It’s what I know as the tunnel widens and the door at the end of this long journey begins to open. It’s the brief end to a long day. Eventful and darkened with the wet sheen of closure, this is the day I become more than a man.
In darkness, I slip away into abodes of phantom clones of my ipseity. In darkness, I find opportunity to slumber.
As quickly as it passes, the day comes again on the orange.
I open my eyes to the low angle sun at perfect angle to beam through the dusty blinds and into my face. I still have blood on my hands. This burlap sack I pulled from the barn is musty; it’s grid is pressed into my face temporarily.
The cicada chorus, the symphony of the Texas Summer, is muted by the water-stained sheetrock of this abandoned house. The trees and ligustrums are fighting for canopy distinction above it, as mosquito larvae dance a jig in old buckets nearby.
I have my assignment, passed down through time channels, space eddies, past a million stars.
And, in my head I hold the memory, like red ochre on the wall, of man’s first vengeance.
Lacy is thick on thigh and tight around the middle, but she’s no heavyweight in the fat department. This woman is hard. Her dark hair falls in the perfect unkempt curl of obliviousness, and she wears it like a gold-laced dolman over black lingerie.
She’s taken up with some Mexican who tools around Coyanosa in a 70s model Cadillac convertible, orange sparkle. I gather from the locals that they call him Luison, after some Guarani legend. I’ve tailed him a few times, going so far as Los Hornillos in Mexico. Luison deals in flesh, but on occasion he gets himself into the drug trade if the money is right. Between Los Hornillos and the filthy waters of Miguel Hidalgo, Luison has a modest ranch tucked in a valley where he trains fighters and assassins, but mostly, from what I’ve observed there, Luison just uses the house there as his own personal Xanadu.
After the third time I witnessed a truckload of beaten women delivered in a rusty bobtail, I very nearly blew my cover and charged in, guns blazing.
Luison is not my target, though.
Lacy is hot molasses and hellfire, poured into leather and lace. She gyrates her body and bucks her hips, threatening to rip through the minimalistic clothing. She drinks black coffee and cherry pie at the diner every morning, waiting for Luison to arrive with his orange sparkle yacht and retinue of greased men. I know that a few of the locals have been in her dark embrace recently, in filthy stalls, on splintered stacks of pallets, between steam tables and grills. For Luison to know this would mean death for any one of them, and they know this. Pinch Luke, the diner owner, makes himself the size of a pea when the thump of conjunto begins to vibrate the diner’s front window. Maybe its this Mexican’s manhood they fear, or maybe its his rumored connection to the Sinaloa cartel. Either way, the diner empties dramatically each day Luison is around town.
It has taken me several months to track Lacy down, and I’ve spent a good deal of time attempting to understand why she does this, why she has fallen into this pit of debauchery with snakes like Luison. I tracked her here through a blog of all things, where she painted the page red with descriptions of dark Southern sexual escapades from the swamps of Louisiana to the dusty oilfield pop-ups of West Texas. She is a vile but undeniably attractive writer, grabbing at a man’s loins with the razor claws of a cat with a thousandfold more intensity than a four-hour bondage porn and makes you want to dive through the screen into a hell of pixel ecstasy, circuit envy, electronic nothings licked into your mind through the back of your throat.
I am biting my lip even now, knowing where I’ve been with her in my mind.
The thump of conjunto cacophony, warped by the sound of welding and sawing coming from Deep Andy’s shop across the street, stirs me from my thoughts, and from my position atop the old abandoned utilities building, I resume my scouting of the scene.
Luison is alone, and the familiar doppler effect is hastened as his orange sparkle yacht blows past the main intersection at a heated eighty miles per hour. Careering into the diner lot at an angle, handbrake employed gingerly, Luison’s car slams into a roughneck worktruck parked at the diner’s front window.
Sweat’s pouring into my eyes, and I have to remove the binoculars from my eyes to dry my brow. The asphalt from the roof is baking me alive. I’m only just noticing the heat as the scene heats up to match the Texas sun’s relentless assault. How long have I been here?
Luison is out of his car and in his hand is an MP7 flecked with blood. I take a cursory glance to the car itself and notice that blood is everywhere on the dark orange leather.
Things have come to a head.
Casting my binoculars aside, I vault over the edge of the roof and roll to my feet in a controlled motion. The Hayabusa I thieved from Wold Benny back in Stephenville is parked between the utility building and the old feed lot out of sight. I make for it, loosing the plasma rifle from its lock at the bike’s side and throwing its strap over my shoulder. I anticipate this will be the last time I will need any of these primitive tools.
Walking the Hayabusa up to the corner of the feed lot office, I afford myself a good view of the scene as it unfolds.
Luison drags Lacy out of the diner, her too-tight red dress is ripped and I suck in breath as I catch a glimpse of long thigh. The Mexican throws her roughly into the car, but with unnatural speed, old Lacy is back out again. Her left fist connects and Luison hits the dirt lot, dropping his weapon.
I hear the sound of engines down the street but dismiss it.
Luison is up and grabs Lacy again, this time pointing towards the direction I heard the engines. This time, she pushes him into the car and deftly throws herself into the back seat.
Curiosity peaked, I turn my attention to the far end of town where I see a Unimog flanked by two black SUVs bearing down on us. The Cadillac is gone in a cyclone of dust and the Unimog and its cronies are in pursuit. From out of the windows, cartel men appear wielding Uzis.
Luison is running for his life.
I lurch out into the open and follow the pursuit. I’ll be damned if a gang of cartel scum is going to deny me my bounty.
The road north out of Coyanosa tees into another road before you can pick up another road to Monahans east of there. Luison cuts the sharp angle with a wide fifty degrees at the start. His yacht kicks up a wall of dust that the Unimog disappears into, and I have no choice but to follow.
I catch sight of the slope early, but in the dust, I can’t see where to angle and I brace for flight. Airborne, I do my best to maintain level on impact. The back wheel kicks out when I come down, but I recover and continue pursuit. I toy with the idea of jetting past the cartel vehicles, but as I ponder my approach, I hear the whine of bullets nicking past. They think I’m with Luison.
I carefully pull the plasma rifle around off my shoulder and level it at the first SUV I’m coming up on. Shrapnel ricochets up off the blacktop as the cartel gunmen try to take out my tires. I quickly aim and fire.
The SUV’s back left side disappears in a sharp white pulse of energy. Half a man slips out of the vehicle’s new hole, and, now missing three quarters of a wheel, the SUV skids into the ditch.
Now, the other SUV’s occupants have sight of me, and they turn the barrels of their guns my way. Before they have a chance to take a shot at me, I unleash another bolt of hell towards their front end from a diagonal just behind at the their left. Most of the SUV disappears and the rest of it flips upwards, end over end. I risk the carnage and fire my bike past the metal disaster.
Just the Unimog lies between me and my target. The monster vehicle has been customized and is rolling a hell of a lot faster than it should be. I’m admiring this when I see the telltale shimmer of Lacy’s power not fifty yards ahead.
So, she’s that desperate, I surmise. I curse and get my weapon up just in time to fire a pulse into the energy wall. Just ahead of me, the Unimog collides with the invisible barrier and erupts in violence–a half sphere of explosion, not penetrating the wall at all. My quick thinking has afforded me a break in the barrier, but the Unimog’s fiery death throes force me through at an angle. I lose the Hayabusa and take flight unwillingly. The blacktop eats me, and I have the experience of my fractured tibia, jutting out of my skin, scraping against the hot mess of road. The tumble lasts for what seems like hours, but in a short second I grind to a halt, broken and helpless.
Ahead, I catch a glimpse of the orange convertible swerve to a stop and reverse its course back to me. The rear left tire crushes my hand as it pulls up next to me. My plasma weapon is yards away and sparking in its own death throes.
“Holy shit,” Lacy drawls out with her practiced honey cajun tongue. “What brings you out this far, sugar bear?”
Luison is out of his car and kicks me in the side. “Who the fuck are you?” he barks at me. I don’t like his greasy hair, and I can smell him for the first time.
No, I’ve smelled this before. I’ve mistaken his stench for something unpleasant left uncleaned in one of the ramshackle buildings making up the ass stain that is Coyanosa.
“This is my friend,” Lacy says, pushing Luison back from me. “He came a very long way just to see me, didn’t you sweetie?”
The Texas sun plays a duet with the hellfire of trauma that is what is left of my body. In the distant, the mirage of the blacktop looks like Lacy’s magic all around us.
Luison roughly pushes her aside and levels his MP7 at my head. His intention is to kill me, but Lacy has other ideas. Luison’s neck snaps and I can see his ribcage buckle. Lacy hasn’t touched him. The Mexican falls to the ground dead, his weapon clatters against the blacktop and I can see the heat mirage off the barrel.
Lacy crouches beside me and I can see her lack of underwear. I smile. Fortune smiles on me this day, for this and one other reason.
“You can’t catch me, Wilkes. Not you, not any of you. Not here, or elsewhere in this backwoods galaxy. Not now, and not ever in infinity,” she teases. Her hot hands caress my face, letting the blood stick to her soft skin. “If it were possible, it wouldn’t be a paradox.”
I cough blood and struggle to speak. In my hand, I tickle a switch and I can feel the throb of this paradox’s final lifebeat.
“What’s that, sugar?” she says, leaning over.
I take one last look at her cleavage, and then touch the stasi-tec device to her upper thigh.
“Circles are a bitch,” I grunt.
Lacy’s eyes have widened, but they are frozen now. She teeters and falls forward, her breasts hard and cold as ice now against my face. I giggle, then gasp for air. With effort, I shove her off me and take a few moments to breathe.
The Texas sun is directly over head, and its flaying my flesh with dull and rusty wood planes. The insect chorus, not as familiar to me now as the cicada drone, is singing my credit music.
I reach down an slip my communicator from its sheath with broken fingers.
I take a deep breath. “Target down. Need extraction.”
“Affirmative,” comes the reply. “Standby.”
Two beings shimmer into existence next to me and the orange yacht. One easily hefts Lacy’s frozen form from the blacktop before just as quickly disappearing into nothing.
“You’ve sustained serious injury,” the thing says to me. I can’t see through its visor, but I know its a bug. Why can’t they send out a humanoid every once in while. “Standby for realignment.”
The snap of bones and white burn of mended flesh brings into existence a primal scream that wanders up from my gut. I’ll take death next time, I think.
A few minutes pass before the pain allows me to think. By then, the bug is gone and I’m alone in the carnage of the aftermath of my occupation. I take another deep breath, and I sit up.
Not bad, I think to myself.
I stand slowly, forced to lean against the Cadillac for support as newly existent flesh sorts out its purpose.
Again, I’ve got to smile. “O Fortuna,” I say.
Luison’s keys are still in the ignition.