The dark figure stalked the hills. God’s Wrath assaulted the moors in his attempt to hinder her. Wet Mud swallowed her feet, dragging her into the ground; Wind battered her, pushing her back; Rain plummeted, penetrating her black cloak; and Lightning jumped from the clouds, threatening to strike her before she could complete her mission.
To spite the elements, the Woman continued.
She held her cloak around her like a shield, fighting through the tempest. Another step, another foot consumed by the ground, another attempt to escape the Earth’s jaws. The Wind soon won over and stole the hood from her head. Dark hair blew over her face to reveal her fiery eyes. The Rain had soaked her through shortly after leaving an hour ago, and her hood offered little protection against the downpour. As she pulled another foot from the ground a Lightning bolt hit the horizon. She looked up. Black clouds suffocated the rolling hills and rocks as they met the low contrast of the sky. If her destination was anywhere near, she couldn’t see it. She banished the nightmares of what would happen if she failed and rubbed her bulging abdomen. They wouldn’t dare do the worst. Her child, at least, would be safe. She struggled on.
Half an hour of battling later, she looked again, her vision obscured by the Rain. Nothing but the downpour. She pulled back her left sleeve and looked at her watch. Four minutes left. A moment of despair filled her, while the Rain fell violently enough to crack the glass of her watch face. The Rain pounded her bare hands like bullets seeking their target. She put her watch away, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She knew she cried, but she could not distinguish tears from Rain. Her breath came out in purposeful bursts. She opened her eyes and continued with her journey.
Two more minutes passed as she pushed her way through the Wind. She prepared for another step after, yet again, pulling her foot from the Mud. But she stumbled, her boot landing on some unexpected hard concrete. She looked to her left; a road stretched towards the horizon. To her right, it continued until it vanished into the Rain.
The Woman had arrived.
Her arrival at the destination did not seem the triumph she hoped for. It was a road, nothing more, with no sign of her contact. She looked at her watch and, though cracked, she could still see the time. One minute to go.
The informant had never yet been wrong. She looked around waiting, and after a few more seconds a glow appeared in the distance. The sound of Rain, Wind, and Thunder muffled the noise, but the lights slowly grew brighter. Thirty seconds later, she heard a screeching, and the car slid down the road coming to rest inches from where she stood unflinching. She looked again at her watch. Impressed, she muttered to herself, ‘Right on time.’
She walked around to the right side of the car and, as the driver wound down the window, she recognised him. A smiled flashed across her face; this was definitely the one.
She looked into the rest of the car and saw a woman in the passenger seat, who, judging by the plain ring on her finger, was obviously now his wife, though they had just started going out last time she saw them. The wife wore a dark evening dress and two plain studs in her ears. She had a tired look about her and did not seem bothered about the interruption. In the back sat two children. The eldest, a girl of about six who also wore a dress; this one in pink with white flowers patterned through it. The youngest was newborn, probably a month or two old. She sat in a car seat, covered in a blanket appliquéd with horses. Her dummy pulsed in her mouth as she slept.
The Father looked at the Woman, drops of Rain darkening his light blue shirt, ‘Are you lost?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she replied, pulling from beneath her cloak a large Colt revolver decorated with images from the American west. She pointed it at the Father, ‘I came for your daughter.’
Realisation hit him. He knew that weapon. He looked closer at the Woman, and through the darkness he saw a faint glow in her eyes. They contained Fire. He looked deeper; the Fire blazed with a fierce anger. They drew him in farther and farther until the very Devil itself reached out for him, straining to break its chains.
A scream raced from his lungs, but he swallowed it, knowing what the terror-filled eyes meant. He took in the rest of her and, though aged and with longer hair, knew to whom they belonged, ‘No,’ he said, as his voice broke at the loss, ‘Not you … I’m sorry.’
‘I’m not. I’m powerful, I will live forever, I’m free.’ Joy showed on her face.
‘Yeah? And what will they do when you fail? And you will fail because you are not taking her. You call that freedom?’ He inched his hand down to the door handle, hoping she didn’t notice.
‘A small price,’ she replied, proud at the honour given to her.
‘He really messed you up didn’t he?’
Before she could retort, he pushed down the handle and swung open the door, knocking her to the ground. He climbed out the car and, as she got to her feet, he knocked the legs from under her. He moved to stand on her gun arm, but she withdrew it and pointed the weapon at him. She fired and he felt the bullet clip his left cheek. A streak of warm blood, diluted by the Rain water, ran down his face. The Woman used the moment to stand up. She pointed the gun again. The Father thrust his left arm to knock the gun away, but she fired. A sudden and blinding pain hit his little finger. Falling to his knees he looked at his hand. A bleeding stump now sat where his finger used to be. Consumed by the pain, he couldn’t see the Woman reaching into the back seat as she took his youngest daughter out the car.
He stumbled to his feet while the Woman retreated, and he gave chase, slipping in the Mud. The Woman turned and blindly fired another three shots. The last slammed into his left shoulder spinning him around into the Mud. He looked up. The Woman ran along the horizon, too far to catch up with now. But before she disappeared into the darkness, a bolt of Lightning leapt from the heavens and struck her. The figure fell, and he pushed himself up, summoning the energy to get his daughter back. He reached the body and turned it over. It didn’t surprise him when the Woman drew a breath. It didn’t surprise him she displayed no burn marks. It didn’t surprise him that he felt relief she lived. But through the screaming of the Wind, through the growling of the Thunder, and through the thumping of the Rain, it did surprise him when he heard a baby’s cry.
He prised his daughter from the arms of the Woman and held her in his own. Tears finally fell as he said her name.