“For countless millennia no one has forced this skiff to make an unscheduled stop.” Her voice hoarse and booming.
“You have to take me back. I have to do something. I think that I’m connected to that guy back there, he might even be there because of me. I felt something...”
“This boat does not turn around for the tiny feelings of any mewling pissant soul. You should be grovelling before me while your fare has yet to be decided. Be more concerned with your own fate than your lovers."
“My - You told me that everything would become clear in time. I think it is time now.” I tried to stand, defiant showing no fear.
“SIT!” A bony finger extends pointing to my seat and an overwhelming force puts me back on my ass. “You do not give me orders. You are nothing but a soul without a body, without a home. You don’t even belong here, you don’t belong anywhere until I determine your worth. It is not done the way you want. It is far too late for redemption regardless."
"Redemption? I don't need redemption. I just need to see him. Need to talk to him."
"We shall see whether or not you need redemption. As for the jade man, he's been here an eternity already; and, you are correct in that you share a connection, but he's out of your reach."
She went back to her seat, hit all the primers and fired up the engine. The bus whined a little until it heated up and then began to run smoothly. The sign over head turned on and read, Phlegethon. I decided to sit still, close my eyes and try to relax for a while, but the heat was nearly unbearable and the odour much worse and worsening. Sulfurous egg smell mixed with maggot infested meat that had turned greenish blue. A sweet and sour cloying corpse smell that engulfed the bus, permeating every molecule of air.
I couldn't resist looking. I was curious about where the smell could be coming from. Outside of the bus window the air shimmered in waves of heat. It was the Dali's Persistence of Memory. Everything was melting. The road was a nasty grey slush of frothing cement and asphalt. The tops of the tallest buildings drooped down, the smaller more squat buildings sunk in on themselves at a corner like a layered cake in which the base is too soft. The further into this landscape the bus ventured the crazier it got. There were bodies hanging from the lamp posts. Those that weren't were sinking into the street which boiled, peeling away skin from their faces in wet floppy swaths. The road seemed to surge and coil around the buildings squeezing in on them.
A group of people who were not quite the obsidian creatures from before but looked to be in some stage of transition huddled at different points along the sidewalk attempting to hold each other back from the road as it seethed and splashed. Abruptly a loud, shrill whistle resounded. The tension among the groups was palpable. They squeezed in tighter together. Some broke free of the groups and tried to run. Out of nowhere some went sailing into the street splashing down and immediately flailing, splashing about screaming and crying. It was seconds before their skin came loose and fell away to reveal glistening muscle and tissue. Then they appeared again; from behind the masses, and from around the corners of buildings marched the tall, unimaginably thin ICE teams. They began shoving everyone into the bubbling street. A few who tried to escape were crushed by the hardened slop of a drooping building that could no longer hold itself up at all. Phlegethon, the river of torment and violence for those who were violent in life. I'd read that somewhere. In another life. It came back as I watched all those people out there pushed to their misery and suffering for the enjoyment of those more powerful. All I could do was watch.
It did occur to me for a moment or two, that perhaps they were deserving of this torment. Those who were violent in life. Why are people so willing to give control over themselves to others? What constituted that violence and where was the line? If you smack someone as a child, not understanding the action never mind the consequence does that count? Probably not, I have a problem with authority. I always have; you may have picked up on that. I hate the idea of someone else's idea of right or wrong trumping my own. Especially when it comes to eternal torment and torture. I suppose there are a few things that constitute that level of punishment, but a very few things.
The bluster went on as we passed. It was a never ending serpent line of brutal abuse. Everywhere souls burst into flames or were boiled alive in the bubbling river-road. No-one escaped the Gestapo. They were ruthless in their assault. Each group we passed however, stopped what they were doing and turned to smile at the bus. Ugly, sneering grins that sent electric ants down my spine. Then they would turn back to their savage work.
We reached a group of those SS soldiers in small armored vehicles. They were a cross between a sidewalk plow and tank. Big spiked tracks wheeling around four wheels on either side. A cowcatcher on the front loaded with pikes jutting out from between the grates and a massive cannon. All of it was swirls of bullet grey and black. No markers or logos of any kind. So much for the freedom of assembly here. I'd hate to see what happens if anyone tried to protest. That thing was pounding through people like they were just shadows on the sidewalk. Some squished under the treads, some were impaled on the pikes, feebly struggling to free themselves. The vehicle stopped. I wondered why until I looked forward at large group just up ahead turning to run. There was a monstrous roar of thunder and a huge light burst from the cannon mouth. A horrible steel dragon reigning fire on the poor denizens of this city. Tolkien would be beside himself. This was a holocaust. There was a loud metal thunk in the midst of group up ahead, they stopped moving, a general quiver ran through each of them and then large chunks of bodies, whole limbs flew in a large arc outwards. The pieces and parts were scattered everywhere and were pinned to what they hit by piercing shrapnel and whatever other sharp objects were contained within the mortar shell. Heads splashed into the road still yelling, eyes and mouths twitching as dark ichor rolled out of their mouths, eyes, and noses despite their nervous systems and the whole of their beings being torn apart and scattered far away, until they sunk into the turbulent ebbing of the street never to be heard from again.