Monday, July 9, 2007


They rode through the brisk winter night, so warmed by whiskey and adventure that even Pepsi was barely aware of the cold. Although they tried to stay quiet as they went through town, once they were out in the open, they fell into a breathless discussion of their outing and of future prospects for another one.

"We should do this more often. We can't let the boys have all the fun."

"When they're not here, someone's got to raise a little hell."

"At least until they get back."

"Then what?"

"We'll raise hell with them!"

This brought giggles.

"We could at least plan one little adventure each week. It would give us something to do until spring."

"And it wouldn't always have to involve sneaking out."

"How much whiskey is in the boys' stash, Pepsi?"

"Enough that they'll notice if we're drinking it."

"Who are they going to tell? Harley?"

They laughed again. Alcohol was forbidden. Who, indeed, would the boys tell?

"Is there a place in town to go dancing? That might be fun."

"You think it's safe to dance with the townies?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"Too bad Robert's not well," Diana said. "He's a good dancer."

"That's the first thing you've said since we left," Sachi pointed out.


"Nothing. It's just interesting that the first thing you should say would be about Sputnik."

"That's because she likes him," Macy said, as if this were obvious.

"What about Will?"

"What about him?"

"Everyone says. . ."

"What?" Diana's confusion was genuine. "He's my brother."

"That's not what he says," Pepsi said. "He always makes a point about you not being any kind of blood kin."

"Family isn't about blood, it's about how you're raised."

"So you don't think of him that way?" Sachi asked.

"What way? I think of him like a brother. What did you think?"

"Well, everyone says. . ."

Diana frowned in annoyance. "We seem to be going in circles."

"In more ways than one," Pepsi said, reining in and looking around. "Where the hell are we?"

The other girls stopped, too. "This isn't the road," Sachi agreed.

Macy giggled. "That'll teach us. It all looks the same after a couple drinks."

"This won't do," Diana said. "We'll have to retrace our steps and find our way back to the main road."

They were turning their horses when a movement in the tree line caught Sachi's eye. She clicked her tongue in warning to the others, and suddenly all four girls were on the alert, peering through the darkness at the unfamiliar landscape.

With a sick feeling in her stomach, Diana realized they had no plan. If they were in danger, where could they run? Back to camp, where no one was prepared for defense? To town, where they would endanger the locals and the safe house? Damn it, why hadn't she made a plan?

"Oh, my God," Sachi whispered as shadows moved out of the forest, heading toward the road.

"Are we all armed? How many of them are there?"

More shadows emerged from the other side of the road.

"Too many for my one pistol."

"All I got is a knife," said Macy.

"We’ll have to make a run for it."

"Run where?"

"There's a tunnel that opens away from camp," Macy offered. "It's small enough that we could defend it, if we could find it."

"We don't even know where we are," Pepsi pointed out.

There was no time to debate further. The riders had kicked their horses into a trot. "Go to back town,” Diana said. “Split up when we get there, and for God's sake, avoid the safe house."

The girls clucked to their horses and started back the way they had come. The raiders spurred their horses into a canter. Diana and Sachi kicked their mounts hard and sprang forward, with Pepsi and Macy trailing behind. They raced through the darkness, praying that the horses could see the unfamiliar trail in the darkness. The raiders scarcely missed a beat, their horses' hooves pounding closer and closer.

The trail split. Diana didn't remember there being a fork. She chose a direction and yanked on the reins. Although she couldn't see the trail ahead in the darkness, her horse saw something. She felt the mare's muscles shifting as she prepared to jump. Diana leaned low over the withers, grabbed the mane and hung on. She cleared the obstacle easily, and sensed as much as heard Sachi land neatly at her flank. She was about to sigh in relief when she heard a scream and a sickening crack of bone. Then another shriek and the thud of heavy bodies hitting the ground, followed by panicked whinnying and a whoop of young male voices.

Every instinct urged her on, but she wheeled her horse and went back. Out of the dark mass of fallen horseflesh, she could make out a pale figure in the road. She leaped to the ground. "Pepsi!" She shook the girl's shoulder.

"Give her to me!" Sachi called, bringing her horse near.

Diana staggered under the girl's weight, but managed to lift her high enough that Sachi could drag her across her lap. "I'll get Macy."

"I'll wait—"

"No. Pepsi is hurt. Go!"

Sachi took off and Diana ran toward the horses, nearly tripping over Pepsi's dropped gun, which she stuck in the waistband of her pants. "Macy, where are you?"

It was too late. The horsemen surrounded her. It looked like there were four of them, but in the darkness, it was hard to tell. Diana rested her hand on her gun as one of the riders drew his horse near.

"Where're you going to so fast, pretty thing?"

"Don't you know bad things happen to little girls alone in the woods?" one of his companions asked. He approached so close she could feel his horse's breath on her neck.

"We don't want no trouble," Diana said, trying to pitch her voice low to stop it from trembling. "Just let me get my friend and put her on my horse, and we'll leave."

"Looks like a nice horse," the first man said, eyeing Diana’s mare as one of his companions dismounted and shot Pepsi's horse, which had been lying in the road, moaning and whinnying. "Maybe I want to keep it."

Diana lifted her chin. "Take her, then. My friend and I will walk."

"Your friend don't look like she's up for much walking."

She looked around, and realized one of the men had found Macy and dragged her off to the side of the road. He was bending over her limp form, tugging at her clothes.

"Don't worry," the man said. "She ain't dead. That one won't fuck them if they're dead."

The other man dismounted, grabbed her braid and pulled her face close to his. "You want to play with us too, baby?"

Diana whipped out her pistol, pulled the trigger, and saw him drop to his knees, clutching his stomach. Then she fired at the first man, but her bullet only grazed his shoulder. He made a grab for her as another man tried to wrestle her arms behind her back. "You're going to pay for that, bitch."

She struggled to keep control of her gun, firing off a few wild shots before someone wrenched it from her grip. She screamed, kicking and slapping at the hands that were pulling at her clothes. Someone clapped a hand over her mouth, and she sank her teeth into it. The hand moved away and she could breathe again, but then something slammed into the side of her head and she had only a moment to be surprised at how soft the ground was before the moonlit darkness turned to black.

Previous Entry
Next Entry


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hmm. You've got a lot going on, but I suspect the reason you're struggling is that you start out lighthearted and have to switch to ominous and scary really fast.

I suspect that ominous and scary is harder to pull off (I can't remember trying it lately, myself); I don't feel it until the last few paragraphs.

I don't think we need clues before Diana catches that movement, but once she does, we need that "My stomach is sinking for you" feeling.

If you need more help, holler. I might need to play with this, myself, but I think we can get you where you need to go.

Anonymous said...

Susan gave excellent feedback -- kudos, Susan! I agree with her, and here are some more thoughts:

The lighthearted opening is because they're giddy in the head from the whiskey. I wonder if it might help to work in not only that they're giddy but that the whiskey is a bit disorienting to their perceptions, as it would be, to kind of keep the reader off-balance throughout the whole scene. That way, when Diana sees movement which may be a threat and "ominous and scary" comes into play, the reader will already be in off-balance mode (not quite knowing what to expect), hence more power to the "stomach-sinking feeling."

I hope I'm making sense!

Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

I love the last sentence where it says she only had a moment to be surprised at how soft the ground was... That's great imagery! You already have some great critiques here.

Oh and you've been tagged. Sorry. This is my first taggy-thing. Go to my blog for the details.


Alice Audrey said...

I didn't see this coming, but I should have. Poor girls.