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Cocytus

The bus swirled end over end in a nightmare loop de loop. I was pressed to the sides and the hot window glass. My stomach contents had shifted, they’d become Christmas ornaments hung on the branches of my ribs from the force of the revolutions.

“Did you fall from a shooting star One without a permanent scar? And did you miss me while you were Looking for yourself out there?”

A funny thought creeps into my mind; I looked around for any cakes to grow larger, any bottles of shrinking juice or any other paraphernalia that might give some clue to where we were, where we were going, or how I might survive the fall.

“Oh Alice, we make quite a pair... Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen? I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth.”

Even Alice was more concerned with space than time. Distance is the only measure, time is contemptible. It get's so much credit. "'Time heals all wounds,' they say. But really it's how far you go to set things right. Or, how far you run away that really salves the wounds of the soul. Space is freedom, time is a constraint and look how far I've come. That has got to count for something."

The driver completely ignores my outbursts. And here I thought I was incredibly clever! What do I know, eh? Solving the philosophical conundrums of humanity on a rolling bus, swirling down the drains of hell. Look at me now, ma!

She reaches out and flips another switch on the buses dash. The tornado ends and the bus unravels like a map on a table. She punches the gas and the front end of the bus lifts a little it propels us forward. She isn't gunning like before. We aren't in the city anymore that much is clear. Horribly twisted and barren forests line either side of the road. Swaying the branches clack off one another, clicking with each contact; skeletons still under the effects of rigor mortis trying to shake hands.

I could hear a low persistent moan continuously changing in pitch and tempo, desperately trying to get some message across. Curious, I lowered the windows and listened. At first it died, then it rose again as we neared a thicker copse of trees. They were crying. One said, 'I couldn't stop her,' and another 'help me, I can't take care of my baby anymore...' another, 'I'll take care of your baby for ya... HA HA HA.' There was a lot of implication in that voice and the laugh was gruff and evil sounding. More voices in harmony lamented that they couldn't afford the medical bills. More pleas came, to stop abuse, to get off the drink, to get more crack, and skag. The volume rose as more and more joined the chorus of wailing. It was joined by a heavy rumbling wail that rose and fell in cycles and it seemed to be coming from directly beneath the bus. It almost sounded like drowning through a smokers cough with a lung full of phlegm and the vocal chords singed from centuries of smoking. If London could cry during the industrial revolution, I'd imagine it would sound like this.

The sign above the driver turned on and reads, Cocytus. Strange name, I wonder how you even pronounce it. It dawns on me that that the sky is the same shade and texture as the ground. Up or down? The trees are actually floating in their own limbo between planes. Are they growing down or up? Or is it me? Maybe I have the wrong perspective. The branches look like the roots and the roots like the branches. Are we still spinning and I've just gotten used to it?

That heavy rumbling wail rises again, "Turn back, you did nothing, you haven't run far enough... the jade man follows your every step," it bawls up at me. How did I end up here? I found him and got help for him. "You stabbed him in the back, the front, you cut his heart out. With that knife you carry. It is cock you fucked him with, the tool of your betrayal, and the piece cut from him by you."

"Who's saying this shit!?" I yell.

Those violet eyes flash electric in the rearview. The overhead speaker crackles and the gravel crushing voice of the driver envelopes the bus, "we are on Coyctus now, the river of wailing lamentation. The road laments for you. The jade man's hurt flows with it."

"I did what I could! I tried. I looked for him. I went to the party..." I sobbed, pulling my knees up to my chest and breaking down again, crying. "What more could I have done?"

The wheels bump over a divot in the road. It exhales a deep regretful sigh and whispers, "you did nothing, you are nothing. Kill yourself. Use the bone to prick yourself, cut out your own heart. He screams from your betrayal. He is the lost soul, bound in chains of the universe. You are Judas.

He wishes he never met you. It was all a waste.

He's glad he never went to the party!" This last sentence reverberated up through the bus echoing over and over again.

I squeezed my knees tighter, tears flowed from my eyes. Was I really that bad? That terrible of a person? A wrecking ball of doubt slams into my chest forcing me to think back on our whole relationship. But the road, or the river isn't done there. It isn't just about him, the jade man.

"You've disgraced everyone that has ever loved you. Betrayed friends, hurt your siblings. Your whole life has been one big selfish act."

"No, that's not true!" I try to defend myself through my tears.

"Ahh, but it is true. You're weak, a coward; and you run from everything. Put space between you and everyone else's feelings but your own. You're a mewling loser who was always destined to be here. Wallowing in the shit."

"No, no."

"The jade man knows, his pain follows you, pointing its finger at your faults, your indiscretions, and at your dirty, little, secrets. You whore! He knows about the blow jobs behind the Circle K... Oh how sad that made him, he knows about the quick fucks in the locker room shower, in the park. Jacob wasn't your first, or your only. He's shed his weight in tears over every nick and cut you gave him."

The voice of the road burbled and coughed relentlessly as the bus rolled along. I could do nothing but take it in. Think about all the things it said. All of them were true, must be true. But, I didn't think before, couldn't imagine that it was all this bad, that everyone felt this way about me. I did nice things for people, sometimes. Sure, I took advantage of some situations, but who doesn't? Is that really so bad?

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