The Hunt by Matt Lao (Page 1)

          Another day had gone by. The sun desperately hung onto the distant horizon, bathing the scorched landscape in orange rays of light. The patchy gray grasslands were masked by a facade from space; this broken husk remained stunningly beautiful. The few low hills which remained stood as lonely monoliths, their shadows providing safe haven from hellish temperatures- and serving as a cradle for whatever Darkness may fester in them. Colonies of cacti huddled together in fear of the brooding desert trees, as their bone-like branches extended to the heavens in a vicious declaration of existence, or perhaps a cry for salvation. Any gust of wind was reborn into ghostly whispers that pestered the ear, like mosquitoes that salivate over the smell of human and awoken blood. It was here, in the valley of two dead, dry piles of dirt, where the humble town of Dune Harrow rested.

            Dune Harrow would seem a pathetic excuse for a town, even during the time of the Collapse. The streets were cobbled together into imperfect squares, with dirt roads and pathways sometimes leading to another, sometimes leading straight away from this small candle of civilization. Each building was clearly painted by the sun, with time showing the constant bombardment of intense photons that crash against the roofs and walls. On most days, Dune Harrow covered its own mouth; the only exceptions were the little peeps of banter between citizens, and the shouts of the occasional street fight. However, this day was different. This day, the thrum of two custom-painted jet bikes sang to the undead town. Shark teeth adorned the bodies of the roaring machines. The engines pushed through to the center of Dune Harrow, their riders dismounting at the only tavern in town.

            The outsiders pushed through the hinged double door of the tavern, and scanned its patrons. The room was choked with half-dressed drunkards. The tables held hostage by grizzled men and women; most of them brandished either terrible scars or missing appendages. Unlike the rest of the town, people in the tavern actually smiled. It took only a few seconds for all the patrons to recognize the two outsiders, and the patrons had stared at the outsiders; some with dead expressions, others with mouths wide open. The citizens of Dune Harrow individually agreed on the identities of the two figures that dared step foot in their sacred place.

            The first figure wasn’t too far off in appearance from the rest of the town. His face was obscured by a simple visor and bandana, his entire head was hooded. On the back of his brown vest rested a gray cape which extended down to his knees. His pants sported a gunslinger’s best friend; a kit-bashed, spring-mounted holster and a bandolier of bullets around his waist. A silvered revolver rested by his hip, at the ready.

            The second figure was far different than the first. She was taller, and her ornate boots only reached halfway to her knees. Her legs were wrapped in loosely fit black pants. Rather than a vest for protection, or a cloak for respite from the deathly sun, she wore a black, flowing robe which bore resemblance to an excessively long trench coat. On the collar of the robe were two golden pins. The figure’s helmet was an asymmetrical glass visage wrapped in cloth and adorned by a mangled crown. The only part of the figure that was exposed were her sky-blue hands. The stranger wasn’t even armed. Across from the entrance, seated at the bar, was the only man who’d been unfazed by the grand entrance of the two interlopers.

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