On the bleakest of highways, on the deadest of days, she skidded, rubber on asphalt. The air hung orange, smoke and dust mingling in the high winds; cursed golden hair streaked across a solemn land of scars and lifeless land. She clutched blood in her hand, a bullet in her mouth. Vulture choppers spun their talons towards her, but still she sped, as sparks flew across silver-blighted sand.
They hadn’t had time to get her name. The highway ran with fire that day.
She steered the smoldering coffin that was her transport into the nearest town, running parallel to the road on either side. The blonde bleeding woman launched her car into the nearest building, hitting it side-on, and exploding in an angry puff of flame. The woman propelled herself from the wreckage of twisted steel and raging fires that consumed everything in sight. She stood up, sprinted out of the building, barreling through a window and crashing into the ground. She drew a pistol from a holster across her back and aimed it into the dusty foreground.
The air was hot that day, like a snake waiting to pounce. She barely paid heed to the looming silence, thick as sap and terrible as the dawn. Feeling a piece of shrapnel in her arm, the woman grimaced and steadied herself on a lightpost. She tried to pull it out, and blood fell in scarlet tears. The pain was too much. She had to stop. Everything was blurring; everything was dissolving into one. She could hear her heartbeat, but she wasn’t sure if it was really her’s.
“Where are you?!” she roared, waving her weapon around trying to return to reality. Then she heard them, their steeds’ guttural palpitations calling back in anarchistic din.
Like feral hogs, the motorcyclists came scuttling into town, firing their guns in the air, shooting with hate and joy as one. Theirs was a dissident death march, cacophonous barks of glee and hubris, and she felt it pound into her head like a burning stare. She swallowed and shook her head to prevent herself from throwing up.
She took the first one in the hand; he fell from his bike like a plank of rotting wood. The second, she missed, and he did too. The third, she nailed in the neck, crimson tides of blood instantly spewing from his gash in life-espousing fits of horror. The bikers circled. They smelled carrion, she knew. The woman bit her lip. The pain in her shoulder was growing hotter. They could taste death. She couldn’t have felt more alive.
They came at once, the hungry pack of ragged wolves they were. She raised her pistol, squeezing off three shots before taking one in the leg. They fell into the rocks and cactus, to the blazing heat and cracked ground they would not return from. She staggered to one knee, not ready to give in. She was nearly dead – but in this game, nearly meant everything in the world.
She heard the motorcycles kill their howls once she had been hit. The sun blazed an ancient and shattered light. Her blood ran cool like water into the cracked desert ground. Sand blew into the sky, glinting in that ruinous dying light of the calescent day. She saw her shadow stretch across the horizon, the empty houses sullenly staring back. The five surviving bikers formed up in front of her. She clutched her arm, held her pistol loosely. There was iron on her tongue and rugged hope twitching in her fingers.
The biker at the head of gang wore a black leather vest with faded white wings on the back. The biker held an unlit cigar in one hand and a pistol in the other. Another rider stepped forward and removed his leader’s helmet. Blue hair burst out from the darkened faceguard like a waterfall.
The woman looked at the biker’s face. She was tall for a biker, and her face was as still as a new morning. She lacked little in beauty and little that was not familiar to well-met eyes. She was younger, not as she seemed. The woman’s ears were ringing with the steady-quick throbbing of her lifeblood.
The blue-haired biker aimed a pistol at the kneeling blonde.
“I’ve finally found you. After all these years of chasing ghosts, I’ve caught you.”
The blonde felt her swollen stomach and could feel something pushing back. She remembered the days when the sun had been young, when the wood had yet been fresh, when she had lacked any cares or any loves, when the world had been vivid and meant something. She had torn up those forsaken desert highways, burning rubber, her sister beside her, their hair blowing behind them like evanescent tails. From cactus to crevice, they had indisputably owned the area. They had been demon queens, hellbent on preserving their kingdom of blood and bones and sand. And then one day, they hadn’t. The pounding in her ears continued; her heartbeat was fluttering like an angry raven. She felt dizzy and sick and alive.
The blonde spit on the ground and grinned through her bleeding teeth. Like a bolt of lightning, she sprung forth her arm and shot the four bikers behind the blue-haired woman with expert precision. They were, all of them, dead before they hit the dirt. She lingered her sights on the woman in front of her before lowering her weapon. There would be time enough for that last trigger pull. The woman looked at her sister and spit. “You haven’t caught anyone. You haven’t even looked in the mirror–”
The blue-haired woman sneered and fired her pistol, hitting the kneeling woman in the forehead. Blood ran free across the earth, soaking it along with the withering sun. The woman holstered her weapon and stared at her slain foe, looking a bit older and less beautiful. Her hair shone with pale golden light as she stood on that desolate highway. The deep-beating drum thumped on, but it no longer fluttered, no longer raced with anxious hysteria.
The decaying buildings around would serve as gravestones well enough, and true ones at that. Their emotionless slate gray walls were a breath of fresh air, the first real things she had seen in a long time.
Everything was nothing as it seemed. The blue-haired woman felt an ice dread in her stomach. It hurt in the deepest recesses of her brain; in the darkest corner of her mind, a light still flickered and burned, a candle in a storm, and no matter how hard she tried, it would not quench itself. The pain was her own, a fragmented, surreal thing. She knew what she had done wouldn’t change anything. There was only one way out of the misery her sister had brought her.
Sighing, she pressed the pistol to her lips. Bum dum. Bum dum. Bum dum, her heart went. She felt the warm summer air on her skin, and for a moment, it made her remember sunnier days. Then she squeezed the trigger, and the sun faded from the black sky, and she felt desperately tired once again.