Purgatory: Canto 26, Lust Moves On
And so we came to a place where there was no path. The grass was soft and green, the air, fragrant and clean. The sun baked down both gentle and harsh on the perfect bodies arrayed around us.
“Follow me carefully,” my Guide said, “this is a bit tricky. Walk only where I walk and wait for me before you speak.” The sun was nearly down now, its rays were making everything glow, rich with color, deeply contrasted, golden skin against green grass, blue sky deepening. It was my favorite time of day.
My shadow was long and lean, it struck across the grass before us as though it knew the way. Again, I could hear them murmuring about us. “Alive, and solid.” they whispered. We stepped carefully between the bodies, and I tried not to stare. They kept their eyes closed but seemed to feel every glance. The muscles under their skin would ripple as we passed. Small bulges appeared and faded as we passed as though we were a cool breeze or an erotic thought. I stepped as silently and lightly as I could.
Still, some began to stir and in me, I felt that fear I had carried from childhood. That these people, these dead people, however lovely, would arise from their sleep and take hold of me by the ankles. They would keep me here or drag me somewhere deeper and I would never be free.
In all the places we had traveled, with all the horrors I had seen, this silent, lurking possibility of being caught on the very verge of leaving, seemed the most dreadful. I felt tears begin to fill my eyes and fought down my feelings so as not to draw even more attention.
My feet and ankles, as they moved through the grass, seemed to be moving through a net of cobwebbed thoughts and feelings, gathering more as we went. These thoughts flowed like electricity between these perfect forms — there was no doubt in my mind, we disturbed their rest, we inhibited their progress. I wanted, more than anything to jump, to run.
There were no scars on these perfect forms, they lay exposed, clear in the awareness of their perfection. Desired and desirable above all and it was terrifying. They were, apart from that, only shells of humanity. Forms that did not follow function but aspired only to form and the sensation of a climax. They were raw nerve and vision, perfectly blind to anything in life but that.
The man who passed this way before me had the stories of others to tell in this place. They were vocal, they were instructive, they were more human somehow but here, for me, they were silent meditations. Too deeply buried in their own penance and their path beyond it to vocalize for the likes of me.
I wanted to run but could only walk, step by step, a quiet, nervous, witness to their exposure. And when we reached the end of the field. Julia had joined them somehow. I never saw her again.
My Guide and I stood before a rock wall and flowing down its side, like water, was a sheet of flame. She stopped me here and turned aside.