VOLUME INDEX


 
A halloween tribute for Mill Ave and Phoenix -- revisiting an old legend, updated for a gritter era.



 
 
 




Vex just shook her head and turned out onto the main road. Soon, she found herself driving a lonely stretch of road, mountains rising into the bleak and empty sky on one side, and the fading lights of civilization flickering in and out of visibility through the hills to her right. The pair in the back continued to ignore the rest of the world as they clawed and pawed each other urgently. Vex restrained herself from checking the journey log, wondering if the drop-off was a motel.

The kids in the back weren’t up for conversation, so Vex turned Jason’s attention back to the story about the Indian.

“When I went to see my uncle Bill to ask about this guy, he told me a lot of stuff,” she said. “But there’s some things that I don’t quite get. If it’s the same headless guy from the story, then something must have changed recently.”

“What do you mean?”

“Apparently he prowls starless nights, and in twenty, maybe thirty years, he hasn’t attacked anyone. Until recently. Like you said, four people have been run off the road by this guy. Something changed.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t like cabbies.” Jason sniggered, a sound that broke off into coughing. “Ugh, I still can’t laugh.”

“That’s odd too.” Vex drummed her fingers on the dash and took a deep breath. “If I were him, I would be attacking truck drivers...”

The deep thrumming tempo of almost hoof beats brought her attention to the foreground. Her eyes flickered up to the rearview mirror, the road ahead was completely empty, the road behind as well—with the exception of a single approaching light. It grew larger, casting rainbows in the mirror, as she watched.

“Ah hell,” she said under her breath.

“What’s up?” Salter asked.

“Jason… what road were you on when you got hit?”

“Chandler.”

Vex checked one of the passing road signs to be sure. “I think we have a problem.”

“It’s him?”

She pulled the compartment between the seats open and snatched up a magical tool she has secreted there. The carefully edged bit of obsidian, inscribed with transmutation sigils, pressed coolly against her palm—it warmed with dramatic suddenness when she focused on it. A crawling tingle prickled along the flesh of her hand.

“Talk to me, what’s going on?” Salter said.

“Hoof beats,” she replied. “Just like you described. I’m willing to bet this is the Indian.”

“You are serious. Vex, listen to me,” Salter said, “get out of there. Turn off the road.”

“Too late for that.”

The booming cadence of the motorcycle had reached a grand crescendo as the cycle came up astride the cab. Vex turned to look. None of the stories told nor the vision through the side mirror had given the Indian and his bike good credit. He was a mountain of a man, covered head—well, neck—to toe in leather. His body swathed in flapping midnight black material that appeared new and tattered all at once. The sheer presence of the man on the motorcycle brought it an edge of preternatural violence.

The shoulders swayed as the Indian looked at her; Vex returned the missing stare, daring him to challenge her.

She squeezed her hand tight around the obsidian. Ethereal light spread through the cab as withering magical energies wreathed her hand with pluming azure light. The wards set into the bulletproof windows writhed in her mage-vision, eagerly waiting contact—like the spines of a porcupine they primed themselves for attack.

But the Indian did nothing. When Salter encountered him, he had tried to race him. The headless nothing seemed to be considering her carefully. After that moment of consideration the motorbike slowed—the hoof beat drumming slowing with it—and fell away from the cab.

Vex tried to track him in her rearview and side mirrors. “What is he doing—”

WHAM! A giant fist came down on the trunk of her cab. Primed like springs, magical wards exploded.

“You did not just hit my cab!” she yelled.


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