Maenad couldn’t tell how long he had been laying on the ground when he finally came to his senses; his outlaw instincts were screaming at him to get up and move. Every second counted when you were thrown into a landscape as deadly as the one he was in right now. One minute you’re breathing in the hot air of the Tarmac, the next you’re being crushed by an electrically charged boulder moving at the speed of sound. Maenad groaned internally at the thought of being crushed into a million pieces before his mission to kill Jessica Maxwell was over. Fate had its cruel ways of letting the wicked go unpunished for their deeds. Maenad had seen way too many criminals around the Tarmac Desert get away with their crimes; he, of course, being one of them. Maenad wasn’t going to give up this easily into the game; not when he was so close to avenging his brother’s death after so many years. Not when the stakes were this high. He would fight until he had no fight left in him.
Maenad moved his wounded body carefully across the ground. He clinched his teeth as pain shot out from the bullet holes in his leg and shoulder. One good thing about being an outlaw was the high pain threshold; outlaws could withstand enormous amounts of mind numbing pain without shutting off. It was one of the reasons why outlaws were so deadly when it came to fighting; you could shoot them in the stomach pointblank and they could keep on coming with everything they had. It took a lot to kill an outlaw; a whole lot. Outlaws could also heal faster than normal men and they rarely got sick. It was nature’s way of making sure that they stayed at the top of the food chain. With the proper medical attention Maenad would be whole again, but that wasn’t going to happen for a very long time, for now he was stuck out in the middle of nowhere bleeding to death.
Lightning flashed overhead as rain drizzled from the ashen sky. Maenad could feel the cold droplets of water as they collided with his cheek and ran down his face in all directions. The sudden presence of the water felt good against his tired muscles. Maenad shifted his sore body over the loose gravel again and opened his eyes to access the danger around him. His mind was spinning rapidly as he pushed himself up off the ground and into a seated position. He breathed out lightly to keep himself from throwing up on the Tarmac floor; he hated throwing up more than anything. Small rocks and sand particles fell off his face as he came to a standing position and checked his wounds for any lodged bullets. To his surprise they were clean; the rounds that Paco hit him with had gone straight through his body and out the other side. He was doing okay so far, except for the fact that his body still felt like he had been hit by a train. His legs wobbled a bit as he tried to keep focused. Sweat beaded his forehead.
Maenad was going to take a few steps forward when a boulder the size of a wheat barrel erupted from the mist to his right. The jagged rock was rolling at an incredible speed, pulling up small pebbles and dirt clods as it went along. Lightning jumped from its asymmetrical surface and licked the iron sediment in all directions. Maenad watched the deadly projectile silently for a minute. When it got to the other side of the landscape it disappeared into the muddy fog without a trace. That can’t be good, thought Maenad. The bloody thing had been hard to detect; the rock really didn’t have any distinguishing sounds as it moved through the atmosphere. Small rocks began to fall from the sky at that moment and pelt him in the head.
Maenad looked up to see where the rock fragments were coming from. His heart sank at what he saw next; thirty feet above him, in the air, rested boulders of all shapes and sizes. Their asymmetrical bodies bounced off one another like pin balls in a kitchen drawer. Every once in a while a giant crackling sound filled the air as the boulders made contact with each other. To Maenad’s troubled mind, they all seemed like massive meteorites frozen in between time and space, as if God had forgotten to tell them to come back to Earth. Giant lightning bolts jumped from their jagged surfaces and made contact with the iron sediment.
Maenad watched intently as one of the bigger boulders in the air suddenly sizzled and vibrated with excitement. The other boulders surrounding it began to move away; as if fearing what the bigger rock would do to them. Then, without warning, the sizzling stopped and the boulder fell to the Earth with a loud crash. Dirt and mud flew everywhere as the thing sank deep into the ground and stopped with a pop. I have to get out of here, thought Maenad suddenly. His heart skipped a beat as the sky all around him began to ring out in different places. Sizzling sounds were heard coming from everywhere, both near and far. Huge rocks began to fall to the Earth and fling mud into the air as they made contact with the soft sediment. Mud droplets splattered across Maenad’s cheeks and jacket.
“There is no place left for us to run anymore, Maenad. It seems that we have thrown ourselves into a predicament that we just can’t get out of. The rocks will come down eventually and crush us to death; there’ll be no escaping our fate.” spoke a soft, confident, voice from behind. It almost sounded tender and sweet from what Maenad could make of it. “They always lose their charge and come down, although I wouldn’t expect any of Smash’s men to know that kind of stuff. Smash’s men are morons. The whole reason why we didn’t burn up on the Tarmac floor was because of the rain and the fact that you blew up my train!”
Maenad turned to see Jessica standing fifteen paces behind him; he didn’t know how long she had been standing there. Her beautiful face was all scraped up from the crash and her tight blond curls were a mess across her angled face. The landing she had sustained after the train wreck had not been good to her. She was holding a steel knife in one hand and her blue eyes looked as hollow as the emptiness of space. Her slender fingers twirled the deadly blade in all directions; she was faster with a blade than any outlaw Maenad had seen. Maenad knew she wasn’t going to throw the weapon however; when it came down to situations like these you held on to what you could get. Throwing the knife now would put her at a disadvantage.
“What happened to your guns?”
Jessica smiled devilishly, “I lost them.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Jessica held her arms out to the air, “did you want to come and frisk me cowboy?”
Maenad didn’t move from his position; his eyes were rigid as he studied Jessica’s movements. She was wearing enough clothes to conceal a whole arsenal of weapons.
Jessica laughed playfully.
“You always were a hard one to convince Maenad. Always telling your brother how you didn’t trust me–”
“Take off your jacket and let me see!”
Jessica looked surprised at this command from the big, tough, outlaw; she pointed the knife at him threateningly and smirked. Wrinkles formed under her dainty little nose as she did this, “why Maenad, you haven’t even bought me dinner and you’re asking me to strip for you? Some man you are, I heard you were fast with the ladies but not this fast.” She paused for a second and got a little more serious, “you know Maenad we could run away together, you and I, Maybe even start a family of our own somewhere on the Tarmac. We could leave all this fighting behind us and live a better life.”
Maenad didn’t respond to Jessica’s dark humor. He was waiting for her to prove that she was unarmed.
“Fine, have it your way.” Jessica barked loudly after a minute of awkward silence. There was no way she was going to get to Maenad by flirting; that ship had sailed ages ago, “I was just trying to have a little fun before we got started with all this foolishness.” She let her shoulders go limp and her arms go stiff at the joints. She wiggled out of her big leather coat and did a dainty little twirl to show Maenad she was completely unarmed. When she was done she folded her arms across her chest and faced the outlaw again, “it’s your turn to strip cowboy, if we’re going to do this duel the right way.”
Maenad pulled off his jacket and dropped it on the ground; he threw out his arms to show that he wasn’t hiding anything under his shoulders.
“Okay, now spin around for me like a good little boy” demanded Jessica. “I want to make sure that you’re not hiding anything under that muscular figure of yours.”
Maenad turned slowly around; the whole time his eyes were on Jessica.
“What happened to your weapon’s Maenad?” asked Jessica suspiciously as she eyeballed the two leather holster on his back; they were empty. Her eyes shifted to his sides, Maenad’s hunting knife was missing as well. When it came to fighting most outlaws didn’t play fair, “Where are your sawed-off shotguns?”
“Lost them in the crash with everything else, just like you.”
Jessica smirked at his dry humor, “I am not sure I believe that.”
“You don’t have to.”
Jessica held up the blade she was hold and pointed it at Maenad, “it certainly is a shame I have to kill you. It seems like such a waste of a nice body.”
“Enough!” yelled Maenad. His voice echoed off the rocks overhead.
Jessica looked up and followed the sound of Maenad’s voice as it bounced off all the floating boulders. Each one was beginning to sizzle and vibrate with excitement. She whispered just so that Maenad could hear her, “We’re both going to die.”
“Don’t worry.” said Maenad rigidly, “I’ll make sure your dead by the time they all start to come down.”
Jessica twirled the eight inch hunting knife around her slender fingers and smiled back at the outlaw, “Prove it cowboy! Prove it!”
Maenad didn’t have a hunting knife to fight with; but that wasn’t going to stop him from killing the cream puff in front of him for what she had done. He ran forward with a yell and picked up a rock from the ground with one smooth motion of his wrist. He chucked the huge stone as hard as he could at Jessica’s exposed head and came in for a kick to her delicate stomach. Jessica staggered backward awkwardly as she dodged the rock coming for her head and maneuvered around the blow to her stomach. Maenad swung his fist back around to try and catch Jessica’s jaw; he missed the delicate thing by inches and staggered slightly to the left. The thick blood in his head was throbbing now with pain and over exertion. His limbs felt like they would fall off and hit the dirt at his feet.
Jessica was fast and flexible.
“Is that all you got Maenad?” yelled Jessica as she stepped backward and dodged another swing from the desperate outlaw. She loosened her shoulders and delivered a solid kick to Maenad’s stomach; she could already tell that this kill was going to be way too easy. Maenad was moving as fast as a wounded heifer crossing a cattle guard, time to have a little fun with this old fool, though Jessica darkly. She twirled the blade and gripped it as it landed in the vertical position in her palm. Her deep blue eyes studied Maenad rapidly as he swayed back and forth from the kick she had delivered to his stomach. Jessica ran up swiftly and caught Maenad’s fist in her free hand. She twisted the thick appendage in one direction as she dragged the hunting knife quickly across his exposed chest. The outlaw cried out in pain from the slash as she maneuvered around his body and kicked his boots out from under him. She watched as the pathetic fool hit the ground with a thud.
“You know what is really funny” Jessica said mockingly as she twirled the blade over her delicate hands. She stood over the helpless man with renewed confidence in her abilities, “I can’t believe I was afraid of you all this time. I was so stupid to run from you Maenad. I could have finished this ages ago. I actually thought the legends about you were true; about how you killed so many men, about how you robbed so many banks.” She laughed and then spit in distaste almost at the same time, “I guess you shouldn’t believe everything you hear in the cities.”
Maenad cried out in pain one last time and turned over on the ground; he didn’t want to see her face. His back was covered in a thick squishy mud. His chest was bleeding freely from the strike Jessica had delivered moments ago. He was going to come to his feet when a rough leather boot collided with his side and forced him back to the ground.
“Get up and let me finish you properly!” yelled Jessica.
Maenad groaned and spit the dirt from his mouth.
Jessica kicked him again, “Get up you fool!”
Maenad struggled to his knees and gritted his teeth as tremors rocked his body. It was getting hard to move at the present moment and even harder to think straight. He had lost the fight so easily because of his wounds. Jessica ran up and gripped Maenad tightly by his collar. She pulled the dirty outlaw in close and breathed her hot breath in his face, “your dead meat Maenad” she held up the blade in the striking position “just like your brother.”
Maenad looked up and smiled at her. Jessica had forgotten one thing.
Jessica paused, “what are you smiling at?”
“That” said Maenad as he indicated to the sky above.
Jessica looked up just as a boulder was coming down.
Maenad jumped backward just as the massive boulder collided with the soft sediment of the Tarmac. The giant rock made a low thudding noise as it splattered thick mud in all directions in the air. Rain water began to run down its jagged surface quickly and pool at the base of the rock like a drain. Maenad watched with amazement as the massive structure began to recede into the Earth with a loud sucking sound. Jessica screamed as the soil at her feet fell away and pulled at her legs like iron chains. She clawed at the dirt wildly as the rocked sucked her calves underground and stopped. She was completely pinned to the earth now.
“That was a dirty trick!” yelled Jessica bitterly. She pounded on the ground at the base of the rock and pulled at her legs with frustration. She managed to get one of her legs free from the boulder by taking off her boot and leaving it in the ground. Maenad staggered to his feet and picked up a massive rock off the ground; he wanted to end this quickly. He gripped the thing tightly as he ran up to bash Jessica in the head. Jessica pulled her other leg free just in time to dodge a fatal blow from Maenad. She staggered backward and fell to the ground; her heart was racing a bit as she tried to wipe the mud from her face. Maenad leaned against the boulder and dropped the rock in his hands. His chest was burning with fatigue.
“What’s the matter Maenad?” asked Jessica as she picked up the hunting knife she had dropped moments ago. She got back to her feet and took a few steps toward the wounded outlaw, being careful the whole time not to get to close. The thick brown mud squished nosily under her exposed feet, “can’t handle a little lady like myself?”
Maenad didn’t respond to her incessant taunting. He lunged for the knife in her slender hand and missed it by an inch. Jessica caught his thick arm with lightning speed and pulled it toward her body rapidly. This sudden shift in motion caused Maenad to lose his balance and almost topple over face first. Jessica took advantage of the outlaw’s clumsiness and spun around his back again. Her slender hands danced a crossed Maenad’s back as she kicked his legs out from under him. Maenad barely had time to think before he was lying on his back looking up at the boulders overhead. His shoulder was throbbing even harder now.
Jessica whirled the blade around her hand playfully as she watched. She positioned herself just over Maenad’s head.
“You certainly need to practice Maenad. This is the second time I’ve flanked you, only this time I won’t hesitate to kill you” She gripped the knife firmly in her hand. She dropped to the ground and swung the blade downward at Maenad’s right eye. Maenad saw the motion and moved his head in time to miss the blow. The knife sank deep into the mud as he spun on his back and delivered a boot to Jessica’s exposed forehead. Jessica staggered backwards as pain shot through her thick skull. Blood was now spilling from her forehead and down her dainty little nose. Her beautiful face features were slowly being chipped away.
Maenad Jumped to his feet and faced Jessica. His pain tolerance was kicking in now.
“You’ll pay for that!” yelled Jessica as she wiped the gore from her beautiful face and regained her balance. No one had ever kicked her in the head before, no one.
Maenad smiled “It seems you bleed red just like the rest of us!”
At that moment all the boulders overhead began to sizzle with excitement. Their massive rocky bodies began to vibrate and repel one another in all directions. It looked as if a game of bumper cars was being played overhead. Suddenly, and without warning, it all stopped and the air got cold and silent. It felt as if death itself had taken over their worlds. Maenad and Jessica looked back at each other; they both knew what this meant. Their eyes both twitched with disturbing anticipation. They ran at each other with a scream. Boulders the size of houses began to fall all around them and rattle the earth with protest. Maenad dodged a jab from Jessica’s hunting knife as they collided in battle. He grabbed her slender arm tightly and threw her under a falling boulder fifteen feet away. Jessica hit the ground hard and rolled out from under the thing as it smashed into the Tarmac with a crash.
Maenad cursed loudly at her escape and moved forward to find her. He jumped out of the way of another falling piece of earth as it smashed into the ground next to him. It felt like they were beetles caught up in a square dancing competition. One had to be on his toes if he was going to make it out of this alive. He ran cautiously around the rock that Jessica had dodged. Just as he was about to round the jagged edge of the boulder a huge rock over head collided with the one on the ground and sent it flying. Maenad was violently shoved through the air in the opposite direction. He hit the ground with a thud and skidded to a stop. Overhead a small cluster of boulders the size of melons and microwaves began to lose their charge. Maenad clawed frantically out of the way as they smashed into the ground around him. He was about to stand up and run when a muddy foot made contact with his jaw. Maenad spun sideways and hit the ground with a groan.
More ominous sizzling was heard overhead as Jessica jumped on top of Maenad and forced her knife down at his forehead. She screamed wildly. Maenad saw it coming and grabbed her arms before she could strike. His muscles strained under the weight of the psychotic woman. Jessica might have looked cute and slender, but her strength was incredible. Her strong ropy legs clinched Maenad’s body like a steel vice. The sudden pressure to his rib cage caused the air to leave his lungs all at once. Her body tightened as she pushed down with all that she had.
“Die, you worthless fool!” screamed Jessica with unrestrained anger. Her big blue eyes were burning bright with murder. Rocks were now falling all around them like rain drops on a frying pan. Their asymmetrical bodies slamming into the ground like miniature train wrecks sending mud and stones in all directions. The Earth shook violently as the boulders got closer and closer. Jessica jerked her hand free of Maenads grip and pounded her fist into his wounded shoulder. Maenad gritted his teeth in pain; it felt like his back was on fire now. With each hit that Jessica delivered the blade got closer and closer to Maenad’s exposed face. The tip of the knife began to shake wildly and jab in all directions at his forehead. Blood began to appear and run down his scalp. Maenad tried to turn over but found it impossible; his body was fatigued from all the strain. The only thing he could do was rock and kick the loose gravel at his feet.
Maenad looked up into the chaos of the falling boulders. His eyes spotted one that was on the brink of falling. It began to sizzle and vibrate with fervor.
“This is where you fail, Maenad! You and your brother will go down in history has the men who got their butts kicked by a single girl. All the legends about you will be rewritten to fit this story. Heck I’ll probably get another award for killing you right now.” said Jessica as she lifted her fist for the final blow; the rock overhead gave way and fell at the same moment. Maenad smiled and shifted his body to the side slightly to position Jessica for the impact. She tilted just slightly as the boulder slammed into the earth beside them. The force of the massive object had caught her by the arm and wrenched her downward suddenly. Jessica dropped the knife in her hand as she was pulled violently off the outlaw’s body. She screamed in pain, as she tried to pull her arm free from underneath the boulder. Maenad grabbed the hunting knife and rolled away from the trapped woman. Sweat and blood was dripping off his face as he stood up and regained his breath. His body felt weak and beaten.
“I’ll kill you,” yelled Jessica as she clawed at the rock with her nails. “I’ll kill you!”
Maenad took a minute to study the situation; the last of the boulders where coming down now. He held the knife up in the throwing position and aimed carefully at his target. Jessica wouldn’t be able to dodge this one.
“Maenad, you can’t kill me like this,” said Jessica as her tone changed drastically; she could see that there was no escaping her fate. She was panicking now, like a trapped animal in a cage. “You just can’t kill a helpless person like this. Where’s the glory? Where’s the honor in it all? It’s unethical to say in the least. I should be allowed to have a fighting chance. I gave you a second chance.” Tears were now coming down her slender cheeks. She didn’t know what else to say. “You can’t do this Maenad! We could still run away together.”
Maenad’s face was cold and hard as she spat out the words. The rain started to fall again, but this time in a lighter fashion. He knew the code of outlaw’s very well. Jessica had never given his brother a proper battle to begin with. Shooting a man in the back of the head was never considered a fair battle between outlaws.
“You never gave my brother a chance!”
Jessica’s face drained of all hope and her body went limp.
Maenad released the steel blade into the air. He threw it as hard has he could.