“Mommy, is everything alright?” Lira’s small voice emerges from the darkness of the back seat.
“Everything is just fine, baby,” Beatrix replies, her eyes are trained on the two beams of light cutting through the ink like darkness of the Badlands.
Everything isn’t fine. They have a flat tire and it isn’t safe to stop in the Badlands. If it was just her, Beatrix would have tried her luck, but with Lira, she doesn’t want to take any chances.
Without warning, the car comes to a stop. Beatrix curses under her breath. The gauge isn’t working and she forgot to stop at the last gas station before the Badlands to fill the tank up.
How can I be so stupid, she thinks as she reaches for her cellphone.
Cellphones and two way devices don’t work here, no signals, but Beatrix has to try. Perhaps, she’ll get luck and get through to Philip, her partner.
“Mommy, who is that strange man by your window?”
Beatrix looks up to see a large mound of rags with a white face peering into the car. Its attention was focused more at the back seat than at her.
It was a gympsan, a man who had entered the Badlands of his free choice and remained, lost in the maze. Those who entered this patch of Earth by foot never leave, forever following illusions of their heart’s desires, never attaining them, always going mad.
For this reason, no one stopped in the Badlands while driving to the Capitol. They didn’t want to be attacked nor did they want to go mad, forever lost in the world of illusions.
Beatrix reaches for the hunting knife she keeps in her bag. It isn’t illegal to kill a gympsan when protecting oneself.
As he hand wraps around the hilt, her window explodes, shards of glass raining down on her. A screech fill the silence that follows and the mound of rags collapses.
Beatrix leans out of the window, staring at the gympsan. It’s dead, she thinks. But how?
“Mommy, can we go, now?” Lira’s voice pierces the silence and Beatrix’s thoughts.
She looks into the darkness where her daughter sits, green glowing eyes looking back at her. Beatrix hears the click of a safety being engaged.
“Daddy wants us to come home.”
Beatrix stares at her daughter. The green glow fading ’til all she sees is darkness. Turning back to look out at the Badlands through the windscreen, she turns the key. By the grace of Zeus, the car starts.
They just might make it out.