Seoc had wavered into consciousness once more. He was aware that he was lying on top of something lumpy and unpleasant, and that he was in some sort of mobile vehicle that was bumping and jostling him about. He couldn’t, however, move to find a more comfortable position, or even open his eyes to see what was going on. At the moment, he was quite paralyzed.
The sensation was not an agreeable one, but it didn’t particularly worry him. This sudden immobility was an event that he had encountered before, mostly right after he had had a seizure. He had always recovered quite quickly, and all his vital functions seemed to be in order, so he could wait it out. No need to panic.
He relaxed his mind and drifted out again.
When he came to, he received the impression that he had traveled some great distance. He still couldn’t move or open his eyes, but the rest of his senses were coming through clearly now. Especially that of smell. Where he was, it smelled terrible. Like death.
Then the pieces slid into place.
He was in the corpse-cart. That lumpy, uncomfortable thing beneath him? That was a dead body.
Had he been mistaken for dead?
That could be the only explanation.
But where was he being taken?
To the crematorium, of course. He’d heard tell of it, though he’d never seen it. Somewhere outside the gates. A chimney protruding from the ground like a huge, hideous growth, belching foul-smelling smoke all through the night and the day. That’s where all the corpses went to be burned.
He would be burned alive.
That was when the panic hit him. His mind reeled and his heart raced. He tried desperately to move, if only to alert whoever was pushing the cart that he wasn’t, in fact, dead. But he couldn’t even twitch his fingers or choke out a sound.
Yes, he had spent most of the past three years wishing he could find a way to die, but now that it seemed certain that he would die, it was extremely frightening. Anyway, being burned alive wasn’t high on his list of preferred modes of mortality to start with. He liked the prospect even less than he liked the idea of drowning or being buried alive.
It would hurt, he imagined. It would hurt more than anything he had ever experienced. No, he would rather live another three years in that horrid cell than perish in the flames of the crematorium.
And what would happen afterward? That was even more terrifying. Would there be an afterlife, or just…nothing? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t decide which sounded worse.
If only he could move. Or speak. Or even open his eyes.
He didn’t want to die.