Highway is covered in blood as he leans against the wall of the parking garage that he’s claimed for the night. Off to the side, the body of Tila lies in a pool of blood. Highway pats the bag next to him as he smirks at remembering how he butchered that bitch. He’s half tempted to start a fire and roast her, but perhaps he’s not that twisted.
Or is he? He scoffs at the thought. It has been a while since he last had any sort of meat.
Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so preposterous.
Highway is tired from his workout today, but he gets to his feet and looks around for some firewood.
FOUR DAYS REMAINING
The morning comes, and the sun wakes up the residents of Prison City. Cam returns to the hotel. She’s been up all night looking for Tila with no luck whatsoever. It’s been fifteen years, and she’s never not come home at the end of the day.
Cam fears something bad has happened to her. She’s asked a few of the hotel residents to go look for her.
There’s this aching in the pit of her belly that something just isn’t right. Her body is starting to shut down from the lack of sleep, so she sits down on the couch, and it isn’t long before she’s fast asleep.
Cam walks up to her parents’ house. Young Ransom is in her arms. She has a sudden sense of déjà vu as she opens the gate and takes the long, excruciating walk down that long sidewalk.
That never seems to end.
After what seems like days, she knocks on the door as little Ransom starts to become fussy. When the door opens, Cam is surprised that Tila is standing there on the other side.
“The clock is ticking,” the green-haired woman tells her as she reaches for the child, taking her from Cam’s arms. “You better hurry,” Tila says, and as she starts to close the door, she stops suddenly.
Tila begins to spit up blood. It runs down her shirt and begins to pool on the floor. It splashes against the child as well, and Tila falls backward on the floor as the door closes, and the last thing Cam sees is someone dressed in black picking up Ransom.
Cam begins to pound on the door, “Open up! Give me my baby!”
Cam snaps awake, bolting upright on the couch. “Fucking hell,” she mutters under her breath as she reaches up to wipe the sweat from her forehead. “What the fuck was that?”
She realizes tears are streaming down her face, and for the life of her, she can’t even understand why. She just knows she has to find Tila. She gets up and rushes back out the door.
As Ransom wakes up, the sun is shining down on her face. She squints her eyes and reaches up to cover them with her hand. It takes her a moment to recall where she is, and when she does, she gets to her feet.
The woman stretches and glances around until she reorients herself to her surrounding, finding the tall hotel in the distance.
If that man she met when she first entered the city yesterday was truthful, her mother could very well be inside that hotel. She eats something from her pack and begins to walk towards the hotel.
Tempest blinks her eyes open. She’s sitting at the edge of the building looking over the alley where Ransom fell asleep, and Tempest must have fallen asleep as well. She reaches up and wipes the drool from her cheek with her sleeve and then stretches. She glances over the side and notices that Ransom is leaving.
“No. No. No. New friend cannot leave.” Tempest grabs her umbrella and scales down the fire escape until she lands in the alley below. She sneaks over and leans against the building, and peers around the corner until she sees the girl. Staying close to the buildings as much as possible, Tempest follows.
Highway awakens from his gluttonous sleep, offering up a small groan as he gets to his feet. The fire he built the night before has died, the wood now ashes on the ground slowly blowing away from the wind that passes through the parking garage corridors.
He glances over at the bloody mess that he left, flies already swirling around the corpse as it starts to decompose. It’s all that remains of the King’s companion. He grabs the giant trash bag and makes his way towards the parking garage exit.
As he steps out into the street, the sunlight hits him hard. He should have waited until the evening, but the King would soon send out her stooges to look for the companion. He doesn’t want to be around when they find her. That’s not part of his plan.
Highway turns and heads in the direction of the hotel. The time will soon come.
Ransom walks down the street when she stops. She turns around as if sensing someone behind her. When she doesn’t see anyone, she starts to walk off but a little slower this time.
She knows that being in Prison City is dangerous. The worst of the worst are in here, though it’s been relatively quiet in the past day, other than those four guys near the entrance.
Little does she know that she has someone who has been following her.
Tempest may come across as a little off, but it’s how she’s always been. It’s what caused her to be incarcerated in Prison City.
Tempest was one of those kids whose mother homeschooled them. Worried about the influence of a public school on her child, Tempest’s mother would teach her things she thought were important.
Tempest would pick up things very quickly. She was also quick to pick up that she wasn’t being treated like a normal child. Of course, she really wasn’t a normal child.
At 16, she ran away from home and was missing for three weeks. While she was missing, she got tattooed and pierced. Having run out of money and nowhere else to go, she returned home to find the landlord forcing himself on her mother.
Tempest lost her shit.
Jumping on the man’s back, Tempest reached around and dug her fingers into the older man’s eye socket and promptly scooped out his eyeball, letting it fall to the floor where he accidentally stepped on it as he screamed out in agony.
“Tempest kill you fuck!” she screamed at him as she stomps on his crotch repeatedly as the man rolled around on the ground, holding his hand over his eye socket, crying and screaming.
Tempest’s mother said there curled up in shock at the violence her daughter was perpetrating in front of her.
Tempest spots the fire poker next to the fireplace and picks it up, and as the man bawls, she places the tip right at his ear and then just leans all of her weight down as the steel goes through his ear and into his brain.
The man’s screaming ceases immediately as blood pools down around his head.
When the police arrive, Tempest was resting on the floor against the wall, staring at the man.
She was eventually cuffed and lead to jail and then to Prison City.
Ransom spins around, and Tempest is right there in front of her. “What the fuck?” Ransom cries out, taking a few steps backward.
“Hey. Are you mad?” Tempest asks with a little giggle. She pops open her umbrella, and we see that all the covering has been torn off, leaving just the skeleton of the umbrella that she twirls around in her hand. “Just break everyone!” Tempest begins to laugh and laugh as if it’s the funniest thing she’s ever said.
A closer look sees that Tempest’s fingernails are caked in blood, and the umbrella she carries is also stained with blood. She brings up a finger and nibbles on her fingernail as she continues to laugh.
Ransom isn’t sure what to make of this freak, but she’s not going to stick around and find out. As Ransom takes a couple of steps back away from this lunatic, Tempest stops laughing. The pupils in her eyes get larger as she studies the woman trying to walk away from her.
And she laughs again. Tempest doubles over and laughs and laughs.
Ransom starts to walk over, but Tempest slowly follows, dragging the umbrella on the ground, the sound of metal scraping against the pavement. After a few steps, Ransom turns back around, “What do you want?”
Tempest stops walking, goofy grin on her face. “Are you mad?”
“Why would I be mad?” Ransom asks.
Tempest begins to giggle again, “You’re definitely mad.” Tempest lunges for Ransom and pushes her up against the wall. She takes a wild swing by Ransom blocks and punches Tempest right in the stomach, doubling the crazy girl over.
Ransom throws a kick, but Tempest blocks and grabs Ransom, drives her back against the building wall, and leans in and bites her ear. Ransom screams out as she drives a couple of punches to the midsection of Tempest, finally getting the lunatic off of her. Ransom kicks her in the chest to send Tempest sprawling onto the pavement.
Tempest gets to her feet, still laughing out loud as Ransom punches her right in the face. Tempest laughs and turns right into another punch and then a third that sends her staggering off to the side.
Her laughter echoes in the street as she leans against the wall. Ransom comes in with a kick but is caught by Tempest, who throws a wild haymaker, hitting Ransom right in the side of the face.
Ransom fires back with a punch of her own. Tempest misses a wild swing, and as she spins around, Ransom grabs her around the throat. Trapped, Tempest feels around on the ground, finding a partial brick, and just throws it back, hitting Ransom in the face, causing her to let go of the choke, and they both go down.
Ransom reaches for her head, finding blood as Tempest’s giggling can be heard again as the woman gets to her feet but is too weak to do much as she drops to her knee. She rolls Ransom over and then drives a fist right to her face.
And then another.
The sound of Tempest’s fist hitting Ransom’s face resounding through the street when suddenly Ransom reaches up and catches one of those fists, and then she kicks Tempest off of her.
Highway is wandering towards the hotel, bag over his shoulder when he hears some fighting. Curious now, he changes course towards the sounds of battle. He stays alongside the building and then curiously peeks around the corner and spots two women fighting.
One, he recognizes right off. That crazy bitch that wanders around here trying to start shit. The other, he’s not too sure he’s seen around here before. Looks like she’s gonna get her ass handed to her.
Highway has seen crazy Tempest fight before.
Both fighters are beaten and bloodied now as they get to their feet. Ransom rushes in with a knee, but Tempest drops down and grabs onto her leg, and then bites her hard. Ransom screams as she pounds her fist into the other woman’s head, finally knocking her free.
Tempest charges at her, but Ransom grabs her and sends her into the brick wall. Tempest bounces off the wall and comes back with a punch that Ransom manages to block and returns the punch, knocking Tempest backward. Ransom strikes her again and again.
Tempest falls to her knees.
With blood all over her teeth, Tempest laughs.
With a sudden leap, Tempest spears Ransom down to the ground. Ransom puts her forearm up, and Tempest grabs it and bites until Ransom can throw the woman off of her.
Ransom rolls over and mounts Tempest, and begins to throw down punches. After each one, Tempest would turn her head back towards Ransom with a bloody smile on her face. One, two, and three punches. Occasionally, Tempest would giggle. After about ten punches, Ransom has worn herself out. She struggles to her feet and starts to wander off when Tempest begins to cough.
Ransom starts to walk away from her when Tempest rises from the ground. Her face a bloody, battered mess, but she still smiles that creepy smile. Ransom turns around and hits her with a spin kick, sending Tempest back to the pavement.
Ransom waits to see if she’s going to get back up.
“You…” Tempest says as she pushes herself up to look at the other woman, “Are you the angel of death?”
Tempest begins to laugh again as she gets to her feet. Suddenly, she coughs something into her hand. She begins to laugh again as she holds up a bloody tooth. Tempest takes one step towards Ransom, and Ransom kicks her one more time. This time, Tempest goes down, cracking her head against the curb.
Ransom reaches for her backpack and starts to walk off when Tempest’s laughter is heard, “You have to finish, Angel of Death. You can’t just walk away….” Tempest knows the rules of Prison City.
Ransom ignores the pleas, muttering, “Crazy bitch,” and disappears from sight.
“Come back…” Tempest cries out. She can’t seem to move, but she hears the sounds of the footsteps walking up behind her where she lay on the curb.
The sound of bone cracking and squishing is heard as Highway stomps right on her head.
“Crazy bitch,” he mutters under his breath. The other woman, however, intrigues him. She doesn’t seem like someone who belongs here. He starts off after her, leaving Tempest and her crushed skull to rot on the road.
Cam has been running through the streets asking if anyone has seen Tila. With no luck, Cam heads to the typical water point, and when she gets there, she stops. There’s blood everywhere. Her heart falls into her stomach.
Over by the water pallet, she spies something. Cam slowly walks over, leans down, and picks up the shoe. She holds it in her hand, and she knows this is Tila’s shoe. So, where is the other? Where is Tila? Is this her blood?
She looks around and sees what looks like a trail of blood, and she begins to follow it.
Ransom is tired, hurting, and a tad angry. That crazy chick just accosted her out of nowhere. She was warned when she came in that it would be unpredictable, but she never anticipated that sort of battle.
Much like her mother before her, Ransom has been learning the art of fighting since she became a teen. She never anticipated that it would be in here that she would have to put those skills to use.
She ducked into an abandoned office. She slowly removes her backpack, and then leaning against the wall, she slides down it until she’s seated on the floor. Ransom realizes it’s only mid-day, but that fight took everything out of her.
She can feel herself fading, so she forces herself to her feet, walks over, and pushes the desk in front of the door. She now knows better.
Ransom wished she had a mirror. She can only imagine the damage that crazy chick did to her. As she slides back down to the floor, she lets out a deep breath, and soon exhaustion takes over, and she falls asleep.
Highway watched her go into that office and shut the door. If she were smart, she’d barricade herself inside. He could head on over to the hotel, but something keeps him here, following this girl.
He walks over and peeks into the barred window and sees that she’s fucking passed out. Highway can see that the door is barricaded with a desk. He’ll have to fuck with her after she comes out.
Highway walks across the street, climbs the fire escape, making sure to hang on to his precious bag, and he finds himself a little perch on the roof.
He pats the bag as he settles down on the roof, “You and I are gonna have a lot of fun, bitch.”
Meanwhile, several blocks down, a man sits on the tailgate of a broken-down truck. “You know what, Jimmy boy? They coming. The guv’ment. They gonna swoop on in here and wipe the entire thing off the face of the goddamned planet. Gonna take us with it too. We ain’t stand no chance survivin’ sum’pin like this. Bad enough, they gone put us up in here, but then they get us all corralled like this, and then they gone bring in the bombs and just wipe us all out.”
He turns to the young boy, who looks to be about seven years old. “You listening to me, boy?”
The boy glances up at the man and nods his head, but otherwise doesn’t say anything as he uses a pocket knife to whittle away at some wood.
“Good. Good. You gotta listen to your papa when he’s talking to you. I ain’t spitting out the truth for my health, boy. Tryin’ to keep you alive.” The man is wearing a pair of old overalls and a rag over his nearly bald head. He reaches down and scratches at his groin. “Tell you what, son. I hear it’s gone be soon. Gone be soon. Gone come around that corner, and BOOM!”
The little boy jumps at the loud sound. The man slaps his knee and laughs, “Done got you that time, boy!” Rhyphle gets serious again, “But I’m saying, they coming, boy. Pay attention!”
Night is starting to fall as Cam walks into the parking garage. There are a few abandoned cars on the first level, but she follows the blood trail towards the back of the garage and sees it stops at the stairwell.
She looks up and yells, “Anyone up there?”
The silence is deafening as the only thing that is returned is the echo of her voice.
She places a foot on the stairs and makes her way up to the next level. The blood trail leads her to the center of the second floor, and as she walks around a car, she sees the blood on the cement. As she makes her way around, she lets out a scream when she sees the mutilated body of her lover. She’s unrecognizable except for the clothing.
And the shoe.
The other shoe is still on her foot.
Cam begins to wail as she drops to her knees in the blood and looks up to the ceiling, and cries out, “Why!?!”
TO BE CONTINUED
Cam JAZMIN DAVIS
Highway RIEL BUCK
Ransom CASS BAUMER
Tempest CHIAKI SANADA
Rhyphle JASON CASHE