Author : Matt Handle
Dex felt the sleek machine between his legs thrum even deeper when he twisted the throttle, opening it up to full speed as he zipped through the streets of Central City. He weaved in and out of traffic as the wheelgaunts honed in on his signal. He could sense them getting closer, their hideous high-pitched shrieks echoing off the DBS towers that loomed over the slender corridors of silicon and steel. Blue and green luminosity streaked by as he gritted his teeth and pressed on, a leather-clad comet blazing across an electric night.
The warmth of the golden runes that were etched into his pale skin radiated inward, flowing through his nervous system like quicksilver. The skeletal wraiths nipping at his heels would stop at nothing to carve that power source from his tender flesh. They’d caught wind of him as he’d descended the Spindle and now he had only one chance. Reach the protection of the Night Lotus or die.
He leaned into a curve as he neared the last tunnel, his body nearly parallel to the smooth surface of the interior artery. Every fiber of his being tingled as the narrow sleeve of insulated circuitry approached. He was almost there.
The lead wheelgaunt was drafting him. Its sinewy arms and clawed talons grasped for the back of his cycle as the creature’s translucent and spiny wheels tore into the sponge-like track. Needles of fear spiked their way down Dex’s spine and stabbed at his heart. He’d made this treacherous route dozens of times before, but the wheelgaunts had never been so close. He could smell their stench of atrophy and death as he sped into the red passage that marked the final length of his journey.
Vermilion light washed over him as his bike darted through the channel. The whine of his engine reverberated off the rounded walls, mixing with the furious sound of his pursuers to create a cacophonous song that announced his arrival. There was no turning back. The tunnel contained no tributaries or retreats. Either he would reach the safety of the Bloom or the wheelgaunts would drag him to ruin.
In the final milliseconds of the chase, Dex felt the icy tips of the wheelgaunt’s barbed fingers as the creature leapt forward in desperation, lashing out before it came up short and slammed into the ground, tumbling away into a tangle of bent wheels and broken limbs. The screech of its two fellows’ brakes immediately followed, their shrill screams of hatred heralding his narrow escape.
Dex burst free from the pipe, shooting across open space in the blink of an eye. The runes that covered his body blazed forth in a torrent of light at the proximity of the Lotus’s welcoming folds and then the flower enveloped him, engulfing him in a lover’s embrace. He was home.