Chapter 44 of Ama by Daniel MacKillican

Chapter 44 of Ama

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Chapter 44 from the Ama audiobook

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44

Creepy keeps creeping across the cold cobbles. Watch how he creeps and be sure he hasn’t crept up on you.

Grub had neither hands nor legs anymore; he had pulled himself free from the stone floor a long time ago. Since then he could be found jabbering and quivering in the corner up against the stone walls. He still taps on the ground as he moves, when he moves, with the shards of bone protruding from his wrists and thighs. The flickering lights brought forth shadows that surround Grub. Jason thought the shadows were tormenting the poor fellow, but he was glad they favoured Grub and not him.

The flaming torches hanging from the walls had alighted a while ago, allowing Jason to see his small stone cell and see that his hands and legs were embedded into the rock floor. He couldn’t remember when the light came. It was a long time ago; he knew that much. One of the first things he remembered seeing was Grub creeping around. He had changed Jake’s name to Grub not long after the silly sod bit his tongue off and could no longer protest his new name. It amused Jason to watch the man wriggle across the ground. Creepy keeps creeping across the cold cobbles. Watch how he creeps and be sure he hasn’t crept up on you. Creepy is a funny man, a strange yet funny little grub.

They both laughed a lot. Well, he laughed and pretended Grub was laughing along with him. Pain always accompanied the laughter and had become a song that his body sang with monotonous fervour. Sometimes he would twitch in time with a plodding melody, and sometimes a heavy thunderous beat forced his undivided attention. The orchestra played without rest.

“Hey, Grub,” Jason called out. “Look, my arms have escaped too. We’ll both be grubs soon. We’ll be able to creep around the floor together. One day, we might turn into moths, spread our wings and fly away from here. Does a grub turn into a moth? No, that’s a larva. A beetle! Maybe a bird then, or an owl, something with wings, anyway. Hey, Grub, what comes from a grub?” He laughed at this for a long while.

He looked up at the iron frame hanging from the ceiling. A few bones remained fastened to the metal. Something had been fastidious about eating all the flesh though; he still remembered the chomping and chewing sounds. He tried not to think about those sounds too much as it made him feel sad. The bigger skull had fallen somewhere behind him and he couldn’t turn far enough to see where it was. But he could see a smaller skull lying a few feet away by the stumps of Grub’s hands and legs, which still stuck out from the hard ground. Although the thing in the dark hadn’t touched Jason or Grub, it had eaten well that day and picked the bones clean. But that was a long time ago.

Jason wanted to be close to the small skull but he couldn’t reach it, so he’d taught himself a game that would bring them together piece by piece. He didn’t ask Grub to join in because he was slow and seemed more interested in scratching at the walls with his bony protuberances. So Jason played by himself. He snapped his jaws shut over and over again until a piece of tooth broke free. Then he’d spit it out at the small skull. The aim of the game was to get it as close to the skull as possible but not hit it; hitting it would be a terrible thing. If he did hit it, however, he had to pay a forfeit and bang his head against the ground as hard as he could. Now that both his arms were free he could lean further back and gain more momentum before headbutting the ground. The small skull told him that something wonderful would happen if his head broke, so he tried as often as he could, but most of the time he found himself in a daze after five or six goes at it. He wondered how Grub had ripped himself free from his legs. Jason had pulled himself away from his hands, but his legs seemed nigh on impossible to leave behind. He didn’t like his legs anymore, so he stopped talking to them. One hip had dislocated, he was sure of that, and he had scratched a fair portion of the skin away from the top of his legs, but they still anchored him to the spot like petulant bastards. Maybe he had always been this way—growing out of the rock. Maybe he was mould, or a fungus of sorts, a growth from the diseased stone. “Hey, Grub. When I’m an owl and you’re a moth, I’m going to bite your wings off.”

Jason didn’t know how long she had been there, but he became aware of a woman with yellow wings looking down at him.

“Are you ready to continue?”

“Hey, Grub, look. We’re not alone anymore. There’s a beautiful butterfly in the room.”

“Although slow-witted,” she said, “Derwood was right.”

“Derwood,” Jason said with a giggle. “The butterfly thinks you’re a worm. Don’t eat Der-wood, Grub.”

“It’s all in your head, Jason.”

* * *

Jason opened his eyes and saw that he was kneeling in sand. He looked around himself and saw that he was alone on the path, which ended a few metres away at the start of a vast open plain—a plateau—in the desert. Less than a mile away, the mountain jutted skyward. Thousands of grey statues, Lilith’s flowers, stood on the plateau facing the great rock.

He looked at his hands, which were both where they should be—at the end of his arms. For a moment, he remembered the years he had spent in the cell with Jake, but it felt like a dream and soon faded, leaving him with an empty space in his memory—a vague crushing recollection of empty time.

He tried to stand and winced in agony. The shooting pain in his leg reminded him of “Pops” stabbing his leg and foot. He took a few deep breaths and then climbed to his feet and hobbled forward towards the plateau.


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