You can never be too careful. There’s no shame in testing a second time.
Tabitha regretted her mean-spirited thoughts about Sebastian immediately after feeling her drool. She was conscious now, and despising every second of it.
“You alright, Tab? Fuck, I was worried sick about you.”
She felt even worse now, and hated both herself and him in that moment.
“Yeah…what happened? You lose control of the wheel again?”
“Look, Tab, I swear, this giant steel wall came out of nowhere! The horizon went on for miles, and then…”
“You always say that. Just help me up.”
Sebastian went over to Tabitha, and gently pulled her back from the dashboard, holding her to the seat so that she wouldn’t collapse into the same position again. She took a few deep breaths, and her lungs bubbled with something known. Not good.
“I’m not sure what the hell is going on, but it’s screwing with our plans. We wanted to be on the other side of the bone pit by the end of the day.”
“I don’t care about bone pits. I want cactus juice for this headache.”
Sebastian silently took some from his pocket, and anxiously watched her drink it.
“That’s it…put it all down. You’ll feel better in no time!”
Tabitha tossed the half full bag into the wastes just to spite the old man.
“See what you made me do?! I needed that pouch!” Tabitha said, but stopped as she followed Sebastian’s eyes. They were fixed on the ancient structure, as ancient as anything was in this place. Wires and tubes stuck out all around the sides of the building, giving Sebastian a run for his money.
“Where did this thing come from? You were right Sebastian, I’m sorry. This wasn’t your fault.”
Sebastian practically cooed. “At least this gives us a chance to stretch our legs!”
Tabitha was annoyed again. “I guess. You find anything interesting while I was out?”
“It’s the second best thing I’m good at! Follow me, but not too quickly…”
So, Tabitha followed Sebastian, nursing her aching head and watching as the sunset deepened. She couldn’t help but think that they had, at most, three days left before there was the 45 minute a year darkness that swallowed everything. You lost a limb if you were lucky. They both had been exceptionally fortunate.
They went around the structure, Tabitha trying to remain patient at Sebastian’s slow waddling. Eventually, they arrived at what looked like an old cemetery. Mounds of crushed rock dominated the space, dug up bones were everywhere. It had been pillaged. Tabitha sighed. She thought they had hit the jackpot, because even cemeteries were just treasure by a different name.
“The strip” was a curiosity of the bedlands, it was lined with abandoned military installations, and as a consequence radiated mystery and danger. Sebastian was driving silently, out of respect. Tabitha never feared this place, but she always appreciated the silence it delivered to her mobile home. She would gladly take steel monoliths over the bones of dead reptile gods.
As they passed the last of the installations, Sebastian sprung to life, giving her an affable smile.
“You know, I have to admit, I respect the hell outta that place, the strip I mean, but it scares the shit outta me.”
“Yep, I know. You’ve said that before. I thought about it well before you said anything. Guess that makes me a psychic, huh?”
Sebastian looked over at Tabitha in anger, but didn’t say anything. She was accurate with her pistol, and there was no way to deny that without putting your life in jeopardy. She was concentrating on the sunset, which was currently in its 300th day.
“The night will come soon, in another day or two, and then you’ll see I’m right about some things.”
They were faced with a flat patch of desert. There was nothing except cacti and dunes for miles. Maybe the odd rattlesnake eating a titmouse. Sebastian glanced over at Tabitha right before he crashed the buggy into a steel wall.
“Dammit, Sebastian,” Tabitha said before passing out. She wanted to say “fuck you” but didn’t have the strength nor the awareness to do so. Let the old man dance on his victory, his moment will come.
Tabitha looked down at the blister backs congregating below.
“I hope you’re not thinking of a crazy solution.”
“Crazy?! No, I can’t afford crazy anymore. That’s why your here, you can handle the ‘crazy’ with a level head.” The beasts were stirring faster, working themselves up into a terrifying frenzy. Tabitha balled her fists so that she wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the noise.
“I’m not going to waste my energy trying to understand that. Just drive, old man!”
“I may be old, but I can still floor the gas pedal!” The dune buggy sped forward, then downward, and Tabitha took out her silver pistol, aiming for the blisters quivering with fluid. She tried to shoot most of the beasts before they collided with the dune buggy. Unfortunately, some of them were able to connect their bony hands to the vehicle.
“Dammit!” Tabitha said.
“Just remember, keep that level head on your shoulders!”
Tabitha dodged a bony hand, and aimed for that precious blister. Both her and Sebastian were covered with green, sound generating goo. It writhed and made its presence known.
“See, Sebastian, this is what happens when you talk!”
Sebastian grunted and cursed as they reached the bottom of the next hill, and he grimaced before he spoke. He just had to say “Warning! We’re going up the throat!”
Tabitha ducked and watched as the last blister back took an ancient dinosaur bone to the throat. They were going up the throat of a skeletal lizard, its predatory abilities were gone, but it was the conduit to a better part of the world. Tabitha sat back and sighed. The blister backs wouldn’t follow past that bony divide.
“Even the blister backs respect the gods,” Sebastian said. “Nice shootin’ back there,” he turned and gave her a wink. It wasn’t a creepy one, just addled as fuck. Tabitha looked out her side of the buggy, enjoying the sunset as it drenched the desert strip ahead.
Ol’ Sebastian drove his dune buggy to the edge of the hill, staring down at the windswept magnificence below. Something peculiar was happening today, nothing earth shattering or anything…just different.
The mutated things writhing below seemed agitated, as if some natural force had awakened them. Nature wasn’t taken to kindly ’round these parts. His partner, in survival at least, Tabitha, looked at him, gauging his reaction. She was used to doing this with Sebastian. He was a brave man, but no more than any other inhabitant of the bedlands, in fact, Sebastian was older than most, and had much less to lose. In that sense, he might have a lower than average level of bravery.
“They call this place the bedlands…because…because if you fall asleep at the wrong time, this giant bed of sand will become your grave,” Sebastian said.
“I know. I’ve heard this story more times than you have grey hairs. In fact, it’s not really much of a story, there’s no proper beginning, no middle, and the ending is stupid.”
“You live, you die. That’s your plot right there.”
“I’d rather die than listen to your justification for that non-story for the thousandth time.”
“You say that, but you like it. I know you do. Familiar things are comfortable.”
There was a sound below, like thunder ripping through the ass of a dead god. This was the creatures’ way of reminding you that you had forgotten them. Sebastian and Tabitha looked at each other, not scared so much as wondering how they would get out of this brutal existence and move on with life.