Chapter 32 of Ama

Jason gazed up at the plain wooden cross above the altar and thought about God, wondering why He would punish his creations in this barbarous way. Why give us free will if hell awaits those who screw up? Why create such a thing as life in the first place? What is the possible purpose behind creating a realm of uncertainty and fragility? It seems like a pointless endeavour for Him and a tightrope for us. God may move in mysterious ways, but it would make more sense if He gave us a heads-up about the things to avoid. And not through the obscurity of faith, but face to face; how are the students supposed to learn, if the teacher never turns up for class?

The man had been crying for a long while, but Jason had no words of comfort for him; any attempt to find some would be like handing an empty glass to a thirsty man. And anyway, he had his own torment and pain to deal with. He felt sorry for what he had done to him and wished that his memory had remained cloudy about it, but the demon girl’s parting gift to Jason was clarity. A simple word was all he had for the man, and “sorry” wouldn’t cut it. There was one other thing he could do for him though before leaving. Jason stood and walked over to the vestry.

He stepped over the broken table, reached up and unhooked the one remaining curtain. After folding the red cloth, he took it back into the nave.

“Here,” he said, holding the curtain out to the naked man.

The man knelt by the door and scratched at the wood with his fingernails. He had no marks on his body as a testament to the carnage that had befallen him a short while ago; his ride on hell’s eternal wheel had been reset and now continued. “How long will this go on?” he asked.

Jason put the material on the ground next to the man.

“I loved her so much,” the man said without looking away from the door. “After her funeral I hung myself with the same rope. I wanted to go where she’d gone, to be with her again… My little Amanda…”

There was a knock on the door and the demon girl called, “Funny man, please open the door and play with me.”

Jason left him kneeling by the door and walked back to the vestry, picking up the baseball bat from the church debris as he moved. He untangled the scarf from his neck and wrapped it around his face, covering his nose and mouth, and then walked out onto the grey sand.

At the back of the church, he found the start of a path through the desert, about twenty feet wide and cutting a straight and level line through the dunes. Far off in the distance he saw the mountain. It looked as far away now as it had from his garden. As he walked away from the church, he heard the demon sing once more.

“Oh, funny man, funny man, I want to play with you, funny man.”


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