I ducked and followed Meher into the narrow hall. Wide bands of rusty light shone beneath the corrugated steel roof; dust motes danced upon the strands. The air was damp and the walls were black with mold.
“Is it safe for the inmates?” I asked.
Meher smiled, barely turning.
“By your reputation, I am thinking you don’t much care what is safe, yes?” He laughed. “But don’t worry, doctor; these men cannot be harmed.”
These men… they were everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Their silence, their stillness—approaching catatonia—unsettled me in a way that my work rarely does. They lined the walls and huddled on stairs, clutching their bony frames, watching us pass with milk-white eyes.
I pulled at the strap of my satchel. I was sweating excessively, and the heavy gear was chafing.
“What do you bring with you, doctor?” Meher asked, noting my struggle, not troubling to mask his lack of interest.
“Equipment,” I replied, simply enough. “Medicines to increase the effectiveness of the treatments. Atropine, methohexital…”
I trailed off as Meher began to laugh.
“Treatments!” he said, and he wagged his finger at me. “Trifles. These men are not ill—they are intoxicated with love for God. No ‘treatment’ can shake them from their ecstasy.”
We were approaching the end of the hall, and an imposing steel door studded with massive rivets. Meher unbarred it and gave it a mighty push.
“This, I think,” he said, “is what you have come to see.”
I stared. At first it was difficult to see anything at all, but slowly a pair of glimmering grey eyes distinguished themselves from the black. Set in a soft, pale face, they did not blink and they did not move—but I could feel that they saw me.
“He came to us long ago,” Meher said quietly. “Long, I think, before you were ever called ‘doctor.’”
When I finally spoke, my voice quavered.
“Brother,” I said. “Brother—I have come to take you home.”
Something slightly different for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge (at least I think it’s different!) The word this week was ecstasy.
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