The World Beyond Life

                The Immortals craved death. But before them lay only desert. Behind them the same wastes, the same desolation. The sun-fired sands in turn cooked their feet. Their soles calloused and their skin burned brown, their entire bodies covered in the same even tone.  Their naked forms blistered in the sun, their shoes and clothes all long since lost to time. They needed not eat, drink or defecate. They did not even remember that once they did these things.

Hollow eyes fixed on the ground before them, on each shuffling step that carried them deeper into the burning sea. Each day carrion birds trailed them, hoping perhaps one of them might fall, or perhaps they too were cursed with infinite life amidst lifelessness, an existence without hope. They stumbled up dunes and then down again, indentations from their steps linger behind them in the windless steppe, where not even the sands shift, where they were the only things that moved.

“How long must we walk?” A Nameless one wondered aloud, punctuating centuries of silence. His fellow travelers stared at him mutely, perhaps they forgot how to speak, or why they even would.

                “How long until we die?” Shielding his face from the sun, which shined and shined and never set, under which they walked and walked and never slept, never stopped, he regarded it as if expecting an answer. But if indeed there was some intelligence who watched them, some force that had cursed them with survival, no answer forthcame from the skies.

                “Why are we here? Why? Why do we endure?”

                The susurrus rustle of men wading through still sands was the only reply.

                “Why I ask you? Why?” Finally he grabbed another of his compatriots, a nearby woman of indeterminate age and origin, face etched with deep lines but with shining brown hair and dark eyes that saw open and clear.

                He quickly realized: He did not know this woman. Into their hermetic desert entered something new

                “You are the ones that time forgot,” She addresses herself not just to this man, of no identity, no name, no memory. But to the group. “You are the ones life left behind.”

                “Who? Who are you?” One of them asked, which one mattered not, they all had long since ceased to be individuals, but empty husks. Full of blood but not verve, ambulatory but not alive.

                “I am your guide.”

                “Where are you taking us?” The initial questioner demanded, though the question echoed in every mind.

                “You are already there,” And with that, she turned and started walking back the way the group came, back over their innumerable footsteps. And, after a while, the men followed, lost in a world beyond life.