Page 64 - November 2020
P. 64

November 2020           64

                                                THE CHARCOAL GARDEN

             remember  a  plan  of  this  place;  that  made  him  laugh—and  the  sound  kept  on
             echoing over our heads for some time before gradually fading into the void and the
             undulating patterns and levels imprinted on the walls, one on top of the other.

             Like all geologists, Sharif started rubbing the mineral deposits and using the tips of
             his fingers as taste-tests to check some of the rock formations that were patterned
             somewhat like salt.  Occasionally we were scared by sounds that were sometimes
             close by and at others far away, sounds that seemed to be coming from the very
             rock itself, acting as some kind of guard over these treasures hidden deep inside
             the earth. We made our way as quickly as we could past these enormous, glistening
             structures, scattered among the rock like so many people in streets and markets or
             branching  off  into  other  hard  formations,  some  of  which  coated  your  hands  and
             faces with strange hues.

             We  could  smell  gas  emerging  from  an  aperture  in  the  rockface;  it  would  have
             asphyxiated us for sure if we had not quickly moved as far away as we could.  Even

             so  the  atmosphere  became  oppressive,  and  we  found  ourselves  having  trouble
             breathing.  We took a huge leap and landed up sinking into a pool of petrol beneath
             our feet.  As the petrol began to rise and drag us downwards, we could not believe
             the  situation  we  were  in,  staggering  around  and  almost  losing  consciousness  or
             maybe actually doing so—we could not tell the
             difference.  We had lost all sense of balance, and the shock of it all kept us tongue-
             tied.  Even though we seemed to be at the very bottom of the world, we still felt as
             though  we  were  flying  through  space,  liberated  from  the  earth’s  gravity,  in  some
             warm climate.

             As we stumbled our way around the deepest layers of the earth’s crust, we felt that
             we were almost melting away, it was so hot.  We simply abandoned ourselves and
             felt sure we had fallen into hell itself.  We closed our eyes against the calamity that
             had befallen us and prepared ourselves to embark on the experiences of the Last
             Day, a glimmer of consciousness still present in our exhausted eyelids.

             This viscous liquid that had been lying somnolent in the bowels of the earth realized
             how  far  we  had  fallen  via  layer  up  layer  of  rocks  beneath  which  it  had  remained

             hidden for millions upon millions of years.  Just for a moment it was shocked. Then
             it  started  spreading;  almost  immediately  it  had  coalesced  and  started  creating
             waves without number.  It let out a laugh, traces of which battered our eardrums in a
             way that terrified us.  We realized that it had made up its mind to drown us in its
             viscosity.    We  looked  all  around  us,  trying  to  find  a  way  of  escaping,  but  it  was
             impossible.  We surrendered to our fate; now that we found ourselves completely
             enveloped  and  the  enemy  training  its  guns  on  us,  we  succumbed  to  a  general
             feeling of lassitude.
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