I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out, but when I opened my eyes I calculated that it couldn’t have been long. The flames were still roaring nearby, filling the air with black smoke and the smell of gasoline. I touched my head where streams of blood had painted one whole side of my face and forced myself up onto my hands and knees.
In the chaos, it appeared that the Sandcats and Metalheads had stopped their wild frenzy. It was all a bit of a blur, but among the smoke and dust, I could see other vehicles. Black vehicles armored with metal plating, but all different sizes and seemingly made for different purposes. There were a couple of bikes with wide wheels for the sand and there were three cars. On their grills were chains and what looked like tusks and various ornaments I’d never seen before.
When I caught a clear glimpse of one of the women, she was dressed in a faded, black coat, fitted more elegantly than any Metalhead I’d seen, that was blowing with grace in the breeze. She wore only a scarf over her mouth. The flesh and thick hair on her scalp said she wasn’t infected…until she adjusted the angle of her head and I saw the subtle glisten of silver scratched across her cheekbone, almost like jewelry.
“Privrak!” one of the Metalheads roared over the wind, raising a machete over his head.
The woman was looking toward the Sandcats just as one of them sped toward her and the other newcomers. I noticed a man separating himself from the others, walking toward the Metalheads unarmed and with a casual sway in his step. I watched as he stood carelessly in the path of the charging car. Turning his shoulder, the man braced himself and the Sandcat plunged into him. Like two large rams comparing the size of their horns, the two masses collided. The grill of the vehicle bent around the man’s body. As his feet were pushed backwards across the ground, against the force, the Sandcat came to a stop. The rest of the men in black fired on the remaining Metalheads, tearing them to shreds with an onslaught of bullets.
I couldn’t fully understand what I was watching, but when I heard the metallic grunts behind me, I turned with a new objective in mind. I saw the Metalhead in his burned coat and melting shoulder armor pulling himself from the wreckage of his car, dragging blood over the sand with his maimed body.
I pushed myself to my feet with a growl, fighting the mutilated flesh on the bottoms of my feet, and forced myself toward him, the axe still in hand as if it had been sewn to my fingers. I reached down, dismissing the heat of the fire, and grabbed the collar of his coat, pulling him across the ground until I was clear of the flames. Tearing off his mask to see the deformed monstrosity beneath it and one eye that could still see my face, I crouched over him and dragged the blade up his legs.
“Where is he?” I snarled, resting the blade over his groin. “The man with the scar. Telhish amas dei verr!?”
The man spit a mouthful of blood toward my face, splattering my cheek. “Neign,” he grunted, smiling with red teeth.
I shook with anger over the word. “Never” was not something I tolerated well, especially from the lips of those toxic creatures. I drew back the axe and threw the blade against his groin with a shout. The first time it sliced through bone. The second swing tore through his organs, turning them to shreds inside of him and I reveled in his helpless writhing as it did. He screamed, but his screams turned to gurgles as the blood pooled in his mouth and once they stopped I let go of the blade and stood over his body, trembling with fury...or dehydration. I couldn’t tell anymore. Perhaps both.
Looking up, I saw the man from the other party again through the haze as he walked across the sand, searching the site. His mouth was covered behind a thin, black scarf that was draped over his head like a hood, but his eyes were exposed. Around them, his skin was silver as if encased in metal. He looked across the clearing at me while he walked, removing his hood. His figure was unclear through the distorting heat waves rising off the flames, but I could see quite clearly as his skin returned to flesh, the metal withdrawing into a patch of silver that was splashed along one of his temples. That splash remained there, embedded in his skull, even when the metal on his face had disappeared. It stretched back along the side of his head where his hair had been shaved off partway.
The man looked at me briefly before my vision wavered again. I could see a hesitation in his step as if he was surprised. A few steps more and he stopped, turning to me. My fingers tingled like electrical charges were climbing through my bloodstream, crawling up my arms and into my chest. The man took a step toward me from twenty yards away, but my body, suddenly unable to support my weight, collapsed without warning. I couldn’t even remember hitting the ground. Only that the sky was above me, raining the sunlight down on my cheeks.
GENESIS comes out July 26th, 2020.