Listen to this post’s soundtrack.

Purple pavements
Crooked fingers knocking on windows without souls
Bodies are swinging from rooftops and poles
Howling through hollows
Restless nights and one night cheap hotels
Oh, I’m only drifting to always come back

It was still raining- had been since the battle at the plantation, but now Bravo shook with thunder instead of Mustang’s mortars. A bolt of lightning slammed into the ground outside the Last Chance Saloon, trees reflecting violet brilliance and the Vegasian on the porch instinctively dodged away, acrid ozone filling her nostrils before she realized she wasn’t under direct attack.

A string of colorful expletives rushed in a torrent from crimson lips. Rajah placed a hand to her racing heart and slumped against the stone pillar, glad no one else was within sight. She had a shiny new reputation to protect and appreciated no one seeing her try to dodge lightning ineffectively. The panic racing through her body now reminded her too keenly of what she really was. Beneath fancy clothes and a fancier name, despite her ruthless ambition and sly secrets, she was still a creature ruled by fear.

After a moment, her breathing slowed. She wiped the sheen of sweat from her skin and fixed her smile on her face. Mask mended, she cruised on, a sandshark looking for smaller sharks to prey on.

Love I laid in payments
Stars with stains and heaven and afterglow
Beneath the ashes of echoes buried alive
They are howling through hollows
Once we share their temple of our arms

One by one the others had drifted away – Sister-Priest in Red, Gentle-Lady in Pink, Whore-Brother in his jester’s cap and the Rainbow woman who had watched Rajah with eyes like a hawk, studying her technique with all the softness and finesse of an armordilla. Now it was just she and he, the diminishing space between them filled by breathing and hesitation.

Afterwards she picked her guise off the brothel floor and slid it back over her head, checked that his was neatly tied around his neck, a colorful noose. They had negotiated their relationship with the ruthlessness of cutthroat merchants, dispassionate and clinical. Now they exchanged thoughtful glances, both amused and dismayed at careful facades consumed by a fire they neither expected nor accounted for.

The fear still pulsed through her, but there was bittersweet promise too.

We are ruins within ruins
On every corner a gladiator is begging for another century
When no one cut your tongue to know nothing and to know it all
To be both the animal and god

Teeth sank into her shoulder and Rajah screamed, cries barely audible over the growling of the zed swarming the Saloon. Blood tinged the world red. She thought she saw LaSanya coming to save her but her relief shattered as her friend lunged at a fleeing citizen, the Iron’s gaze blank and absent.

“Sometimes you have to feel fear to know you are alive.” Astor had told her the night of the storm, when they’d rolled up their sleeves and gambled secrets, “I want us to be alive.”

Despair filled her as the feet of the undead obscured her view. She tried to curl up, to hide from their tearing fingers and gaping mouths. For the first time in her life she felt her skin shred and tear from her bones, the ground beneath her sticky with her own blood. Screams turned to sobs, growing fainter as she lay dying.

Then Moody was there, yanking her from their grasp and pouring liquid life down her throat. “Run. Live.” the retrograde growled behind his mask, turning to wade back into the horde.

She would.

There are echoes in the garden is anybody listening
There are ghosts lost in the garden is anybody listening
They whisper:
The ones who are only living are the ones who are only dying


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