The night was thick-overcast and as dark as could be, the ledge was narrow and unrailed, and her only lights were the double oil lamps hanging from the grate of the sputtering Doge. She didn’t want to use the bulbs: she was going to save them for later.
So, when she felt the rig crest the last rise in the trail and she finally saw the smattering of lights spread across the rise of the butte, she let out a small breath. Careful now, she told herself. Do you want them to think you’re scared?
As the Doge chugged towards the lights, she could make out a man up ahead, walking towards her. In the light from the torches he wore a long black waistcoat, patched in more places than it was whole. He was shouting something at her. There, on the grass at the top of the butte, she eased back on the rig’s throttle, slowly letting the engine burn down to a simmer.
“Whatchya want?” the man asked her. Closer now, she could see that he was tall and bone-thin, with black stubble covering his chin.
The Doge was quiet enough to hear him, now, the engine just a thrum under her seat.
“I want in.”
The man leaned close, trying to peer past the oil lamps to make out her face. Then he rocked back on his heels.
“Well, I’m the man to talk to. But you’re just a girlie,” he informed her.
“And you’re ugly,” she shot back. “I still want in.”
“And I still want a kiss from my poor old ma, but she’s rotting away same as otherwise, ain’t she? You got a racing rig somewhere up on that broken tractor, girlie?”
Eyes flaring, Selene simultaneously pushed down on the clutch, pulled up on the handbrake, and threw the throttle forward. The Doge’s engine gave one great chug, and an entire cloud of steam billowed momentously from its rear. It lurched forward a meter and stopped with a shudder as the brakes grabbed and held it, frontside rack a shivering six inches from the man’s nose.
“This is the Doge,” Selene said loudly, “And she’s the meanest, dirtiest, fastest racing rig in Little Hope. Anyone who says otherwise better put up or shut up!”
“Sure is the dirtiest, anyway,” came a call from nearby where the other oil lamps glowed, where the hulks of big men and of bigger rigs cast long shadows.
“Fine, it’s your skin,” said the waistcoat man, “‘long as you know as you likely won’t come back with it. Got your entry fee?”
Selene glanced down at the Doge.
Comment for more of Pryor's story!