Tuesday, March 29, 2011

5 Really Good Short Stories

Roberto Bolano - Gomez Palacio

The story is technically about nothing, about a writer and his boss driving into the desert to see lights. But it's so very good. It's like it's describing a mood rather than an event.

Mort Castle - I Am Your Need

It's horror as horror should be. It attacks you on a emotional level. It's not very scary in a "blood and guts" sort of way. It's more about the fear you feel for Marilyn Monroe as she flirts with suicide.

Stephen King - All That You Love Will Be Carried Away

Another horror story that attacks you on an emotional level. It gets you thinking about how you'd be perceived after you die.

Micaela Morrissette - Wendigo

Oh, god. I was so weirded out by this story. Cannibalism, both self and regular, but it's not just that. You're in Wendigo's head and start to understand her cracked reasoning.

Veronica Geng - Love Trouble Is My Business

To me, this story is like an aspiring basketball player watching Michael Jordon spring into the air with his tongue drawn out and his eye on the basket. She is an amazing writer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Two: The Red Convoy - The Last Rike

The Last Rike: Book Two - The Red Convoy

The girl was mum. Except for soft tears and the shrill screams, she remained mum about the path that the Red Convoy had traveled and the fact that she wouldn’t speak, meant the covered wagons were moving ever further from him. He had suspicions that the herb shop owner might have been a loyal customer, despite his denials. He figured he’d just ditch the girl and attempt it again with another child. She didn’t trust him, he didn’t have time for her.
The Wanderer and the girl took camp at the base of a crumbling rock face a mile outside of the town. It jetted high into the blazing sky and cast a mile long shadow that spin with the sun like a giant sundial. At night, the girl sat silent, transfixed by the crackling firelight as the Wanderer fussed with his shooters. Though he had disassembled them, painstakingly cleaned the parts with gun oil and reassembled the guns, they only shot sporadically. He tested the guns while he went out for game. He’d draw one of the guns on a smoky gray rabbit, or a scaly sidewinder and say a little prayer that this time the gun would work dependably. When the gun fired, he had hope and when it didn’t, he said, “Fucking Pig shit.”
The night he had the mind to ditch the girl for whomever the herb shop owner might have been hiding, the guns hadn’t fired and he had to work that much hard to slaughter the fat hare that roasted on his makeshift spit. He stared at her as she stared at the dancing firelight. He was working on the guns again, working the cold metal with an oily rag.
“Did my daddy send you?” The girl asked and the Wanderer almost didn’t recognize what she asked as speech.
“Hmm?” The Wanderer asked, now working a brush through the gun’s chambers.
“My daddy. Is he paying you to bring me back home?”
“I don’t know your daddy.”
“Oh…” The only sound for a small while was that of fat sizzling in the fire.
“Are you going to kill me, then?”
“I wouldn’t waste time feeding you , if I aimed to kill you.”
“Oh…” She said softly. Her eyes turned back to the fire. The hare was near finished and the Wanderer cleaned his hands to carve the rabbit for eating. He pulled the smoking rabbit from the fire and began cutting into its meaty haunches.
“My daddy is a bad man. My mama made bad baby, but for me. He wanted me to make him one.” The Wanderer didn’t reply to this.
“I ran away before he could and they picked me up. I thought they were being nice, but…” She went silent for a while and the Wanderer was the same. The Wanderer finally offered her some meat on a greasy stained cloth. She picked at it shyly. The meat was dry and stringy and made them both wish for cold water to wash the taste away, though neither complained aloud.
“They kept me chained in a dark room.” She said, displaying a series of scars around his ankle. “They took my virginity and I thought I was going to die. They cut me.” She said, displaying ragged scars etched along her calves and lower thighs. She also bared her arms to him, showing the scars there. The Wanderer didn’t want to play ’Show Me Your Scars.’ His scars were apparent anyway. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to the elbows and just there was a road map of the hell he had seen.
“You growl in your sleep and your eyes get misty like you want to cry.” She told him. “Do I do that when I sleep?”
“No.” The Wanderer said, carving more of the rabbit.
“I thought I might have. I feel like I do.”
“What about that Convoy you came off of? You most have gleamed something while you were with them.” The Wanderer said.
“I don’t want to go there.”
“That’s where I need to be.”
“I can’t go there.”
“You don’t need to, I just need that location.”
“Would you leave me alone?”
“I’m finding that Convoy one way or the other. You don’t got to go.”
“They might pick me up like they did before. They might hurt me again.”
“That seems to be the situation.” There was another long pause where only the crackle of flames and the two of them working through the rabbit meat could be hear.
“They picked me up along ways away from here and they’re been traveling steady in the same directions. Once going that way…” She said pointing into the north.. “ And then the other.” She said, pointing into the south. “The think they’ll stay on that path, but I can’t be sure of that.”
“You know which they were last?”
“Going into the south.” She said. She stared down into the pale blue, muted sands of the south. The moon was high and clear, shedding light for miles and miles. The Wanderer had the thought that she might be lying. Sending him in the wrong direction would benefit her completely. She wouldn’t be alone and wouldn’t have to walk the path of her captors. The thought came and left without much exploration. She was afraid of them, but she was afraid of him as well. The image of her dead body half buried in the sands was too easy to envision for the both of them.
“I don’t want to go there, though.” She added to her long past line of thought. By the time she had added this comment, the Wanderer was done with the rabbit and rolling a cigarette for himself.
“You said your name was Clod, right?” She asked, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees.
“Mmm” He grunted with the cigarette pursed between his lips. He struck a sulfur match on his thigh and lit the tightly rolled cigarette.
“My name is Macy.” The Wanderer blew smoke out his nostrils. Macy didn’t speak anymore that night.
2. Walking
The two, Clod and Macy, moved along the sands in silence. The sun beat at the back of the pair’s necks and sent beads of sweat down their backs. The girl had turned the Last Perkins’ shirt into a sort of oversized dress that was complimented by the meager rags the Wanderer had found her in. The Wanderer had the mind to travel back into town under nightfall and take some departing provisions, namely canteen bloated with water for the both of them. Once that was obtained, he happily left the town, with all its twisted looming eyes.
The girl was shy about drinking, and he found himself repeatedly overtaking his younger companion. As they were on the move, their food had to be whatever crossed their paths and whatever the Wanderer deemed edible. He took the tone of an instructor, explaining which desert dwellers were poisonous and how much so. He explained that some poisonous snakes were at times, easier to catch and safer to eat than what might be consider edible to a layperson. He showed her how to take one’s head off so as to avoid its poison all together.
When he got the guns to work, he shot diner and when it didn’t, he used his blade and they carried on in this fashion throughout the desert. A fine layer of dust clung to the two of them as they moved further and further into the sun and they found that near all of their senses were dulling. Smell was the most apparent, but sounds was snatched away on the sand-laden winds and vision starved as the desert turned to hardpan. The world was forever bleached white sand and thankless blue skies. Among the concerns of losing his quarry, the Wanderer also had lingering fears of the decreasing weight of the canteen. He, as a rule, was miserly with water, hoarding when he could and doling out small gulps as absolute need arose. The Wanderer was considering the possibility of Macy thieving water when the two happened upon a shack left in the midst of the burning hardpan. The presence seemed an absolute impossibility, but they both laid their hands on it and confirmed that it was real to the other. The Wanderer tried the door and was met with another impossibility, an old, sun baked man clutching a rusted up pig-sticker. He was a small one with a full, white beard resting upon his meager chest.
“Whatcha-won?” He asked in a slow, grumbling drawl.
“We didn’t think anyone lived here. Just looking for water, old timer.”
“Whatcha-god for water.” He asked.
“I got coin plenty.”
“Coin?” He spat at the ground or more accurately, he made the spitting sound. The old man wasn’t willing to part with any of the moisture he had available. “You see where you is? What I do with coin.”
“What you want then?”
“Whatcha-god, beside coin?” The old man asked, though the Wanderer saw where the old man was trying to lead him.
“Macy, let’s go.” The Wanderer stated and he continued on his path south. Macy stood, perplexed. The old man called after him.
“Hold on. What wrong, now?” The old man turned his gaze to Macy and started cackling softly. The laughter rose more in speed, but not in volume. “How much you think I can do, young man. You come on now, I ain’t looking to bother with none you like that.” The Wanderer’s better judgment was to keep walking along the sun burnt hardpan, but something occurred to him. The old man wasn’t near anything whatsoever. The man seemed too flimsy to walk a great distance in these conditions.
“Macy, come on.” The Wanderer ordered, moving toward the shack. She followed shyly past the old man into the darkness of the shack. All there was to the shack was four abused walls and a dirt floor. There was no water to be seen and Macy had the terrible sensation of being trapped, but the Wanderer knew that he was dealing with a magic man.
The old man closed the door behind himself. All but a little light sucked from the single room of the shack, the old man started pulling chairs out from the shadows. Three rickety chairs were pulled into the slim shaft of desert light. Sandy particles danced in the light and bent with sinister brilliance. The three sat in a circle and the old man ordered his tanned hands to his guest.
“What do you ask of me?” The Wanderer asked. The old man smiled with some sick joy comparable to a cat with a mouse.
“You know the name, Fiend. Heard of who he is.”
“I heard of him. Magic man, future seer.”
“You know what I won.” The Wanderer slipped his hand into the old man’s and the Wanderer immediately began to grimace. He slipped from his seat and began to shiver in a cold sweat. Macy was bug-eyed, but one look from the old man kept her in her seat. The Wanderer started to grunt and froth at the mouth. Tears fell into the dirt and gradually, Macy realized that he was crying blood. The old man finally released the Wanderer and he bellowed like a wounded animal. The old man allowed Macy to go to him. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“Clod, what he do?”
“You godda long story, boy.” The old man said over Macy’s shoulder. “Now, what about you, girl.” Macy shrank back away from the old man and the shivering Wanderer.
“No.” She said in a shuttering whisper. She scooted backward on her behind until she hit the wall behind her.
“No?” The old man repeated with a bemused tone.
“No.” The Wanderer said with a shivering groan. He was on his hands and knees, spitting blood away. He righted himself and wiped the blood from his cheeks and lips. The old man continued forth and the Wanderer tried to move forward, but he couldn’t.
“Fiend, Stop.” He pleaded. The old man didn’t knelt before the quivering girl and instead of touching her, he whispered eight words to her.
“Don’t lose him, girl. You do, he dies.” He then turned to the Wanderer with his hands clasped.
“That’d be enough. I be moving on, so should you.” The old man announced and he fell backward. His body broke into a pile of sun-bleached bones dressed in the old man’s clothes. The skull snapped off the spine and rolled toward Macy and she screamed as its eyeless sockets stared up at her. The Wanderer limped forth, holding his belly like he’d been stabbed. Something might have been broken loose in him, but he didn’t slow his progress.
“Come on.” The Wanderer ordered her. She stood and noticed she still had not but the last Perkins’ shirt and the rags she had on prior. The old man’s clothes were better intact and it wouldn’t hurt for her to look more like a man. He pulled the bones out from the clothes and started to throw them at her. She didn’t quite get the idea until the old man’s pants fluttered by her side. She pulled them on, along with the boots, along with the old man’s shirt. She tore a little of the rags she wore to tie her hair back.
The Wanderer opened the door onto wispy grass, bowing in the desert winds. They had moved. The magic man had moved them and moved them a great distance.
“What did he do to you?” Macy asked, stepping out from the shack. She slowed once she saw the new surroundings. The hardpan had been broken, the grass smelt like sap. Tall rock-faces shaded swaying trees while the distance sounds of civilization crept toward them.
“He showed me my future.”
3. Lincoln
The Wanderer stepped into the sunlight and peered down into the swaying grass. There rested a bloated canteen and a rifle. The old man had been true to his word, though the Wanderer figured the damage done to him in the shack was going to slow him some. At least for the night, he’d be laid up. The Wanderer didn’t hate the thought as much as he might earlier in the day. He had the sense that the old man had given him more than he had taken. He spat more blood on the ground and stared at the black clouds looming over the distant city.
Night came in short order, bringing a sky with few stars and an unnatural glow to it. But the night didn’t move quick enough to see the Wanderer snag a yearling hare with the rifle and jealously wish his guns would have the same dependability again. Along with being dry and stringy, notes Macy had grown use to, she also tasted something couldn’t put her finger on. Something closely describable to sucking on copper coins. The Wanderer had been spitting the entire meal. It appeared slightly discolored in the low light of the evening, Macy assumed it was more blood. He had been spitting ever sense he got out of the shack and even though there might have been less exposure, the Wanderer elected to have them sleep outside. She spat the copper taste out of her mouth. The Wanderer didn’t seem to mind.
“I could have taken the rifle out for you.” Macy said into the night air.
“Your daddy taught you how to shoot?” He asked, punctuating the question by spitting flecks of pink into the fire.
“No.” She said, looking down to her new, but horribly abused boots. “That man never taught me anything.” She added.
“You’d be damn likely to kill yourself before you shot one of these if you didn’t know what you were doing.” The Wanderer said, presenting his rabbit meat for her to see.
“I don’t think it’d be hard to learn.” The Wanderer smiled at this. Although it was handsome, it also looked like his face would break from the effort. He broke the smile with a spit into the flames.
“What you looking to do when you find the Convoy?” Macy asked shyly. The Wanderer looked at her and she suddenly felt terribly self-conscious. She wanted to take the question back, but opted to stay silent.
“Kill them. All of them.” The Wanderer said. Macy was still afraid, his eyes were burning like hot coals in the fire light. They stayed silent for a while, spitting the bad tastes from their mouths.
The silence was finally broken while the rabbit was all gone and the Wanderer was working over his shooters. He had the guns fully disassembled and was working the barrel over with gun oil when Macy piped up.
“After the Convoy? After that, what happens?” The Wanderer didn’t look at her, he just kept working the gun metal.
“After they die, I don’t know.” The Wanderer lied.

The next morning, the two moved toward the distant smoke which scarred the blue, cloudless sky. The Wanderer hadn’t seen a city of any significant size for many a year and he’d never like the idea of them. They were crowded, hell-holes which any given dog might nip a life away before the victim would know which way to curse. People were dangerous, and cities had them in far too high an abundance. But there the Convoy would be, or there the Convoy was. He was certain of it. Magic men didn’t play tricks, they took. They took by fear, they took by pain, and they took lives. But if they didn’t take the latter, they let you carry on your path. They might even help. The city rolled forth, its structures marred by rising smoke.
“It looks like it’s on fire.” Macy whispered into the morning air. The air smelt like it was on fire, thick with sulfur and ash. The Wanderer walked forward while Macy lagged behind. The city seemed like the hell she’d heard of as a small child and there was the man leading her into it.
4. Lincoln
The city was set low in a canyon with a steady decline downward. As the rocky sides rose to either side of them, they could spot houses and shanty-towns build directly into the rock with ladders and bridges connecting the individual houses. Lording above that was bobbing iron derricks glaring in the towering sun. In the center, sat a large stone structure with chard pipes belching foul black smoke into the air. The structure was fat and seemed to stretch and distort the valley walls that surrounded it. What was made in there, the Wanderer hadn’t the faintest, nor did it concern him. That he left to Macy, whose eyes grew wider and wider as she realized the complexity of the chard stone structure that monopolized so much of the city before them.
“So many people.” She whispered.
“Yeah,” The Wanderer agreed, “Keep your head low. Keep close to me.” She did as she was instructed and she wished the old man left her a hat to go with her clothes.
As the city enveloped them, the Wanderer noted that a disproportionate amount of the city’s inhabitants had severe blood burns on their faces. They had pimples and warts and it was scarce that he could look into a crowd and not see at least one person without a limb missing. And they noted him and Macy, though they were more wary of the two than he was used to seeing. It might have been an aversion to strangers, or it could have been the sword, the shooters and the rifle slung on the Wanderer’s back. The crowd parted widely for them as they passed down the wide road which led into the city.
The Wanderer turned up a flight of stairs into a tavern marked by a black crow clutching a small black hammer in one of his talons. The tavern had three levels raising up like giant stairs. Each was connected by a flight of stairs and a divider blocking people from entering the level above. The second from the top had a high railing, while the top was fenced away with wooden cross-hatching. There was no one to seat them, so they sat themselves in an unpopulated corner and bowed their heads. He dropped his pack under the table along with the rifle the old man had given them.
The upper levels were more boisterous and celebratory than the first which seemed to be populated by broken men waiting to drown in their liquor. A slender, young albino waitress walked forth to the two and placed her palms on the table.
“All we got is water and whiskey until Tuesday.”
“Anything to eat.”
“Meat and bread from the baker’s.”
“That would be fine.” The Wanderer said, not asking what she meant by “meat.”
“Whiskey?” She added.
“And her?” Macy lowered her head.
“Same.” The Wanderer said. The waitress was about to turn when Macy piped up.
“Whiskey.” She said sheepishly. The waitress turned and eyed the Wanderer.
“Whiskey.” He repeated.
The food was soon prepared and smoking in front of them. The meat was still indistinguishable, but flavorful enough to swallow. Macy sipped at her whiskey in thin swallows and then grimaced as the heat hit her. Meanwhile the Wanderer was surveying the surroundings. His eyes were landing on seemingly random men with little in common besides little black boxes strapped to their waists. The boxes chattered and buzzed and the men silenced them by pressing buttons. These black boxes were relatively new. The Wanderer had only seen this for the past year of his practice of breaking Convoys. The men were a level above, circling the general area leading to the level area above them.
“Who was the Good man on your outfit?” He asked in a hushed voice.
“I never saw him.”
“Recognize any of them?” He asked and she turned her head before he could talk her otherwise. She looked directly at them, but they didn’t seem to notice the attention.
“Yes,” She whispered nervously. She dropped her head down near her plate. “The big man with the bumps all over. His name is Hess” The Wanderer scanned for the man with the side of his vision. He spotted the man wearing a stripped undershirt. He indeed had bumps all over, inflamed pimples ridden his face and massive forearms. So as to complete his sinister form, he wore a massive repeater on his waist.
Macy was starting to take quick, shallow breaths and her eyes started to get misty.
“Ay.” The Wanderer said in a sharp, but low voice. “Stop it.” She didn’t seem to hear his command. The Wanderer gave a quick look around the tavern and then gripped her round the wrist to get her attention.
“Stop it.” He stared into her eyes. “I know what you’re afraid of and calling attention to yourself will ensure that it happens, so stop it.” She stared back into his eyes and her breathing started toward something more regular.
“Now eat.” The Wanderer said, releasing her wrist. Macy picked at her meat.
“Drink some of that.” The Wanderer tapped Macy’s glass of whiskey with the tips of his index and middle finger. “It’ll calm your nerve.” She tipped the glass to her lips and the whiskey’s sting did calm her. The Wanderer was relieved for this as the door to the third level opened and three men exited. The first and last man were dressed exactly the same, save for a bear pattern embroidered into the shoulder on the first and an eagle on the last. They wore high collared, black shirts like some sort of military uniform and their heads were shaved. The two men were pure blood, or something like that and had stern faces. The other man, the man in the middle, however, wore a black hood over his face, black gloves over his hands and a long thin sword hung on his hip. Once these three exited the third level, the others started toward the stairs leading to the first level. The whole party made their way past the Wanderer and Macy, and to her and the whiskey’s credit, she stayed low-key. The Wanderer studied each man as they left the tavern. Not all were armed, and the Wanderer wondered how lax the Good man was. Would the same sight be seen around the wagons, or was the Good man that inexperienced. Next to make their way down from the third level was a group of five men wearing grease stained overalls and grim faces like their meeting hadn’t gone will. These men were all armed, nothing terribly imposing, just small shooters strapped on their waists and in side holsters.
“Stay here.” The Wanderer whispered to Macy and parted after the men. As he left, he heard Macy whispered a pleading, “No.” He didn’t respond, he just disappeared out the tavern door.
The men crowded out the many people who were out in the streets, shoving them away from the two uniformed men and the hooded Good man. On some of the other outfits he broke, he might have seen one or more men firing their repeaters in the air, or outright fighting with the crowd, or being to drunk to be useful to anyone. There was a discipline to them, that couldn’t be denied. They formed a straight arrow through the crowd, splitting it faster than the crowd could part. The Wanderer on the other hand was finding the crowded streets more an impediment. He hung low on his feet, attempting to hide himself in the crowd. While he did this well, it made it so that he couldn’t work through the people like the Flower men had. The gap between the Wanderer and his target grew wider and wider until he found himself tracking the disruption the men made rather than the men themselves. When that task became impossible, he set back for the tavern, marking that the men were traveling in an eastern trajectory, moving ever closer to the massive stone structure in the middle of the city. He also noted that there were more men wearing grease stained overalls in the street. These men seemed to be everywhere and all of them seemed to be armed with something. Some held knives, some held clubs, and a number had guns. They didn’t look like lawmen, except for the way the public took note of them and made way for their coming.
The going was easier without the concern of being spotted, and the Wanderer found himself back in the tavern to be concerned about the absence of Macy. Their table was empty, the pack he left with her, gone. The plates had been bussed, but the table hadn’t been wiped down. The Wanderer searched the first level for the albino waitress. She’d been apparently looking for him and was somehow paler.
“That girl you were with…” She blurted out, gripping him by the arm and pulling him along. “She started acting all buggy. She was crying and all.”
“Where is she?” The Wanderer asked.
“She was crying and all, and a girl can’t be doing that in public. Attract all sorts of bad attention…”
“Where is she?” The Wanderer said, interrupting her. She hushed and continued to pull the Wanderer. The girl took him to a closet where muffled sobs bled from under the door. The waitress opened the door and there Macy was, sitting on the floor, cradling her half-empty glass of whiskey. She had tears streaming down her pale cheeks.
“We ought to go.” The Wanderer said. He wasn’t sure what to say to her, but wholly agreed with the waitress, it wasn’t save to be carrying on like that. Macy looked up to him, but she didn’t stand.
“Come on.” The Wanderer said to Macy. “There a place where we can sleep?” The Wanderer added to the albino waitress. She seemed distracted by Macy’s tears and the Wanderer had to ask her again.
“There’s an inn a little away from here. Old man runs it.”
The Wanderer gathered up the sobbing girl and was led out the tavern by the albino waitress. The Wanderer and Macy moved down the crowded street, huddle against one another like lovers on a cold night and that’s how it might have seemed to onlookers with Macy’s tear-stricken face pressed into his steady chest. They turned onward from the bustling masses and through an indistinct, gated passageway that led up a stack of creaking, wooden stairs. At the top, waited a black door with a glaring spy-hole. The door was locked, but a call sounded ordering the two to wait. The door opened with a creaking pop and scraped along floor. An old man wearing thick glass and a grayed five-o-clock shade peered from behind the door, surveying the new comers suspiciously.
“A room.” The Wanderer said.
“You got coin?” He asked in a shaky voice like he was trying to speak while riding an unruly horse. He eyed the girl. “What’s wrong with her?”
“A room?” The Wanderer said again, releasing his purse from his pack and jiggling it. The old man took a last lingering look at the girl and backed away allowing the Wanderer to see in the small office. Light bled in through soot-darkened windows across a space which had meant to be a hallway laden with wooden doors, but had served a second purpose as a check in area. He drew up a massive ledger which puffed up a cloud of dust when the old man dropped the book down of the scuffed desk.
“I’ll need your mark. An x should be fine if you can’t write.” The Wanderer made his mark, paid for the room and was escorted down the hall to the last of the rooms. It was a simple space without even a window as a luxury. All they had for comfort was a single, thin mattress placed in the corner and a stand where a shaded electric lantern sat. The old man ambled away, leaving the Wanderer to lead Macy to the mattress. He attempted to dump her there, but she clung to his clothing. Her grip wasn’t strong, but the Wanderer feared her fragility. He brought the two of them down to the bed and there they sat in silence, their breathing burning in their ears. Macy broke the silence.
“I was afraid, I couldn’t explain what happen, but I couldn’t breathe.” Her voice was shaky and salty with tears. She pressed her face into his chest and the Wanderer drew his fingers through her hair. Her fingers grew slackened and the Wanderer laid the girl down on the mattress. She’d calmed, though she didn’t seem comforted. He whipped a tear away from her cheek and, though the Wanderer wouldn’t be able to admit it, not even to himself, he was felling in love with her. Not a romantic sort, not the Wanderer, that might’ve never been possible, but it was a love like one child might have for another. She was something that was hurt and something he had no idea how to help.
The Wanderer stayed by her side until her eyes closed and she slept. He slipped from the room and descended the stairs, not saying a word to the old man.
It had turned to late afternoon when the Wanderer was back on the street. The crowds had thinned as the sun bared down on the canyon. The red overalls were still pacing along the streets, though their patrols were tightened closer to the massive stone structure. Also, Hess was out, as were a couple of the black box men. The big man puffed on the end of a cigar and surveyed the street with his thumbs hitched in his belt at the top of the street and the others conversed at the bottom. He turned away from their eye lines, careful for the turn not to seem like a reaction. He turned a corner and moved steadily down a trash covered alleyway leading to a lone door marked ‘Smithy’. The door opened and as he approached the establishment, Bear Scout from the tavern exited. The Wanderer kept his head low as the two past each other. The Wanderer thought he might have smelt some alkaline twinge in the air as the man past, but he figured that the Bear man had many a child’s blood on his hands. The Wanderer’s sword had only sensed the danger once the Wanderer entered through the door and saw the flecks of blood splattered across the walls. Dead men lay under a pile of wreckage, their bodies riddled with bullet holes and their throat slit. It was a robbery, a vicious one by the Wanderer’s best estimation and he made that quickly, turning on his heel and rushing away from the gore. He exited into the alleyway and felt a sudden pain in the meat of his thigh that raced through him. His body felt heavier than the mass of the earth and he fell before the Bear Scout. The bald, pure blooded man clutched a thing like a gun, but not. It launched two metal prongs that bit into his thigh. The Wanderer roared in outrage and then gone unconscious. Macy would remain none-the-wiser for some hours.
5. Prison and Bondage
Macy woke in the late afternoon to a darkened room. She was alone and curled into herself on the apartment mattress. She thought to call out for the Wanderer, but stopped herself. Some itching terrible crept up her spine and told her to be a quiet little mouse.
The darkness made noises, footsteps and laughter. Bangs and moans, it was giving her nightmares, yet she couldn’t sleep. Footsteps were coming to her, the old man, maybe? She had an idea that that wasn’t true. The old man was hardly heavy enough to make the solid foot falls that approached. She was breathing too hard, wasn’t sure if anyone would notice the sound, but she was breathing too hard. She tried to suppress the sound, but it had more fight than he worn out fame could mutter. The door open and she abandoned the idea of silencing herself and gripped the old man’s rifle. The Wanderer said she’d be more likely to kill herself if she tried to shot it, but she needed something or she’d …
She had no idea what would happen. She had no idea if she be aiming the gun at the Wanderer or the old man. She had no idea if she could pull the trigger if it wasn’t either. She had no idea if the Wanderer was right and she’d kill herself by using a weapon she didn’t know how to operate. She was so afraid and the Wanderer had left her alone again. And what of the other old man, the one who might be dead, she had no idea about that either. She had no idea if the Wanderer was dead, killed in the street, leaving nothing to stop those men from coming back for her. She laid her fingers on the trigger and aimed at the door, she hadn’t realized how much was shaking, how much she was crying.
The door swung and a man who was not the Wanderer and not the old man filled the doorway. It was Hess, his eyes glowing from some inferno inside his mind. Her finger was poised on the trigger, but the cognitive interactions needed for her frozen finger to listen to her screaming mind weren’t occurring. All she could hear was her breath. Hess saw the rifle, aimed and at the ready. He had no idea that she had as much control over it as she had control over gravity. He dodged a bullet that wasn’t fired until he was well out of the way and then the rifle clambered to the ground.
Macy was sure she shot herself. Her left breast was on fire and she could hardly breathe. She was going to die, she was going to die on the floor because she was too stupid to just hide. She put her hand to her left breast and realized that the cloth was intact, there was no blood. It hurt, but she hadn’t killed herself. Her mind was working in slow motion, but it was starting to work. Hess was here, the doorway was wide open. She had a rifle, a loaded rifle. He jumped out of the way like he was afraid. He was afraid. She stood, gathered the rifle and charged out the door. She didn’t waste time giving the big man a second look. She ran as fast as she could, not realizing that she had stopped breathing. Her muscles were screaming for air as she ripped past the old man who had cowered under his desk from the gunfire. She felt like her lungs were filling with jagged bits of glass as she spilled down the flights of stairs leading down to street levels. Her heart had found its way up into her head and was thundering in her ears. She never realized that Hess had failed to navigate the stairs as well as she did and ended up falling down them.
Macy burst into the street, making no effort to conceal her loaded weapon and making no attempt to slow her pace, though her muscles begged for it. She finally stopped when her body made her stop. Her body broke and she retched out into an alleyway. Her heart slowed and lowered from her skull. She tried her hand at thinking, but her mind was still for running. She perched herself up on against a wall and tried just to breathe. With each breath, she could think. Hess had found her. Hess had been in her doorway. She needed to figure out where the Wanderer was. In this city, her and the Wanderer had only been in two places, both of which had been invaded by the Flower men. What should she do, she had no idea.
6. The Steam Room
The steam room was unholy hell; the stink of people surrounded the Wanderer. He had awoken in a caged-in area in the depths of the stone structure, the thudding of some far off pistons ringing in his ears. The Good man’s escort had worked him over good with that blue magic stinger and the men of Lincoln City Power had worked him over worse with clubs and their feet. The Power men were, in fact, lawmen in the same way that Macy’s incestuous daddy was a father. They took some sort of offense to the thought that the Wanderer might have killed a handful of men back in the shop. They didn’t question him about the incident, they just took the Good man’s escort at his word and beat the hell out of the Wanderer. The Wanderer tried to understand the logic behind getting him arrested. Murder is easy, conspiracy is complex.
Along with the stink of sweat, vomit and human waste, the Wanderer suffered the constant howling of his fellow prisoners, the sounds of bones breaking.
The Wanderer had protected himself from most of the Red Overalls’ attacks, but a choice boot found purchase against his rib and waking on a stone floor hadn’t helped with the matter. The Wanderer stood, holding his side and feeling for a possible break. The pain suggested that such wasn’t a possibility, but the action was a task, something to center himself. His ribs were solid, intact, but there was a blackish purple bruise blossoming all along his side. The Wanderer laced his fingers into the horribly rusted fencing and then he stared down a long aisle. There were dozens of cells like his and only a few were occupied. The man the Wanderer could see seemed gaunt and ghastly, haggard men with broken faces and broken bodies. Those who hadn’t protected themselves as well as he had. But it wasn’t just that, they were thin, they could have been dead if it weren’t for the occasional motion in their oppressive darkness.
The Wanderer tried the strength of the fencing material, others had attempted the same in the past it seemed, because the fencing did rattle, though it didn’t rattle loose. He limbed back and forth, considering his cell and considering his captors. Their exposure to the prisoners seemed erratic at best. He noted long stretches of solitude followed by hours of clumsy surveillance. An immediate flaw emerged in their practice. Guards came in alone. One might be provoked into raising a hand in anger. The Wanderer even had targeted an ideal Red Overall to test his theory on. A man with a broad chest, a long handled mallet and a weak tolerance for noise. He strut up and down the aisle of prisoners, his face screwed up like he was in horrible pain. The plan was simple and had been played out more times than could have been imaginable. The Wanderer would hurl insults, loud insults at this particular man. This particular man would lose his temper, swing the door open and the Wanderer would drop him. The man had a slight limp, a spotty knee from the motion and probably the reason he looked like he was in pain. The plan was simple enough, if only he could have implemented it.
7. Report
The monitor flashed with the words “Incoming Report: Waiting To Connect.” A soft dial tone echoed throughout the cold stone walls. A blonde man, a handsome man walked forward, clutching a wooden stave in one hand and a towel in the other. Long cross-hatching scars marked his back and neck. The scars were faded, though of childhood. A beep sounded, indicating that the connection had gone through successfully. He dropped the stave on one side of the computer terminal, its wood clacking loudly in the silence of the halls. He clicked ENTER on the keyboard and a field of lines crackling like electricity opened.
“Report.” The man said, stretching his arm in its socket. The field grew excited with this command and a voice emitted from speakers hidden in the walls.
“The Wayward Asset has been located…” The voice started, wavering slightly from the great distance that stood between the two sources.
“But not detained?” The man asked.
“There had been complications in detaining the Wayward Asset. The situation had become fluid. I had one of the recent recruits orchestrate a murder scene for which the Asset would have been implicated. I had hoped that our trading relationship with Lincoln City Power and a convincing profile of his past transgressions would have led to a seamless transfer of the Asset. Such hopes were in vain. They insisted on detaining him themselves. Trying him, themselves.”
“Why bother with a frame job. You could have gathered some of our men and snatched him in the middle of the night.”
“The local authorities are unpredictable, unorganized and armed. Any attempted assault would have led to the loss of our man power as well as it would endanger the Asset. We are preparing a team to take the prison and extract the Asset. Though such a plan is not ideal.”
“It really isn’t ideal…” The man paused, wiping sweat away from his neck and then stretching out his neck and shoulder muscles.
“What I’m thinking is, we should activate the Asset. Have him take care of breaking himself out of prison. Mind you, I want the men there, but acting as crowd control. I’d expect this to get messy. I want those little tin soldier idiots seeing us quell the violence that’s coming. Lincoln is a key area, there’s not too many working Petroleum plants active in the world. I want this done right.”
“ Understood.”
“Is that all?” The man asked, gathering the wooden blade up and tucking it under his arm.
“No. The Asset has been traveling with a girl. MR. Hess had been assigned to gather the girl and has failed. He claimed that she had escaped wielding a rifle. There is a very remote possibility that the Asset has taken an apprentice. If such is true, then she should be factored into our considerations.”
“She has been noted, thank you. If this girl appears, just kill her. Better yet, make the locals aware of her. Say she’s a dangerous consort of the Asset’s. I’ll set the asset off at zero hour, be ready.” With that he canceled the connection.
8. A Proclamation
Macy slouched low in the streets, wrapped in a stolen shawl. It had been a moment of wild inspiration. She’d stayed in the shadows as best she could, figuring that the Flower men had found her out when she panicked in the Black Crow. Not knowing where to go, she wandered. She found herself smell fresh green being cooked in a large pot. Their earthy sweet smells intoxicating in the fresh darkness. Macy followed the smell to its source where laundry hung off a wire and a gray haired mother stirred a large pot. She plucked the shawl off the line as the mother’s head was turned.
Now she was alone on the street considering her options. The most appealing of which, being finding the waitress. She was a nice woman, though Macy was still wary of niceties. The other options being sleeping on the street, exposed to whomever or sleeping outside the city limits where she might know how to capture game, but had no ability to start a flame. She’d be in the cold dark. The waitress seemed to be the most promising prospect and if she denied Macy or worst yet, attempted to detain her, Macy had the rifle as insurance.
Her options as they were, were to wait in the darkness of the Black Crow, hunched low, waiting for the waitress to leave the tavern. Then Macy would approach her, ask her help.
That’s where Macy found herself, kneeling in a corner and attempting to look like a vagrant. She’d done well in this; she’d even earned a few coins, which were tossed unconsciously at her. The waitress exited the Black Crow late into the night, her white hair clinging to her brow and fly-away strands swimming in the low, sickly light. Macy crept forward, her stolen shawl hooded over her head. The waitress walked quickly in the late hours, the night-time not being safe for a young woman. Macy’s stalking skills were wanting and she knew once the waitress started taking hurried, nervous steps. Macy counteracted her increase in speed with an increase of her own. The two of them were soon jogging down the street, Macy’s shawl fluttering in her wake. The waitress cut a corner suddenly and Macy pursued, taking a stick to the face for her presumption. Macy saw such pretty stars as she fell backward onto her behind. Blood dribbled from her nose, down her lips and onto her new shawl. When the stars cleared, she saw the waitress staring down in horror at her.
“Are you Okay?” She asked, putting down an opposing length of wood as if she wanted to take the blow back. Macy clamped her shawl wrapped hand over her bloody nose.
“Yes.” She said, sounding like a stuffy nosed six year old.
“Why were you following me.” The waitress asked, her tone more harsh.
“Sorry…” Macy offered. “Could…could you help me? I’m alone.” The waitress stared down with a blank face. She then offered her hand. Macy took it and the waitress helped her to her feet.
“My name is Barb.”
The young woman led Macy down a few more turns deeper into a massive city of which Macy couldn’t imagine.
Hone for Barb was a lonesome shack high on the canyon walls. The shack had little to offer beyond the usual personal effects of a home, a comfortable looking mattress, a small cast iron stove and a window with a clear view of the Power Plant. A large jug of clear water sat in a corner and Barb dampened a cloth to wipe the blood away from Macy’s face. The water was cold, but soothing. Macy closed her eyes and thought of sleep, but it remained at arm’s length that night.
Instead Barb served Macy a steaming mug of tea mixed with honey or sugar. A sweet smell floated from the cup and Macy drank it thankfully. Once the two women were seated on the floor, Barb asked about the rifle Macy attempted to hide under her dirty looking shawl.
“It’s Clod’s. The man I was travelling with. Someone came to the room while he was away and I don’t know where to go.”
At that moment, a siren blared through the night. A crackling voice sounded and Macy jumped.
“It’s nothing. Sometimes the Power people make announcements. I don’t know why they’re doing it this late, though. Barb moved toward the window, stared out toward the Plant’s yellowed lights.
“Attention: Lincoln City Power is in search of a consort of a known murderer. She is dangerous, she is armed and harboring her will result in your own arrest. We are looking for a dark blonde haired girl, new to this city.” The message repeated twice more before it crackled away into nothingness. Macy’s face was pale as Barb turned to her. Macy thought of the Perkins boys. They’d still be bleeding out in the house, or they’d be buried. It depended on how badly Ma Perkins and the Dragger man wanted revenge. That town was far off enough that such news wouldn’t be here now without magical assistance.
They called her dangerous. Macy had left her rifle by the door and her legs felt too numb, her mind felt too numb. She could see Barb race from the room. She could see her race to the nearest Power man turn her in. That seemed the best for the both of them. She’d have deniability and Macy could slip out and be on the run. She saw how it would have happened, but Barb just stood there, staring at her. Cogs were turned behind the albino woman’s eyes and Macy couldn’t read them at all. Part of Macy feared that Barb might fancy herself a crime fighter and pounce on her. Macy wasn’t a fighter; she had longer limbs than the older girl. Barb didn’t fight her either. She just stared for a while and then she took a sheet from her bed and drew it over the window. The light dimmed with in the small shack.
“I’d believe it if they said that man you were with was dangerous, but I can’t see it from you.” She finally said. The two of them slept in the same bed for two hours before the sirens sounded and the gunfire roared.
9. Death, Death, Death
At the end of the row, the metal door whined opened with a creaking whine and a man’s heavy foot falls sounded, going down the aisle. The Wanderer awoke, the uneven sound of it. It had to be the guard he had targeted. The Wanderer stood and attempted to see the man from his limited angle and indeed it was. He started his assault with a hard kick toward the fenced door. It rattled and the heavyset guard limped his way to the Wanderer.
“Hush them, asshole.” The man barked, but the Wanderer slammed his foot against the door again. The man stepped back, half-expecting the door to swing open. It didn’t, of course. The Wanderer followed this attack with a wad of spit to the man’s face. The man’s face turned red, but he turned to leave.
“Your mother’s a syphilitic whore and your daddy holds the money.” The man kept walking.
“You were an abortion. A mixture of shit and afterbirth that your mother was to stupid to wash away.” The man kept walking.
“You’re a coward. Your daddy raped you in the ass and turned his head in shame at sight of the pig moaning on his manhood.” The footsteps stopped. The guard was still out of sight, the Wanderer had struck a chord.
“That limp of yours. You get that running away while a better died?” The guard was still standing out of sight and out of reach. Someone else, someone down the line was chuckling at what the Wanderer had said. Disrespect compounded with humiliation could be a very useful tool.
“You heard me, you plump bitch, you dumb, cum-drenched abortion.” The chuckling turned to cackling and the foot steps started up again, moving toward the Wanderer.
“Your daddy raped the backbone right out of you, you yellow piece of shit.” The cackling grew louder and the man appeared in front of the Wanderer’s cell.
“There you are, you leech, sucking on your daddy’s nut-sack.” The man’s face was glowing with rage. In one hand, he held his club and in the other, he held a key ring. His eyes were a nest of red veins and pressure. The Wanderer stepped backward, deeper into his cell.
“Hey, you fat puddle of cum in the face of the world. You worthless dung heap.” All of a sudden, the door was open, the club was raised, and the Wanderer drove his palm into the man’s nose, breaking it. The man’s head snapped back, but he didn’t relent. He brought the club down on the Wanderer’s head and the Wanderer fell to one knee, blood dripping from his scalp. Another blow slammed into his back and then a third between his shoulder blades. Outrage like he had never felt before had filled the Wanderer. He was shaking with it, not even feeling the man’s attacks. With his mind no longer governing his body, he launched forth, into the man. The two slammed into the fenced walls and then the Wanderer wrested the club away from the man, breaking the man’s hand in the process. The Wanderer continued to bash the man for some time, not stopping to realize he was dead.
The club dripped with sticky blood and the Wanderer fumed blindly forward down the aisle. Prisoners to the left and right of him screamed for him to release them and he almost didn’t. Something told without words that he should, so he did. The doors opened and a crowd of thin, abused prisoners sought the man who wronged them. The Wanderer burst forth as well, screeching like a wild animal foaming at the mouth. With that club in his hand, he shattered skulls. At some point, the club broken from the force of a blow and the Wanderer had ripped a sword from a man’s dead hand. Throats opened in sprays of hot blood, quelling their owner’s screams. The Wanderer screamed. The sword gave way to a repeater and prisoners and guards fell like rag dolls. Their blood mixed together and looked exactly the same. Next people were crowding against a locked door. The first to hit it were being crushed by the one’s in the back. The door finally gave and more were trampled to death, trying to get away from the gunfire. Man who fought each other and who fought the Wanderer died the same as the men who ran in blind panic. The gun was out of bullets and the Wanderer used his hands. Eyeballs popped with warm, white juice. Jaw broke and there was so much blood. All the world was a screaming mess and everyone was helpless.
The Wanderer rampaged down three levels, killing every way he could and finally he found his blade. The sharpest thing in the world gleamed its love for him. Arms raised in surrender, only to be lobbed off along with heads. All was death and it was spilling out into the streets.
10. Fire From Above
Gunfire woke Macy from her slumber. A siren was blaring, though it wasn’t needed. So many people were screaming and below Barb’s shack, people were running in blind terror. Macy peered down upon the violence that ensued and Barb sat down beside her, her face a mask of terror. In the midst of the fighting there were people out in the mayhem, looting houses and they were working their way toward the two girls. Macy took up her rifle, but not with thoughts of defending the shack. The gun had become her security blanket of sorts. It was still unthinkable to try the trigger, but having it was the only thing stopping her from breaking down. Her mind raced with the horrors that were climbing their way up to her. Barb wasn’t faring that much better.
Down below the men climbing to lay siege to Barb’s shack, Macy spotted the Wanderer covered in blood and fighting desperately against five men. Two of the black box men from the Convoy, the two escorts and the Good man were near to killing him and that sword of the Wanderer’s wasn’t doing him much good. The Good man’s sword was somehow the same as the Wanderer’s. Their two swords clashed and sparked instead of the Wanderer’s sword cleaving the other in half. Macy couldn’t explain it, but somehow she knew that the Good man wasn’t human either. The Good man would kill the Wanderer and that thought sparked another one. She had a rifle in her hand. She could kill that man, give the Wanderer a chance.
She aimed the rifle, which she was starting to think of as her rifle and squeezed the trigger. A metallic click sounded and it took her a few moments to consider that the rifle had never been cocked. The chamber was empty. She pulled down on the action and she fired down into the fray. The stock punched into her shoulder, not as bad as when she fired at Hess, but still bad. The soil popped to the left of the Wanderer’s heel, she had missed. She aimed again, this one was luckier; she clipped one of the black box men. He wasn’t dead, but he knew he’d been shot and the Wanderer used that distraction to half the man. She then realized the wild movements of the Wanderer, the animalistic opening of his mouth like he was conjuring hell with his screams. He was faster than she’d seen him in the short time she’d seen him. The old man, he’d spared the old man because the old man had relented. There was control in the Wanderer, that was gone now. He was looking to kill.
Macy wasn’t sure if she wanted to save something like that, but she aimed all the same when one of the escorts brought a fist across his jaw and he lost his footing for a split second. She pulled the trigger and the bullet was dead-on. The offending escort dropped to the ground in a spray of blood and brain. Macy aimed again, her hands shaking at the sight of the escort’s limp body. She’d killed him and something told her that she needed to do it again. She pulled the trigger and the bullet slammed into a brick wall well over the men’s heads. She tried again and shot the dirt again. She cocked the action and fired. The bullet winged the Good man and impossibly, he kept his guard up. The Good man blocked and advanced on the Wanderer while a bullet ripped through the cloth of his shoulder and Macy was almost sure she had missed him, but his shirt was darkening and it was ripped where the bullet tore.
Barb screamed behind her. Macy turned and saw that Barb was barricading the door with the cast iron stove, her eyes wide. They were at the door and Macy was numb. Her rifle rose and she aimed it. Barb dove out of the way and Macy was thankful. She wasn’t confident in her aim. The bullet launched forth. It ripped through the door and behind it, a man screamed in pain. The tension that had been present against the stove was gone, but somehow she knew that more were coming and those wouldn’t be detoured.
She peered through the bullet hole she made and saw nothing. Had she imagined the scream, the immediate danger? She tried her eyes downward and saw Hess advancing upward, a repeater on his hip and three black box men on his heel. The men were climbing up a ladder three levels below and an insane thought came to mind. Maybe she could pick them off or scare them off before they came close. She’d need to step out to do it, she’d need to expose herself to shoot at them.
Barb panicked aloud as Macy dragged the stove away from the door.
“What are you doing?” She yelled, tucked away in a corner.
His blade wouldn’t cut. For a time that was the clearest thought to permeate the Wanderer’s mind. The sharpest thing in the world wasn’t. The Wanderer’s focus was on the Good man, the other two to attack him, bounced off him or bashed him and he didn’t care. The Wanderer was tired and fading fast, but still he fought. He fought like he was fighting for more than himself, but what else was there. All there was in the world was a sharp blade that had been bested by another. He was going to lose, he was going to die and then, some one uttered something that made him consider otherwise.
“When is he going to drop?” One of the black box men had asked it, not the dead one, the other one with a smashed in nose. He’d asked the question to no one in particular and the Wanderer had thought he might have meant, ‘When will he die?’ But that wasn’t what he might. They were waiting, they wanted him alive.
As these lines of rational thought came to his mind, the drop did come. The Good man had unbelievable control of his blade. It had rested tenths of an inch from his face, halted only by some certain order that the Wanderer should live. The Wanderer’s blade felt slackened in his hands.
“Fight.” The Wanderer ordered his limbs, but they did nothing. The sword fell from his hands and he fell under his own weight, gasping for air.
The Good man and his remaining escort converged on the failing Wanderer and suddenly sparks exploded from the back of the Good man’s head. Another blast cut across the Good man’s waist and then sliced through the Wanderer’s ears. Blood ran sticky down his neck, but the pain was muted by a chorus of pain. The Wanderer turned his lazy gaze upward to see Macy high above, aiming the rifle down at the three of them.
“The girl is going to shoot me.” The Wanderer thought, finding new vigor in his muscles. The escort had the same idea because he disappeared as well, leaving only the Good man still standing in the street with sparks popping from the back of his head. The Good man turned and peered up at Macy, she aimed again but was interrupted by the rapid-fire of a repeater. Hess was climbing to meet her.
The Good man fell in the street, his body making odd jerking motions like he was trying to find a less obvious outcome to being shot in the head. He apparently failed, as his face slapped the cobbled street and he moved no more.
The bullets whizzed past Macy’s face as she fell back in horror. Again, she had thought she’d been shot and again, she found no blood. The rifle had fallen from her hands and she had almost crawled away without it. She clutched the gun at the last moment before Hess crested the brim of the little foothold Barb might have called a porch. Macy forced herself, with thoughts of the Wanderer’s fierce gaze, to steady herself. She wrapped her fingers around the rifle, forgetting the trigger all together, and she drove the butt of the gun into Hess’s face. His lip split open seconds before his fingers released from the handholds of the ladder he was on. He fell and fell and fell and smashed through one of Barb’s neighbor’s roofs. She cried out in wordless excitement and then remembered the trigger, aiming it down at the two other men. One of the black box men had started to retreat after being nearly taken down with Hess, but the other had pulled a pistol out from his waist band. Macy fell back into the shack at the sight of it and banged her elbows on the hard wood and the rifle skidded across the floor. It was closer to Barb, but Barb had her hands clasped over her head. The last black box came up, his feet falling heavy on the ground. He strutted forward like a conquering Roman, with a thumb hitched in his belt and the other hand pointing his pistol at Macy. He hadn’t noticed the other girl, the one very close to a big rifle. He even walked past her and Macy almost steadied herself enough to hope that Barb would take advantage of that mistake. Macy crab-crawled backwards, her grip on rational thought weakening like a dying fist. She was going to die and no one was there to help her. He was going to kill her and that was optimistic. She saw herself thrown back into bondage, raped and beaten and probably she’d die very old and completely insane.
Macy finally hit the wall and tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“No.” She said in a breathless voice. A blade, a long rust speckled blade, dull as the day is long, ran its length through the man’s torso and he screamed like a hell were behind him. He fell slack and he voided his bowels onto the ground.
“Clod?” Macy asked stupidly. Of course, it wasn’t the Wanderer. He was still down on street level, limping away from the remaining escort and bleeding near to death.
He gripped his waist and crept along a dirty brick wall, a twin trail of blood following him along the ground and wall. He’d forgotten his sword and turned to retrieve it, but a bald figure was following him. He crept along the wall faster than he had, but still moving rather slow. The bald figure walked at a causal pace, not strutting like some cat toward a wound bird, or some man to a wounded beast, but moving casual all the same. The bald man dropped a hand on the Wanderer’s shoulder and he stopped in his tracks. He breathed loudly and there was a moment of pause before the Wanderer snapped the bald man’s arm. It was a quick twist of his body and a sudden manipulation of the bald man’s elbow. It snapped loud enough that the Wanderer could empathize. The bald man crashed down in pain and the Wanderer fell from a lack of steady support. The impact tempted the Wanderer toward sleep, but the bald man’s constant screaming kept him up. All of his strength went into pulling himself up to his feet and to move backward to the siren song of his blade, calling and calling again for his hand. He stumbled along the alley wall, his blood retraced and then he fell. Before his consciousness died away, his fingers wrapped around the hilt of the blade. A shallow halo of blood began to pool below him. Death was approaching, dancing to distance screams and gore.
The dead man slumped on the dull blade and the smell of shit wafted in the air. The dull jerked and carved its way back out from the man and he fell unceremoniously to the side to reveal Barb, her pink eyes now a swarming black. A new round of scream rang out in the distance and new tears bleed down Macy’s face.
The blade dripped a trail of black blood along the ground as Barb crept froth, her hollow eyes burning. Macy curled into herself, knowing that this wasn’t the girl who had taken her in and had been kind. That girl was else, but she had met this newcomer in a desolate shack in the midst of the desert.

“Is she dead?” Macy asked in a shaky voice.
“I dun stick around long enough to know.” Fiend replied.
“Why…” She started, but her voice left her.
“You useless, girl.” Fiend said, kneeling down and breathing foul breath into Macy’s face. The bloody blade sat betwixt Macy’s thighs with its point cutting down into the wood. Fiend drew his hand up to her face and she recoiled from the touch. She’d expected pain, she’d expected visions of horror, but all she got was Barb’s cold fingers dragging all her cheeks. Fiend caught a tear of the ball of Barb’s finger and sucked it away.
“You’re almost there.” He whispered, leaning closer to her. Macy turned her head to one side and a tear traveled away from her eye to replace the one Fiend stole. Fiend started whispering lightly to himself, but Macy only felt his foul breath wrap around her neck like a wispy fist.
“Come with me.” Fiend said, gripping his hand around Macy’s arm and pulled with such irresistible strength. Fiend brought the girl to the window and forced her gaze down to street. Her eyes were working better than they ever had, though she would attest to not being able to appreciate the enhancement.
The first thing she saw was a man working a shotgun into a crowd of people. People were running with his worldly possessions in their hands. They collapsed in red starbursts. Some man in the crowd, one who hadn’t been stealing and wasn’t in any immediate danger, pulled a rickety looking pistol out from his waist band and shot the man in the face. The man with the shot gun was dead and was being trampled. Later on, the man with the rickety pistol would be stabbed in the gut for as much reason as he had to shot the man with the shotgun.
Next she saw a girl running down the street, jumping over men as they fell to die or fell for cover. She had long black hair that was wet for some reason. She was bare and finally she split her toe on the hard street. She fell forward and smacked her skull against the ground. Now her hair was wet because of blood. A man, one of the Lincoln City Power men, walked up behind her. He gripped her by the arm and she was too dazed to fight him as he pressed her bloody scalp against a stiffness in his pants.
Lastly, there was the Wanderer, bloody and broken. His knuckles and forehead were split and at some point, someone had stabbed him. He had been moving, but wasn’t anymore. He wasn’t dead, but death was waiting just in the other room. The Wanderer gripped his blade and very close to him, the Good man laid very much so dead. Sparks were still popping from his skull along with a lazy trail of black fluid that moved too slow to be blood.
Lips pressed against Macy’s ear. It started as a kiss, but words began to bleed away into her ears.
“You boy’s down there, dying. If you want him to live, you’d better go down there now.” Fiend’s grip died away into nothingness. Macy turned her head to confirm what she had already figured out. Barb was dead and Fiend was gone. Barb’s eyes rolled to their common pink and then she fell forth into Macy. Barb was as cold as the dead. Macy pushed the dead albino off of her and tears rolled down her cheeks. Her legs weren’t moving and the Wanderer was dying from blood loss.

Excerpt From A Mad Science Story: Dr. Peculiar And His Box to Hell

Mad Science is the truest form of science. Let’s examine that fact. There is no such thing as Mad Biology, Mad Chemistry or Mad Engineering, but the world has made note of the wondrous, unspeakable, beautiful efforts of Mad Scientists.
In fact, any given Mad Scientist will employ all of science and alchemy in his pursuit of his fevered inventing. For instance, the Mad Dr. Peculiar and his box. What? You don’t know about Dr. Peculiar. Well, aren’t you in for a tale.
The Mad Dr. Peculiar thought of his box in a dream. It was said that he dreamt of spewing columns of fire and of dancing embers on volcanic winds. He writhed wildly in his chamber and when he woke, he would not sleep again until the box was completed. No one knows exactly how the box worked, but on examination of the thing, it was found to be impossibly simple in design. Picture a box, a perfect cube – 18in all around. Inside, well-secured by electromagnets, were two irradiated copper rods placed exactly 10in away from each other and then, placed exactly 6in from each other, was two rods of the impossibly rare Necrotron. Necrotron, for the uninformed, is an element made by Mad Scientists and bleeding with undead energy. That was all the box had and still it worked wonders. With it, Dr. Peculiar opened a window into hell, he spoke with the damned and claimed he could steal souls from the devil himself.
Evil men and politicians alike scrambled to pay their way out of hell while their money could do them good. Dr. Peculiar happily took their money and promised their liberation from hell. He kept good on his promise and released over fifty men in the course of twenty years. These souls weren’t able to go to heaven, but earth was paradise when considering the alternative.
His troubles began because of the box, though. It’s unsurprising that the devil doesn’t like being stolen from, doesn’t like being made a fool of. He sent his worst demons after Dr. Peculiar, giving them specific instruction to kill Peculiar and break his wondrous box. Dr. Peculiar had anticipated this and made precaution. He made safe his doorways and windows with the Necrotron and hired vicars to say prayers over his homestead. He pasted pages from the bible around his sleeping chambers and he was also convinced he was safe as houses, but the red eyes beyond the wooded shadows suggested to the contrary. Peculiar wasn’t about to give refunds to dead men, so he continued to do as he promised, stealing souls from the devil as quick as he could.
What he found was that the prayers and alchemy that barred the fiends of hell from entering, barred the souls of wicked men from exiting. His home filled with the bellowing of scarred souls and drove him near mad. Mind you, he was already mad to begin with, so the further loss of his faculties was easy to handle. The bellowing was still more than he could bear and to stem the flow of wailers, he decided to break his promises. He closed his box forever, locking it away with chains and weights. He locked it away in an iron safe with a door thicker than a strong man’s chest and secure enough to hold a herd of mustangs. Happy with the thought that the box would never be open, he turned his attention to ridding himself of the souls that haunted his halls. The problem he observed was that he needed to expunge a house filled with souls without letting down the guards that kept the demons out. It occurred to him that the souls were of wicked men and politicians and would naturally be repelled by holy artifacts and righteous prayer. More vicars and Bible paper would be his remedy, but how to get it without leaving the protection of his home? He couldn’t, he realized. Thinking on it, he realized his only option was the birdies up in his belfry where the wind blew freely. But climbing up there, he spotted only black ravens picking apart rats. Ravens aren’t much for messages, less they’re bringing souls back home to Baby Jesus. Peculiar, the cover bloke, saw some solution to his problem. He collected some of the loose black feathers that littered the ground.
On close examination, he saw that the feathers were porous in strange ways. Water might have rolled from the feather’s black curve, but the amethyst spectral mist of dead men took to it like mad men to the twisted whisperings in their head. He could use this, he thought. He took up the task of synthesizing something useful from the raven feathers, a concentrated potion he poured into a sprayer bottle. He tested the solution of the most irritating souls to haunt his halls, and if it were impossible to slay a spirit, those first souls might count themselves lucky. More likely though, Peculiar sent them to hell or some sort of oblivion, because the box he locked up tight started to rattle in its thick safe. He killed the whole of them, each and every spirit and all the while, the box roared like a hell beastie. The souls were feeling betrayed, one would gather.
The box fumed with the hell the hid beyond its lid, heating up the metal that bound it. Before the weeks were in their winters, the metal glowed an angry, steaming red.

Excerpt From A Space Story: David, Floating In Space

In all my life, I haven’t been much more than a bastard. Saving David was just an attempt to make up for that fact.
I had found my way onto a space freighter heading into the dizzying black of what the original pioneers had called the Pit. It wasn’t lower than any other point in space. Depth, being relatively meaningless when depth goes forever. The Pit was so named because the original pioneers believed that they had accidental found Hell. Thousands of people were drifting out into space, their faces stretched into horror masks. The pioneers couldn’t explain how so many people could be drifting in space, in unexplored space. They also couldn’t explain how these people could be irradiated so completely. The energy wasn’t dangerous at al. In fact, the energy was intoxicating. The transmissions that came back to Earth were confused and raucous. The men would have died from simple self-neglect, but the ship’s computer brought them back home and the men promptly coined the name.
As I said, I found my way to the Pit, to what men had thought was Hell to find my little brother, David. Human curiosity and enterprise brought better guarded ship back to the Pit and I was there, working a mini-ship that was too claustrophobic for my broad shoulders. Saying mini-ship gives the impression that the ship was rickety and small, but in this sense, it was just smaller than the hulking freighter it came from. The mini-ships I worked were monsters floating in the night, harvesting the horrified men and women of the Pit.
These poor souls were sent back home and across the universe to be burned in furnaces for their energy. They powered engines better than anything that Earth could produce and the Oil men of old clambered for the great profit when they realized they couldn’t stop its forthcoming.
I often wondered if I should have done something for the others. I was looking for David and somewhere someone was looking for someone else in the Pit. I often wondered, but still I harvested the bodies and kept my eye out for David.
His face glared up at me from a magazine, warped in a permanent scream. Some photographer had gone up with a crew of prospectors and took a total of five useable pictures. He sold them and never had to worry about money again. A widespread mystery plastered across every magazine and that gripped every reader’s mind.
When I saw David’s face, I froze in incomprehension. David was gone for years and his disappearance had broken my mother and turned my father bitter. We had spent years believing he had been murdered. He was gone and the soft spoken man David had shacked up with, had suddenly taken a trip out of the country and even more sudden, a trip off world. I had caught up with him on a neutral space station near Mars. I had killed him for no reason, it turned out.
David was the artist, always taking in soft spoken people. I wasn’t like that. I fought, bare knuckled, in the streets and made my dollar that way. I moved from that to moving freight when I messed up my eye in a fight. I was qualified and was liked well enough to get a good reference when jobs were going around for the Pit.
Moving the mini-ships were different from the freight loaders back on Earth, but not enough that I couldn’t be out with the rumbling beast before I was expected to.