Episode 1- Dead Plains Drifters

Page 10

They raced East.

They raced east, constantly glancing behind, eating potato chips until they were sick.

"He must have stopped at the gas station," Eddie said. "I can't see their dust trail anymore."

"I figured they would. Their jeep had gas cans in the back."

"So?"

"So, they don't have infinite gas like us. They're most likely fueling up, eating the rest of those putrid hot dogs and harassing that stupid clerk."

"Will they hurt him?"

Bryce shrugged. "We gave him the chance to come with us."

They were quiet for a minute. "So what do we do now?" Eddie asked.

"We keep running. What else can we do?"

"He's faster than us."

"I know it."

"He'll catch us before he runs out of gas."

"I know it," Bryce said louder.

"We need a plan."

"So come up with one."

Eddie glanced around. There was no place to hide. No place to defend themselves. But as he looked, he saw... something.

"What is that up ahead?"

"Where?"

"The ground. Look at it. There's a long shadow. Straight in front of us."

"That's not a shadow. What's casting it?"

"We're almost on it."

Bryce leaned forward, straining at the slight difference in the shimmering desert air ahead. He scratched his head. "It almost looks like--"

The ground fell abruptly. The car hung airborne for a few seconds, then plummeted. They both screamed, disoriented and terrified. The tires hit the steep decline of a rocky hillside. Bryce slammed on the brakes. They slid on loose rocks, skidding and spinning down the hill. The car slid to a stop with its front pointed uphill. They both sat in silence, hearts pounding, staring up at the sky.

What the hell?

"What the hell?" Bryce cried out.

They were in a narrow canyon, invisible from the desert plain. The hill they sat on descended another two hundred feet, down to a lazy river. On the other side, there was a sheer cliff face. More cliffs rose to either side of them.

"How the hell didn't we see this?" Bryce asked.

"We're seeing it now."

"Well, we've got to get out of here." Bryce eased on the gas pedal. The car moved upwards a few inches, then the tires lost purchase and spun on the rocks.

"It's too steep," Eddie said.

"Get out and push," Bryce said.

"You mean, get below this car and hope it doesn't roll over me as it slides down this impossible slope."

"We've got to do something. They'll be here soon."

Eddie searched this unexpected valley. "You can drive along the side of the river," Eddie said, pointing down. "It looks flat there."

"We'd get trapped down there."

"If we go back up, we're going to have to cut north or south," Eddie said. "The troll will cut diagonally and catch us. But down here, who knows what we'll find."

Bryce growled and hit the steering wheel. "This sucks. I hate this."

They sat on the hill in indecision for half a minute. Finally, Bryce threw the car in reverse, backed down the hill, turned around and eased down the rocky incline to the river shore. "Upstream or downstream?" he asked.

"Upstream," Eddie said without hesitation.

"Why?"

Eddie shrugged. "Dunno. The sides look steeper downstream."

Bryce sighed hard and turned to the north, up river.

The way was difficult. The bank was rocky, and Bryce snaked around boulders and inched through narrow gaps. After their hundred-mile-an-hour race across the desert, it felt like they were crawling.

"Maybe they won't be able to track us on these rocks," Eddie said.

"They only need to know we came upstream. It's not like we can hide."

The bank narrowed, the cliff face to their left was entirely impassable.

They continued for a half hour, barely moving a mile. Finally, they reached a place where the bank was too narrow to pass. A narrow sandbar extended out into the river here. The river rocks high, the water turbulent around them.

"Now what, Einstein?" Bryce snapped.

Eddie searched. "There's more room on the opposite side. If we can drive across the sand there, there should be enough to--"

"There's no way we can cross that. We'll get stuck."

"But if we don't get stuck, we'll be safe on the other side. Cornelius might get stuck there, and--"

"Dude! The troll has a jeep."

Eddie sighed. "What else can we do?"

Bryce grit his teeth. He growled and threw the car into gear, edging towards the sandbar.

At first, it appeared to be working. The river was shallower and wider here than what they'd seen so far, and the sand extended three quarters of that way across.

"Come on," Bryce said, leaning over the wheel, gripping it tight.

They were halfway across when something buckled beneath them. "Shit!" Bryce shouted. The sandbar crumbled under their weight. As it collapsed, the river water pushed over it, causing more erosion until it collapsed completely. A rushing wave slammed into the car, drawing it away..

Eddie spun around, terrified, preparing to leap from the car. Bryce still gripped the wheel, furious now. "I am not losing this car!" he cried.

The car continued to drift downstream. It bounced around, swirling around rocks and wobbling on the current. Eddie prayed for a shallow spot to keep them from sinking.

"Uh, we're not sinking," Bryce said.

"What?"

"We're floating."

Eddie glanced around himself. Except for the water that sloshed into the car when the sandbar collapsed, they were dry.

"And the engine is still running."

"No it's..."

Bryce was right. The car was still running. Bryce gunned the engine as they drifted sideways. The car lurched forward in the water.

"I have an amphibious car," Bryce said, his face pale with wonder.

"Uh... wow."

Bryce tested the steering. He maneuvered the car so they were facing downstream. When he accelerated, they moved faster, shooting forward until they hit a rock and bounced sideways.

On the river

"Maybe you want to take it slow," Eddie suggested.

"Yeah, I uh..." Bryce's voice drifted off as his eyes rose to the side of the canyon.

There stood the troll

There stood the troll Cornelius, about halfway up the slope. He tugged on a huge plank lodged under his overturned jeep, trying to lever it upright. The troll, the girl and the blindfolded boy all stared down at the car boat, looks of shocked wonder on their faces. Eddie and Bryce were just as shocked.

This moment of mutual astonishment lasted for ten seconds. Then Cornelius roared. He shoved his beam in under the jeep, heaving with all his might. "Come on," he bellowed at the others. "Get this thing up so we can crush them!" As Eddie and Bryce disappeared around the corner of a cliff, Cornelius and his companions shoved the jeep back onto its tires.

Bryce and Eddie shared an awestruck glance. "I don't know if our situation has gotten better or worse," Eddie said.

Bryce accelerated gently. The river was calm and deep ahead, and he eased the car even faster.

"Do you think your car can fly?" Eddie wondered.

"Why should it?"

"I don't know. It can swim."

Around the next bend, the river grew shallower, water darting over low boulders beneath the surface. Bryce eased around them. "We need to find a way out of here," he said. "They'll catch up to us again if we don't."

As if on cue, the roar of the jeep echoed across the canyon. It tore around a cliff face, and screamed along the bank to come up beside them.

Bryce accelerated, and one of the car's tires bounced off a rock. Eddie spun to watch their pursuers. Cornelius glared with vicious intensity, the blindfolded boy sitting passively beside him, tiny in the huge seat. The pale girl stood up in back, gripping the handles of the machine gun. She grinned and took aim at the floating car.

next page...

page published 6/1/2016