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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!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Six 3590 words

First draft, yadda yadda. See chapter one for the full disclaimer.

Found a pistol in the rubble. A .22 revolver, intact. Most gun parts I find are mangled where I bit through them. Three bullets, but I bet I can find more out here if I look for them.

Out here? In here?

Anyway, the gun can come in handy in catching those damn chickens. I might could have caught them on earth, but out here (in here?) they can actually get some distance with those wings.

Funny thing is, I’ve had a lot of guns in my hand, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually shot anyone or anything. But, how hard can it be?

Chapter Six
And She Danced

They were at a rest area in southern Ohio when the cop spotted them. The rest area wasn’t much, just a couple of cinderblock outhouses with no running water. There were some cement picnic tables under a tree, all cracked up, crumbling, and covered with bird poop. They had their Harley parked under the tree, well away from the official parking spaces. Thanksgiving was only a week away, and they were near the mountains, so Pit had expected the day to be chilly. Instead, the day had actually passed from pleasantly warm into actually hot at some point. When the weather was cold, it was no big deal. Sunday could keep them warm. When it was hot, alas, her thermostat only ran in one direction.
It was mid afternoon and Sunday had stretched out on the cement table top with her jacked under her head to catch a nap. They’d been racing down the highways more or less at random, never staying in one state more than a day. They hadn’t exactly been discreet as Pit had adopted a standard cruising speed just shy of 110mph. That was the speed where the Harley felt just right, like it was flying. But, they’d put over 8,000 miles on the bike in just shy of two weeks. It was nearly impossible that no cop had seen him. Why hadn’t they been ambushed yet? The suspense was killing him.
Then, the Highway Patrol car pulled into the rest area. The cop had parked, gotten out of his car, glanced in their direction, then froze. Then the cop had very, very, very slowly lowered himself into his driver’s seat, fastened his seat belt, then drove out of the rest stop at a very controlled and moderate rate of speed.
At first, Pit thought this was odd behavior. Had the cop seen them or hadn’t he? Then, Pit figured it out. That cop had seen them. Probably so had a hundred others. And each of them had to know, by this point, that Pit had a reputation for swallowing limbs, and Sunday had a reputation for leaving behind a trail of widows. By this point, it was well established that Devourer and Burn Baby never struck twice in the same town. For most cops, it was probably a wise choice just to act like they hadn’t seen anything and let some other city worry about them.
After Sunday woke, they headed south, across the Ohio river, and after nightfall wound up pretty much as lost as a person could get after taking a wrong turn off Highway 23 and winding up on a road so full of switchbacks that Pit really had no idea where they were headed. And, of course, the gas was getting low. And, of course, Sunday was complaining about how hungry and tired she was. Pit had no problem with just pulling off the road and sleeping under a tree, and his dietary needs weren’t particularly dainty. Sunday, on the other hand, refused to eat roadkill, which Pit thought was a bit snooty of her, especially since she of all people would have to eat it raw. Sunday was also insistent that they sleep in a place with a real bed and an actual bathroom, She’d been nagging Pit take a shower every day, which was just crazy, and who was she, his mother? But, he went along with her agenda without a grumble. As long as they were robbing a bank every other day or so, he was having fun.
Then, just as he was on the verge of stopping the bike at the top of the next mountain and admitting that he didn’t know where the hell he was and asking her to fly up and look around for any towns nearby, he spotted lights through the branches of the trees coming from one of the ridges above. He gunned the bike up the curves, arriving at a structure that looked like it had once been a cinderblock gas station and garage, that someone had nailed a bunch of boards to. A wooden sign in front declared it to be the Hillbilly Hideout. In smaller letters it read “B-B-Q and Beer.” A half-dozen pick-up trucks were parked in the gravel lot.
“Dinner time,” he said, as he pulled the bike in beside a beat up Ford.
“I was hoping we could find a hotel first,” said Sunday. She looked really beat, and she’d been quiet all day.
“We’ll ask for the nearest one,” he said.
“Damn,” she said, getting off the bike. “You asking for directions? This is gotta see.”
As they approached the door, he heard loud country music thumping from inside.
“Oh lord,” Sunday moaned. “I’m not sure I’m up for this.”
“What’s wrong?”
She crossed her arms. “Nothing. I’m just tired. Tired of greasy road food. Tired of being on that bike twelve hours a day. This road we’ve been on tonight must surely be the intestines of America. I say the next big town we reach, we steal a plane and head for France.”
“You speak French?”
She shook her head. “But, French cops probably scare even easier than American cops. And when we aren’t working, the food’s got to be better.”
“It’s all the same to me,” said Pit. “I really can’t taste anything.”
“Your taste buds have probably been killed off by all the crap you put in your mouth.”
“Maybe,” said Pit. “The thing is, the food doesn’t really go into my mouth. Every now and then, I might feel a tickle in my throat, especially when I’m pulling stuff back out, but I really don’t think the stuff I eat goes in my at all.”
“Then where does it go?”
Pit shrugged.
“I mean, some of it must go in you. You haven’t starved yet.”
“Maybe. But what’s weird is that I haven’t used the bathroom since I woke up on the side of a highway back in 1956.
She stared at him.
“Honest,” he said. “I don’t even pee.”
“Okay,” she said. “That is either way more information than I needed, or the most fascinating thing I’ve ever learned about you. Seriously? Never?”
“Wow,” she said, eying the door. “Let’s go in. Suddenly I need a beer.”
“I thought you didn’t drink.”
“Ordinarily I don’t,” she said. “But with any luck I’m going to kill the brain cells that have latched on to the mystery of your excretory functions.”
They opened the door to the strains of “Achy Breaky Heart.”
Sunday sighed.
The place was a dive, from what Pit Geek could see of it. There were about three light bulbs total working in the place. What he’d assumed to be a jukebox was an ipod plugged into a boombox sitting on a bar stool. There were eight or nine guys in the room, all middle aged rednecks with beer guts. Some were sitting at a bar, but most were clustered around a pool table, though not to play pool. Instead, there was a girl dancing drunkenly in the center of the table stripped down to her bra and panties, which were stuffed with dollar bills. She was a little on the chunky side, a square faced blonde wearing way too much make up. She looked the way Tammy Faye Bakker must have looked when she was sixteen.
Half of the men in the room turned their heads to see who’d just come through the door, and the other half continued to stare at the dancing girl.
Pit turned around and placed his hand on Sunday’s shoulder. “Let’s find another place.”
“We’re here,” she said firmly, pushing past him and heading toward the bar.
The girl on the table stopped dancing. The men all stared at Sunday.
“Got any Red Stripe?” Sunday asked the man behind the counter, a squat bald man with an eye patch with red long johns hanging out of a filthy white V-neck tee-shirt.
“The gum?” Eye-patch asked.
“There’s a gum named Red Stripe?” Sunday asked. She was shouting to be heard over the music, but then the song ended and she was simply shouting.
“We don’t have no gum,” said Eye-patch.
“Red Stripe’s a beer,” Sunday said. For some reason, the music hadn’t started back up again.
“We got Bud and PBR.”
Sunday pursed her lips, pondering her options.
“PBR,” she said. “And a barbeque sandwich.”
“We ain’t got no barbeque.”
“Your sign—”
“Kitchen’s closed.” He crossed his arms. “This time of night, we just turn the joint over to private parties.”
One of the men at the pool table staggered over. He had a half empty mason jar in his hand, full of clear liquid that made Pit’s eyes water.
“I’m Root,” he said, his speech slurred. “It’s my birthday. You’re welcome to stay.”
“How old’s that girl?” Sunday asked.
“Well I don’t rightly know,” said Root. He belched. “It’s impolite to ask a woman her age.”
“How old are you, girl?” Sunday asked.
“Old enough,” the girl said, crossing her arms.
“If we had an older woman,” Root said, looking Sunday up and down. “She’d be more than welcome to dance.”
Pit put his hand on Sunday’s arm. “If y’all ain’t got no food, we’ll just be moving on,” he announced.
By now, two of the beefier men had moved to stand in front of the door.
“What’s your hurry?” asked Root. “You just got here.”
“We’re just looking for dinner,” said Pit. “Didn’t really come to dance.”
“All women like dancing,” said Root.
“She doesn’t,” said Pit.
“You talk for her?” Root asked.
“Mister, I’m just trying to save you from a world of trouble,” said Pit.
“He doesn’t talk for me,” said Sunday.
“Then, what do you say? You want to dance?”
By now, Eye-patch had produced the can of PBR. Sunday took it, popped the top, and downed it while she contemplated Root’s question.
“This would be a dance where I take off my clothes,” she asked, wiping her mouth.
“Well, sure, if you wanted to. Sure.”
Pit tried to pull Sunday toward the door, but she twisted her arm free.
At the door, one of the large men pushed aside his jacket and revealed a pistol.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Mister?” the gunman said.
“I reckon I will,” said Pit. He raised himself onto a stool, suddenly looking forward to what was about to happen. In his opinion, once a man pulled out a gun, he deserved whatever was coming his way.
Sunday had taken off her jacket and laid it on the bar. She was wearing a tight black sweater beneath this that showed off her curves. She took a seat on a stool and began to unzip her boots.
Someone started the music back up. “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley. It had been years since Pit had heard this song.
The girl on the table placed her hands on her hips. “Root, I ain’t splitting the money.”
“I dance for free,” said Sunday, standing up barefoot on a floor that even Pit Geek thought looked germy.
She unbutton her jeans and peeled them off. This was normally the time in a bank robbery where she would start glowing. But, she wasn’t using her powers. Pit noticed that her new leg had darkened up a little, but was still a lot whiter than her other leg.
Sunday pulled off her sweater. The girl on the table made a feeble attempt at starting to dance, but no one was looking at her now.
Sunday reached up and grabbed her bra, pressing her breasts together. If Pit had been a fair judge, he would have to admit that the girl on the table had nicer jugs. Still, Sunday won the rest of the body competition hands down.
Root was practically drooling. “Oh mama,” he said. “Baby, you should be a model.”
Sunday glanced back at Pit. “For the record, that’s much more flattering than you telling me I could be a prostitute.”
“Aw, what do I know about talking to women?” Pit said.
Sunday removed her bra. Now Root was actually drooling. The song shifted to “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allen Coe.
“You like what you see?” Sunday asked.
“This is a damn wonderful birthday,” Root mumbled.
“Want to touch?”
Root reached with thick, trembling fingers toward her dark areola.
And then Pit couldn’t see anything. Root was screaming. The girl on the table started shrieking. The boom box squealed as its electronics fried in the ions flooding the room. There was a gunshot to Pit’s left. Then another, and another, then a scream cut suddenly short. The room suddenly took on the smell of burnt bacon.
Pit rubbed his eyes, trying to get rid of the dancing spots. “Christ almighty,” he grumbled. “You’d think I’d of learned by now to keep my eyes closed.”
Sunday laughed, her voice only a few feet away. “Dad told me you were a slow learner.”
When Sunday vaporized a human being completely, it was a curiously soft sound, almost like a feather pillow being tossed onto a bed, a gentle “fumph.”
Fumph. Fumph. Fumph. Fumph. And maybe a few he’d missed over the girl’s shrieking.
He finally got his eyes working. The room was a lot emptier. The cinder block walls were painted with human shadows, men running, mostly.
Root was still alive, on his knees, both hands missing. His eyes had burst, leaving a trail of red and white goop streaming down his cheeks. He was drawing deep breathes and looking like he was screaming, but only gurgles came out.
The girl was still alive. She’d dropped to her hands and knees. Sunday let the fire surrounding her flicker out. Pit tried not to stare at her pubic hair, but found he really couldn’t help it.
Sunday grabbed the girl by the hair. “Give me the money,” she said.
“What?” the girl sobbed.
“The money in your panties and bra! Give it to me!”
“Oh god don’t kill me,” the girl whimpered.
“Give me the money!” Sunday screamed.
The girls hand were shaking so bad she dropped half the bills as she pulled them from her underwear. Sunday scooped them into a little pile and counted them. Pit could see they were mostly ones.
“Thirty-seven dollars,” Sunday said, shaking her head. “You’d sell your body for thirty-seven dollars.”
“No!” the girl protested. “They were just watching! They couldn’t… you know, touch me for a couple of dollar bills.”
“Then for what?” Sunday asked.
The girl sniffled. “I don’t know. Maybe a hundred? Maybe fifty?”
Sunday bunched the bills into her fist and the suddenly flared, singing the girl’s hair. The girl tried to crawl away, but Sunday grabbed her by the face, squeezing her cheeks, smearing the dark mascara tracks that ran down her face in an eerie echo of Root’s fate.
“I don’t know!” the girl cried. “I don’t know how much to charge!”
“I’m not quizzing you on the proper fees!” Sunday said. “No price! No price! No one should be commodity to be bought or sold! I’ve been fighting since I was no older than you trying to break the world free from its thinly disguised economy of slavery and here you are, here you are, selling yourself! Why? Why?”
“I’ve got a little girl at home,” the dancer sobbed. “I need the money for her.”
Sunday slowly released the girl’s face.
“Was one of these men the father,” she asked.
“No,” the girl said, wiping her snot from her face. “He’s my age.”
Sunday stared at the black mascara smudges on her hand. She wiped them on the pool table.
She walked toward Pit. He made a show of hiding his eyes behind his hand as he held her jeans toward her.
“Oh, go ahead and look,” she grumbled. “You think I didn’t see you staring?”
“Sorry,” said Pit.
“You’re not sorry.” She pulled on her jeans in one fluid motion.
“Naw. I’m not.”
She pulled on her sweater without bothering with her bra. She sat on the stool to put her boots on. “I hate all mankind.”
“There’s always monkeyland,” said Pit.
She gave him a glance sideways, started to say something, then stopped.
Pit glanced toward Root. He was still breathing, still sitting up, and maybe, against all odds, still conscious.”
“You going to put him out of his misery?”
“Not planning on it,” she said.
“What about the girl?”
“I don’t give a damn what she does,” said Sunday, with a dismissive wave.
On hearing this, the girl rolled off the table and crawled toward the door. Sunday zipped up her boots as the girl slipped outside.
“There might be some food in the kitchen,” Pit said, going behind the bar. The kitchen was little more than a sink, a microwave, and a small refrigerator. In the fridge, he found a pack of hot dogs. There was also a door to the gravel lot out back, standing open.
“You want a wiener?” he called out to her.
“Since you aren’t smart enough for innuendo, I assume you’ve found hot dogs?”
“I’m really not hungry now,” she said. “We never did ask where we could find a hotel.”
“Hey,” said Pit, staring at the open door. “Did you kill the guy with the eye-patch?”
“Uhhhh, no. I don’t think so. I think he bolted while I was focused on the guy with the gun.”
Pit Geek sighed. “I bet he’s called the cops by now.”
“Why should we care?” asked Sunday. “Let them come.”
She shook her head as she stared at the pool table. “Let them send a whole damn army.” She looked down at her hands, and let twin balls of glowing plasma bubble up in her palms. “I think… I think I’ve crossed a line, Pit.”
“How so?” he said, coming back from the kitchen.
“I thought there was a war,” she said, so softly he could barely here her. “I thought I was saving the innocent and ignorant masses from the machinations of secretive, powerful men who treated them like animals.” She sighed. “But they were animals all along.”
“Monday really screwed you up,” said Pit.
“Monday gave me hope.”
“Monday made you think that things were important. But nothing’s really important. These folks tonight were just passing time as best they could until the grim reaper came for ‘em. We’re all gonna die in the end, so what’s it matter how you live your days? Just do what you like to do. If these guys liked looking at some girl shaking her money maker, and she liked shaking it, why not let them have their fun?”
Sunday rolled the plasma around in her palm as she thought his words over. “That some kind of cowboy philosophy?”
“I dunno where I heard it,” said Pit. “Maybe it’s in the Bible?”
“I’m fairly certain it’s not,” Sunday said, chuckling. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve never been so tired in all my life.”
They stepped out of the bar and walked toward the Harley. When they were ten feet away, a large man in white tights dropped down from the sky and landed on the bike, flattening it. A cloud of dust rose from the impact. Pit and Sunday stopped dead in their tracks.
The man in white rose from his crouching position in the shallow crater as dust and shreds of pulverized Harley drifted down around him. He was tall and bulging with muscles, with a square jaw and close-cropped ink-black hair that made him look like he’d stepped out of a comic book. There was a large red S in the center of his chest.
“Pit Geek,” the man said, in a deep bass voice. “Sundancer. You’re under arrest. I’d advise you to surrender. Lethal force has been authorized for your capture.”
“You’ve got us confused with someone else,” Pit said. “We’re Devourer and Burn Baby.”
“Baby Burn,” said Sunday. Then she looked at the big guy. “You found us. Can you catch us?”
The man in white blurred. Before either of them could blink, he’d grabbed Sunday by the wrist.
“Not bad,” said Sunday. “But can you hold us?”
Pit remembered to close his eyes this time, but even still the flash felt like lightning burning into the back of his skull. He shielded his eyes with his hands as he carefully opened them. Sunday was nothing but a glowing outline. The ground beneath her bubbled like a pool of lava.
The man in white still had hold of her wrist. Not a single hair on his head was singed.
Pit couldn’t be sure, but it looked like Sunday smiled at her captor.
“You’re going to be a lot more fun than an army,” she said.
3590 words

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