The Devil’s Taxi moved along at a slow pace and it was a long time before Lucia faded into the distance. Jason turned to look back twenty or thirty times before he couldn’t see her anymore. He wished she had come with him.
The pain in his leg was sharp and throbbing, as was the discomfort in his face, but he thought little of it. He looked at the twelve men and their dusty grey clothes which hung from them as rags, flapping in the light wind as they jogged. They had terrible cuts on their backs from the two whips. Jason didn’t use the whips on them, nor did he touch the wire that connected each man by the neck to the carriage, but he did use the reins to snap more enthusiasm into them. The reins were connected to leather harnesses buckled around the chest of each of the two men in the lead position.
A good man no more, Jason thought to himself—if ever I was. He tried to push away the shame which had begun to suffocate his thoughts. But his actions wanted to feed on him now, gnawing on the remains of his conscience. He snapped the reins. “Faster! The quicker you get me there, the quicker you’ll be free of this. Faster!”
Up ahead, about fifty feet away, three twisted bodies rolled down a dune and across the path. Their broken arms and legs stuck out from their withered forms like crooked branches and moved with vigorous madness in all directions. As the carriage drew nearer, Jason watched the three figures twitch and jerk as they moved along like tumbleweed. They would stand and then fall, over and over again as they edged their way across the path. Behind the three walked another man, holding a long stick, which he used to keep the three moving. He was shepherding his tortured flock.
“Is this not fun?” the shepherd called out to Jason. “A dozen club sluts and a bag of coke couldn’t bring me off like this does.” He tapped the side of the carriage with his stick as it passed by. “I like your style, chief.”
Jason ignored the man, his attention instead fixed on the human tumbleweed struggling to get out the way of the carriage. He stood and looked over the side, making sure none fell under the wheels. He watched the men and considered their hideous predicament. It appeared to be the same affliction the guy in his garden had gone through, and the same suffering he had witnessed Lucia going through back at the well. It was like a rapid degenerative disease ripping any bodily control from them until their muscles pulverised their bones through rapid and violent contractions. Sorrowful moans and brief piercing screams resounded with a chorus of bones breaking and flesh ripping.
He forced his gaze back to the distant mountain. Don’t look at them, he thought. Forget about them. Don’t think about Lucia either. Why was she so prevalent in his thoughts? he wondered; he didn’t know her. But in this place of abominations, she had cared. If it were not for her, he would be one of these poor souls by now, pulling this carriage. The woman in Xavier’s cage and Lucia had both helped him, and he had left them to their fate.
He couldn’t steady his mind and guide his thoughts away from where they now lingered—with the women he had left behind, one a plaything for a sadistic lunatic, the other a victim to her own failing body. She’ll go through that again, destroying herself. And she’ll be alone when it happens. Or found by someone else. Someone like Xavier or the boy by the well. Or like the shepherd he had just passed… You left them… You left her…
“Stop!” He dropped the reins and climbed down from the carriage, steadying himself against one of the large wooden wheels for a moment. He opened the carriage door and grabbed the pliers, and then set about untying and untangling the men from the barbed wire. The sharp points cut and slashed at his hands as he worked in a remorseful frenzy to release them.
Once free, the men didn’t wait. Within seconds they had all left the path and disappeared over the dunes and into the desert. Jason noticed that one man had used a spike from the wire to scratch something into the carriage door before running off. He read the message:
The mountain will not end your suffering.
It did not end mine.