Sage had been in Portland five weeks when she saw the man with no face.

She’d been going to the Greyhound station at least every other day, playing her guitar for whatever anyone would give her. She played the stuff she knew she was good at: “Me & Bobby McGee,” “Friend of the Devil,” lots of Dead and old Dylan, a few old Hank Williams songs. She knew some Joan Baez but singing Joanie intimidated her, since at the time Sage adored her and didn't want to fuck up her songs. Sometimes a kid from Phoenix or New York or Maine or Albuquerque or Seattle (or, once, a couple of gypsy Phish phreaks with a flute and drum) would sit down and they’d trade songs, Sage would direct them to the friendliest blocks in downtown Portland, probably tell them about how every single night at around 4 AM huge water tankers drove through the city, spraying the shit and garbage and punks off the streets. Most of the time she watched them step off the bus and look around, amazed, like it was some alien civilization.

Portland vibes.

That, and she knew what a looooong damned bus trip was like: you’re moving but you’re still static. She liked hitchhiking, that was how she got here. You move at the speed the earth moves, constantly moving, walking and walking, living through pure karma. Even if karma didn’t really exist, people got what they deserved, including her; ride or no ride, she could at least sleep knowing she’d only get from life what she put in. (The deep thrum through her days haunted the very back of her mind: The West is lost, this life is bullshit, and you need a real job. She lied to herself incredibly well, this she knew.) That was why she played guitar at the bus station...that, and she could usually unload at least a vial of Check 25 a day. Best acid on the West Coast, as she herself could readily attest.

She’d traded a World War I infantry backpack for her guitar: a green Harmony from the 30’s, with those cool cello holes on either side of the fretboard. While she was in high school (before she got kicked out for spraying dog piss on the Algebra teacher), she befriended one of Mesquah, Washington’s weirdest residents: a frequently homeless artist calling himself Tarnished Gilibrium.

She learned that he changed his name in 1969 from Marty Pickersham, and that he had been the heir to a lobster-fishing fortune in Maine. He’d eaten acid at a Dead show in Binghampton, New York, promptly returned home, sold his Corvette, his house and never looked back, roaming the country and devoting his remaining days to art and “free use of the universal particle waves,” whatever that meant. He’d smoke her out when she ditched class (which was frequent), and had given her the backpack when she quietly sneaked through town once more to get a pair of hiking boots from her brother Saul and say goodbye to Tarnished Gil. He’d given her the backpack, bored her with his usual rap about “sharing everything you can” and then tried to feel her up.

Sage never imagined he’d pull such a fucked up thing. Later, she'd see exactly how she was to him, an impressionable sixteen-year-old exposed to the hippie idioms that usually charge up some inherent rebelliousness all teens have and either don’t understand or can’t control or focus. But way back when, she'd just been confused, backing away into the forest as Gil lowered his head and let her walk away.

She’d gone to see him in his tarpaper shack through the adjacent forest that made up the real Rez. She’d come to realize that all these small towns are essentially the same, underneath the surface they share the same DNA. Small minds, big fish, slow learners. Gil actually lived in a fucking shack, something that never failed to amaze her. He was one fuck of a genius artist, so she figured it was a good thing the old bastard left his shit behind.

She was thinking about all that, how she got the guitar at a Rainbow Gathering for the WWI pack, which was fucking hell on your back anyway, trying to remember how to play “I Know You Rider” the way that dready kid from Denver played at that acid dealer’s apartment the other night, wondering whether she fucked him or not (she didn’t think so), when the Crazy Fucker stepped off a bus in from Sacramento. She’d nailed the first verse, her perpetually loaded brain accessing the words, cutting through the complicated connections and ruminations on synchronicity brought on by constant contact with absurdly high-quality LSD. Hoo-ha!

“I know you, rider, gonna miss me when I’m goooone...” she sang, eyes shut but somehow the negative imprint of the world was in its regular colors. They melted together when she heard a thin, reedy voice whisper directly in her right ear.

“I can’t believe I found you. I didn’t think it would be you.”

That killed the song. She opened her eyes and looked at him. From that second, and forever after, he was that Fucking Crazy Guy. The Crazy Fucker.

“What?” She hadn’t even seen him sit down.

“I found you,” he said again, and sat there looking content with just that. He was skinny, and dressed like he lived in a self-contained invisible pod where it was 1983 and holding. Frayed Adidas running suit, velcro-strap shoes, his appalling dandruff that reminding her of that dead elk she’d walked past outside of Port Angeles. It had been boiling over with maggots.

He clutched a plastic garbage bag to his chest and looked at her. She didn’t like his eyes, so she looked at her strings and strummed the chords for...some song, fuck it.

“Well, now you can lose me, dude. There’s a great Mexican food place, Angela’s, right at the end of Main Street. And you’ll probably be happy to know Portland has more strip clubs per person than anywhere else in America.”

She laughed at herself and looked at him. Crazy Guy was staring after a group of people just off a bus from Placerville, of all places.

“Oh my God,” he whispered, breathless and clearly terrified. Sage stopped playing and stood up, away from him, and unhooked the guitar strap as fast as she could.

“I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. I don’t even know you, but I swear I didn’t think it would be you!” Crazy Guy wailed and reached for her. The passengers never blinked, just avoided them. Sage packed up her shit as fast as she could. He grabbed her arm.

“Hey!” Sage dropped her guitar case and was about to pop him one in the head when he pointed at a man walking off the bus. The last person. Sage looked. Black trenchcoat, a shock of wild brown hair. No face.

“He wants me to kill you. I have to. I’m sorry.”

Not nondescript. She was pretty fucking nondescript. Not poorly reconstructed burn scars or a botched facelift or worked over like Hunter Thompson after the Hell’s Angels used him as a bar rag.
This fucking dude had no face at all, just a smudge of a feature here and there, like the after-thought of some junkie-god too wasted to finish. Yeah, kinda like The Blank in that dumb fucking Dick Tracy movie, but somehow far more sinister and standing right there in front of her. And according to this crazy motherfucker, wanted her to die.

“I don’t know,” was all she said.

“I don’t want to kill you. But I have no choice.”

The guy with no face stood there, his head turned toward them, fixed on them, as he walked through the completely oblivious people streaming through with duffel bags and suitcases and children and money in their pockets and actual jobs and their lives totally figured out. Sage watched him disappear into the sea of humans and out of sight.

He looked at her then, and started giggling. Sage, eyes wide, backed off and scrambled for her backpack, her guitar case, her hat. Her Celtic ancestors sang out for righteous battle in her blood, but this...was fucked up on levels she’d never even considered, acid or not. She thought of telling him off at least, using that acerbic, (and as some have pointed out: eternally restless) tongue of hers to flog him home to Molly.

She took a deep breath and was about to rail on him when she noticed a couple of Portland’s finest fuckhead’s perusing the crowd. Oh yeah. Cops always park themselves when the California buses roll in. Sage turned on her heels and marched off into the rain. She never looked back.

Downtown was almost dead, and the park across the street from the Popeye’s chicken place was deserted save for junkies and tweekers, her least favorite people. Not that they were really bad, you just can’t trust them. She knocked on the door of the apartment building next to the strip-club bifecta - Lounge Act and Salty Jane’s - owned by Fritz and Jacobi Entwhistle, Polish-Creole neanderthals from Hell’s Kitchen who let her acid dealer hang out and dose only the mousy fucks who’d never even approach the dancers, let alone tell anyone they’d been there. One time she found some blue-suited Republican-looking dude huddled up behind a park bench, repeating city names over and over again: “Helsinki... Paris... Fort Lauderdale... Jasper... Detroit... Placerville... Tacoma... Uh, TACOMA! Uh, and Baltimore. Fuck! Fuck Moscow!” and then he laughed and stood up, eyes wide behind a pair of expensive, ultra-stylish glasses. “Moscow!” he yelled, and ran off down the street. For a second, Sage thought she heard his running footsteps echo into the darkness, so she looked around. Nothing, no one, and the door opened in front of her.

“Hey. Where you been, baby?” Mona Cheese looked at her, frowning. The hefty bald punker-chick grabbed Sage by the scruff and tossed her inside the hall. Sage wrestled half-heartedly and tromped down the hall into Mona’s apartment.

“Sagebrush, I found that E tab you said you lost, remember? It was behind the toilet, but it was dry, so I took it and I’m rollin, dude. You think Theo’s around? Sage?”

Sage shrugged noncommittally and walked past her without saying a word. Mona didn't notice, kept licking her lips and tried not to chew on the inside of her mouth, but she couldn't help it. She bounced around the kitchen, taking the glass of water Sage poured for herself and draining it with one gulp. Sage sighed in a half-amused, half-annoyed way and said nothing. Mona watched her carefully. She didn’t like being ignored, but was sensitive to her roommate's bizarre, acid-fueled mood-swings.

Mona had come from the “South,” which was as specific as Sage had ever heard her get. (But Sage had found an old driver’s license when she was fiending for weed one weekend and tossed the apartment, which resembled the aftermath of a DEA bust by the time she’d discovered that (A) there was no fucking pot to be found and (B) Mona’s real name was Melinda Van Statten, and she was from East St. Louis, and in her old license photo was the WASPiest looking preppie-from-hell Sage had ever seen. She held onto it, though. Somehow, it felt right to let the girl keep her fictional identity. They’re more important, anyway.)

Mona kept jabbering on about Panda Theo, a half-Chinese “wanderer” from Oakland who constantly misquoted Rimbaud and liked to drink straight-fucking-vermouth, God knew why. Sage ignored her and scoured the fridge for anything that looked halfway edible. Nothing did save for half a jar of peanut butter, so she grabbed it and walked into the living room. They had no TV, which was fine since Mona was plenty of entertainment, anyway. Sage sat down and wrapped herself in an afghan (they couldn’t afford any heat), and spooned herself into sugar-oblivion. Mona sat down and whacked out a few lines of crystal meth (Sage declined; her brother Saul had been into the shit since he was twelve, and Sage hated it), got even more amped up, then finally noticed that her roommate wasn’t talking.

“Sagebrush? What’s up, honey-bee? You look like someone shot your pony up with Methadone.”


“Come on, tell Auntie Mona what the fuck’s happenin.”

“I met some dude at the bus station.”

“Oh yeah? Was he cute? Did he have any tattoos?”

“Naw. He, uh...fuck, dude, he was nutty as fuck!”

“Well, this is Portland.”

“I know, but I’m sittin there playing y’know, and he sits down and starts jabbering about some dude who wants him to kill me.”

“What?” That got Mona’s back hair riled. The girl was a hardcore punker, and Sage pitied anyone dumb enough to try her. "Where the fuck is he? I'll fuckin' kill his ass!"

"Calm down. Maybe I imagined him."

"Maybe. Yeah. Theo's getting a car. Then we're going to Reno," Mona said. Snifff! Her eyes went unfocused for a second, and she looked down at the remaining gakker. Sage smiled.

"Ha, ha. What to do now, huh?"

"Do I want this?" Mona's eyes refocused and she looked at her roommate.

Sage smiled and shrugged. Mona took a deep breath, exhaled, and accidentally blew the rest of the evil white shit all over the hardwood floor. Sage cracked up, then curled herself into a ball. She was asleep by the time Mona left, upstairs to look for Theo and maybe a quick sympathy lay.

She kept seeing the bastard, again and again.

The first was for a few seconds. She'd wondered about him here and there for a few days, then while she waited in line to see a midnight showing of Apocalypse Now he walked past, holding his hands out and screeching whenever he touched someone. Then, a week later, outside a health food store up near Beaver Hill where she knew she had relatives but also knew they wouldn’t give a fuck about her, Crazy Fucker walked past, his eyes bulging, carrying a brown paper sack that leaked something clear and nasty-smelling.

Like chicken fat, she thought, and immediately turned back to the glass doors, looking desperately for Theo and Mona and her pal Kaleidoscope, the guy she’d hitched into Portland with in the first place, him and that weird mulatto dude with the colorful dreads, Injun Luke is what K-boy had called him, since they’d only spoken fifteen words to each other in the month Kaleidoscope had known him. ("With acid," Kaleidoscope had confided to her, "empathy, telepathy, sympathy and synchronicity merge into the Big Nameless." She smiled, shrugged, plucked the joint from his fingers, and decided not to think about whatever the hell that meant.)

She looked into the street reflected behind her and saw the Crazy Fucker, staring at the back of her head. She spun around on him, her cheeks flushed.

"WHAT DO YOU WANT?" she demanded, not screaming, but certainly not whispering.

"You can't be someone you're not," he said to her, "and you can't dance with yourself and you can't know you can't know you can't know—I've seen such madness as the concrete bleeds, and he—"

At that, Sage wanted to see or hear no more evil. She knew who he had to be, and had no desire to stick around. She took off up the street, toward a head shop where she knew the owners, could chill out in the basement for awhile with an eighth of chronic and a six-pack.

It was later that night, after a few massive joints had made their mellow way around the circle of 'heads, that Sage decided to call home. Two Deadheads from Monterey had been talking her into a three-way in their VW Bus, but all Sage could do was laugh at them, so they stalked off in search of some other piece of sweetmeat. Someone put on a Bob Dylan album (Street Legal, one of her least favorites), and a gaggle of tweekers she knew well enough to watch her shit around wandered in. She sighed and looked down at her hands, thinking about her family up at the Mesquah Rez; was her mother worried, despite the woman's true lunacy? What about Saul and Jacob? She'd been gone for two months now, sneaking back that one time from a bender in Port Angeles for her boots. She was so fucking stoned that it didn't matter - she had to call. Sage wrapped her head in her hands and stared at her Converse All-Stars. Jesus, am I gonna cry?

"Sage! My elusive sage!" she looked up and smiled at Kaleidoscope's booming yell. The guy was a tall, skinny splash of psychedelia, and had talked nonstop for most of the four-hour trip south from Port Angeles into Oregon. He had long, fat, black dreadlocks that were always clean and smelled like nag champa. His clothes—-like pretty much everyone else's—-were the thrift-store/hippy-shit look that was practically a uniform 'round these parts. She had once watched him talk two Portland beat cops not only out of citing them for vagrancy, but a twenty dollar bill and a ride to the head shop, and the acid-sheen of his grin always meant a goodly amount of fun and trouble. She loved the guy, but knew they'd never sleep together. When they'd tried to discuss why that particular form of bonding didn't feel right, (after making out for a half hour after a punk-rock Battle of the Bands), K-boy had just smiled and told her: "Well, I guess we're just simultaneous incarnations of each other, dude. I am you and what I see is me...I hate to quote Pink Floyd at a time like this, but it feels right. Oh well, you're a sexy chick, you know?" She'd shrugged and they hugged and smoked pot all night, enjoying a state of contentment that was pretty damned rare for both of them.

"Hey, Scope, how was the bar scene?"

Kaleidoscope sat beside her, ignoring the aching looks of plenty of the stoner-chicks (and at least a couple of the skinny, pale goth-boys huddling the walls, trying to look detached), and producing a small brown package for Sage. She snatched it from his long fingers.

"Same old scraggly bar-whores, dude. Where you been?"

"Here," she said vaguely, opening the bag a little and peering inside, "there...all over the fuckin' place." She inhaled and her eyes lit up. "Dude!"

"Yep. I went to see Jack Boggs, see..."

"I thought he was in jail."

"He was. His ex-wife bailed him out. He's out for a few days, right, and she forces him to start sellin' shrooms again."

"So this is...?"

"Fresher than a Puerto Rican virgin."

"You are my fucking hero, dude."

"I know...let's eat em outside...hold up, though, I gotta talk to..."

And Kaleidoscope was gone. He cut through the crowd, stroking Martha Eye's chin (Little whored out dready-mama skanky wanna-be, thinks Sage, surprised at her flash of jealousy), slipping a baggie of speed into Boss-boy Briggs's hand...the poor fucker was nodding out under the turntable and it was his store...and generally being Scope, the Dean Moriarty incarnate who could sell anyone anything and usually could not stop talking. Sage rolled her eyes and slipped out into the alley, cutting through the half-hidden fire escape on the other side of the room. She had to step over a couple making out beneath a sleeping and then accidentally kicked a junkie's arm. It was turning blue, so she thought maybe of waking him when he sat up, turned his attention briefly to his arm, blinked a few times then wandered off moaning for someone named Kylie. Sage wandered around to the back of the building and waited.

She watched the traffic, got annoyed by the police sirens, waited for Kaleidoscope, and still wanted to call her family up in Mesquah. She wasn't sure why, or even if it was a good idea, but it kept gnawing at the edge of her mind like a goat chewing his way through a wire-mesh fence. Her brothers would be worried but pissed off, and she was worried about Jacob, the youngest. Their father had left almost ten years before, when the boy was still a month unborn, but Jake looked the most like him. Saul was next oldest, two years younger than her and already a total prick at twelve, drinking and tweeking and the whole works. With Sage gone, she knew Saul would be the kid's primary role model. And that was some bad shit.

"Sage! The Elusive One!"

Kaleidoscope rounded the corner, booming with the energy of a fat rail of crystal, a few shots of coconut rum and several liquid tabs of that Purple Pyramid shit everyone thought he'd bought off some ex-fuckbunny of Owsley Stanley's..."Bear's shit, y'all, Bear's shit! You know how the Dead managed to record Anthem of the Sun? THIS SHIT!"...but in fact he'd made himself in his uncle's basement. It was still good shit, though.

Suddenly Sage wanted none of it, felt so tired she wanted just to crawl back to Mona's, fall asleep for two days and...fuck it, get a job or something. But when Scope divvied up the mushrooms - so ridiculously good, she saw: psilocybin crystals gleamed and sparkled and were just so damned inviting that she gobbled up a handful without thinking.

Kaleidoscope launched into some rant about the weight of mercury and how it directly affected the mushroom trip, but Sage wasn't interested and walked off.

"Sage! Hey! We gotta go back in! They're playing Live Dead in there!"

"I've heard it, dude...I need...I need to go."

"Hey Sage!"

She turned around and saw him grinning and swaying. He started singing: "Death don't have no mercy in this land...oh no! Death'll leave you standin' round cryin', IN THIS LAND!"
She hated that song. She loved that song. The last fucking thing on earth she wanted to hear was that song.

"I'm leaving."

She walked off, toward the nearest payphone, leaving Kaleidoscope to cackle behind her. When she turned one last time she caught a last glimpse of his dreadlocks, whipping back around the corner toward that fucking party.

"Fuck you," she whispered, "Fuck them, fuck me, fuck all this, fuck the fuckin' world."

She walked nine blocks trying to ignore the impending mushroom highness...and mostly succeeding. She knew that eating this shit was the LAST thing, the absolutely last goddam thing she should've done. If she slept now, she'd have to endure a wild, catastrophic trip of fucking lunacy and acidic dreams. Like her last acid trip, when she'd dreamed an entire horror movie: a steel factory invaded by an alien consciousness, built itself a body made of giant metal tentacles, luring interns into the folds of its innards and churning their bio-electric energy into an organic brain for itself. It was horrible. The worlds ended in a purple flash of insane laughter, then nothingness for an eternity. Her dreams were like that sometimes.

She found a phone, tucked into the darkness with a sheltered bus stop, the light inside long busted. She stopped and looked it over, wondered if she should stop but stayed stopped anyway. She lifted the receiver and dropped eight quarters into the coin slot, technically laundry money but fuck it, fuck it all. She dialed her home number, and only then noticed the two vaguely Asian-looking kids strutting toward her. The phone was ringing. She had no idea what time it was.

"Hullo?" It was one of her brothers. That's all she knew. Christ, she was tired, but spun too! But still so fucking tired!

"Saul?" she asked. The sleepy, uninterested voice nearly three hundred mile north of her snapped to attention.

"FUCK! Penny, is this fucking you?"

"Fucking me."

"Well. Well, well. So what the fuck do you want, huh?"

"I'm...not sure, Saul. How's Jake?"

The Asian boys were hanging around the bus stop, watching her. Another shadowy figure was coming from down the street. She sighed and looked at the swastikas carved inexpertly into the Plexiglass above the Oregon Bell sign.

"Jake's Jake, you fuckin' bitch. Where the fuck are you?"

"Portland. I don't know what's going on anymore, man. I's Mom?"

"Mom? What Mom? You think you still gotta fuckin' Mom?"

"Fuck you, Saul. Just, fuckin' how is she?"

Saul didn't answer. And then she saw the third figure: Crazy Fucker. Here. Crazy Fucker, right here. Right now. He shouldn't be. Shouldn't be here. Not here, not now. I am about to completely freak out, she thought. Sage had never, before or since, had such a thought while on psychedelic drugs.

"Mom had a fuckin' heart attack the day you left, Penelope," Saul spat at her through the phone,

"She just got out of the hospital. You wanna send her back in, is that it?"

Penny shut her eyes. No good. The colors were worse. "What did you say?" she asked in a breathless little


"Did I fuckin' stutter, you selfish cunt?"


"Didn't think you cared. Came back for the boots, huh, bitch? You trade 'em for some dick, you fuckin' whore?"

She thought about when she'd left...she hadn't said goodbye, had she? Jesus never had it so good. Fuck does that mean? Someone at her left side. Someone breathing into her face at her left side.

"It's you," the Crazy Fucker says, low and amazed.

"It was YOU, Penny," her brother snarls into her ear.

"Hey!" One of the Asian boys grabs Crazy Fucker's shoulder, wheeling him around to face the two of them. "I remember you, bitch! You tried to rape his sister!" the shorter one yelled. He had a bandanna around his head and wore a wife-beater with a rising sun logo sloppily scrawled over it with black marker. The taller one nods at this, his head bobbling around like one of those stupid Taco Bell Chihuahuas she thanked God no one ever saw anymore. Crazy Fucker stares at them, then starts giggling, his eyes rolling madly, and he starts rambling on about abortions and facelifts and the way he was meant to be their star, their bright STAR! Penny (or was she still Sage? she didn't know anymore) watches this as streaks of purple and red and several other colors she couldn't identify whirled across her sight.

She felt the phone in her hand. She blinked and tried to concentrate.

"Holy shit, Saul. I'm sorry. I'm just sorry, okay?"


"WELL I FUCKING AM!" she shrieks, and drops the receiver. She leans against the booth, her head on her arm.

"You bitch-boy," growled the short guy. When he pulled out the little revolver, Sage hoped this was a fucking hallucination. Maybe it was. Maybe she was in some Section 8 ward with her acidhead, pothead, Vietnam vet daddy's mind, unborn and it was 1972 still, and he never made it home. A figment of his thwacked brain and overactive imagination. That would be so fucking wonderful, really. So good.

"PENNY!" her brother was howling her name, and she could hear Jacob's mousy voice in the background, wanting to know if it was really Penny? IS IT REALLY HER?

Is it really me?

She picked up the phone and closed her eyes, pressing the hard plastic against her ear so hard she'd find a round bruise there later. By then she'd be in her aunt and uncle's bathroom, weeping against the sink. Outside in the family room, her twin cousins Marnie and Eliot looked on (their non-twin expressions completely dismayed) while their father spoke rapidly and quietly into a brand-new cordless phone. Five hours after that, Sage would be in her own little room with her own little bed, complete with leather restraints, zonked on meds and in her own little world - where she'd remain for six weeks. But that was later. Now, oh now, she tried to talk but it all came in a rush of hot tears, a short lifetime's worth of painful mistakes and humiliation...

I'm so sorry, is what she mouths into the telephone as her brother Saul, who was once the sweetest kid on Earth - who once chased that stupid Native Dave Greener down their driveway with a shovel because he was a fucking tweeker - called her a gutter-bitch and savagely hung up the phone three hundred miles north of where she stood.

She held onto the handset until that annoying da-da-da-da-da started in and she dropped it into the cradle. Cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon...

As far as the scene unfolding before her, she understood that she might as well not even be here. She had no idea why Crazy Fucker would want to rape some bitch, but then it certainly fit the profile of a crazy fucker, so she didn't doubt it. She slowly, carefully edged away from the pay-phone while the Asian Boys kept shouting into his now everything was incoherent and in fact she'd question the entire sequence of events that led her how could this fucking dude be here now, intersecting the path of these two assholes, who both looked pretty well done up on some kind of unnatural stimulant. These fucks were sweating like Richard Nixon in hell, so maybe they shot it. Whatever.

She wanted no more. So Penelope May Payne (aka Sage, aka Sagebrush, aka Miss Nightengale Lewiston—-this last one only once down in Arcata, CA, and long years down the line from here) sidled on down the sidewalk.

"NO!" Crazy Fucker screamed, and lunged after her. She turned just in time to hear the gun go off, to watch the top of his head explode across the storefront of the Chinese laundry service a few feet away. Crazy Fucker collapsed, staring at her, and his eyes rolled over to his fingers, trailing across the concrete. It seems he died with a question on his lips.

She couldn't move. The Asian boys looked at each other, satisfied but no less relaxed. She was still tripping wildly, but paid no notice. No emotions registered inside her. She saw tracers of the bullet, whipping through the night unseen by all save her psychedelically cranked-up eyeballs. The Asians charged toward her, and still she stood. They came at her...and passed right by, barely brushing her shoulders.

Death don't! DEATH DON'T! Have no mercy... in this land...

The moon slipped out from behind a swarm of clouds, shining down on all kinds of livid biology left to steam on the sidewalk. Sage marveled at the efficient way a gun had with obliterating things. She looked up and saw one more figure emerge from the shadows down the block. Another man-form, silent and in a long dark coat. A hat like a fedora, a Dick Tracy hat. Walking, walking, walking toward her.

Sage broke her stance and turned, and ran. She didn't stop moving until the moon went down and a northbound highway had appeared before her. She collapsed in a heap and stuck out her thumb. She was two hours out of Portland before she realized she'd left her guitar behind.

© Anthony Vieira