IV

The Violent Extremists

"I've been listening to the voice at night and he is right, I am the chosen one. And my shepherd, he has paid my ride. I will go with a smile." - "Fate" Tristania

The room stank of sulfur, so thick it stung my nostrils and burned the back of my throat when I breathed. As my eyes adjusted to the wave of heat that washed over us when the door opened, I gasped in terror. Rows upon rows of people hung naked from the ceiling, tied by their wrists, each one surrounded by their own ring of fire. The flames licked their naked flesh raw, peeling away layer after layer, revealing new, pink flesh that was quickly blackened and then peeled away as well.

The old woman led me to a young woman with long, black hair that was singed from the flames which occasionally caught her hair on fire, but disappeared after a few seconds of burning her. The soles of her feet were burned raw and bleeding. Her shrieks of pain pierced my ears and the old woman cackled cruelly.

"Ugly punishment, innit?" she sneered, never taking her eyes off the woman in pain. "Oi!" The old woman picked up a piece of rock from the ground and threw it harshly at the woman hanging from the ceiling. "Speak up, you! This girl's here to learn from you."

The woman lifted her head pathetically, the skin of her face immediately beginning to burn and peel from the heat of the fire, and she smiled wryly. "I died for my God. I took eleven non-believers with me. He asked me to, somewhere inside my mind." Her face twisted suddenly, enraged. "I don't belong here!" she screamed. "They deserved it. I was called to cleanse them with fire. My companion was a coward - he didn't detonate his bomb, he is the one who should be punished. Not me."

"But doesn't your God ask for peace?" I asked carefully, afraid to anger her.

"My God called to me," the woman said defensively. "He wanted me to teach the non-believers a lesson. My God loves me for it. And my God will save me from this place. The one who punishes me here is not my God, and I will not answer to him."

The woman dropped her head down again, her chin resting on her chest in an attempt to keep her face away from the flames, and it was obvious she wouldn't speak to us any longer.

The old woman shook her head and led me away, towards another door. She opened it and I found myself back in the subway station, alone this time. I stepped into the subway train and sat back in the seat I'd been in when I woke up. Exhausted, both emotionally and physically, I curled up in my seat and felt myself fall back to sleep. What felt like seconds later, I woke up again and found myself on a busy train. My eyes fell on an old woman, hunched over in her seat, snoring loudly. The train screeched to a stop and I stood up quickly, not caring what stop I was at, and I hurried with the crowd off the train and away from the station.

The Violent Extremists:

The Violent Extremists are hanging from their wrists, surrounded by rings of fire which eternally scorch and peel their skin raw. They hang from their wrists to emphasize their helplessness for putting their trust in the wrong god and committing violent acts in his name without his consent. The fire represents their "cleansing" as they attempted to cleanse the people they killed.