The woman’s hoots came again, long and high. Rab howled in response. He ran faster, leaping rusting hulks and rubble, when he heard the howls of other men answering her summons. The calls echoed through the broken city
Deep in Rab’s gut, the woman’s call corkscrewed releasing his lust. He passed Sam, who snarled but slowed, letting Rab lead. They left the cracked, weed-infested roads and reached the tree-lined square. Men howled from the dappled shadows all around.
The woman ghosted through the trees, a moonlit phantom of pale fire, then up the steps to stand by the Broken Column. She stood tall and scanned the square with grey-green eyes. Seven men had obeyed her call. They circled below, cautious.
Rab recognised Fred, young, arrogant and stupid, strutting forward. He’d heard the fool had stolen from the Destroyers. The robots had lasered a whole family in retribution, including the sole child. Every death was hard when so few were born.
‘What do they call you?’ Fred asked.
‘Cay.’ Her pale hair rippled in the breeze.
‘Well, Cay – I’m Fred the Fearless.’ He slapped his thin chest. Seventeen and never mated. ‘Everyone knows and respects me. In fights, I’m unbeatable. Before the Destroyers, I’m smoke. Grown men fear me.’
‘Squeak, squeak, squeak.’ Craig sneered. ‘The terror of the rat runs isn’t fit to eat the shit of real men.’
‘I disagree,’ said Sam. ‘Fred’s welcome to my shit anytime. But Fred the Fearless should get his arse out of here.’ Sam nodded at Rab and shrugged.
‘I don’t run.’ Fred bragged.
‘He crawls – rat-like.’ Craig grinned.
Though he stood in a tree’s shadow, Rab felt Cay’s gaze. Her eyes held moonlight.
‘Fred.’ Rab strode into the light. ‘The night’s a big place. Go hide in it.’
‘Make me – shit-eater.’
Rab scowled, ready. Fred leaped, teeth bared, fists extended. Grabbing his arm, Rab pulled, span and flipped Fred into the air. He crashed hard and bone cracked. Dazed and bleeding, Fred whimpered.
Rab turned to Cay and the anger fell away. Her face played on his senses and hunger took his breath. But then another man came forward, moving like a seasoned veteran.
‘I’ll fight for the woman,’ he said.
‘I’ve done that, stranger.’
‘I’m Red and I’ve come too far to talk, friend. This is fist and foot business.’
‘Then let’s do some business.’ Rab grinned.
They circled, mirroring stance and move, eye to eye. Red kicked out, Rab dodged then darted under his reach to punch. Red grabbed and squeezed him, Rab drew blood with teeth and twisted free.
As the moon tracked across the sky, Rab’s ferocity wore at Red till dismay registered in his eyes. Staggering, Red gritted his teeth.
‘He’s had enough, Rab,’ said Sam.
‘Well, Red?’ Rab stepped back.
‘The woman’s yours,’ Red gasped.
‘If there’s no more of this fist and foot business…’
All the men lowered their eyes.
‘Good.’ Rab walked toward the woman.
Cay smiled. ‘So, now you’re mine. Let’s make some life.’
Let me know if you enjoyed this
R B Watkinson