Chapter 41 from the Ama audiobook
The slow melodious rhythm of the desert wind formed a landscape of dark beauty in perpetual flux. Possibilities for the poetry of form would settle for a moment before being washed from the vast page. A chaos of fear to the left and right while the path wrote an unnatural and unchanging solitary verse through the desolation. The band of three continued to walk along the path, their footsteps remaining for a mere moment before the wind smoothed them away.
Jason looked at the ground as he hobbled along and noticed Lucia and Derwood also walking in quiet contemplation of their feet. Was the mountain also the instigator of pain for them too, a great jagged rock sitting on the horizon as a taunt to those who would dare to gaze and were foolish enough to hope.
“Why don’t we bleed?” Lucia asked. “I mean, I can understand not being able to eat or drink—we’re supposed to suffer in hell—but no blood? That just confuses me.”
“Maybe that’s the point, to confuse us and make us feel unsettled,” Jason answered as he thought about his missing penis—this made him feel nauseous.
Derwood shook sand from his hair. “The pain still comes but gets no easier to bear. I had pain in me back from lifting sheep out of streams and pulling tree stumps all day, but after a while the pain became part of the background. Here it seems new all the time, ye never numbs to it.”
“Like what you said about food, Derwood, maybe it’s all in our heads. Maybe none of this is real, not in the sense life was, anyway.”
“Like a dream?” Lucia asked. “I hope so, and we will all wake up soon.”
“I wish this was just a dream. No. I mean, this is just our consciousness, our bodies are left back in some physical realm, while our consciousnesses are detached and reside in this metaphysical one.” He saw that Lucia and Derwood were staring at him. “I read it somewhere.”
“Where be all the sheep?” Derwood asked.
“And all the other animals,” Lucia added. “Is hell exclusively for humans?”
“How does a sheep commit a sin? Or a penguin?” Jason joked, although he found shallow humour in his musing. The lack of other animals was curious. Whales, elephants and some other creatures are capable of complex emotions, on a par or equal to humans—possibly even on a higher level than our own—so they too could commit acts that could be considered sinful. They could, he wondered, but do they? Or are humans the only creatures that…
“A penguin?” Lucia laughed.
Jason chuckled. “I had a cat once, I’m sure he’ll be here somewhere. Evil little bastard.”
“A penguin?” Derwood asked.
“Like a chicken but swims in the sea,” Jason answered with a grin.
“If you can catch ’em—slippery little suckers.”
The three walked on, sometimes in silence, and sometimes they would try to talk as they once had, in their former lives. They heard no other voices, no screams of anguish, and saw no one but each other. From time to time, the bank of a dune would fall across the path, but the wayward sand would be removed by the wind with prompt efficiency, returning the way to flat and level ground, devoid of hill or dip. The view of the mountain remained unchallenged as a tantalising view for the damned.
∗ ∗ ∗
Furious sapphire eyes watched through flaming hair as the three figures approached.