There was a certain poetry to the way of life they’d put together on the fringes of the desert.
Set the target, clear out the zone, load the deck, get it back without getting busted, rinse and repeat. The racket had a certain flow to it that made life almost surreally simple compared to most routines within the realm of the law.
He’d never grown up brimming with a burning passion to become a bandit, but as most things, the lifestyle chose him. There was time that the things they’d done on the road may have kept him up at night, but the frustration with that had been left behind a long time ago. The only thing that remained within him was the commitment to something that finally made sense.
Something that wasn’t wrapped in double-meanings or lies by omission. Something that didn’t result from expectations. Something that asked for no validation and implied no self-righteousness; at least, not in his mind. He knew he wasn’t a good person. He wasn’t poetic or righteous enough to romanticize it or rationalize it.
He chose a path of clear discernment over virtue, and with that, he committed to bandit life as casually as a koi fish takes to a new fountain.
In total, they’d managed to draw up about fifteen or so; a small bounty for an honest month of trafficking, but not unheard of in the area. The setup had gone fairly well, it was just the cleanup process that had gotten a bit messy towards the end of the operation. Sixty more miles to the checkpoint. Once there, they could drop off the day’s haul and hopefully get some uninterrupted shuteye for the first time in several weeks on end.
His eyes had nearly drooped shut before a violent explosion threw time and space into spiral.
There was no trace of lightning for miles, yet the flash was severe enough to send the caravan into a tailspin due to its addled driver. There was the howl of something pulsed with the faintest tone of humanity underneath a chorus of crashing waves on rocks. He could hardly even register the physical impact of what had happened by the time that both his legs had left him.
In the closing window of sight that he had as supine torso in the sand, all the various mechanical components of the caravan had been tossed up into the air like a metallic whirlwind. Another burst of toned thunder rolled across the land before silence reclaimed it in an instant. Superstitious travelers in the previous camp had them warned of crossing paths with Aten. Like many others, he and his crew learned all too late just how valid those warnings had been.
The desert doesn’t take kindly to the aimless, but it doesn’t make it easy to move with purpose either. In the most arid stretch of land on the planet, the sandstorm is an unrelenting vortex of shark skin textured wind punishes all things that bleed; all things but its unconscious summoner, the roaming Aten.
Aten hadn’t noticed the bandits when they were alive or dead. Aten could think of but one point in time, and it was neither in the past, present or future. This moment, though very much removed from the point in time that he currently resided, was so vivid that it set fire to his cells.
Aten could feel it like the back of a scimitar dragged across the nape. Something imagined, yet far too visceral to be anything other than real.
Not an anticipation, but an entirely self-designed prophecy. Not something that he needed to happen, but something he’d contracted with time to actualize. Not an expectation or a fantasy, but the reality yet unrealized.
The nucleus of something Aten ad created from the furthest reaches of the ether, and without even the faintest sense of doubt, resolved to destroy entirely.
In the infinite expanse of the Sahara, they say that there’s only one way to spare yourself the punishing heat: become a skeleton. Aten’s recourse was simply ignore it. It worked.
What would have paralyzed anything with mortality in pain was to Aten as the open air. The elements danced on Aten’s skin without acknowledgment. Sediment, rainfall, heat and cutting wind had turned Aten’s frame into their perpetually moving canvas.
What occupied Aten’s eyes was not simply darkness, but the absence of distractions. A tunnel of purpose. All was inconsequential outside of the tunnel enclosing his transcendent will.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and Aten sought nothing more in this world but to break it. The light was a certain man. There were absolutely no doubts in Aten’s mind about the catharsis that would come from breaking the man.
It made the dull pain in Aten’s veins feel like rivers of morphine. It made the sand drilling into Aten’s pores feel like delicate acupuncture. It made the war zone in his mind feel as a paradise pure enough to shame Valhalla. What he heard was a hall that echoed with the satisfying snap of that future day, and with every step, that brutal chorus grew louder.
Since exiting the void, time had long since lost its meaning. He needed nothing more than the call to that man’s oblivion by his hand. The man named Amun.
Amun the betrayer. Crush Amun and know peace. Find Amun, who fled to the future, and obliterate him with all the force of the past. This was the mission that made Aten move.