Beady eye peeks sneaky, subtle. Shines through the slim gap between door and wall, bright as a bauble. Rolls to and fro, scanning the slew of bodies strutting on the street. Meg skip hops from one spindle-heel shod foot to the other. Leek leans across, peers over the top of her head.
‘What’s cookin’ Meg? Ya need ta pee?’ cocky Leek grins bright as a comet at mincing Meg.
‘Don’ feel raht,’ Meg moans, ‘why in tarnation we gots ta put on airs n graces we ain’t got while them two gets ta play whores?’
Leek links an arm, friendly like, through Meg’s. Jostles her a bit. A happy tussle. ‘Cos we’re ladylike, innit.’ She sketches a wayward curtsey, wobbling mad as a top. ‘No way in hell Marg and Min are gunna get away with sticking a pinky out to drink tea. Marg’ll get her tits out and kill somebody and Min’ll start producing crazy shit out of nothing and before you know it there’ll be a riot. They’re wild them two.’ She bats Meg with a hip, throws a broad wink. ‘So lets us go have fun bein’ fancy.’
Meg cracks her neck, straightens her skirts, squares her shoulders. ‘Raht.’
Meg and Leek step out lively into a mess of bodies strung across the street. Dolled up in silk and satin they twirl parasols of raspberry silk and tulle, dripping with lace. Meg sways her hips and giggles. Leek launches the stank eye at anyone who dares to look. Zing, bam and they’re dead.
Blue blue sky beams overhead. Throws down bands of sunlight bright enough to bleach black to white. Circle of raging grey swirls around cornflower blue, batters with mad black fists at the barrier in its way. Yawning faces stretch and leer into the bold blue hollow. Storm teeth gnash and grind, wild with frustration. But the barrier holds true, grants the storm no leeway.
Crowds turn onto main promenade. Rumble of voices raised to near drown the muted clamour of the storm. Head for the vast, classic splendour of the dock, mullioned windows throwing out arcs of reflected light halfway across West Alburqurque. Meg and Leek stroll amongst them, noses high, parasols higher. Cut a swathe, a dash, a daring leg through the throng as the clock ticks down to landing time.
Two beautiful bodies step out of glorious blue into the low hole of a drinking dive. Crammed wall to wall and heaving with noise, the stench of liquor, leather, body odour rams nostrils hard as a sucker punch. Smoke lies thick as a fog bank across a sea of half-cocked hats and grim faces stippled in five o clock shadow. It’s pea-souper. Near zero visibility. Rolf adjusts his hat. Sucks in a lung of smoke and coughs out a plume of lacy grey into the malaise. Grumbles.
‘I feel like a funnel.’
Moe, chocolate eyes all a-melt, wipes away a tear or two. ‘It’s a touch thick.’
‘Thick? Darling, it’s practically obtuse.’
Chocolate eyes flicker crackling amusement. Slant left to rake up a long lean length of lush man-flesh to that beyond beautiful face. Sensory overload. Leaves skin buzzing, head humming, heart pounding hard as if he’s fucked solid for five hours. Rough and tumble, stinking sweat, tearing teeth and nails kind of fucking. Shakes his head to dispel lurid discombobulating hallucinations.
‘You are never going to pass for a bandit,’ Moe murmurs.
Rolf turns, innocence radiates thick as smoke. ‘Already am a bandito, doll,’ he drawls, eyes wicked as a ten-foot tall fudge sundae, ‘a bum bandito.’ Sculpted lips curling a delicious naughty grin, he stares at uneasy Moe. Six foot something of hetero under full-on homo fire and falling fast.
Moe licks dry lips, watches cool blue watch him. Such heat from such cold eyes, makes his skin crackle and boil. Feels a fine fizz of electric shoot from mouth to balls as lights flicker in the blue, spark and erupt like flares. Lightning bolts of lust attack from all sides. Storm warning. Moe grits it away, jaw tight as a fist. Rolf’s like Margo with a cock, too much temptation, and flagrant with it.
‘You’re going to get us killed.’
Cool blue burns a devilish inferno. ‘I’d pop your cherry first, darling. I promise.’ Sneaky hand grabs a palm full of Moe’s arse and squeezes, send volts of bolts to balls. Moe sucks in hard, growls annoyance. Rolf chuckles. ‘Come on, poppet. Let’s go sweet talk our way to a free ride onto Peggy Dunne with some of these deliciously bad men.’
Peggy Dunne slides through the storm, secure in the shelter of the seven Sister’s grace. Blares out mournful echo after echo to announce its passage.
Crew and cargo huddle within, listen to the howl of the horn, the roar of the storm and pray to the pantheons of numerous gods. To Path the Unworthy and Skult the Righteous, to Grenadine, Protector of the Helpless and Bethsemane the Gracious. Strain ears to listen for a response and hear only the horn’s mournful tones, the rage of the sand as it struggles to attack the hull.
Alone in luxury, the Mother of no god but herself sits in expectant stillness as a young maid enters the room, limbs a tremble, eyes flared and filled with fear. She pulls a trolley laden with opulent treasures.
Stuffed goose chick with coriander and gorse flower. Henbane root broth and glazed sloes anointed with syrupy Canker-Wasp honey. A rich repast to soothe the troubled nerves and stomach of a valued passenger.
Mother’s purple veil ripples under slow revolutions of breath. All is stillness. Only the doleful song of the horn to break the silence. Maid hurries to set silver. Serve lush morsels onto a slender, bone china plate, scrolled with rococo gold and flowers. Under the horn’s lament, the silence of the room grows and swells, a soundless symphony of anticipation.
The maid, a girl no older than sixteen, robust and opulent with youth, picks up on the heavy air of eager hunger in the room, radiating in waves from the silent, seated Mother. Nerves hone fear to fine vintage. Fiddling hands fumble a delicate square of lace-edged cotton.
Mother’s hands reach up to the edges of her veil. Begin to lift. The sound a faint rustle in the concerto of silence. The girl freezes, breathless. Turns. Slow. Careful. A wondrous picture of sudden unease.
Her mouth gapes as her eyes alight on the Mother’s naked face. Stretches to soundless scream. Napkin falls to the floor. A flag of surrender. A high whine begins somewhere deep in the valley of the girl’s guts. Travels upward, whistling higher and higher. At some point it will break to a scream.
Mother lunges, grasps, hands tight to frozen face. Slams the full force of her power into the soft matter of the maid’s essence and swallows it whole. The girl twitches, flops. Melts to the floor in a boneless heap as clawed fingers release her. Hoarse breath breaks the silence in harsh gusts. Mother calls out.
She settles her veil back into place. Reaches out one clawed hand and beckons. The napkin rises from the floor and flies to her grasp. Mother takes a seat before the trolley, smoothes the napkin across her knees and reaches for the silver, her aura replete and refreshed with bloated coils of stolen life force.
And before the Peggy Dunne, six Sisters glide in soundless serenity. The seventh, also the First, leads them, her surface calm as an ocean on a windless day whilst beneath it roll crashing waves of awareness, coated dazzling silver. She knows her name. She is Sparrow Plenty. Awakened. Who hides within the shell of her flesh. And waits.
High up above the raddled maze of a small outpost named Ridgetown, positioned on a ridge adrift with the mottled fingers of low riding cloud awash with the light of two mingled suns, a grizzled group of bandits make ready for a raid.
Carbine strips down the TriBikes and Violate’s Turbike, refits them with enough hardware to take down two Peggy Dunne’s. Huge multi-throat cannons, crossbows with explosive bolts, an array of rapid-fire machine guns. Violate and Dagger sit to the side of his mess, clean Thunderbusses and shotguns, griddle greasy steaks on hot stones over a raging fire pit.
Choke sits high up, on lookout. Jaundiced eye espies far off boil of demented sands and narrows, as if fixing to shoot down game. Big wet lump of sticky baccy spit flies to land, splat, on the back of a tiny scorpion no bigger than a pinky nail clicking across dry, cracked rock.
Choke sniffs as it coils up, snaps its tail to, fro; vicious precision strikes hunting for soft flesh to sting, to punish. He chuckles. Reaches down and flicks it with a blunt finger.
‘Durned fool thang.’ Turns to Dime, cheeks fat with baccy, lips still slimed brown from his spit wad. ‘Reckon yer cud hit a fly right out tha air with that sheeit.’ Grins around the stub of a smouldering stogie as Dime chuckles, brown stained teeth on display.
‘Reckon ah cud knock a titteh raht on tha nipple at fi’hunerd paces.’
Choke bares teeth white and shiny as pebbles, ‘Dang, Dime, we gunna have ta get Violate to stand fer that sheeit.’ He jerks his chin at the far off boil of dark sand. ‘What’s yer recknin’ on that thur mess?’
‘Tain’t natral.’ Dime spits another huge wad of black spit. It lands on the side of the rock, slides down in a tarry slick.
Choke chews that over a second. Takes out his wreck of a stogie stump and surveys it up and down, eyes deep, dark and shark dangerous.
‘Reckon that makes me mad.’ He rises up a touch, broad shoulders rippling muscle under the sweat-stained cling of a red shirt. Hollers over at Carbine, elbow deep in Turbike innards. ‘Git them bahks done, Carbine, we gots to shoot back down ter Ridgetown, pick us up some charms from that Gypsy bitch in tha Sa-loon.’
‘Whut?’ Carbine screws up his face, mad as a cornered bear. ‘Whah the fuck we gunna do thaht?’
Choke rears up, eyes flashing sharp as gunfire. ‘Don’ queshion me boy. Get em done, we don’t got tahm ta piss and moan, Peggy Dunne’s dockin’ raht the fuck now. She’ll be heah in less’n haf a day and we gots to catch us an Angel if’n we wants to live out the next gawdamn week!’
Carbine drops his gaze, beaten as a dog under Choke’s rage, tugs his hat down low. ‘Raht yew are, boss.’
Majestic in a halo of steam, horns keening, the Peggy Dunne slices through the storm behind the silent seven. Ahead the lights of West Alburqurque glimmer through the vicious black billows, sparkle like moonlight on night waves. Behind the walls of her hull, Peggy’s engines churn; create the slew of magic that holds ship hovering above slip, weightless as a cloud.
Just before storm cuts to bold, sun-drenched blue, the seven break formation, peel away from before the bulk of the Peggy and blink out of existence swift as wind. Here, then gone. And her prow lunges forth, breaks through the black, glints fierce white in the blaze of unfettered sun.
The crowd thronging the vast splendiferous pomp of the platform let out a ragged cheer as she sails in. Unmarked and unbowed. Her proud sides shining. Her funnels gouting great puffs of white steam as her horn plays again and again, lament turned to triumph. Slipmaster lets go the landing horn. Yells into the tannoy.
‘All aboard who’s going aboard. Invidium bound.’
© Ren Warom 2011