~chapter 14~
Pursued by Flames, We Achieve the Horizon

I am the angel of death. My wake is a wild streak of flame. The sun, a grey disc behind a curtain of smoke. All life shudders at my approach. Destruction shadows my every footfall. I care for naught but the task at hand. My mind is sharp. A jug of water bounces gently on the passenger seat. A thirty-gallon barrel of gasoline now shares the back of the ambulance with Father's body. The ice is gone, the aroma sours. Our needs are met. The remaining drive is short. I am Elk Undercarriage and I have almost reached the Pacific Ocean .

A tapeworm gnaws at my gut. I feel it grow with every passing mile. I can feel it undulate within my small intestine.

The scrub brush blurs by the liver spotted landscape. I point my pistol out the window and pull the trigger at every fuel station we pass. The explosions are grand: lava pours from Earth torn asunder, helpless mutts roll madly in vain efforts to choke their burning fur. And the people! They throw stones. They pound their eye-sockets. They curse the wind. They become smears in my mirror, ever smaller until—ploot—they're gone.

I have been taken by madness.

A helicopter hovers above me. An amplified voice speaks from on high:


The helicopter is from the FBI. They know my goal, and they wish to keep me from it. They fear me.

I reach my left arm out the window and fire blindly toward the sound of the chopper. An explosion billows through the atmosphere. The flaming chopper drops, tail-first into the desert sand. The blades strike the soil flinging the husk around like a desperate headless beast. A fragment of metal lodges into the rear door of the ambulance.

The were right to fear me.

I crest a hill and there it is: The ocean spreads before me in the misty blue of infant dreams. Tiny gulls hover on the horizon.

A sullied motorcycle pulls alongside the ambulance. A driver and passenger are both clad in black leather. The passenger points a harpoon gun at my head. She is a woman. Her hair trails behind her visored helmet. Her finger caresses the trigger. I crook my finger and beckon them closer. They are brave. The driver edges closer. They taste victory. I could reach out the window, into the buffeting wind, and touch the tip of the harpoon. Instead, I kick my door open. It hits the handlebar and sends the motorcycle into the ditch. Rider and driver slide across the highway.

Somehow, the rider rolls to a kneel and points the harpoon at the ambulance. I see this in the mirror. She pulls the trigger and falls forward. The harpoon travels an impossible distance and lodges itself into the left rear tire of the ambulance.

We come to a skipping halt. The ambulance is thru. I leap into the back, put Father across my shoulder and kick the door open. The gun is in my belt. The landscape is dotted with fire. My pursuers are expired. More shall follow. I carry Father twenty yards away from the steaming ambulance. A scorpion scampers out of the way as I lay him upon on the cracked ground.

I notice my nose is bleeding. Broken.

I aim the pistol at the windshield of our chariot and fire my last bullet. It strikes the barrel of fuel. I toss the pistol aside. The ambulance hops to its side and spills a lake of fire upon the road. Where I go, none dare follow.


The ocean is a half-mile distant. I begin with Father on my shoulders. When the burden becomes too great, I find a curled sheet of plywood and place him on it. I fashion a harness from a length of barbed wire. I fasten the ends of the wire to the board and wrap a loop around my belly. The burrs dig into my gut; the tapeworm is agitated.

Father's hands are fists. His eyes are open. The flies begin to gather. I must hurry.

I will my feet forward with my eyes. Blood seeps from my nose and splatters my shoes. I lean forward. My strides shorten. The soles of my shoes disintegrate. The burden grows heavy. The road disappears. I am walking upon sand. My feet leave stains on the ground.

A sound makes me raise my head. The waves curl and spill and crash at my feet.

We have made it.

Heavens be praised. There is a boat.

--Elk Undercarriage, April 2006

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