The biker joined the shadows as he killed the motorcycle's headlight and turned onto the small dirt road. Soon he would reach the abandoned silo, the meeting place.
A low rumbling, more felt than heard by the man, emanated from the machine beneath him. It was the background music set to the beating of the biker's heart. The harmony that existed between the two sounds could not be articulated to an outsider: only the man and the machine understood the connection; and perhaps the bike's previous owner, the one who had constructed it.
A sudden drop in the temperature preceded a change in the landscape behind him. Drifting in from the neighboring wetlands, like ghostly fingers emerging from the underworld to seek out the living flesh, was a veil of fog, thin and wispy. Within moments, the fog crept its way through the trees and onto the slice of road to his back.
The end of the biker's battered leather coat rose up on either side as if to shield him from the ominous phenomenon that was now trailing behind him at a steady pace. Silver light playing hide and seek between the trees' branches only added to the feeling of menace dominating the air that evening on the way to meet his contact. When he was clear of the trees and the spidery shadows that had been temporarily cast upon him, he lifted his vintage aviator goggles and rested them on his forehead; the gold reflective lenses captured the moon, now only days away from waxing full, and reflected it back into the wold; a scene that was reminiscent of the nights when the wolf's eyes reflected the lantern light of an unsuspecting villager.
Passing through the night's silky haze, the man and his machine continued onward, drawing nearer to their destination with each turn of the chopper's wheels. Occasionally the haunted wail of a common loon could be heard from somewhere behind them: a temporary break in the night's eerie silence. After a few large fields had gone by in the biker's peripheral vision, a strange orange glow appeared on the horizon, followed by the silo's dark silhouette.
The biker swore under his breath as he swerved to avoid hitting a raccoon that was sitting in the middle of the road, feeding on what was left of the night's big catch: a fish. He then turned and passed through a pair of open gates. When he reached the silo, he parked the chopper and waited for his contact.
A glimpse of movement from the corner of his eye quickly snatched his attention away from the horizon and focused it to the right. Someone-or something-was standing between the open doors of the dilapidated barn next to the silo.
"That better be you, Rance."
A figure stepped out of the shadows of the barn and into the moonlight.
"Of course it's me," said the contact, cautiously making his way toward the bike. "Who else would be crazy enough to meet your paranoid ass out here in the middle of nowhere?"
The biker snorted. "Whatever. And just so you know, I ain't got time for chitchat.
"You got what I came for?"
Rance laughed; the sound was thick and oily. "You should learn to lighten up a-little, Merrick. Take things easy, ya know?"
"No, I don't," grunted Merrick. Then: "But I do know my shit better be pure this time, or else-"
"I'll never get over how stealth your ride is," Rance interrupted. He reached toward the bike. "It must make it a helluva lot easier to creep up on demons and other scum."
"Yeah," said Merrick, quickly grabbing the other man's wrist before he could touch the chopper's ape hangers, "or rats hiding in barns."
The bike growled; it was the first real audible sound the chopper had made since passing a busload of bingo groupies earlier that evening.
"That wasn't a very nice thing to say," said Rance as he tried to step away from the bike, which was now sitting quietly once again.
"I ain't on this planet to play nice, especially with you." Merrick then dropped Rance's wrist and looked toward the horizon.
Rance followed Merrick's gaze. "They're burning railroad ties," he told the biker. "There's tracks about half a mile up the road you were just on."
Merrick turned his pale green eyes on Rance who was looking at the empty field behind him. "Is there something behind me that interests you?" Merrick asked, lowering the high collar of his coat and looking over his shoulder.
"See?" said Rance. "That's what I'm talking about: paranoid."
The biker turned to face his contact again. "Yeah, well, I've got plenty of reasons to be."
The other man cupped his hands and lit a cigarette, then flashed Merrick a smile over crooked, yellow teeth. "Don't worry . . ." He blew smoke in Merrick's direction. "I got what you came for. The question is,"- he took another drag-"do you have what I came for?"
Merrick waved a hand in front of his face before pulling out a wad of bills and holding it up between two fingers. The contact reached for the bills, but the biker pulled them out of reach at the last second. "You've seen mine, now let's see yours."
Rance clenched the cigarette between his teeth and checked his pants' pockets. Finally he pulled out a crystal vile containing a slimy, dark substance and handed it to Merrick. "I had to call in some really big favors just to get my hands on a couple of ounces of that shit," he informed the biker. "You should be paying me double."
"Well I ain't, so forget it." Merrick snatched the vile, opened it, and sniffed its contents; his head jerked back involuntarily as the pungent smell lurking within burned its way up his nostrils.
"Pure enough for ya?" asked Rance.
Merrick nodded and handed him the money.
Rance took the wad and counted it while Merrick put a few drops of the gorgon's blood into the bike's tank. When he was sure that every penny he had earned was accounted for, he secured the bills in a money clip and slipped them into his pocket.
He glanced nervously behind Merrick.
The biker corked the vile, put it away, and wiped a hand over his bald head. "You gonna let me in on what's about to happen? Or just let me be surprised?"
Rance flashed him another crooked smile and shook his head. "Paranoid . . . paranoid . . . paranoid."
"Really?" Merrick raised all six feet and three inches of himself off of the chopper and grabbed his contact by the throat. "How's this for paranoid? If you've set me up, you're gonna be the first one to die."
"Relax, man," choked Rance. "I'm not gonna mess with you. We've known each other too long . . ."
Merrick released his grip and motioned for Rance to be quiet. "Hear that?" he asked.
"Hear what?" said Rance, trying to conceal a slight tremor in his voice.
The biker, unbuttoning the tapered torso of his coat, listened for a second longer. The customized two-headed Egyptian battle ax harnessed to his back tugged at his instincts, begging to be unleashed. "It sounds like a saw," he told Rance.
The contact laughed nervously. "Maybe some lazy redneck's out coon huntin."
Merrick punched Rance in the nose. "Or maybe it's an ambush."
The buzzing noise grew louder as Rance wiped the blood from his nose and got to his feet. When he tried to speak again, a swarm of blue locusts emerged from the fog behind Merrick and entered his mouth. He fell back to the ground, his throat and torso swelling as hundreds of the large insects made their way down into his stomach, which quickly filled up, then exploded in a spectacular spray of blood and guts.
With a flip of the kickstand, Merrick let the bike know it was time to ride.
The chopper raced from the silo with the biker at its controls. When it reached the road, Merrick turned it in the direction of the train tracks, away from the fog.
There was the popping sound of gravel beneath the motorcycle's tires, accompanied by the sound of the swarm giving chase. With the help of his silent machine, the biker was soon able to close the distance between him and the tracks, but just as he was about to cross them, the swarm passed overhead and gathered on the other side, forcing him to make a sudden sharp turn to the right. Driving smoothly over the new railroad ties that had replaced the old ones, he glanced over his shoulder to check on his pursuers' progress.
"Merrick!" a voice shrieked.
The biker brought the chopper to a halt as a female demon with blue, scaly skin and shining black eyes emerged from the flames; the flames wrapped themselves around her like a evening gown as she stepped onto the tracks and turned to face him.
Merrick watched the last of the locusts crawl up her elongated skull and fill in the missing runes that were tattooed around her head like a crown.
The demon smiled. "Oh, Merrick, you just look so,"-she licked her black lips with her long snake-like tongue-"yummy."
Merrick let the bike rest on its kickstand. "Well," he said, "I know I gotta taste a helluva lot better than that nasty little rodent back there."
Cool and collected, he reached behind him and withdrew the ax hidden beneath his coat; the silver blades at both ends of the ax's retractable handle shimmered in fire and moon light. "But then again, that's probably what a snakey bitch like you is used to eating."
Hela hissed and thrust her hand out in front of her, sending a swirl of flaming wasps in his direction.
Merrick jumped from his bike and rolled through the flames. With a slight jerk of his hand, the battle ax extended and he got to his feet, prepared to attack. But before the insects could reach him, a colony of bats swooped down and ate them.
The demon let go a maddening shriek which set the bats ablaze. When her hand was once again restored to her, she smiled seductively and used it to blow him a fiery kiss.
Merrick spun the ax around and around, gathering the flames together before sending them back to her in a big ball. As soon as she had absorbed the element that was the source of her power, Merrick used the ax to vault through the air. He planted both feet in the center of her chest, sending her flying backward over his bike. He then leapt from the chopper's seat with the ax held over his head.
The demon jumped to her feet with a quickness that was so unnatural Merrick felt his heart skip a beat. Her arms then ignited into two blazing whips. Taking away his weapon with one arm, she grabbed him by the ankle with the other and pulled him back to the earth. Laying on his back, vulnerable and without his weapon, Merrick directed all of his energy to his right leg and kicked her in the face, causing her head to spin around, before kicking her in the stomach. A guttural cry was immediately wrenched from him as his foot became temporarily ensnared in her midsection. The agony he experienced for those few brief seconds was so excruciating that he thought for one horrifying moment he would pass out. Pushing beyond the pain, he reached into his coat and pulled out a small decorative bottle filled with clear liquid.
"Hey, baby, how about a little something to cool things down a notch?" The biker removed the bottle's cork with his teeth and took a drink of the holy water inside, then spit it in her face. Screaming and cursing the biker's name, she released his foot and backed a few steps away from him.
Merrick got to his feet. Keeping his eyes on the demon's face, which was steaming and beginning to crack, he laid the bottle on the railroad tie between them; a seemingly endless supply of water flowed from it, creating a small stream as he retrieved his ax and split the demon from her skull to her naval.
Hela grabbed the ax and tugged, sinking the blade deeper into her midsection and bringing him over the stream of water between them. After pulling the ax from her stomach and tossing it aside, she melded both halves of her body together. Next she took in a deep breath and tried to unleash the Furies' Scream, but the mysterious fog moved onto the tracks, veiling Merrick before the blue flames and high-pitch shriek could reach him.
"Stop interfering!" she shouted up at the sky.
Above them a single lightening bolt lit up the heavens, followed by the sound of rolling thunder and the whistle of an approaching train.
The demon, her eyes burning with hate, spoke in the tongue of the damned as she once again focused her anger upon Merrick. Hissing blasphemies between her fangs, she lunged toward him.
Merrick quickly withdrew five of the darts made from the bark of a joshua tree from his belt and began to throw them. Their tips, filled with holy water, pierced her scaly skin and entered her heart, turning her into a pile of ash that fell unceremoniously to the ground.
The biker grabbed his ax and twisted its handle, causing it to retract until the blades at either end were touching, then he slipped it into the harness on his back. A second moon growing on the horizon and a heavy vibration coming from the tracks let him know that the train would be along shortly to collect the demon's ashes and scatter them across the earth; an important task if she was to be forever banished beyond the realm of the flesh.
The fog around him began to dissipate as he straddled the bike's seat. Just when he was about to turn the chopper around, he noticed something on its tank. Pulling a rag from his back pocket, he got off of the bike and knelt down beside it. "Damn, Rance, why'd you have to go and funk-up my ride?" The biker wiped the blood and bone from the chopper's black tank, revealing the word MUTT spelled out in silver paint beneath. He then got back in the saddle and began driving down the middle of the tracks in the opposite direction of the train. Behind him, the conductor blew the train's whistle.
After the old-school chopper had built up enough momentum, Merrick shifted it into sixth gear and disappeared from the train conductor's view.