The truck bumped and jerked over the desert. Samee’s head knocked against the floor.
The guard sat up and pointed his rifle at her.
“You. Bloody Grrl. Quiet.”
“But—I’m an insect.”
Samee lifted her head. In the front of the truck were the driver and a man with a white helmet. She craned her head to see outside the truck. Nothing but desert. Late in the afternoon. Red almost setting. Blue rising higher.
Samee felt a pain inside her. She lay in the back of the truck with a piece of bloodied canvas wrapped round her. She was afraid. Then, even more afraid—
“Is One-Eyed Man coming, too?”
The guard pointed his gun again. “I said shut your mouth, bloody Grrl, bloody Grrl, bloody Grrl, bloody Grrl.” He repeated his chant over and over, rocking back and forth.
The truck hit another bump. Samee’s head banged against the floor. She passed out.
Samee felt a sharp jab in her side.
“Hey! You awake?”
Samee winced. The guard was poking the rifle into her ribs.
“Master says, you awake?”
Samee propped herself up and wiped her eyes. Her stomach kicked inside her.
The man with a white helmet had turned around and was looking at her. One blue eye. One brown.
“Good,” he said at last. “Not dead.” He gestured up ahead in the desert. “Almost there.” Then added over his shoulder, “Don’t die.”
The guard leaned towards Samee. “Master says, don’t die.”
The guard rested his rifle across his knees and turned to look ahead. Samee pulled herself up and looked to where Helmeted Man had gestured.
She saw a dark fortress.
Its blackness gleamed against the lights of the suns, creating sparkling purple jewels. Circular shapes adorned the smooth surface of the structure. On top of the fortress were glorious statues, arms upraised and wings on their backs. They looked like statues of men—but with a different kind of body. Round shapes. Smooth shapes.
The guard was holding his rifle tight. “Suns protect us,” he whispered to himself.
Samee looked down at her rough bandages. Her blood was drying. Maybe she wasn’t going to die after all.
The tiny truck puttered slowly around the huge circular structure.
At last, they stopped. The guard sat bolt straight, shaking, knuckles white around his rifle. The driver was shaking, too. Only Helmeted Man was calm, motionless, gazing ahead.
The truck had stopped some distance from the fortress. Samee could see no door, no archway, no entrance.
Her scalp tingled. She had stopped bleeding.