Zed stumbled out through the doors of the strip club and into the gravel parking lot, bumping a large man in a black t-shirt as he went.
“Watch it asshole”, the large man muttered. It was a comment that might have set Zed off in the past, before prison, before turning thirty, and before drinking seven bottles of beer on a Tuesday night with a morning shift at the gas station right around the corner.
The gravel crumpled beneath his boots as he searched for this Harley in the dark. They’d turned the neon Lightning Slim’s sign off for the night, and the moonlight was the only source of illumination left on this stretch of highway. Zed was the last customer of the night, and the bouncer had to wake him up to get him to leave.
The chrome of his motorcycle shimmered in the starlight, and Zed felt his way to the seat, throwing a leg over and pulling the back up to a neutral balance. He jumped on the starter, and the bike coughed and weezed but did not start. He wasn’t clear if it was mechanical or simple drunkenness.
Lifting his body to give it another try, he was interrupted by gunfire in the club. He turned his head to the front doors just in time to see a tall, slender brunette burst out the front doors, running in a panic. The light wasn’t good, but a glint in the darkness told Zed the woman was packing heat.
The woman rounded the corner of the building a made a beeline for her SUV. Before she could get very far, two men ran from the back of the strip club and cut her off, causing her to change direction suddenly, skidding in the gravel with her high heels. She ran for the highway, and two more men burst out the front doors, firing a shotgun blast into the air. Zed could see from the burst of light that one of the men was the big guy with the black t-shirt, beard and ponytail he’d bumped into earlier. A real asshole.
“Your dead bitch!”, one of them yelled, and several sets of running feet joined hers in the gravel. She was running Zed’s way.
“Get me out of here, now!”, she demanded, and Zed felt the barrel of her gun press hard into his back as she slung her leg over the seat of the bike.
“Go ahead and shoot”, he said, “I ain’t gettin’ involved in whatever this is”.
Just then, a shotgun blast tore into the night, and Zed heard the scattershot spray the forest behind them. They were gonna kill him too.
The woman dropped the gun from his back. “Please, go”, she pleaded.
“You got it”, Zed answered, and hopped on the starter. The Harley roared to life, and he spun a fast u-turn, spraying gravel onto the approaching men and clumsily breaking traction on the old highway as they tore out of the parking lot. He heard shotgun blasts coming from behind, but they quickly receded into the distance.
“What was all that about?”, Zed yelled over the roar of the motorcycle engine.
“I made a cash withdrawal from Slim”, she yelled back, “He didn’t take too kindly to that.”
“You robbed a strip club? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard!”
“I didn’t rob it! They’ve been stiffing my girlfriend for weeks. I took they owed her”.
From behind, a pair of headlights appeared on the highway. The vehicle was approaching fast, and in his drunken stupor, Zed didn’t notice until they were in its headlights. In his rear view mirror, he could see it was the raised pickup truck he’d seen in the strip club parking lot every night for the past two months.
“We’re being followed!” Zed yelled.
The woman turned around and saw the approaching pickup. “Shit!”, she screamed, “Go faster!”
Zed turned the throttle full tilt, and the bike lurched forward. The truck matched their speed and continued to approach.
Suddenly, a set of overhead lights blazed to life on a rack above the pickup cabin, and a shotgun blast pierced the night. Zed weaved, and felt buckshot ricochet off the side of his bike.
“You ok!?!”, he yelled to the woman, but instead of an answer, he heard her pistol fire a couple rounds at the truck. One of them burst a front headlight, causing the driver to sway the truck just as the man in the bed fired another round from the shotgun. Zed heard the scattershot hit the trees to his right.
“Get ready to shoot the tires!”, Zed yelled, and he swerved to the side of the highway and hit the brakes hard. As the truck zoomed by them, the woman fired several shots at the tires, missing the front but hitting the back. Throwing shredded rubber into the air, the raised truck tilted sickly to one side, spraying sparks from the metal rim all over the highway.
The truck skidded into a ditch, and Zed and the woman dodged it, tearing off toward town. He felt the woman’s gun return to his ribs.
“We’re gonna pick up my girlfriend now”, the woman said into his ear. He heard the sound of a cell phone being dialed behind him, and soon, she was talking again. “Hey love, I got the money. You know where to meet me”. Zed felt the gun press against his back a little harder. “Take me down the alley behind the Kettle”.
The bike flew down the highway at top speed, and soon they reached the city limits. The houses became bigger and more stately as they went, slowly giving way to the crumbling brick retail buildings of Main Street. Halfway through downtown he turned at the old sports bar, still brightly lit and bustling with the commotion of old drunk men, and then took a quick left into a dark narrow alleyway. In seconds, they pulled to stop behind the town’s only café, the Copper Kettle.
As the bike came to a stop, Zed heard a squeal of delight come from the shadows. A gorgeous blonde woman ran toward them, throwing her arms around the brunette and nearly tipping the bike over in the process.
“I can’t believe you actually did it!”, she said, climbing onto the bike between Zed and the brunette woman. Zed looked back and saw that the blonde was not only facing the brunette, but was giving her a wild kiss. He couldn’t help but smile at the sight. The moment was short-lived, however, as the brunette opened her eyes and saw his expression. Without breaking from the kiss, she jammed the gun hard into his back.
“What was that for?!?”, Zed yelled.
She broke from the kiss, eyes narrowing in a scowl of anger. “Drive us somewhere safe. Somewhere off the road.”
Zed knew where to go. He tore out of the alley with the two women on the seat behind him. They crossed the old highway, watching for the police and any sign of the guys from the strip club, and they fled the town on an old country road that Zed knew of from his youth. Houses gave way to deep forest, and the road wound downward until they were riding alongside the old swamp that skirted the town. Zed watched for the dirt road, and when he saw it, they turned sharply, bumping and weaving down the poorly-maintained path toward the place he used to drink and hide his porn mags in high school.
When he saw the edge of the swamp, Zed pulled the bike to a stop. The women stepped off the bike first, and Zed got a good look at them in the glow of the headlight. The brunette was tall and voluptuous, with big expressive eyes and ample breasts. Her hair was thick and luxurious, and she wore jeans and a low-cut black shirt which showed her cleavage. The blonde woman was thin, with thick straight hair and sharp features. Unlike the brunette- whose breasts and hips were curvaceous- her body was thin and boyish. She wore a belly shirt and mini-skirt, and Zed recognized her from the strip club.
The women backed away from the bike carefully with the pistol raised at Zed. The blonde was the first to speak.
“Let me see the money”, she said, excited.
Without taking her eyes off Zed, the brunette raised a plastic bag she’d been clutching, and the blonde tore into it, pulling out handfuls of cash. She counted it quickly.
“This is way more than Slim owes me!”, she said, looking at the brunette with what Zed interpreted as a kind of awe.
“Call the rest interest”, the brunette said flatly.
“Who’s the guy?”, the blonde asked, looking at Zed for the first time.
“Don’t know”, the brunette said, cracking a smile, the first Zed had seen all night, “But he helped me get away from Slim”.
The blonde smiled seductively, and glanced up and down Zed’s body. “What’s your name?”, she asked.
“I’ve seen you at the club”, she continued, “What’s your story?”
Zed stood silent, not wanting to answer. The blonde stepped forward and gently placed her hand on his cheek, running it down his neck and shoulder. Her deep blue eyes were open and inquisitive, and Zed felt himself soften under her gaze.
“Just got out of the pen”, he answered, “Workin’ at the gas station on the highway, tryin’ to stay outta trouble, make good on my parole.”
“Well trouble found you tonight, didn’t it?”, she said, stepping back toward the brunette and gently pushing the pistol down toward the ground. She smiled seductively, and turned to her girlfriend. “I think we need to thank our little hero here. Can you think of anything we can do for him?”
The brunette smiled back with a sly grin, and she turned to Zed, looking him up and down. “I can think of something…”, she said, dropping the gun to the ground and grasping the hem of her shirt. She pulled the t-shirt off her body, slowly revealing her shapely waist, large breasts and feminine shoulders. The blonde unclasped her mini-skirt, letting it fall loosely to the ground. Underneath, she wore a black g-string.
The two women stepped toward Zed, coaxing him off the Harley. He couldn’t believe his luck, and he stepped off the bike willingly. The women began to undress him, pulling his jacket off and caressing his arms and shoulders. The brunette moved to his back, pulling his t-shirt off while the blonde pulled his boots off one by one and worked on the belt of his jeans. When the belt fell loose, both women worked his jeans to the ground, until he was standing there in a pair of boxers and white socks.
That was when he was tazed.
Intense electricity flowed through his body, causing his muscles to contract involuntarily. He fell to the ground, unable to move. He lost control of his bladder, and his boxers grew wet with his own urine. Before Zed could form a coherent thought, he heard the girls laughing and gathering up their belongings.
“You didn’t think we were that easy, did you?”, the brunette said.
Still too stunned to lift himself off the ground, he watched the women fire up his Harley. The blonde threw his boots down to him, and one hit him painfully in the chest. The bike roared to life, and the back tire spewed chunks off dirt and gravel at him as they sped down the dirt road and back toward town.
“Come find us!”, the blonde yelled as they disappeared through the trees and out of sight.
“Fucking bitches”, Zed moaned, still unable to moan. Without the light of the bike’s headlamp, it was nearly pitch black in the swamp. The roar of the Harley grew steadlly quiet in the distance until it was gone, and he was left with the sounds of the swamp. Insects, frogs, and the occasional splash or flap of wings.
As his muscle control returned, he stared at the sky through the canopy of pine trees above him. Out here, where man-made light was almost completely absent, the heavens were deep and rich with the stars and gases of the Milky Way. He wondered idly what it would like to be out there, when something odd began to happen. The sky, the trees, everything, began to grow bright. The world became bright white and it hurt his eyes. The trees and sky disappeared completely, and he blinked at the illumination, still unable to lift his arm to shield his eyes.
Fuzzy shapes began to appear in the intense glow, slowly defining themselves as his eyes adjusted to the light. Zed was completely disoriented, not knowing where he was or what was happening.
The shapes continued to clear, until he saw that two of the most hideous aliens he had ever seen hovered over him. They were big, and had dark green skin that glistened with a kind of mucus. Their faces were covered in deep wrinkles that twisted this way and that, and their beady eyes peered menacingly down at him. Each alien had a gun trained on him.
Regaining his muscle control, he became aware he was floating on the surface of the water in some kind of tank, with nodes attached to his body. The aliens backed away from him as he pulled himself carefully up to sitting position, nodes snapping off his body as he went.
Sitting up, he saw that he had been laying in what might have looked like a coffin back on Earth. The room was filled with the disgusting aliens, and Zed saw that eight of them surrounded Jim, not with guns but with hoses attached to tanks strapped to their backs.
Without turning its head, one of the aliens yelled out into the room. “The human is awake! What should we do with him?”
The largest of the green aliens turned away from Jim and toward Zed and his guards.
“Kill him”, it said.
(To be continued…)