Then the voice - which identified itself as the prince of this world, the only being who really knows what happens on Earth - began to show him the people around him on the beach. The wonderful father who was busy packing things up and helping his children put on some warm clothes and who would love to have an affair with his secretary, but was terrified on his wife's response. His wife who would like to work and have her independence, but who was terrified of her husband's response. The children who behave themselves because they were terrified of being punished. The girl who was reading a book all on her own beneath the sunshade, pretending she didn't care, but inside was terrified of spending the rest of her life alone. The boy running around with a tennis racuqet, terrified of having to live up to his parents' expectations. The waiter serving tropical drinks to the rich customers and terrified that he could be sacket at any moment. The young girl who wanted to be a dance, but who was studying law instead because she was terrified of what the neighbours might say. The old man who didn't smoke or drink and said he felt much better for it, when in truth it was the terror of death what whispered in his ears like the wind. The married couple who ran by, splashing through the surf, with a smile on their face but with a terror in their hearts telling them that they would soon be old, boring and useless. The man with the suntan who swept up in his launch in front of everybody and waved and smiled, but was terrified because he could lose all his money from one moment to the next. The hotel owner, watching the whole idyllic scene from his office, trying to keep everyone happy and cheerful, urging his accountants to ever greater vigilance, and terrified because he knew that however honest he was government officials would still find mistakes in his accounts if they wanted to. There was terror in each and every one of the people on that beautiful beach and on that breathtakingly beautiful evening. Terror of being alone, terror of the darkness filling their imaginations with devils, terror of doing anything not in the manuals of good behaviour, terror of God's punishing any mistake, terror of trying and failing, terror of succeeding and having to live with the envy of other people, terror of loving and being rejected, terror of asking for a rise in salary, of accepting an invitation, of going somewhere new, of not being able to speak a foreign language, of not making the right impression, of growing old, of dying, of being pointed out because of one's defects, of not being pointed out because of one's merits, of not being noticed either for one's defects of one's merits.
I could hear the chaotic laughter trailing behind me. It turned the ageless trees into a menace. They loomed around me, while hiding him. The branches tore at my skin in an effort to bind me, while weeds sought to shackle my ankles, so that I could go no further. The pain they caused was minor, when I compared it to the searing inferno at my core.