After everything that went down in San Francisco, I’d pretty much lost all of my privileges and any prospects of living in Calfree for the foreseeable future, so Flip and I headed south to think over whether to move south into PCC and then Aztlan or east into the Ute Territory and hit Las Vegas and eventually Denver.
Hiding out in plain line of sight gives some people a rush and some satisfaction that they’re really getting one over on everyone and living on the edge or whatever, but for me it dampers the euphoric illusions of freedom I like to keep close. Flip had hid out most of his life in slums and back alleys with the crust of Hispanic and Asian gutter kids, so he would have been happy to stay if I weren’t in the equation, even after all that had gone down. He liked the proverbial rush of it, but he loved me enough to follow my lead even when I maintained that it was the most idiotic thing he’d ever do. “Loving you or coming with you?” he’d said. Both are the right answer, but I can’t deny that a part of me wanted him close. I’d bet my life for him, and he had done the same. We kept our promise, and we’d won. I knew that if we asked for too much more, we were pushing our luck.
All my contacts were fresh out of favors after helping me out of that cluster fuck at NAGNA. I didn’t have any cred at all, so I couldn’t exactly demand more. Nicky Esquival set us up with a pair of motorcycles and enough yen to get us out of the city, and Flip sold a set of personas and about 50k in data to his guy. We were good for money enough to get us set up somewhere else, but we couldn’t agree on which way to go. We compromised and rode down to Joshua Tree to sort it out. It seemed like some kind of demented vacation in my mind, but a place to rest was irresistible to me at that point.
We were out in the desert for a day or two with a tent and enough supplies to last us the week when the days began to run together. Sweltering yellow days dissolved into buzzing pink dusk into cold black night and began again. I sat out with my boots in the dust and watched the moon rise. More often than not, I was up most of the night until the first bruised blues of dawn started to creep into the horizon.
Flip had bought me an acoustic guitar at a fence shop just east of Bakersfield, so I’d spent most evenings playing and trying to let go of the racing thoughts about everything that had just happened. If I slept, I had dreams that I was falling again. Falling from the rooftop, nanoseconds from the ground, and then I’d lurch awake with the buzzing in my ears that heightened to a squealing pitch. I’d lie there trying to get my breath, wondering if there’s such a thing as non-drug related adrenaline overdose… or flashbacks without acid. The better option was to stay up, so I couldn’t dream. At night I could pass the time with the guitar and the stars and trying to focus on what I had instead of what I didn’t have.
“Fly low, you carrion crow~ Seize my body for the debt I owe~ Drop me high into the depths below~ For the things I’ve seen no one else should know.~ It’s just you and me and my rib-caged brain~ We polish the brass and we dust the pain~ And we lay down fallow in slaveless chains~ And they call us sick as though they’re all so sane…~”
I stopped singing and listened to Flip’s snoring coming from the tent and smirked. At least someone was getting some rest. I lay back in the dust and started to strum again. There were so many stars it made me dizzy, so I closed my eyes.
When I woke up, I was looking down at my sleeping body, my ankles were crossed and my arms were resting on the guitar like I hadn’t moved. I looked down at my hands and arms and then the rest of me, I was made of glittering white gauzy matter, and my hand flickered from time to time like blinks of white noise from an old trid. I panicked and took off running through the desert hills, whizzing past skeleton trees and cacti, floating through the dust and the night. I felt myself beginning to burn a little, to sputter out. I stopped running, and there was an old grey wolf within arm’s reach of me walking through the dust. He only had one eye, and his fur was patchy and matted. He looked up at me, and I heard the wizened voice of an old man in my mind.
Don’t linger long, Girl. I’ve seen you in my fires. Your path leads north by east then west by north. Leave the boy. He won’t last with you. Come back before dawn. I will be waiting. I’ll get you on your way, and you will realize the rest.
When I came to, Flip was hovering over me shouting, “Angel! Angel! Wake up!” He slapped my cheeks lightly, and when I opened my eyes, I grabbed his hand and looked up at him. I was shaking, and when I touched my nose, my fingers came away stained with blood.
“What the frag was that, Angelface? You tryin’ t’give me a stroke?”
“I don’t know. I think I was dreaming.” I knew I wasn’t.
“Dreams where you end up with a bloody nose?” He poured some water from a plastic jug onto his bandana and lightly pressed it to my nose.
I snatched it away from him and wiped at it myself. “I said I don’t know! I’m okay.”
He looked at me nervously, but he didn’t say anything else.
“Let’s go to sleep. In the morning, we should leave. I think you convinced me. Aztlan it is, yeah?”
He took my face in his hands and kissed me and then smiled roguishly, “Good. Y’sure you’re okay?”
“Yep. I’m good. Just strange dreams.”
We curled up together in the tent, disrobed and entwined. After we were done, he fell asleep. I watched him sleeping for a long time, trying to memorize his face, the scruff of his beard, the dark tousled hair, his pierced up elfy ears, wanting to look into his dark eyes again, remembering the first time we met when he’d jacked a cab and drove me all over the city and out to the Ocean Beach, and the promise we’d made by morning.
I left him sleeping and gathered my clothes, a couple kay from our wad of bills, and packed a couple cans of food and some ammo. I took his pistol, and left him my knives and my necklace with a note telling him the obvious things and that I would find him when it was safe. I would die for him, but in order to keep him alive… in the morning when he awoke, I was gone.
"You punched me in the boob! Prepare to die obviously!" - Roxy Richter.