THE NO-SHOCKS, NO-WORRIES TRUCK clunked in and out of another pothole. For the millionth time since hopping in the back of the truck at Mt. Everest Base Camp in Tibet, Jay bounced up and slammed back down into the truck bed. His bruised body seared under the blazing Indian day. He hardly winced anymore. The effort wasn’t worth it.
When Jay was crammed into the corner where the truck bed met the cab, the jarring and jostling affected him less. He tried sitting on his backpack again. Instead of merely pounding his arse, each bump nearly tossed him onto the cracked road.
Jay sat back down on the hot metal of the truck bed and patted his backpack. Faded, black, waterproofed by dust, nearly as wide as Jay, and as tall as his tenderized torso, the backpack dozed next to him like a dog beside its master. A round lump stretched the fabric at the top of the pack.
It had come back.
A triple shot of fear, awe, and revulsion washed through him. Jay had lost track of the number of times he’d dropped the thing off cliffs, flushed it down toilet holes, and lobbed it into rivers. Each time, he’d hardly zipped up his pack when the lump would appear again. Jay looked away. Instead of thinking about the… thing, Jay tried to think about Agamuskara. Guru Deep’s India Through the Third Eye called it “India’s holiest and unholiest city,” though the guidebook never explained why.
Jay couldn’t explain to himself why he felt so compelled to go there. It was said that people went to Varanasi to die holy, but they went to Agamuskara to live fully. Jay figured he really must want to live, even if his manner of getting to the city suggested otherwise.
After three days of the truck’s tires barely not going over the edges of cliffside roads in Tibet, nearly crashing to a halt from axle-bending potholes in Nepal, and using endless horn blasts to navigate the oncoming trucks and standstill cows of northern India’s river plains, Agamuskara couldn’t be much farther now. Before setting out this morning, the driver had told Jay they would not be going to the city center, but that was fine. He’d make his own way to the middle of town, even if he had to walk. With his skin clogged with grit and his throat caked in dust, all Jay wanted right now was a hot shower and a cold beer. India was India, though. He suspected he would get the opposite. But he would rest and clean up. Then he’d find his way through the city and figure out what he had to see, what drew him so.
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