Prompt: A Minesweeper Fiction prequel for Trish. (This is a background story for one of the characters created in our live-streaming activities.)
Most of them thought of it as tourism. That was how far their society had advanced; they could now look back at the drudgery and frustration of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as something cute, as an experience, like milking a cow or finding shark teeth on the beach.
The subject this time was roads and their old vehicles. Rubber on asphalt. A thing not seen by most in decades. The old road, opened for the new business of car tourism, was route 71. It was a blistering August day when it reopened and became flooded with vehicles bought as novelties, driven by people who had never controlled anything larger than a handheld drone or a teacup poodle on a short leash.
All the tourists thought the road had been condemned long ago, its passages through the orange sandstone only reopened for their amusement. In truth it had never official closed. From time to time an old vehicle, kept up by someone devoted to the purr of its engine, passed through. Only one of them got caught in the glue trap that was the hoard of bumbling new drivers.
Her mind wandered, as it always did when she traveled over a hundred miles an hour, so she had to slam on the brakes when the realization of other vehicles hit her. Slowing that quickly is not easy on a motorcycle, and Trish nearly crashed her best friend in the world doing it. The tires were replaceable, though expensive as Hell on the internet, but if there was even one scratch on the beautiful artwork across the bike’s side… heads would roll. The sides of the vehicle depicted a red dragon snaking along, bouncing dice along its body, dice that had skulls instead of pips.
“Fuck me with a hot greasy spatula,” she swore as her boots hit the ground. A traffic jam. They were supposed to be extinct. What was all this nonsense? Most of the cars didn’t even have their tires aligned properly. Many of them sported big flags from different cities and different sports teams, none of them for the Fayette Freefallers, who were her favorite.
She pulled down her kickstand with the side of one foot. The silvery extension, resembling a dragon’s foot, held up her best friend while she marched forward to investigate. Her driver’s uniform was the real deal: a leather jacket that smelled more like her than leather, boots made from the hide of an unidentified animal that had surely been mean and skinned slowly, and frayed pants with more texture around the open spots than her thick head of hair had.
She walked up to a small round car, obnoxiously blue and shiny, as if the sky itself was reflective, and tapped on the window. It took the excitable tourist more than thirty seconds to figure out how to roll the window down. Cold air, a blast from a rattling air conditioner, poured out and hit her. She closed her eyes and enjoyed it for a moment.
“Can I help you?” the spectacled man behind the wheel asked.
“Who are all you people?” Trish demanded. She spat out her cinnamon gum and grabbed the man’s open lemonade bottle from his cup holder. She took a swig of it, and then looked at him to see if he would challenge her. It was clear he would not. It was her road anyway. She drove it more than anyone else. He was in the way of Trish getting to her grandmother, an even fiercer woman who didn’t appreciate tardiness. This guy was on Trish’s road, so his car was hers, his time and attention were hers, and so was the lemonade.
“We’re drivers,” he declared proudly, showing her the brim of his hat. It read: Honk Honk! “It’s the newest thing. You should know. You’ve got…” he turned in his seat and looked at her bike, “that thing! Oh that’s so cool! It only has two wheels. Where did you order it?”
“I built it,” Trish said simply before guzzling the rest of the lemonade. She threw it down the road, as far forward as she could, and heard it break on a windshield. That far? The traffic was backed up that far? She bolted away from the chilled tourist and examined the jam from the red soil on the side of the road. Cars as far as the eye could see. Nasty shining blinks from adjusting rear view mirrors. Honking, which grew louder as she observed. Idiots. Honking would lead to them getting out. They wouldn’t even realize they were angry until too late. This many people on Route 71…
“Do not get out of your car,” she ordered the spectacled man after rushing back. She pointed at him, making it clear she could stab him to death with the outstretched finger. She went up the line, knocking on windows and warning every driver to stay in their seats with their belts on. Most of them didn’t even know the belts were there.
“Those people are getting out!” one woman yelled back at her, pointing up ahead. Trish looked and saw that it was true. Some of the tourists milled about, hands on their hips, touching other people’s cars and arguing. This was how it always started, and they didn’t have a clue. Road rage was bad enough on its own: a mania that gripped you with a harsh hangover that always made you feel like the stupid animal you were. Route 71 was worse. There was something in the air, in the dust, that made everything feel hotter, brighter, closer…
Trish had been there once before, when there were too many cars. That was years ago, at a gathering of diehards like herself who had never set foot on a hovercraft or even a plane. You can’t set foot on air after all. They called it the blinkers, both after the light someone had left on and after the strange look in your eye when Route 71 got a hold of you.
She had her own theory. A demon. Something attached to the road even more than its black color. She could travel Route 71 just fine, because the entity was starved of most of its anger. It had nothing to latch onto and inflate. Just Trish. She had rage, more than most, but it embodied her rather than infected her.
Someone threw a punch. A body slid across a hood and hit the other side. The honking of the horns intensified. Everywhere doors opened and slammed shut. One of them had a head in it at the time. Trish clenched her fists. These idiots were feeding it. They were becoming blinkered, absorbed in the road rage that was supposed to be as gone as smallpox.
One of them kicked Trish in the shin. She thought she could control it as she always had, but the presence had swelled without her realizing. It collapsed on her like a roasted whale. Her pupils, along with everyone else’s, rapidly changed in size, big and small, big and small… Their skin turned to red sweat. They were all blinkered, grabbed by the invisible beast of Route 71.
Trish grabbed the ankle that kicked her and pulled it up to her face, which scraped its owner’s face across the asphalt. She turned and tossed the person onto another car, straight through its cloth roof. There was no stopping it now. The rage was self-sustaining, at least until there were no bodies left to hold it. Trish had the vague sense she should return to her bike and protect it, but many got in her way. One of them, brandishing a tire iron, took a swing. They didn’t have the strength. Trish had internalized pure road rage; it was part of her soul now. It gave her the strength of several men, but she’d rarely had cause to use it.
She snatched the iron away and struck back. The end of it went in his ear and came out the other. The blood didn’t stain her clothes. It was too hot for that, the air wiggling across all the metal around. The blood simply boiled off the wounds, turning to red vapor instantly.
At least the tourists learned what driving was really like. Trish stuffed people into trunks. When she was warmed up she stuffed them into arm rests and glove compartments. It wasn’t her first rodeo, and they weren’t the first lives she’d taken, but Route 71 had her blazing all the way back to her bike. Anything in her sight was in her way.
In one instance, she didn’t bother moving around a car. She walked through it, splitting the engine block as she went like she waded through mud instead of solid steel. She breathed deep of the diesel fumes and the burnt ground.
All told, 332 died that day. Forty-five of those were by Trish’s hands, and occasionally her teeth, heels, or a windshield wiper. Seven survived. Seven predators forged from the desert’s heat and their now raw instincts. The other six would’ve fallen as well, as Trish found her bike ripped to shreds and scattered. She’d turned with blinkered eyes, ready to bludgeon the nearest person with the slightest movement of the skin over her pulsing veins, but cool air returned, carrying cool heads.
Emergency hovercraft descended on them, firing tranquilizers and ice-locking rounds at them, thinking them monsters, unaware of the power of Route 71. Trish’s head became encased in a block of ice, which blinded her. She felt cold locks close on her ankles and wrists. She screamed, with almost enough force to shatter the ice.
All she wanted was to be left alone in the heat and danger of the old roads, listening to the gravely voices on the radio sing about how filthy everything used to be. If they’d left her alone she would’ve eventually died going two hundred miles an hour, cursing the setting sun, and drinking pollution. She would’ve become the sort of spirit that could leave a person blinkered.
Now she was trapped. Off to prison for daring to warn the idiots to get back in their damn cars. Even in the cold they kept her in, Trish still seethed. She was the only piece of her kind left, like something so burned and hardened that it couldn’t be destroyed. If she wound up somewhere after the freezing, she would have to gouge out her own road.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Maddyn13 during a livestream. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!