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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

You Were Only Waiting For This Moment To Arrive

It is 5:02 in Ebrethís dream.

He doesnít usually dream about time, because thereís no way to keep track of it in Hell, at least not in the Aríxhay. Time doesnít pass there so much as it lurks, slinking so mercilessly through the shadows from nine to five that one hour might have passed there or forty. And every dream heís had for the past year now has been about Hell. But itís 5:02 now, and Ebreth knows this because the factory whistle has blown and the devils are going home.

Itís almost insulting how fast they leave when the whistle blows. They donít even enjoy this: itís a crummy job and he bores them. Ebreth feels like heís not even good at suffering. It ought to be a relief when they finally leave him but itís not, because once the pain dims to comprehensible levels he can hear himself think again, and reliving how he feels about it is almost worse than reliving the acts. No matter how often Ebreth returns here he still canít convince himself that it will ever end, that he will ever wake up, that there will ever be anything better. Sometimes he thinks Hell is really about that despair, and everything else is just a conduit to this point.

At first he doesnít realize heís started to move. Ebrethís hips are shattered, though, and thereís only so far you can get like that without a conscious devotion of effort. One forearm pressing to the cold floor and pulling him slowly, inexorably forward. Then the other, a painful mockery of a military crawl. Ebreth understands very suddenly what he is doing and canít believe he has never done it before.

He relives this over and over, the agony, the despair. His mind wonít let go of it. Tarrin says itís psychosis, the mental equivalent of a scar that will not heal. Schneider thinks itís divine punishment. Grayson said once that you could get so used to suffering it was easier to beat yourself for them every night than it was to risk hoping for better. Right now it is some time after five oíclock and Ebreth is dragging his broken body across the metal floor of the Aríxhay and he is thinking that maybe the reason he keeps returning here is because he fails every time. Maybe his soul is just circling this place in confusion waiting for Ebreth to set them both free.

He has reached the wall and he gropes along it until his hand finds Pieretís foot where the priest is hanging from his chains. Ebreth can not stand but he grips his ankle as he would grip another manís hand. ďAre you all right,Ē he rasps at his cellmate, each word burning in his mouth.

The blind whiteness grows brighter and brighter until it cracks at its edges and falls from the darkened bedroom.

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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