A Thousand Miles of Dust

Rakearm Bendi was no longer sweating. Miles ago the last of his salty dew dried up and now he was all skin and bone and nerves. Each former bead of sweat was now nothing more than a crystal lattice of sodium and dust and char and dried blood, caked over his brow like warzone map. Yet still Rakearm kept the pedal down, making his Overlander VFX 5150 slice through the desert evening unerringly.

The poor Overlander. The windshield had been smashed out with a rock wrapped in barb-wire, creating a mosaic of glass at the border where the glass still stubbornly hung on. The back passenger door was ripped clean off, with Valerie still clinging on to it. Pale blue flames from the trunk were illuminating the dash in a hateful glow. An air line was gashed open somewhere, and it squealed constantly as it had been for the past 30 minutes. The engine was whining in stereo, overtaxed and ready to take a nap for the night, but the show was not over yet.

Rakearm’s crew was dead, or at least they were lost in the desert so they would be soon. Over the last hour they had been whittled down. His mechanic was doing his damnedest to brace the reserve fuel trunk when they were first attacked. He was torn off of the rear with a chain, taking the reserve tank with it; both his mechanic and the attacker were completely engulfed in gas, then flame and screams and they were gone into the desert waves. Valerie had been trying to take off one of the raider’s heads with her knife-pole, but they got the door open and smashed it off with their destroyer while she was still hanging out of the window. His mediator Gallow was in the remnants of the backseat, a spear hole near her collarbone. Gallow spent a few minutes trying to breathe through that hole before she reclined into the backseat for the final time. That just left the cat, and the cat was usually hiding in the trunk…

Rakearm closed his eyes briefly and took in the smoke and dust and wind. There was a car full of wardogs behind him, waiting for him to slow down so they could finish him off and take the Overland and it’s crew apart for scrap. A lone motorbike rode about 20 meters away off to his right, making sure that he could not lose the car in the dunes. Rakearm reached down under the left wheel and gripped tightly his prized possession, a pistol whose markings had all been worn away by time and use. His brain was still able to make the movements for him, it was able to confirm the chambered bullet and take aim at the bike rider. The Overlander 5150 banked suddenly to the right, on course to smash the bike with the remnants of its battered, flaming frame.

Later, four people picked over the heap that was formerly the Overlander. The driver had seized and flipped the car, and now it sat flat on its passenger side. A child of 14 picked through the glovebox, the pockets of the dead, the secret compartments of the console. They had gotten no fuel, no water, no food from the raid, and they had lost one of their own to boot. The main prize was a pistol, picked from the rigid hands of the driver who’s brain had been boiling for the past hour, his final drive of desperation locked forever into his rictus grin. The child tossed the pistol and a few good teeth into his plastic backpack, stepped back onto his motorcycle, and rode back off into the sand with the others, another day spent on the brink of death.