Deep throat of morning, on the cusp of midday. Thick, throat-throttling stench of oil lies heavy on the air, stings eyes to veined red. Half in, half out of the saloon door, some bitch wrestles a six-foot wrangler. Mouth a silent scream of protest. Flowered corset rents apart under rough hands. A single heavy breast pops free, coffee brown nipple puckered in disgust.
Wrangler laughs, dirty satisfaction, grabs at swinging flesh, pinches hard. Finger marks glare by the nipple, bright as a fresh tattoo. Bitch snarls. Rears away. Her hand soars back, cracks forward. Impact on cheek echoes down the street, loud as a shout. Wrangler recoils, screeching, face a huge dripping rent down the left side. Cut to quick, to bone. Bitch grins, shows her palm, serrated blade long as his index finger, stained viscous crimson against soft pink skin.
‘Fuckin’ filthy ‘ho,’ he screams, collapses in a heap of curled limbs, hand pressed hard to pissing cheek.
She leans low, spits in his face. Gob of foamy yellow spittle runs down his nose, drips to land on his chest. Bitch hauls her breast back in, her arse back through saloon doors, and he yells after her.
‘I paid good money.’
Jeering crows of laughter from within. A bevy of carrion birds in Stetsons and dust-drenched boots. Cat-calls out to the wrangler as he crawls away, leaves a slug trail of glistening red on brown dirt.
‘Meg don’t fuck no cheap faggot boys.’
‘I can smell your dick from here, son. You bin stickin’ it up yer horse’s ass?’
‘Fly away fairy, Meg’s done seen bigger dicks on a mouse.’
‘Hoo-wee, boy got busted good, come here baby, give Paydrone some goddamn sugar!’
Wrangler scrabbles on, whimpering, cussing filth under breath. Heat blisters the ground, rises in see-through smog. Collection of fast moving smears ripples in the haze. A distant grumble of thunder becomes the rattling growl of engines. Shapes form out of smears. Five huge vehicles. Three Tribikes, a Turbike and a genuine three-wheeled fucking hybrid monster. Pull in tight formation alongside the crawling wreckage of the wrangler. A pack of hyenas in laughing, howling cacophony, they circle, rev engines, aim pipes to blast hot steam in his face. Till he’s nose down on the ground, squealing high pitched as a pig. Then three peel away, leaving two brothers to play.
‘Well lookee here, Dime,’ Dagger crows, ‘we got’s us a nancy boy.’
The wrangler rises onto hands, knees. Crawls off fast as a bug. Dime scoots his Tribike close. Churning black wheels scream on dirt, throw chunks the size of fists into the boys face. Mix mud with blood. Looks like he’s taken a face-full of shit.
‘Leave me the fuck alone, man. I done nuthin’.’ He whines, scrambles on clawed hands, ragged, filth-marred knees.
‘D’ya wanna know what we do to nancy boys?’ Dime asks, chewing thoughtful on a wad of tobacco as he coasts alongside, grins over at Dagger, face gleaming feral brightness.
Saloon doors creak and bang into all out holler of noise. Dagger and Dime swagger in. Knuckles bloodied. Smiles wide as a whore’s legs. Earn a minute’s silence as holler ceases, folk swivel to stare. Dime and Dagger give it back; eyes ominous as wheeling vultures. Meander on to the bar as silence revs back to noise at nought to sixty.
Choke slams back a shot of piss-coloured whisky. Grins. Teeth shine, wolf sharp.
‘You done playin’?’
Dagger bites his nail clean off, spits it on the floor. ‘Reckon so.’
Violate rolls sinful eyes, arse propped on the bar. Skirts up, dirt smeared legs out up to ragged garters. ‘You boys wouldn’t know play if it leapt up and butt-fucked y’all.’
‘Pipe down, sugar,’ Dime drawls, ‘and get us another goddamn drank.’
Violate blows him a kiss. Rolls over the bar and lands, heels down hard, on the groaning body of the barkeep. Flourishes two bottles from the shelf. Grin sparkles like diamonds.
‘Will y’all have hooch or rotgut?’
Saloon door swings. Bangs. Serves up another pint of pure silence. Nothing stirs. Not even the faint, sticky breeze. Then seats scrape teeth jarring music. Feet scramble. Half a dozen sunburnt, tough as briar cowpokes race out the back like nancy girls. Pinched mouthed. Too pale. Eyes fixed on seven apparitions in the doorway.
Crow-like figures. Seven the same. Heads bowed, hidden by veils. Their robes pool on the ground, rise up in solid shrouds. Pillars of black, not a stain of travel in sight. Stood soundless. Sentinel. Waiting.
Paydrone, hat clasped to dust-stained shirt, rises slow on trembled knees. ‘Holy mother.’ He sketches a quick cross over shoulders, chest. Whisper is harsh with cords of fear. ‘Sanctimonialis of Matris Immortalis. The Sisters of the Mother Immortal.’
Choke’s brow jumps to attention. ‘The hell you say.’ He spins the words out like taffy; turns to peruse the Sisters, face an ugly leer. ‘I loves me some nuns.’
‘No, son…’ Paydrone shakes his head; jowls wobble beneath unkempt white stubble. ‘They don’t follow no god. They’s hers.’
Paydrone backs away, heads for the back exit like all the other nancies. Choke rises, hand on his thunderbuss, huge sawn off pistol with barrels the size of babies arms.
‘Tell me ole man. I ain’t much for askin’ and I’m askin’ real nice.’
Paydrone wobbles those jowls, turns. Skedaddles. Leaves them all in air a pin drop would shatter. Rustle of fabric hits the silence louder than a pin. Choke spins, alert, pupils shot wide. One Sister’s arm raised straight as a spear, tip her long, gloved finger. Dozens of eyes turn to see where it points.
In back, left of the door, recesses drown in inky shadow. Four figures rise, huge and muscled under dark suits, clutch thigh-long pistols at their hips. Another brief susurration of fabric. Sister’s arms move as one, unholy grace. Seven blades, curved as sin, black as their robes. They shimmer in the air. Spark white as molecules suicide off the edges. AM Blades. Rare as a God’s teeth.
Choke’s eyes gleam like rats, blood red, holy murder. Time to bring the sin. He opens his mouth. Hollers with all his might.
He lunges forward. Fist first. Plows into the nearest face. Cartilage bursts. Thick red spatters over the wood floor. Choke follows up with a gut punch like a cleaver’s edge. Meaty smack into soft flesh. Grabs a chair, breaks it over the prone back and leaps on, howling.
Catalysed, the room explodes to action. Fists flying, chairs trashing, tables smashing, flesh smacking flesh. Hurricane of pure, all-out, bone-shattering violence. At the doorway Sisters tense, twist, soar into the air. Elegant as birds. High over the tangle of brawling bodies. Blades trail a meteor shower of sparks, a rain of fire.
Soft as feathers, Sisters toes touch ground. Bodies curved to spring, blades high. Four huge figures roll. Guns ablaze. AM blades shave down, slice bullets. Shards scattergun the room. Thud thud into exposed meat, wood, walls, mirrors, bottles. Explosions of glass, liquor, skin, fat, flesh, bone. Spatter the floor. Feet catch in pools of rotgut, blood, snag on lumps and slide. Bodies fall hard as bowling pins under a ball, thump thump through the sound of bullets.
Blaze of bullets stalls to silence. Four snarl, toss aside guns. Crouch. Touch wrists. Ovals of heat-haze distortion spring up before them. Em-shields, crackling a hum like radio interference. Sisters attack, soundless. Blades a downward arc.
Air folds in, snaps out. Elastic. White flares off blades, molecular kamikaze raids. Matter against anti-matter. Ozone stench fills the air. Tall man screams as his shield distorts, phases, sputters, crackles to nothing. Seven blades fall. Leave chop suey of joints and guts laid in a heap. Take-out.
Three left, exchange glances behind matt black shades. Touch wrists again. Pop from sight like bubbles. One second there, the next gone. Seven sisters stand around chop suey suit, veiled heads bowed. Blades disappear into black robes. They turn in formation, shuffle past tangles of moaning bodies, twisted limbs, shattered faces. Press on out to sunshine. Saloon doors crash back, swing to silence.
Dime and Dagger whoop, arms raised. Faces a long grin from Dime’s ear to Dagger’s. Stained red head to toe they’re knee deep in fisticuffs, fallen bodies. Violate jumps up and down, screaming happy. Bounces on the back of a skull, a growing red stain bubbling up from where face kisses wood. Smiles pretty for massive Carbine, sat drinking at the bar, oblivious.
‘Take mah pictah, baby!’
Carbine grunts. Reaches out as a last fist flies for his face. Grabs the throat of the fool behind it. Squeezes. Let’s loose. Fool drops to the floor, a boneless heap. Carbine takes his hat, dusts it off.
‘Now there’s a good fellah.’ He says. Places it back on the head. Just so.
Choke wanders over, dragging a body part, one of chop suey’s legs. Holds a wallet rifled from the pocket. Drops limb and wallet both. Reaches for Violate, who leaps aboard. Thighs high on his waist. Sucks his split lip into her mouth, bites at his tongue. His hands bite into her arse. Handfuls of firm, round buttock, smeared with blood, warpaint. Violate groans, licks his neck, bites it, leaves neat teeth marks up his jugular, a blackening bruise.
‘Now thas’ what I call a rumble,’ Choke yells, face lit up wild as fire. ‘And if I’m not much mistaken, and I rarely am,’ he glares round, four faces turn away, pretend innocence, ‘then them four fellers were from the Order. If they’s here, then I thank we gots ourselves a jackpot!’
Dagger whoots, grabs a bottle off the bar, neck broke to the quick, jagged as a shark’s smile.
‘I’ll drank to that,’ he shouts, upends the bottle, mouth wide.
Sputters, grins through a face-full of piss-poor whisky. Shakes his head like a coyote with a rabbit and they all howl in unison. Laugh their guts up.
Lone TurChaise sits on the outskirts. Funereal colours. Four huge lycids stand to the front, harnessed. Heads toss. Beady black eyes glitter. Huge rapacious jaws crowd with teeth, foaming. Curtain over the window flutters back. Small white face looks out, towards town.
In the Chaise, a bent body as black draped as the Sisters, face concealed behind a thick veil of purple. Leans forward in avid anticipation over the tip of a dark wood cane. Speaks in a voice raspy as dried bones, scratches on the nerves like nails on a chalkboard.
‘What do you see, Angeline?’
Angeline watches. Sanctimonialis of Matris Immortalis, a conspiracy of crows, walk in concert out of town limits, toward the Chaise. Shadows stretch. Make a seven fingered hand on the tundra. It elongates, mutates, reaches toward them. Angeline rears back, allows the curtain to fall. Eyes hard with distaste, a taint of sick fear lurking in the hollows of pinpoint pupils.
‘They are here.’
Small sound of satisfaction, cat-savage. ‘Excellent. The Order will be wary now.’ Low, rattling laugh from behind opaque veil. ‘The Angel is good as mine.’