Highway 43, Washington
The four of us sat in silence as Svetlana drove the jeep down the highway- surprisingly, not very fast. The car’s top was down and the sharp wind was piercing my skin like dry ice. I was half-curled up in the back seat, staring at the back of Svetlana’s head. “Why are we doing this again?” I asked.
“Control the gas,” Svetlana replied, “And you control one’s most efficient way of getting around: cars.” She could barely be heard above the wind, but her voice still reached my ear drums.
“What about the other gas stations?” Scarlett, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, asked.
“In the city?” Svetlana asked. Scarlett nodded. “All destroyed,” Svetlana replied, “All destroyed in the Destruction.” She added, almost to herself.
“And we’re sure this stations abandoned?” Scarlett asked, turning to look at the driver.
“If it’s not,” Svetlana replied, jerking her head back to bring attention to the AK-12 resting on the ground next to me. After a few minutes of driving, Svetlana spoke up again, “I always believed in a more matriarchal society,” she said, “That’s why I chose to just bring females along with me on this mission.”
“What about Goth Boy?” I asked, a little confused, as I motioned to the teenage boy sitting beside me. Goth Boy looked away from the road as his name was mentioned.
“Haha!” Scarlett laughed a little, “Come on, Claire, everyone knows he’s gay.”
“No I’m not,” Goth Boy said defiantly, narrowing his eyes slightly.
“Whatever,” Scarlett replied, returning her attention to the view ahead of her. Looking over at Goth Boy, I realized that Scarlett may have a point, but I didn’t say anything. Goth Boy was one of the few people I’d met who had more of a…reasonable look on life. Odds were hardly ever in your favor, and he knew that.
As we pulled up to the gas station I saw with relief that there weren’t any other cars to be seen. Wait, I thought to myself, a thought suddenly occurring to me, What is Svetlana planning to do? It doesn’t seem like anyone actually knows about this station. Maybe she just wants to extract all the gas and bring it back to Saper’s. We each got out of the car and walked casually up to the first pump. A smile had begun to form on Svetlana’s face until the sound of a door swinging open violently made us all turn around. A woman I faintly recognized as one of the Chaos Pirates came out, eyes ablaze. “What are you doing here?” she asked, mostly directing the question at Svetlana.
“Flameheart!” Svetlana’s face broke into a welcoming grin and she stretched her arms out wide in an exaggerated motion, “It’s so good to see you!” What the fuck… I thought. Flameheart seemed to be thinking the same thing I was, but her confusion turned back into aggression.
“What are you doing here?” She asked again, getting a little impatient.
“We were just coming to get the gas.” Svetlana explained.
“Why?” Flameheart asked, fists clenched, arms stretched out at her sides. “So you can gain more power over everyone? By taking controls of essential resources and then using them for your own tyrannical purposes?”
“Why don’t you join me?” Svetlana asked, one hand out stretched.
“I’d rather die again,” Flameheart responded through clenched teeth as her arms suddenly caught fire. The mutant girl propelled flames toward us and we all scrambled out of the way. Seeing that Flameheart’s attacks were more propelled at Svetlana, Scarlett ran back to the jeep and pulled out the machine gun in the back. Goth Boy shot out his hand and, as if by some magnetic force, a rusty pipe that’d been lying on the side of the road shot right into his palm. I watched as he threw it in the air and pushed his hands toward it, making it fly across the station and land against the struggling palms of another woman. I hadn’t noticed until now, but behind Flameheart was a dark haired woman, who was now trying to prevent the sharp, rusty metal from colliding with her head.
I looked back over at Svetlana, who was dodging left and right, rolling across the ground, narrowly avoiding the attacks. They were a few yards away, but every punch that Flameheart threw resulted in a huge burst of fire that could easily travel that distance. Bits and pieces of dried grass were quickly burned as the mutant woman missed her human target. “Hey!” Scarlett now had the gun pointed at Flameheart, who immediately stopped attacking and took a step back. Goth Boy lowered his hands and the pipe came crashing to the ground. Flameheart’s companion lowered her arms too, a little out of breath.
“Don’t shoot,” Svetlana warned Scarlett, who was still aiming for Flameheart’s chest.
“Why not?” Scarlett challenged, cocking the gun. Wow, some people could change in a heartbeat under pressure.
“Flameheart and I are old friends,” Svetlana explained with a smile. I watched, not daring to breathe, as the Russian woman made her way over to her younger “friend” and went to put her arm around her. As soon as they touched a look of pain crossed Svetlana’s face and she groaned a little, yanking her arm back. Looking closely I saw that the top of Svetlana’s gloved fingers were burned, causing a tiny wisp of smoke to curl into the air.
“We are not friends,” Flameheart replied, angrier now. “I know why you’re here,” she continued, “Don’t try to fool me.” My eyes widened at the sight of the young woman throwing her arms apart and quickly bringing them back together, her finger tips pointed at Svetlana. A ring of fire wound its way around the Russian woman, who instantly began to sweat because of the intense heat. Before he could react, Flameheart repeated the process and aimed at Goth Boy. He, along with Scarlett, was soon surrounded by fire. Scarlett aimed the machine gun at Flameheart and shot. Quick as a whip, Flameheart created a shield of fire that instantly annihilated the bullet. It was then that I noticed that she hadn’t done anything to me, despite the fact that we were clearly visible to each other.
“Flameheart, what are you doing?” The woman who had earlier been struggling against Goth Boy spoke up now.
“I’m going to blow this place up,” Flameheart replied, her breath slightly shallow.
“Are you crazy?” The woman called out, “How will people get around?
“We can salvage gas from other cars,” Flameheart replied, “But destroying a tiny bit of gas is definitely worth destroying the person that’ll end up being everyone’s demise!” Through the darkness of the night I could see her skin starting to glow a faint orange. “Run, Kyra!” she called out. I knew what was going to happen: as soon as the tiniest flame connected with a drop of gas everything would erupt. The first second: the rings of fire around Svetlana, Goth Boy, and Scarlett disappeared. The next second: The three of them took off running. The third second: Flameheart raised both of her fists and her right leg off the ground. The fourth second: She brought them down, along with a sweltering blast of energy. The fifth second: I was back at Saper’s.
The cereal aisle, to be exact. Compared to the intense heat back at the gas station, the air conditioning made the store seem like Alaska. It had been cowardly for me to abandon everyone back there. But who were they? I couldn’t help but agree with Flameheart when she said that Svetlana would be the cause of everyone’s demise. Wait- that’s where I knew her from! Flameheart and I had both been in the Chaos Pirates organization when we’d been bounty hunters. Svetlana had been our leader, and she’d been merciless. I remembered Flameheart as being too nice, too innocent. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
A few second went by until a trickle of guilt and curiosity made its way into my head. Closing my eyes, I instantly felt the temperature rise drastically and I could hear the crackling of fire. I opened my eyes and saw everything up in flames, the smoke billowing out into the night sky. Looking around, I noticed with a flash of panic that I couldn’t see anyone. I squinted my eyes toward where the gas station had once been and thought I saw two figures running away in the opposite direction of the town, but I couldn’t be sure. Turning around, I made out the figures of Goth Boy and Scarlett lying on the ground. Looking closer, I saw that not only were they breathing, they were also moving. Scarlett took her hands away from her face and sat up tentatively, shaking Goth Boy after she assumed Flameheart was gone. A groan not too far off made me turn again to see Svetlana, hunched over slightly, her hands covering her face.
“Svetlana?” I asked as I walked over to her. I took a step back when the woman lifted her head and revealed her face. The half that looked like it had been (for the most part) turned away from the explosion was fine, but the other half was severely burned. Svetlana’s breathing was coming in shallow gasps as her hands shook in front of the wounds.
“Agh!” the woman screamed, more in frustration than in pain. I watched in both awe and horror as she got up, still shaking, but determined to maintain her power. Looking at her bloody face, I was instantly reminded of all the times she’d tortured me, punched me and kicked me in the face, shot me out of the sky.
Realizing I finally had the upper hand, I allowed a small smile to creep onto my face as I shook my head in mock sympathy, “You’re not alright.” I said. I folded my arms across my chest and looked directly into Svetlana’s piercing red eyes. “You’re not alright,” I repeated, a little louder.
The roaring fire was only background noise. There was a slight buzzing in my head as the adrenaline started to kick in. A voice in my head (my conscience, maybe?) spoke to me urgently, saying, What the fuck do you think you’re doing!? But I was tired of Svetlana always getting her way, always leaving me the one bruised and bandaged. The two of us just stood there, both of us breathing hard. I was glad Svetlana didn’t have her gun, or worse, the brass knuckles she used to beat me with.
“Svetlana!” I was broken out of our stare down at the sound of Goth Boy’s voice as he and Scarlett ran toward us. “Svetlana, come on! Let’s get out of here!” I made the mistake of turning around, my body instantly going rigid when Svetlana’s hands gripped my shoulders from behind, pulling me toward her as she kneed me in the back. I choked a little as all the air left my body and fell to the ground, hitting the pavement hard.
Looking up through a small trickle of blood from a cut on my forehead I must’ve obtained when my head hit the ground, I saw Goth Boy and Scarlett lead their wounded leader back to the Jeep. I was surprised to see it miraculously unharmed, but that was the least of my thoughts. Why were Goth Boy and Scarlett helping her without question? For the same reason you did, the voice was back, answering my own questions. Out of fear, it said, And out of intelligence. She’ll make sure you never leave Saper’s, never leave her watch. “But I’m a mutant now,” I argued with myself, “And I can go where ever I want. They were the ones who weren’t thinking, leaving me here by myself as if to make a point. They know I have the power of teleportation, I could be back in the city like that.”
She’ll find a way, The voice replied, ever so smug, You know you can’t win in this life. The voice fell silent once I’d gathered enough mental energy to push it away. My breathing had gone back to normal and I used my newly regained strength to roll over onto my back and look up at the starry sky. Well, where the sky should be. That eerie mist still covered everything, but I thought I could faintly see a shooting star. A red shooting star. A star that was blinking and moving at a fairly slow speed.
Before I teleported back to the city I decided to just lie there for a minute and think about what I would do. The voice had been right when it said that Svetlana would hunt me down and find some new way to torment me. I couldn’t go back to the city and I couldn’t go to another town- I could only go to places I remembered clearly and the only other place I knew were the mines in Roseston Park. Dying there from the infected wound on my cheek and the constant attacks from that creature didn’t make me eager to return. But would that be better than dying again from whatever Svetlana had planned for me?