“Don’t look over the edge! There’s nothing there but bodies. You’re just endangering yourself and everyone else.”
“Shut up. I’m trying to see if I can find another light. Mine’s going out.”
“Then relight it.”
“I don’t have a match.”
“Then suffer through it. We’re almost there.”
“That phrase means nothing anymore. You keep saying that, and yet all we ever do is keep walking. There’s nothing for us. We’re gonna keep going until we fall down and die.”
“You’re assuming natural causes will get us before those?”
I look with everyone else to watch a massive shape with skin that looks like fur if it were also scales and feathers and something that looks a lot like syrup if it were also lava and, somehow, purple as it moves through the wall of watery black smoke-ink like a shark in an aquarium… if both of those things were from the corner of Hell where nightmares came from. No one makes any noises of surprise, mainly because we’ve all seen them so often they’ve become something akin to a travel companion. Like a hitchhiking serial killer in your backseat.
“I can hope, can’t I?”
“And how often has that saved a man?”
“About as often as it damns him.”
“Synonymous. Indistinguishable. Let’s move on.”
“But I still need a light.”
“Just keep an eye on the sides. There’re plenty of bodies and plenty of lights; you’ll find one eventually if you’re quick enough.”
“Well, I’m planning on it. We’ll see how well that works out.”
And the line moves on. Unceasingly, it moves on. Tireless and unfeeling, with the empty slots of every person that was incapable of keeping up, it travels down the narrow pathway defined on each side by a short but steep drop into a crevice filled with rotting corpses that follow alongside the path. There are some rocks and imperfections on the otherwise smooth black surface--of which there exists no laconic comparison, although oatmeal comes to mind for no reason--that catch bodies and their lights so that others more fortunate may continue their journey for a while longer before they too succumb to the personal death that ever lingers behind them--fingers a breath from the neck--poised to spring at any moment from rest to pierce the soft flesh and rip from within it the sweet and glowing life that propels the mounds of muscle, bone, and flesh forward. Or worse, they could be taken by the things that swim in the shimmering black that encases all we know like a tunnel through a mountain. It is rare, but always terrible. Like a plague. Ungodly in its wrath, yet tempered in flair and flash of execution. Like the dropping of a bomb upon innocents below. Every empty clasp in the line of chain that connects and binds us all reminds us of our inevitable fate by flash, flop, or fury.