MAD MAX – DOG DAY
Max’s leg howled in protest as he pushed in the clutch and shifted. He focused on the pain, as he had done for days. The pain of his wounds helped take his mind off the pain of his memories. Memories of a woman full of life and a child full of innocence. Memories of roaring engines and violent deaths. Memories of a husband who failed to protect his family. Memories of a life forever gone.
Max had been roaming along the borders of the wasteland, searching for any marauding motorcycles gangs. Any bikers he found, he killed. The Interceptor and his weapons were only tools; Max was the one doing the killing. A biker gang had murdered his wife and family and left him alive. He could never kill enough of them.
Ahead, the road came to a crossroads. Max saw a white tow truck speeding through the intersection. The wrecker crews were like wolves following the scent of blood. Whenever there was a chase or a crash, the tow trucks raced to the scene. The first one to arrive got the rights to salvage any wrecks. They siphoned off as much precious gasoline as they could get away with. More importantly, they could over bill the insurance companies for all the gas they used going to and from the scene. Wrecker crews were ingenious in their methods for scamming gas. Huge extra fuel tanks, out of the way routes, and doctored ‘fuel expenditure’ forms all were common ways to steal gasoline. But that was all meaningless unless a crew got there first. They went to great lengths to make their trucks as fast as possible.
So Max knew the tow truck ahead was on its way to a pursuit or a crash, possibly involving a criminal. Max accelerated, following the wrecker.
Max could have listened to the police channels on the radio, if he hadn’t disposed of it. He had grown tired of listening to the dwindling MFP officers and ripped the radio off; throwing it out the window. As an afterthought, Max discarded all the MFP markings and threw the emergency light in the back seat. He wanted to distance himself from his former life. His badge he had left at Jess' grave. That part of him died with her.
Max drove through the sparsely wooded area, staying well behind the wrecker. Soon they came to a black muscle car halfway in the roadside ditch. The car’s front end was smashed and white steam billowed from the damaged radiator. A mangled motorcycle was pinned underneath the car.
Max observed the tow truck driver slam on the brakes and get out. He was very young, very scrawny, and very blonde. The driver nervously glanced into the wrecked car, then opened the gas cap. He moved haltingly in quick, jerky motions; like someone who had been electrically shocked. Max decided to call him Twitch.
Twitch grabbed a siphoning hose and two large orange gas cans; then proceeded to steal the muscle car’s fuel.
Max slowly drove up to the scene. The skinny tow truck driver looked with envy at the Interceptor’s powerful blower. He was so blonde he was almost albino. Max tightened the cloth straps that held the large wrench splinting his leg. He got out with his hand on his .38 revolver. Twitch called over in a voice cracking with puberty, “Y’ know whose ride this is?!? It’s Barrelhouse Bart’s! Ain’t youse guys been after him for a while?”
Max ignored him and looked around; surveying his surroundings.
The driver asked apprehensively, “You’re gonna put it in the report that I was here first, right?”
‘Twitch here thinks I’m still a cop,’ Max thought.
“Who did this?” Max demanded.
“I dunno. Some gang, I guess.” The kid watched Max nervously. It was dawning on him that something wasn’t right with the wounded, haunted man before him.
Max limped to the muscle car and looked inside. It was empty. He glanced at Twitch’s gas cans; then at Twitch, who was getting more nervous by the minute. The kid’s face grew even paler, if that was possible, from the disgusted look Max shot at him.
Max made his way to the low bushes at the roadside, still favoring his wounded leg. There he found the inevitable body, dragged from the totaled car and beaten to death. Flies swarmed around the pulp that was once the man’s face. The man had been huge in life. Now, with his head crushed and robbed of all but his t-shirt and underwear, he seemed pathetic and small.
Uncaring, Max turned to go back and ran into Twitch, who had ran up close behind. Twitch fell back, clearly afraid of Max. One of his legs tangled with Max’s and they both tumbled to the grass. They landed hard, and Max winced as his leg was twisted. Twitch knocked over one of the uncapped gas cans, and the precious juice sloshed onto the asphalt. Poetic justice. Some of the gas splashed onto Max’s leg. The fuel soaked into the leather and Max fumed inside; knowing of the pain to follow when the fuel hit his wound.
Twitch wailed “Aw, no!” in his increasingly annoying voice and he scrambled to save the gas.
Max angrily shoved him away, into the other gas can. It too fell over and more guzzloline leaked to the ground.
Twitch sat sprawled in the growing pool of fuel; too stunned and afraid to move. Max got up, reeking of gasoline, and staggered back to the Interceptor.
Now the stinging gas seeped into his wound. At least it was sterile. Max gritted his teeth, started the engine, and sped away.
The corpse at the wreck wasn’t more than an hour old, so the killers might be nearby. They hadn’t bothered to steal the car’s gas, so they were probably killing for sport. Max drove on, searching for any signs of a motorcycle gang.
He didn’t have to go far. About five miles down the road, a farm tractor was blocking the way. Max coasted to a stop and carefully surveyed the area. An ambusher couldn’t hide behind any of the scrawny bushes, but Max had learned the hard way and he stayed in the car. Some bushes and tree branches were torn up and the wind had blown them onto the road. Max eyed the tractor again. There was no body crumbled underneath it and certainly no other signs of life. Maybe the tractor driver had made a run for it. Max saw black smoke clouding the sky up ahead. He maneuvered around the tractor and drove on.
Looking up at the darkening sky, Max unknowingly drove through a small pile of leaves. He heard a familiar, unwelcome popping noise. The front left side of the Interceptor then sagged on a punctured tire.
Max instantly had his service .38 out and ready to fire. His foot was poised over the accelerator, ready to speed away; flat tire or not. But no attack came. After a moment, Max shut down the Interceptor and scrutinized the area. The column of smoke was growing, and Max was losing time. He got out, still ready to shoot, and went to the blown tire.
Someone had hidden a broken bottle underneath the leaves, a crude but effective booby trap. Max was furious that his vehicle was disabled so easily, and he forced himself to stay calm and not let his anger control him. On his good leg, Max swept away the glass and leaves, then he kicked through the rest of the rubbish on the road; finding more booby traps. He went to the trunk and opened it, removing the tools needed to change the tire.
Max worked quickly and efficiently to get the tire changed. The task was made harder by his splinted leg and his injured arm. Struggling to turn the cross wrench sent bolts of agony through his wounded elbow. Max fought through the pain and finished without incident. He then stored the tools and heaved the damaged tire into the trunk.
Max fell into the driver’s seat again and wiped the layer of sweat from his forehead. He looked up at the cloud of black, sooty smoke. Then he revved the Interceptor to life and raced down the road.
Soon a large plot of farmland came into view. The source of the smoke was the farmhouse, now in the dieing stages of fire. Max watched the burning house impassively. He had seen it many times before. He circled the house, driving over the sparse lawn. Motorcycle tracks ominously scarred the lawn in jagged lines. It didn’t take a genius to see what happened here. Max’s eyes narrowed, and he kept searching.
At the edge of his peripheral vision Max detected movement by the large, faded red barn. His head whipped in that direction.
There was a pack of wild dogs fighting next to a chicken coop. Max thought they might be fighting over a dead chicken, but he saw the shape of a man’s body half under the coop. Max stopped and got out to investigate.
As he awkwardly limped closer, Max saw the pack was in fact fighting over the body. Finding food had apparently gotten harder for everyone. Max wanted to get a closer look at the dead man, but the brawling, snarling dogs made him wary. He drew his billy club and hobbled over on his wounded leg.
For the first time, he saw the dogs up close. They were a varied assortment of mongrels and mutts. The pack was ripping and tearing at the body, then Max saw something that stunned him in amazement. A small dog, little more than a pup, was defending the dead man. Out of the twisting swarm of teeth and fur the small dog fought, trying to drive the pack away from the body. He was a young blue heeler, fighting with savage desperation. Already, the dog’s ears were ripped and his neck was bloody. He panted with exhaustion but valiantly fought on.
Max empathized with the small dog’s situation. It was always the many that terrorized the few.
A large black sheep dog rushed in, its mouth poised for the dog’s unprotected back. The small dog darted forward and clamped its jaws down on the sheep dog’s foreleg. The heeler bit hard and bones snapped. The sheep dog yelped and hobbled away. A collie and a dingo-Labrador mullato tried next, snapping and biting at the small blue heeler from opposite sides. The collie succeeded in getting its jaws around the heeler’s neck and it violently shook the smaller dog. The dingo-Labrador then began tearing at the heeler’s exposed belly. Unless Max acted quickly, the small dog would be killed.
Max shouted “Hey!” and booted the hindquarters of the nearest dog. The pack adjusted to the new threat and attacked. Max brought his club down on the back of another and then kicked the dingo-Labrador away from the heeler. The rest of the pack scattered, except the collie. The collie growled, still with the blue heeler clamped between its jaws. It warily backed away from Max as the heeler feebly struggled to free itself. It seemed that the collie was about to run away. Max crouched down to his hands and knees and crept closer to the growling dog. Max stretched his left hand to the collie, watching it closely. The dog paused, its eyes intensely fixed on Max’s hand. Then in one quick motion, the collie dropped the heeler and lunged at Max. Max snatched his left hand back and swung the club full force with his right arm. The billy club smacked hard on the collie’s skull, and the dog dropped dead to the ground.
Max stood and turned to the body. The small dog had limped back to its former master and stood poised to attack Max. The dog’s shredded ears were pressed flat against its head and its teeth were bared. The dog did not growl, it only stood ready to fight.
Max noted the small dog’s determination. Even against an armed human, the dog was unafraid.
Once again, Max painfully crouched to his hands and knees. Staring at the dog, Max reached out his hand. Max lowered his eyes and held his arm still.
The two were frozen in subconscious communication.
‘I’m no threat to you’, Max communicated with his actions. Max kept his eyes low and turned his head, exposing his neck.
The heeler stood with his overexerted lungs heaving for long minutes before slowly stretching his snout forward. The dog froze then, perhaps expecting an ambush for extending this tiny bit of trust. When Max still didn’t move, the dog cautiously sniffed Max’s fingers. After a moment of intense sniffing, whatever instinct that guided canines told the blue heeler that this man was no enemy. The dog nonchalantly licked Max’s hand once and turned to the nearest fallen mutt. The blue heeler sniffed around the dead dog and it’s equally dead companions.
The blue heeler sniffed each dog in turn, ensuring they were dead. The dog looked up at Max; summing up that he was still there, then trotted over to the dead man. By the corpse's side the dog sniffed close to the face and neck. He whined very shortly and softly. The dog nudged the man's hand with his nose, looking for any movement, then licked the man's face. The dog sat abruptly on his hindquarters. He slowly, almost reluctantly raised his head, filled his lungs with air, and let loose a loud piercing howl to the sky.
Even in his utterly cynical state of mind Max was touched. This creature's pain was pure and unmarred by all feelings but one: love; perhaps the greatest kind of love. The small dog had lost a friend, and he mourned that loss in the simple way that dogs do, with an anguished cry to the heavens.
Max stood, oddly feeling like a stranger at a funeral. The dog grew quiet and glanced at him again, as if to challenge Max to belittle his actions. He got to his feet and trotted around the dead dogs some more, then found a cool spot in the shade of the chicken coop. He lay down in the green grass there and watched Max.
Max got to his feet and walked to the dead man. He leaned close for a better look, still favoring his wounded leg. He heard a low growl from behind him. The dog had its torn, bleeding ears perked up and was intently watching Max, his body tensed to spring. Even after death the dog was loyal. He said, "It's alright, dog. I'm not going to hurt him."
The dog stopped growling but still warily watched Max.
Max turned back to the dead man. Like Barrelhouse Bart, the man appeared to have died from massive wounds to the head. He looked like he had been a simple farmer.
Max got up and looked around the empty, desolate farm. The farmhouse was burning down to cinders. He walked over to the remains; not close enough to look inside. Max did not want to see what happened to the rest of the family.
The dog had followed him over. He sniffed close to the dying fire, and moved in even closer. Some of the charred timbers were above the small dog; looking as if they might collapse at any moment. Max called out, "Get back from there, dog."
The dog looked unconcernedly at him and continued sniffing around.
"Dog, come.” Max ordered loudly.
Now the dog froze and looked at Max. He woofed softly.
"Dog, heel!” Max said sternly.
The dog hesitated for a moment, then trotted over to Max's side. He looked up at him, questioning 'Ok, you got me here, now what?'
Max eyed the dog and walked over the torn up grass to the large barn. The dog obediently stayed by his side.
The large barn doors were locked shut with a heavy chain. Max walked around the side to find the muddy imprints and dead grass signifying the parking spot of a vehicle. His trained eye could tell from the size and spacing of the ruts that it was some kind of truck. There was no sign of it now.
Max went back to the chains on the barn doors. They were not completely tight, and he was able to peer through the small opening into the barn. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could see the outline of a red colored Falcon XA, a car very similar to the Interceptor. Max stepped back and examined the chains locking the door. They were much too thick for his bolt cutters, but the barn door handles...
Max slowly walked back to the Interceptor, with the dog still following. A faint, distant part of his mind noted that the car looked different with the replacement chrome wheel. He didn't spare the discrepancy a second glance. He simply did not care about such things.
Max opened the door and before he could react the dog jumped in, turned around and stood on the seat; wagging his tail happily as if he belonged there. Max swung the door all the way open and said, "Get out, dog."
The dog stood there; tail wagging.
Max considered grabbing the dog and throwing him out, then he smirked and sat down. He wasn't going far, so let the mutt enjoy a few second ride.
Max drove over to the barn and got out. The dog watched him, clearly disappointed at such a short ride. Max opened the trunk and got out his gas siphoning hose, two five gallon gas cans, and a crowbar. The dog, curious as to what he was doing, jumped out the window, his claws scratching the Interceptor's jet black paint. Again, Max did not care.
Max carried the jumble of equipment to the barn doors and tried to set everything down. His wounded arm slipped, and instead of trying to save anything he let it all crash to the ground. The dog was close by, and startled by the noise, he jumped back. The dog glanced at Max and sniffed the hose.
Max pushed a gas can aside and picked up the crowbar. He wedged it under one of the barn door handles; working it back and forth in the old wood. When he had the crowbar in far enough, he heaved on it. With a loud squeal, the rusty nails gave way and the handle fell off. Max pushed the large door open on its neglected hinges.
Once inside, Max got a closer look at the red Falcon. Someone surely took care of this hot rod. It was clean, though not polished and waxed. The car was also parked facing outwards; as if it was waiting to go.
Not any more, though. The Falcon’s owner would never drive it again, never feel the power of the vehicle, and never enjoy the speed it could provide. Max found himself feeling sorry for the orphaned car.
Max painfully knelt by the rear of the car, then crouched down. He reached under the frame and rapped his knuckles hard up and down the gas tank.
Behind Max, the dog was again watching him intently.
The Falcon had more than a half a tank of gas, which he certainly could use. The dead farmer sure didn't need it anymore.
Limping back to the doors, he gathered up his tools again. He went to the side of the Falcon and set his two gas cans down. Max then opened the car's fuel cap.
From nowhere, a raging ball of wild fur, biting teeth, and growling fury sped at Max's arm. He happened to reach for the gas cap with his left arm, still protected by his leather jacket. Max's reflexes failed him, and the dog's snapping jaws clamped down on his arm before he knew what was happening. Twisting his neck back and forth, furiously growling, the dog was trying to rip his arm off.
Max stumbled to his feet and backwards, trying to shake the crazed animal off. "Dog! Dog! Stop it! Dog!!!"
The dog managed to get his feet down and pulled with a particularly fierce bite. Max began to fall forward so he dropped to his knees, banging his left knee on the hard ground and his head against the side of the car.
The pain instantly made Max lose whatever patience he may have had for the dog. He grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and forced it to the ground. Max leaned in very close to the snarling dog, not blinking, staring right into the dog’s eyes. He could read the defiance and fury in those raging eyes. He stared the dog down, keeping him pinned to the dirty barn floor.
Still the dog fought to free himself. Max held him down even harder; then growled from deep within his throat.
The dog stopped struggling. He stared at Max, now with a measure of fear in his eyes. Max slowly let go of the dog’s neck, still with his face inches from the dog’s. If the dog wanted to snap at his throat, he probably could do so. Max knelt there for long moments, staring at the dog, daring it to try to attack him again.
It never occurred to Max to simply shoot the blue heeler. It was a simple animal doing its job, not a selfish, sadistic killer. This dog did not deserve to die.
Finally the dog blinked and looked away. A pecking order had been established, and the dog found Max worthy of being pack leader. Max slowly backed away from the blue heeler and the dog wearily got to his feet. The dog stood there, looking down with his tail between his legs, trembling; seemingly ashamed and defeated. Part of Max’s freshly broken heart cracked a little more. He called, “Come here” but the dog seemed not to hear him. Max moved closer and awkwardly pet the dog’s back. He felt wetness there. Looking at his hand, Max saw it was blood. The little dog was still bleeding from his fight with the wild pack. Max took a red handkerchief from his belt and wrapped it around the dog’s neck, knotting it tight to stop the bleeding. The dog seemed heartened by this attention. He tried to lick Max’s face.
Max gently pat the dog. Still eyeing the dog, he reached for the gas cap again. He opened it, and the dog gave a sharp whine, quickly growing silent when Max leaned in close. Max turned back to the car and unscrewed its gas cap. He glanced back at the dog, but the blue heeler only stood there and casually watched him now. Max positioned his gas cans and fed the hose into the tank. He squeezed the hose’s rubber hand pump, and guzzloline began pouring through the hose. Max filled the two cans and poured the precious juice into the Interceptor, followed by the dog, then went back for more. The Falcon yielded up almost ten more gallons of gas before it ran dry. Max added that to the Interceptor again, looking into the barn as he did so.
The owner had the usual assortment of rusty, used farm tools that could be any number of years old. But there were also a wide variety of automotive tools. Max took a set of sockets and some other wrenches he was missing. He saw a large, wide fan belt hanging from a hook. Taking it down, he was astonished to learn that it was the same kind that the Interceptor used. He put the items into the back seat of the Interceptor; dog still obediently ‘heeling’; then he went to see what else the barn could provide.
There was an old engine on a cherry picker, odd spare parts, and spare tires. Max looked closer at the tires. Two of the chrome wheels would fit the Interceptor, and they had top end racing tires on them. Max wheeled them to the trunk and rearranged the equipment there to make room for them. There was also a spare tire that could replace the flat one Max had, provided he had the opportunity to break down and re-inflate the tire. As this occurred to him, Max saw a large metal cylinder; the kind that was used to hold compressed gases. The yellow paint was flaking off the cylinder, but clearly written on it in black marker was ‘AIR’. A regulator was connected to some hose and a tire stem valve. The regulator was set to 65 psi, which is what a car tire might use. Max had found a very useful tool. He only had to screw the valve to a tire stem and open the cylinder. The compressed air would inflate the tire almost instantly. Max brought his find back to the Interceptor; still shadowed by the dog.
After storing everything Max stretched his aching back; looking at the landscape before him. The little dog trotted over to the spot where the truck had been parked and sniffed around the oily dirt there. The dog suddenly ran to the field behind the barn and stopped with his ears perked up. The dog was looking out into the field. Looking out back past the barn, Max’s keen eyes noticed something he had missed before. Towards the end of a muddy trail there were a fresh set of tire tracks leading away. Now looking intently, Max could see the faint impressions the tires made as they had driven from the parking space, over the grass, and to the muddy road. Walking closer now, he saw the dual tracks were flanked by single ones.
Someone had made it away from the farm.
Someone pursued by the motorcycle gang.
Max cursed to himself and hurried to the Interceptor. Some one was running for their life while he was stealing gas. The Interceptor roared to life, and Max sped off, following the tracks. He hardly noticed that the dog had joined him again and was smiling at the fun, fast ride as only dogs can do.
Kara sped down the dusty dirt road, her dark red hair blowing in the wind, pushing the old truck for all it was worth. She drove the atypical farmer's pickup, a beat up old blue Ford. Like the rest of the dying world, the truck had seen better days. It was marred by innumerable dents and scrapes, a testament to a lifetime of hard work. The wide bench seat and large steering wheel were unfamiliar to her. David usually let her drive his car, his ‘go-devil’ as he called it, whenever she had errands to run. He seemed to enjoy seeing her behind the wheel of his prized hot rod. She wished she had it now. She had seen David pace motorcycles on the open road, terrified of the speeds they moved along at while at the same time secretly hoping he would win. He could make that car work wonders, and surely some of his skill had rubbed off on her. Instead she had this clunky old truck with its rotting exhaust pipe and leaky oil pan. The truck roared along, sounding angry at being abused by her and annoyed by the motorcycles that seemed to run circles around it. But she had to push the truck and she had to fight for her life. David said so.
The roaring machines had come so quickly. She was sitting at the oak kitchen table her father had made for her wedding engagement, about to have dinner. She heard the motorcycles on the road; then heard them turn down their driveway. Just then David came crashing through the door. She was panicking, David was reacting. He told her to lock the doors and stay down. He had sprinted through the old farmhouse, his heavy work boots thumping on the hardwood floors, to their room where he kept his shotgun. How she hated that thing. Made to do one thing and that was kill people. That ugly, loud weapon was so alien to her; she couldn’t help but hate it. “For home defense,” David had said. But wasn’t that what the dog was for?
She remembered when David had taken her reluctantly back into the woods to show her how to use it. Most infuriating was that on her first impression of seeing the death-stick she had called it a rifle. How that drove David crazy. “It’s not a rifle, Kara, it’s a shotgun,” he had told her. “It’s called a shotgun because it fires shot. A rifle’s called a rifle because it’s rifled. Get it?”
She most certainly had not ‘gotten’ it. Of course it fires a shot, they all fire a shot. She didn’t know what ‘rifled’ meant, and she didn’t care enough to ask. But David insisted that she at least know how to use the gun. For some reason, he wouldn’t let her call it a ‘gun’ either. “Call it a shotgun, not a gun. Only tanks have guns.” Whatever.
He spent several minutes preaching about firearm safety and she spent several minutes waving away bugs and trying to pay attention. When he finally handed the thing to her she instinctively put her finger on the triggers. “STOP,” he had said. “What did I just say? Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.” After making her repeat that mantra several times, he pronounced her ready again. He didn’t seem to understand why he had to show her where to place her hands and hold it properly. After all that he made her hold it and break it open. Apparently, breaking it open was a very fun part of using the gun. Shotgun. Whatever.
Then a lecture on loading and discarding spent shells. Why were they called shells? She didn’t dare ask out of fear for another long winded explanation. When she was finally allowed to load a shell, she had difficulty clamping the damn thing back together. “Look, you’re not going to break it. Do it like you mean it;” whatever that meant. She put much more strength into it than she was comfortable with and the gun (shotgun) closed up on one fat little red and gold bullet (shell). At this point David stopped her and asked her what condition the weapon was in. What condition? What does that mean? Clean? ??? She had to express her ignorance and accept another lecture. This one was about knowing if it was loaded, what it was loaded with, and if the safety was on or not.
At this point Kara had been ready to simply pull the triggers and stomp back to the house in a huff, away from buzzing insects and loud bangey guns. (David would have told her to squeeze the trigger, not pull it) But she knew that this was somehow important to the man who would be her husband so she pressed on.
At long last she raised the shotgun and pressed it to her shoulder. “It’s got birdshot in it, so it won’t be very bad. Just try shooting a slug,” David had said and laughed. Why would she shoot a slug with birdshot? What was birdshot anyway? Why would she shoot at a slug at all? Men and their damn guns.
She aimed in the general direction of a tree, and with David’s comforting hand on her shoulder she pulled the trigger. She didn’t notice that it didn’t kick much. She did notice the flash of fire from out of the barrel and the VERY LOUD BANG. She almost dropped David’s precious shotgun.
“That is so loud! My ears are ringing! I’m going to have hearing damage!” Focusing on the ringing in her ears she turned away, with the double barrels aiming haphazardly everywhere. David grabbed her and held her still. “STOP. Give me that.” He took back the troublesome gun.
He was about to say more, perhaps continue her education, perhaps chasten her for her loss of control, when he looked at her stricken face and realized it would be pointless. He broke open the shotgun and said, “That’s enough for today. If someone breaks in… just…just sic the bloody dog on them.”
Thoroughly convinced that no one would ever break in, she took his hand and went home with her man.
David had stomped back to the front room brandishing the shotgun and stuffing shells into his pockets. He told Kara again to stay down and then fearlessly opened the door and stepped onto the porch. Kara could only guess what he was thinking. Maybe show them he wasn’t afraid and bluff them into leaving? Or shoot at them first to scare them away? She feared she might never know. Whatever her husband was thinking, he definitely yelled to the gang to get off his land.
Then the shooting started.
Windows shattered and engines roared. Kara pressed her hands to her ears and screamed; terrified and overwhelmed by the destruction of her ordinary life. David hurtled himself back inside and kicked the door shut. More gunshots rang out as the rounds cracked through the walls of their home. David hastily reloaded the shotgun as he crawled to a window. He sprung up and fired, then paused, aimed, and fired again. Kara was huddled on the floor, crying and unaware she was still screaming. Her husband reloaded again, then a crash shook the house. David’s head whipped up, looking to the rear of their home. A biker had crashed his motorcycle through the back door and stopped just inside the room. The biker saw the two, then fumbled at a holster on his waist. David raised the shotgun and fired, knocking the man to the floor. A brick crashed through a window, followed by another brick wrapped in burning cloth. More gunshots peppered the house. Kara could only stare helplessly at her man. David was franticly reloading and trying to watch everything at once. His eyes stopped on her shaking body. He ducked as more fire was thrown inside, still keeping his eyes on her. Glancing outside one last time, he set his jaw and called to her.
“We can’t stay here, Kara!” he yelled. He crawled to her and grabbed her shoulders. “Kara! You have to make it to the truck! Get to the truck!” he yelled to her face. He shook her now, making her hear him.
“You have to get to the truck, baby.” He pressed the keys into her trembling hands. “I’ll draw them away. You fight to live, you understand me? I’ll be ok.”
Kara nodded mutely as the flames grew around the two.
“Go on now! Go! I love you, baby!”
He pulled her to her feet and pushed her to the rear of the house. She stumbled forward on shaky legs, her body seemingly moving by itself. She looked back to see David at the front door, ready to spring out.
He smiled and nodded at her. Then he pointed and said one last time, “Go!”
David jumped outside and she didn’t look back. She ran in shock to the back door.
Kara ran around the upturned furniture and jumped over the growing fires. She heard more shooting at the front of the house as she peered around the shattered door frame. The motorcycles there were circling, and they suddenly roared away; to the front yard. In a daze, Kara sprinted to the barn; even with her long legs pumping away she felt like she was running through water. Her chest heaved as she rounded the barn and threw open the door to the truck. She hopped inside and slammed the door shut, then she looked down to her hands and saw she somehow still had the keys there. Picking out the square-headed Ford key, she stabbed it into the ignition and turned it. The engine turned over easily and came to life. She pulled the shifter into Drive and was about to take her foot off the brake when reality caught up with her. ‘Where are we going, girl?’ she asked herself. She looked back to the now burning house. Her man was nowhere to be seen. All she could remember was David telling her to go. Then, a bike wheeled around the house; coming for her.
She pressed the gas and the truck sped away, quickly followed by the biker. The roaring motorcycle pulled up next to her, watching her as she tried to flee. The leather clad biker reached down and drew out a large crescent wrench. Kara hopelessly tried outrunning the biker, the truck bouncing on the uneven dirt road. The biker swung the wrench at the window but only reached the rear door post. The wrench clanged off the metal, making Kara scream. The road cut into the trees surrounding their farm, and the biker had to stop as he couldn’t stay beside the truck. He stopped and looked back. One of his comrades came into view, and he quickly waved him over; pointing to their quarry. The second biker saw the fleeing truck and the cloud of dust raised by it. He turned to alert the rest of the gang.
Kara’s heart was thumping away like a V8 engine; she could feel her blood pulsing through her neck. Her situation was dawning on her.
‘They will try to kill me.’
She accelerated faster, heedless of the branches and bushes that whipped by the old Ford. She had taken many walks down these back roads and she felt she knew them fairly well. Still, her eyes franticly scanned the road ahead, terrified of coming to a dead end. Kara knew which turns to take to avoid the river and which way to get to the asphalt road. She measured the dirt road as the truck bounced along, looking for the turn to the concrete highway. She turned towards that road, too panicked to think of anything but escaping the fastest way she knew how.
Then a distant, little used part of her mind quietly spoke up; a small but vital portion of her consciousness. ‘This truck will not outrun motorcycles on an open road, Kara’, it stated with simple confidence.
And it was right. Kara’s heart thudded faster, thinking of how she wanted to live but how she was actually bringing herself closer to death. ‘Ok, we’ll just turn back, girl’, she answered. Then she saw the bikes in her mirrors.
They roared loudly; closing with the beat-up old truck faster than she thought possible. She drove faster and the truck rocked on its worn shocks as it hurtled down the trail. Still the bikers gained on her. They pulled up on either side of the speeding truck, intent on catching her.
In her panicked mind, Kara did not, could not, think of ramming them away. It absurdly seemed rude to her, like cutting off another car. She was a farmer’s wife, and farmer’s wives tried to avoid crashes, not cause them.
She heaved on the wheel with her knuckles gripping so hard they were white. She took a route taking her away from the road and back into the maze of dirt roads. The truck’s tires struggled for traction on the gravel, and she began to fishtail. Surprising even herself, Kara turned the wheel opposite the skid and neatly righted the truck. When she straightened out, Kara again floored the gas and the truck rumbled on.
The bikes were also bouncing roughly on the uneven dirt road, kicking up dust and gravel. One biker led the chase, outfitted in heavy black studded leathers and a mirrored full face helmet. He had a chrome pump action shotgun slung over one spiky shoulder, and he carefully grabbed and raised it; struggling to keep his bike on the rough road with only one hand on the handle bars. He had pulled up on the truck’s right side, and now he awkwardly aimed the shotgun with one hand. Kara did not see him at all.
The biker fired, just as he hit a particularly large bump in the road. The shot shattered the truck’s side view mirror, spraying glass and metal in all directions. Kara shrieked in surprise, than she looked and screamed as she saw the biker with the gun. The biker slowed, then let go of the handles to quickly pump the shotgun and chamber another shell.
In her fear, Kara blindly took the next turn, all coherent plans wiped clean from her mind. She pushed the truck heedless of her speed. The truck roared over the dusty road, its speed taking it through the underbrush and crashing through low hanging tree branches. One thick branch loomed closer and Kara crashed into it, spiderwebbing the left side of the truck’s windshield. Losing traction on the side of the road, she headed right for a tree. Too afraid to brake, Kara numbly tried to turn away. She sideswiped the tree, shearing off the right side mirror’s mangled mount and denting the entire right side of the truck in a jarring series of continuous thuds. The bikers behind her laughed at her fear. They knew she wouldn’t last long like this, and soon she would be theirs. They deftly swerved around or jumped over any obstacles in their way.