
Lucia nodded. “I said he fell, but pushed would be a more accurate description. The well was in the woods near our house. Stupid, dangerous thing.”
“You pushed him down a well.” Jason couldn’t stop a smile escaping.
Lucia returned the smile. “No. My brother, Anthony, pushed him. He never liked my husband, and when he found out how his little sister was being treated, he pushed him down the well.”
“I don’t understand. Your brother killed him, but you’re the one being punished?”
“My brother is in hell too, according to that bitch, Lilith. But when I was in the hospital, he was still alive. He used to come and visit me. So I don’t understand what she meant.”
“Time doesn’t seem to matter anymore,” Jason thought aloud. He looked over at the men tied to the carriage. They were all motionless. Why don’t they try to escape? he wondered. Why don’t they fight their captivity? He felt anger for the twelve men. How can they be so broken, so listless within their plight?
“I’m here because I listened to my husband’s cries for help without doing something about it; the fall didn’t kill the stubborn bastard right away. In life, the well was a lot deeper, not like it is now. He must have landed on his head.”
“And now… What is it that happens to you?” He could see sadness returning to her face with his question. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”
“It’s okay,” she said, placing a gentle, yet shaky hand on his. “Lilith told me, because I didn’t choose to help my husband, I’d only have peace for as long as he took to die. Then my body would choose for itself what to do. It always chooses to do what you saw it do.”
“How long did he take to die?”
“A day and a half.”
“But you do have a chance to leave this place, don’t you?” Jason asked as he sat up. “If you get to the mountain, I mean.”
“Yes, Lilith said I could leave if I can get there, so I keep trying, but… I think it’s just a cruel joke. I get so far and then…”
“Then we need to move. One question, though, why a well?”
“That’s where he proposed to me. It was like his heart, he said, full of love for me… It was a dry well; I should have seen that as an omen.”