The Last Walk

The smell of purgatory is intense, as I travel down this dark stairway. Thick and dank, like a wet fire. I figured out I was dead many hundreds of steps back. I don't know how deep I'll have to go before I hit Hell, but I keep walking, and thinking. My head has cleared so much as I take this walk, I understand more of what my life was. I was a terror, a monster, my life was devoted to things that now I can't even stomach the horror of, but despite all this there is one thing that I regret most.

I remember the day I walked away form Jiraiya, how I had been sensing for a while how strong his feelings for me had become. I had plans though, plans I couldn't let him get in the way of, no matter how I felt. And oh yes, I felt for him too. I had felt for him since the day I asked him to walk beside me. But things were falling into place, it was almost time for it all to unfold, and I realized as he went on in his awkward way that this was likely to be out last walk together. Despite all the hardening my heart had done the past few years, I felt a small pang at that. No matter what else I said, no matter how I could throw away my life to this point, I knew I would miss the walks we took together. So, when we reached the crossroads, I hesitated for just a moment, and then went on my way…but he called my name, and, my heart racing I turned back towards him. He looked so nervous and hesitant, and I begged him silently to come out and say it, so I could hear it one time before I left, but he told me to go on my way, and covered his face in embarrassment. I paused, watching him blush brighter than the sunset, white hair catching the ruby glow, and I couldn't help myself. I took a step forward, placed my hands on his shoulders and tilted back my head to kiss him. I made it last as long as possible without ruining the moment, and then I pulled away. I hesitated for a moment, an inch away from his lips. For one brief second, I considered staying, I thought that perhaps I could just stay with him and everything would be fine but my mind strayed down that path for only a brief second, and all that was left was to say goodbye. It broke what I still retained of my heart to say it, and so, I left the pieces with Jiraiya and turned away.

I suppose dying returned those shattered fragments to me, and as they sewed themselves back into their lop-sided shape I felt every ounce of pain and regret that at the time I had managed to keep from feeling. It was incredibly hard to be dead. I had started remembering nothing, and then slowly my life returned to me, but from the eyes of a child that saw only the evil of what I had done, all my ambition and goals proved to be worth nothing now.

My last memory is the foggiest, for I was so blinded by a rush of emotion. I know Jiraiya killed me; he finished it off with tears in his eyes. I felt a horrible flash of sadness at that, I wanted to hold him and tell him it was all right for him to be doing what he did…but now I can never hold him or walk beside him again.

Now I walk down this stairway, wondering if it will ever end, and when it does where it will lead to, and I reflect on my life, or lack thereof, for that is all there is for me to do. So I walk my path, and am forced to replay my life many times over, each time seeing clearer the horrors I have committed and the stupidity of my mistakes. I walk and walk, perhaps for hours, days, or years, but I can tell only that I walk for a long time. Just as I think I am going to collapse, just as I feel I can take the revulsion of my own life no longer there is an opening before me. The light coming through it is dim and gray but I run to it, starving for its light. As I stumble towards it, I see the shadowy cut of a figure before me, and I pause, squinting so my eyes can adjust to the light. At first I wonder if the figure is some demon come to bring me to hell, but I soon realize this figure is familiar…a figure that has graced my fondest and last memories…my eyes swell with tears as I stop a mere foot before Jiraiya.

My mouth opens, but it takes me many long moments to remember how to form words under his gentle gaze.

"What are you doing here?" I ask.

"I followed you." He replies.

"Why…? You don't need to be here…"

And he extends his hand towards me, a small smile on his face. "Because I want to walk beside you."

The tears fall, and fade as I place my hand in his, and he pulls me out of this dark tunnel of memory and solitude, and into this second leg of my journey. I have faced my sins and now must atone for them; I know that this will take a long and trying time but I have Jiraiya to support me through it, as we take our last walk together through redemption.