111 – Toll

“Shit! That one was really close.” She thought. Then she turned around and saw the twisted mess between the front of the pickup and the side of the highway.

“Oh, fuck! So that’s how I end? Smashed against the railing thanks to some stupid drunken hillbilly boy on his dad’s pickup?”

She came closer to take a look at her own dead face. Her eyes were still wide open and she had an almost manic smile. “At least whoever finds me will know I was having a great time before I got swatted by that asshole I guess.”

Her words gave her little comfort. She wasn’t actually sad, just really angry. Here she was, enjoying her freedom now that Brian had finally managed to fuck over someone with friends more dangerous than his, and the countdown on her karma reaches zero, just like that.

The deep rumbling sound of a Harley came to a halt behind her. A tall man in black leathers and snake-skin boots unsaddled and walked over to inspect the mass of broken flesh and metal with the air of a connoisseur appreciating a fine work of art.

“Way to go, kid. You really had to make a grand exit, huh? You do make a beautiful corpse, I’ll give you that… but I’m betting you must be REALLY pissed right now.”

“Well no shit, Sherlock. Whatever made you reach such a brilliant deduction?”

The stranger turned to look straight at her, even behind his mirrored aviators she could feel his piercing eyes. Was he actually seeing her?

“It wasn’t that difficult, you’re standing here watching your own corpse with a look that could cut thru six-inch armor plating. That was a dead giveaway, pardon the pun.”

“What… tha… hell? You can see me? How the devil…”

“Pretty damn well, thank you. And even though I do have other means I prefer my eyes for that particular task.”

“Figures…” She thought. “I was never really heaven material anyway.”

The stranger walked back to his black and chrome chopper and saddled up again. The low purr of the engine when he turned the key sounded like a tempting siren song.

“So, ready to roll?”

“Fuck that shit! I’m not bitch-riding for anyone. You wanna take me to hell? You get me my own wheels or fuck off.”

The stranger let out a deep loud laugh. “That’s the spirit! I wasn’t expecting any less from you. What if I told you I’m not here to take you anywhere?”

“What? I’m not bad enough for hell or something?”

“Sister, if I wanted you in hell I’d just send you to some little nowhere town, let you marry, have a bunch of kids and live a miserably dull and long life.”

“What the shit do you want from me then? Is this the part where you make me sign some shady contract in my own blood? Cause I’m really sorry to say it, but it kinda seems like I’ve almost ran out of ink over there.” She pointed towards the empty place where her busted Honda and body should have been.

“Huh? But I just…”

“Saw yourself splattered against the railing? Yeah, you did.”

For the first time in many years she found herself without a snappy answer, or any words at all.

“It might sound kinda weird to you, but I’m pretty fond of this little ball of muddy rocks, specially because all the things that make it interesting. You happen to be one of them. I just want you to keep riding and be your own chaotic and free self.”

“What’s the catch?” She was finally able to say.

“You can never settle down. These are my highways and that’s my toll.”

“Sounds fair enough.”

“I kinda thought it would.” He said, revving up the engine.

“Oh, and one more thing. I don’t do contracts. And who goes around signing things in blood? You know how stupid and unsanitary that is? I’ve always wondered how you people manage to come up with crazy shit like that.”

She just had to laugh. “You’re not at all what I expected, you know?”

“Nothing ever is, that’s exactly what makes life interesting.” He said, before tipping his cowboy hat and riding away.

The sun was hanging low in the sky as a black and red Honda raced across the empty desert highway towards the unexpected.

• • •

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