And it was while looking for a shelter that they found an old couple. The old man looking at them said with a knowing smile in his eyes: “New here?”
“Yes, What is this place?” he replied.
“This is the land of fallen, friends. Come! we will take you to a place where you can find a home.”
“But, but we do not wish to stay. We must go back to …. to the arena”
At this, the old man and woman laughed heartily. “Go back! They want to go back!! Have you heard anything like that?” the old woman said as she laughed.
He felt as if he had said something childish, He wanted to protest and argue – but then it occurred to him that all his arguments were speculative. He had only guesses about what the arena and the land of the fallen were supposed to be about. And his guesses had proved wrong way too many times. Did these two know what the meaning of this whole thing was?
After he had laughed at his heart’s content, the old man said, “Be careful what you wish for, boy, be careful.”
The old woman, seeing that the girl was scared after their laughter, went closer to the girl, put her arm behind her back, and whispered soothing words into her ear.
At the old couple’s village, they were made to sit among several people of different age groups – all in couples, laughing and holding hands and congratulating them for some reason. When everyone was finally settled, another old couple invited them to a corner and asked them “you shall be given a place to live in and shall find fruits in plenty in gardens. Tell me – one room or two?”
The boy wished that they should stay in the same room but it seemed too bold to ask for that without her permission, he looked at her and seeing nothing suggestive in her eyes asked for two rooms.
The look of glee was gone from the face of the old couple, the woman said “You wished to go back – there is a ladder to the south of this village. It is long and hard to climb upon, people often get scared in their efforts to climb. We know it from those who fall back from the ladder or who fall into the land of the fallen after having risen for a second or third time. You may try to climb it if you like anytime, but we shall suggest that you stay here for a while, even though we know, your ‘better judgment’ shall tell you otherwise.”
The old woman was right about ‘better judgment’. Within a few moments of his being left alone in his room, he was desperate to climb back to the arena – to go as far away from her (the girl) as possible. Now he was angry at her for not correcting him and saying they would only need one room. He felt like doing something cruel to her – felt that he had fallen because of her and only her and wished to reproach her for the same; forgetting yet again that he had actually wished to visit this place kong before he had met her.
And then again he felt guilty and accused himself of bringing her down in what should only have been his fall by reaching with his hand to her. She seemed like a child to him. And he felt, in a weird way, responsible for her, even apart from the responsibility that he felt was obvious – of taking her back to the arena if she so wished. But what about the sufferings the ladder will give you? How is he to save her from that? For himself, he could take those tortures – and he was determined to do so once he had thrown her out of his mind. Her, who was so cruel as to refuse to be in his sight every living moment of their life.
He laid there on the floor trying to sleep – only to find himself restless. The uncertainty of the whole thing bothered him. He wanted to take a quick decision and face its consequences – good or bad. Anything. Oh! let me have her completely or not at all. Anything was better than this. In the end, he decided that he won’t be able to sleep in this room. And so he went near the sea where he had had the best sleep of his life only last night. He hoped that the sleep had something to do with the place rather than her presence at his chest.