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I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Eight 3550 words

See chapter one for various disclaimers. Also, I might should have mentioned this before, but these chapters may not be be safe to read at work. There are quite a few mentions of anatomical parts and functions that polite people don't normally discuss in public. There's also far more profanity, obscenity, and scatology in the character language than you normally find in my work. What can I say? The two central characters are mass-murdering supervillains. These are just the voices I hear them using.


Found a black boot today with a foot inside of it. It has to belong to Ap. The thing is, I found it next to a wallet that has a license in it that expired in 1972. Andrew Kermit Bergman. Lived in Tampa. Was I in Florida during that time?

All the strata have been jumbled up. All sense that I could walk from one edge of my memories to the other and find a coherent path has been lost.

Things I do remember eating:

The hood ornament off a Jaguar.
A diamond ring and the woman’s finger still inside it.
A hatchet.
A scented candle.
A little clay cat.
A Coleman lantern.
A can of Campbell’s tomato soup, unopened.
A beer mug.

I wasn’t always a killer or a thief. For years I just drifted around, no purpose or care. I gravitated to out of the way dives where, for five bucks, I’d chew and swallow a beer mug, or q-ball, or, as noted, an unopened can of soup.

It wasn’t until I made it to Tijuana that I learned what I truly was.
Which wouldn’t have been possible if I’d known who I truly was.

Chapter Eight
Kissing the Grim Reaper

Sunday wrinkled her nose as she crept back toward wakefulness. What was that smell?
She opened one eye. Her nose was practically jammed into a man’s armpit. She opened her other eye. Why was she sleeping on someone else’s arm? And why was she cold? And why did her bones ache so badly?
Right, right, right. She was laying on Pit Geek. They’d crash landed in ice-cold lake then fallen asleep on a rug. He’d removed his jacket and draped it over them, though given that it was sopping wet that had done more to chill them than warm them. Her only other blanket was a banner.
She sat up. Pit was still sleeping. She rubbed her eyes. Daylight streamed through the windows, causing the dust on the pine floors to dance. She wrapped the banner around her to fight the chill.
She knew she could solve the problem of the cold in a heartbeat.
Except she couldn’t. Something bad had happened to her last night. She’d never pushed her power so far, never tried something as ambitious as melting an entire mountain. At first, letting go like that had felt liberating. But later, as she’d been flying Pit to safety, she’d felt as if all her life’s energy was spiraling out of her. Ordinarily, using her powers didn’t take that much effort. Her father had said that the heat and light weren’t coming out of her, but from the sun. It was free energy, channeled through the tiny wormholes she summoned into existence around her.
He’d never said where the energy to open the wormholes came from.
She rubbed her arms. Every bone ached. She felt hollowed out, as if the wormholes hadn’t just let out heat and light, but had instead sucked something out of her.
She’d died last night.
She remembered the tire catching her in the gut. Remembered the way her ribs had snapped and knifed into her lungs. Her mind went black at the moment she fell toward the trees, but then there was a vivid image she couldn’t shake: she’d opened her eyes while she was laying on the ground, and she couldn’t move her legs, and she couldn’t summon her fire, and she was coughing, and coughing and drops of blood were spattering in her eyes.
And then a black cloud had moved in from the edges of her vision and she’d stopped coughing, and everything had gone quiet, and then she’d been dead.
Now she was alive.
She looked at Pit. His broken nose had popped back out, and was almost back to normal. He was still missing a hand, though the stump had healed over with new pink flesh. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his mangled groin.
He’d had the regeneration ray. He’d used it on her instead of fixing himself. Would she have done the same?
She stood up, careful not to wake him. Maybe he was just used to being hurt. The whole time she’d known him, he’d always been healing from some new bullet hole, or worse things. And he did heal. It was one of his powers. He didn’t need the ray. He just needed time. He’d only used the ray on her because he needed her help to escape servant.
Or maybe he actually cared for her.
She looked out the window. There was mist over the lake. Nothing but trees on the other side of the water, though she could barely see the edge of the next cabin over if she looked to her left. That was probably the cabin with the king sized beds covered with goose-down comforters.
If he cared for her, it was just a sex thing. He made no secret that he found her attractive. Maybe he thought by saving her life she’d be so indebted to him that she’d have to let him paw and slobber over her to satisfy his animalistic craving to dominate her.
She sighed.
It was her father who’d been the rapist. She’d just wrapped her nude body across Pit Geek like he was her personal body pillow and he hadn’t laid a finger on her.
Maybe she didn’t hate all mankind.
She walked over to him. She nudged his cheek with her toe.
“Wake up,” she said.
Pit rolled over.
She put her toe in his ear and wiggled it. “Wake up.”
He opened his eyes and rolled onto his back. He stared up her long legs to where they disappeared under the wrap of the banner. He looked disoriented for about half a minute, then he grinned as his eyes fixed on her face. “Ain’t this a fine way to start a day,” he said.
“A better way to start a day would be with coffee,” she said. “And some clothes. And some transportation. And some fucking clue as to where the hell we are.”
“West Virginia,” he said. “Maybe Ohio. Or Kentucky.”
“I guess it doesn’t matter,” she said.
“We can’t rob another bank in Ohio the way your working ‘em,” he said.
“We’re done robbing banks,” she said.
He propped himself up on his right elbow. He stared at the stump of his left hand, looking puzzled. “We must have had one wild night.”
“You don’t remember?” she asked.
He sat up, scratching the back of his head. Then he carefully touched his nose, and finding it improved, shoved his finger into it and began to dig out big black globs of dried blood. “Yeah, I remember now,” he said. “It just takes my brain a while to get going some mornings.”
“Mine too,” she said. “Let’s break into the rest of the cabins and see if there’s a mess hall.”
“What are we going to rob?” he asked.
“The mess hall?” she answered, not understanding his question.
“I mean, what are we robbing if we’re not robbing banks?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I’ve decided you’re right. We’ll go to Pangea. We’ll retire and spend the rest of our lives drinking banana daiquiris.”
“You think we’ve got enough?”
“By my count you’ve got close to eighty million dollars swimming around in that mysterious gut of yours. We’ll be all right.”
Pit nodded. “What changed your mind?”
“It’s a different game, if superheroes are back,” she said. “I don’t want to play any more.”
He furrowed his brow. “You scared? ‘Cause by my scorecard, we licked them pretty good.”
“I’m not scared,” she said, turning her face back to the window so he wouldn’t be able to see her eyes. “But, the war is over. We’ve got all the money we’ll need to buy a little peace and quiet. I just don’t have anything left worth fighting for.”
This was answered with silence. She turned back toward Pit, and found he had his hand crammed deep into his mouth. He produced the regeneration ray a few seconds later.
He aimed it at his left hand and pulled the trigger. In under a minute, he was wiggling fresh fingers.
He rose and dropped his pants. He squatted, looking awkward as he tried to aim the gun at the affected area. She sighed.
“Give me that.”
He handed her the gun.
“Sit there,” she said, pointing to the hearth of the fire placed, which was raised off the floor about a foot.
He did so.
She crouched before him and pushed his knees apart. She grimaced.
“Bad?” he asked.
“What did he use on you? A chainsaw?”
“I think it was his toenails. Sort of mutified.”
She set her jaw and breathed through her nose. He’d brought her back from the dead. She at least owed him the fortitude to not turn away from his mangled manhood. She took aim and pulled the trigger. The gun began to scan. It ran through all of its normal commands, but introduced a new one: “Removing foreign matter.” Suddenly small dark pins, rings, and balls began to ooze from his flesh and drop onto the stone hearth, making soft clicking sounds as the bounced.
“What the hell?” she asked.
“Damned if I know,” he said.
Half a minute later, the job was finished. Pit had a fresh new pair of hairless testicles and his penis seemed intent to prove its repaired blood flow by sporting a rather impressive erection. Of course, Sunday didn’t have much to judge these things by. She felt an almost overwhelming urge to reach out and measure this part of his anatomy by comparing it to her hand size, but she was absolutely certain this would be misinterpreted.
She said nothing.
Pit wisely acted as if he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about the situation. Instead, he picked up some of the small metal bits that had fallen from him. He stared at them, and suddenly she could see a spark in his eyes.
“You remember something?”
“Maybe,” he said.
“I… I don’t know where it was. Down south somewhere, maybe. I remember there was a two lane road, and right beside one another you had a bar, a tattoo parlor, a Holiness church, and a graveyard, all lined up in front of a couple of acres of old mobile homes.”
“What’s that got to do with those?” She nodded toward the fragments.
“A woman ran the tattoo parlor. Wendy? Cindy? Candy? We met at the bar. She was just getting started in the tattoo business. I told her she could practice on me. She used to draw all kinds of designs on me. A week later, they’d just fade away, like my body thought they were just another injury. She also did piercing. I think my body absorbed some of them.”
Sunday furrowed her brow. “You let someone shove metal into your genitals?”
“She was real nice to me,” said Pit, with a shrug.
“But you don’t remember her name?”
“I don’t remember my name.”
“So what happened to her?”
Pit said nothing. His eyes went vacant, like he was searching through all the little film loops in his brain, trying to find one that answered her question. He shook his head and grabbed his pants. He looked at the bloodied crotch.
“Guess I should wash these,” he said.
“Or burn ‘em,” she said.
“It was cancer,” he said. “Cancer’s what happened to her.”
“Oh,” she said.
“She’d been sick before I met her. Breast cancer a few years earlier. She’d tattooed over the two long scars on her chest. Lightning bolts. Said she had power over death.”
He shook his head. “She was skinny when I met her. Then the cancer came back. She took some kind of chemo that made all her hair fall out. Even her eyebrows. Her skin was so smooth and soft. She didn’t feel much like going out, so we’d just lie around in bed, me touching her, the hours rolling by. I’d try to cheer her up. Tell her she was beautiful as her hair fell out and her skeleton started showing through her skin. ‘My cancer beauty,’ I called her.”
He pulled on his pants. “And then she got really sick.” He tucked his still erect penis up against his belly. “And then she died.”
“I’m sorry,” said Sunday.
“Naw, it’s nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Everyone dies. Everyone.”
“You don’t.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I do. I die a little more every day. You ain’t looking at a living man. You’re looking at a corpse too stupid to call it quits.”
“You keep saying you’re stupid,” she said, brushing her hair back from her face, “but the more I listen to you, the more I suspect you’re kind of really smart.”
“That’s just my dumbness rubbing off on you,” he said.
“If so, I wish more of you were rubbing off on me.”
Pit looked down at his jean, at his still noticeable erection. “Are you… are you saying….”
“No!” she said, feeling her cheeks flush. “God no. I’m saying that you’ve got this… this quiet wisdom about you. A calmness. You seem… centered. I’d like to learn how you get there.”
“Brain damage, mostly,” he said.

The next cabin over turned out to be a chapel. In a room behind the altar there was a small kitchen and, praise the lord, a coffee maker and an unopened vacuum pack of Starbucks coffee. And, because the lord was kind, water ran when they opened the tap. And then they plugged pot in and turned the switch to on, and, because the lord was fickle, there was no electricity. Pit flipped a few switches.
“I bet there’s a breaker box,” she said. “Check outside.”
“Can’t you heat the water with your powers?”
She froze. It was a very simple question.
For a brain damaged freak, he picked up instantly that something was wrong.
“Has something happened to your powers?”
“What?” she said. “No. Why do you think that?”
“Well, you ain’t glowed even a little bit since we climbed out of the lake. Usually by this time of day, you’ve lit up a time or two.”
“Usually by this time of day, I’ve had coffee,” she said.
“You really need coffee to use your powers?” he said. “That seems like some kind of weakness.”
“Some kind, yeah,” she said. “Look, it’s nothing big. I used a lot of power last night. It’s left me feeling a little… unsteady. I need to… if the heroes show back up, I need to save my strength.”
Pit leaned back against the sink, staring at her.
“What?” she asked.
“The first time I met you, you had trouble turning your powers on.”
“That was ten years ago,” she said. “I was just a little girl.”
“You were afraid of losing control.”
“What are you? My dad now?”
“You still touch yourself?”
“Pit!” she said. “What’s gotten into you? And how can you possibly know about that?”
“Monday told me before I ever met you that was how you found out about your powers. Maybe I got a dirty mind, but it’s something that stuck with me.”
“What I do or don’t do with my body is none of your business.” She went the tap and filled the carafe with water, then dumped in a random amount of coffee. She’d do this without electricity. Where the hell did Pit get off asking something like that?
She cradled the pitcher between her palms. She took a deep, slow breath. All she had to do was let out a little power. Very little. Too much and she’d blow up the pot. She imagined shards of glass flying everywhere. She imagined one sinking into her eye, driving into her brain.
The water stayed cold.
“You can’t do it,” said Pit.
“I just don’t want coffee all that badly,” she said, putting the carafe down on the counter. “It wouldn’t taste right without it dripping through a filter.”
“Sure it would,” he said, eyeing the grounds in the water. “That there’s cowboy coffee!”
She stared at her hands. All she needed to do to get past this was just make a little ball of light in her palm. Just something the size of a marble.
Pit said, “Looks like we’re gonna have to go into town for some java.”
She shook her head.
“We should stay here,” she said.
“Someone will find us here.”
She nodded. “I know. So. I should stay here. You should go.”
“That don’t make sense,” he said.
“I can’t turn my powers on,” she whispered.
“You mean I was right?” He scratched his head. “Man, I oughta write this down.”
“What you oughta do is go,” she said. “Right now, I’m a liability. Leave me my half of the money and go on. If I get my powers back, I’ll meet you in Pangea.”
Pit shook his head. “Naw, We’re a team. We go together.”
“A team is only as strong as its weakest link,” she said.
“You’re thinking of a chain,” he said. “And yesterday you melted a mountain while I coasted down a burning road in a crippled truck. Who was the weak link then? You’ve stood by me. I’ll stand by you.”
She crossed her arms. “You don’t understand.” She felt on the verge of tears. “I died. I died! And, using my powers last night… it hurt. It made me… I don’t want to die, Pit. I’m not like you. I can’t just shrug this shit off.”
“Then don’t shake it off,” he said. “Just wrap both arms around the idea and pull it close to your heart.”
“Embrace dying?”
“Death is like a mean dog. You show fear and it’s gonna chase you. But you run at it growling, and it backs off.”
“I saw you try that trick on the Toronto mission eight years ago,” she said. “You got bit!”
“But I bit him back. Look, you gotta look the Grim Reaper straight in the eye, grab him by his hood and plant a big one on his boney cheeks. If it’s your time, he’ll kiss you back. If not, you’re gonna make him more scared of you than you are of him.”
She rubbed her arms, thinking about what he said. She was as cold as she’d ever been, and her bones still hurt. If she’d ever felt more afraid, she couldn’t remember when. But, she took some degree of comfort that Pit was going to stick around.
“You look cold,” he said.
“It’s freezing!” she said, shivering. “Wasn’t it hot yesterday? Where’s global warming when you really need it?”
Pit took off his biker jacket and held it out to her. “I’d have given it to you sooner if I’d known you couldn’t make yourself hot no more,” he said, sounding sincerely apologetic.
She looked at the jacket like he was handing her a bomb.
“Something wrong?” he asked. “It smell bad?”
She took the jacket. “It smells fine.” The leather was still damp, but it was warm from his body heat. She said, “You keep being kind to me. Kindness messes with every assumption I hold about humanity.”
“It ain’t no sure thing that I am human,” he said.
She slipped her arms into the sleeves. Then, for the first time in her adult life, she couldn’t help herself. She hugged him. He held his hands out awkwardly to the side.
“Whatever you are,” she whispered, “the world needs more like you.”
He carefully wrapped his arms around her. He patted her back, as if she needed comfort.
But what if she didn’t need comfort?
She tilted her face up toward his. He stared into her eyes, looking confused. She held her gaze. His eyes were brown, the irises looking almost like they’d been carved and polished from some rare wood.
“You, uh,” he said. “You… got nice eyes. You could, uh, you could be a model.”
“You really should just give up on sweet talk,” she said, standing on her tip toes.
He took the hint, and kissed her.
And he hugged her even tighter. She ran her fingers up his neck and mussed with his curls.
Embrace death, he’d said. Run straight towards it.
She moved her hand toward his crotch. Since the Grim Reaper wasn’t around, she chose to grab hold of her second worse fear. She found his fly and toyed with it. He moved from her mouth to nibble on her ears. The sensation was electric.
“I don’t touch myself,” she whispered in his ear as he nibbled on her neck. “I haven’t come since I was fifteen. The second I found out Rex Monday could watch anything I did, I swore off sex. I’m still a virgin.”
Pit put his hands under her butt and lifted her onto the counter. He tore away the cloth banner under her leather jacket and pressed his mouth between her breasts. Then his tongue found her nipple. She gasped, then groaned.
The paint began to peel from the kitchens walls as the air grew hotter.
Soon, the air smelled of burning coffee as the last of the water boiled away.
3550 words

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