'This Burning Man' is a story of criminals and bounty hunters in post-apocalyptic Arizona. It began life as a Nanowrimo project in 2015 and was serialised here as it was written.
20% of the unedited version of the book can now be read here for free, and the final edited novel can be bought for 99 cents/pence on the Amazon link below.
- Kris (Twitter: @KrisHolt1)
barely finished my prayer when the bad decided he wasn't going to
wait, and instead he came to me. I was leaning on the wall at the
precise spot where he came through it, and those hepped-up hillbilly
fellas are no more likely to stop for a wall than a Mack truck.
charge took the tazer out of my hand, so I had to stop him the only
other way I could. I stuck out my foot and he went right over it,
through the rusty metal barrier opposite and down the scaffolding,
all the way to the bottom.
feet down should've taken some sting out of him, but he didn't know
when to quit. He was up on his feet again and running out towards
the highway, and likely I'd have lost him if there hadn't been a
support pole right there. I slid down three stories and landed
slightly less than graceful, but it meant I could still give chase.
was a strong one, that was for sure, and pretty damn shrewd too. He
knew I was right behind him, and as he ran through the factory
complex he pulled at every storage container and loose piece of
machinery so they fell down behind him. I was hurdling and ducking,
and it was no surprise when he reached the central staircase well
ahead of me.
it up, Waylon,' I said.
you, asshole!' As I reached the top of the staircase, a pile of
pipes and other debris fell through the gap above. I stepped aside
and let it clatter past.
all just wasting my time, now.'
got all the time in the world,' he said. 'Just you wait and see.'
half-second later I was on a level with him. 'Your time is running
out. Best believe it.'
was gaining then but he skipped onto a gantry and swung himself up
before kicking one of the support bars out behind him. Instead of
following him up, I went along the same way and met him coming down.
stopped, gave me the eyes and then kicked out at me, sending me
sprawling. I was upright again in a flash, but he'd headed back
where he'd come from. I was three whole steps behind. This wasn't
my smartest move, as there was no room up there to swing a cat, but
goddammit, if he didn't jump
straight off the end, pull a damned somersault out of his ass and
grab onto a pulley that was swinging from the ceiling. By the time
my gun was in my hand, he'd circled around and was hanging directly
over a container of rubbish way down on the floor below.
This was the first time I'd seen Waylon still, and with his long arms
extended, every shining muscle and vein stood out for inspection. He
may have had greasy hair and a beard you coulda lived in, but a good
woman could have hosed him down, shaved him to the quick and maybe
made something of him. Right now he was looking down, gauging
distance, running everything over in his mind.
'Long way down,' I said, conversationally.
'Soft landing,' he replied.
'If you land on your head, maybe.'
There was a dumpster load of cardboard or paper or some similar shit
down there in the container below, but no way to tell how deep it
went. The thick layer of dust over all of it would probably count
for something. I could tell he wasn't so sure about it, though, else
he'd have already gone.
'Why in hell you chasing me anyway?' he said.
'You owe a man called Winters $500.'
'Fuck me, for real? Old Man Winters is a goddamn millionare.'
'I know, and he's got better things to do than chase your sorry ass.
I wouldn't be here, except you done screwed his daughter.'
'Why's it his fucking business what I do?'
''Cos a rich man don't want no hick grandkids,' I said.
Waylon adjusted his grip and I could tell he was struggling. 'You
ain't no better than me.'
'I ain't stupid enough to do the dirty with Missy Winters.'
He blinked back sweat. 'Hey now, it was her what got fresh with me,
'That's not what she says.'
'She got a whore mouth. I'm telling you, that's the truth.'
Waylon's denims were hanging loose off his shoulders. They probably
had a fortnight's wear in them, and were looking all the worse for
it. He had a dark stain on his chest, probably from spilling gas
while filling up his pickup.
'Are we done?' I said.
He looked at me, looked down one more time and then looked up again.
I saw his eyes, saw his jaw set. Saw his intention. 'One way or
another I gotta come down.'
'Aw, c'mon, Waylon, don't do nothing stupid, now,' I said.
'See you on the other side.'
'You're going to buy yourself a toe-tag,' I warned.
'Hang here or hang there, what's the difference?'
He had a point. 'Not much,' I said.
'When you see Old Man Winters again, tell him I gave it to her up the
wazzoo, and she loved every goddamn minute of it.'
I'll tell you I'm a lucky man, blessed even, but Waylon must have
paid his dues a hundred times in kind words, rosaries and votive
candles. He landed perfectly in the container, chucking up a dust
cloud that meant no chance of me getting a clear shot at him. I
thought for a moment about jumping for the pulley and swallow-diving
after him, but fortunately my love for the Good Lord doesn't compel
me to push my luck too far. I could hear Waylon's footsteps
disappearing deeper into the factory, and knew there was only one way
to head him off – I had to get to the pickup before he did.
I barrel rolled down the stairs and sprinted for the massive window
opposite. A round from the laser pistol cracked the frosted glass
ahead and then it was elbows up by my face, head down, hit and hope.
Hitting the glass with a crack and splintering the damn thing near
everywhere, I rolled out onto a balcony above the parking lot,
picking up all sorts of scratches, cuts and other happy things
that would have to wait until later. Right on cue, Waylon ran
beneath and I dropped down. I managed to catch him with a boot
between the shoulder blades and he went face first into a pile of
loose boards someone had stacked up by the outer wall. I hoped it
was less painful than it looked. Either way, this time he got up a
lot more slowly than before.
I popped a candy jack for energy. 'Give it up now. I'm right out of
He goggled at me. 'Who in hell are you, anyway?'
I tugged my jacket open, showed him the Guild badge. 'My name is
Phoenix. I'm working out of Hole Town.'
He hit me then, real fucking hard.
When everything had stopped spinning, I realized I'd fallen away to
one side. My jaw was throbbing but I was in too much pain to close
my mouth. Waylon wasn't done. He pulled my leg away to one side,
and then gave me one of his size twelves, right in the balls.
I think I maybe cried a bit, though honestly all I remember is things
going white and everything that wasn't my crotch ceasing to matter
for a while. When I stopped rolling around and whimpering, I saw
Waylon standing over me, lit cigarette in one hand.
'You asshole,' I said. 'My fuckin' kids ain't even been born yet and
already they're hurtin'.'
'Like you wouldn't have done the same to me.'
'I'm gonna do the same to you when I get a chance. Best believe it.'
I rolled upright and tested each of my teeth in turn with my
fingers. 'Goddamnit. You nearly broke my jaw.'
He punched me again, adding a whole new layer of pain to the ones I
was in already. 'See, you goddamn hunters think this is some kind of
game. You chase us down, slap us around and sell us back to your
bosses. We do a spell in the Pen, and in a year or two, go back to
our slave jobs and everything's forgiven. Well, fuck that. This is
our lives, man. I shouldn't have to go back to hell for you. I shouldn't have to go back
'If you don't wanna go in the Pen, maybe you should learn some
respect for other people's stuff.'
'Them same other people what do all the favours for me? Screw them,
and screw you. I'll do what I damn well want,' he said.
I've been to many places and done many things in the handful of years
since I left Twelve. Life is for the living, I truly believe that,
and I've been out, doing my very best to embrace that principle. I
got no fear of death. We're all on that road. But as I was lying
there, I couldn't help but think about my mom. Is this how it ended
for her? Down on her back, killed by some yahoo who got the drop on
Enough of thoughts like that.
My tazer and my gun were both gone, and I wasn't pulling a knife
unless Waylon did likewise. I struggled upright and spat a mouthful
of blood out into the desert. Someone once told me that a long time
ago, people prepared for battles by spilling their own blood in the
mornings before they started. Well, it weren't lunch time yet, and I
was done playing around.
'Come on,' I said, trying my best to assume a fighting stance even
though I was swaying slightly. 'Let's finish this.'
He gave me that look I love to see – that one where they're tired,
like dog tired. That one they use when they're beat in the mind.
'Damn it all,' he said, 'can't you just let me go?'
'Ain't payin' no bills that way,' I replied. The candy jack kicked
in, and then I was on him.