The City Raises an Army

The wind blew Case together out of the trash of the gas station parking lot. Her legs were burger wrappers, her arms dead leaves and needles, her teeth the sodden ends of cigarettes. She breathed, and her breath was sweet with gasoline; the viscous and half-clotted blood that trickled through her was motor-oil and transmission fluid, potent but chill. She went into the gas station to get out of the wind.

There was a Sikh reading a newspaper behind the register, his beard grey and stained with tobacco, his turban sky-blue. “Evening,” he said, and watched her over his glasses without raising his head.

“Hi,” she said, voice filled with ignition and semis downshifting.

“Which pump you on?”

“N-no,” she faltered. “Just something to drink.” He waved an arm toward the back of the store. She filled a styrofoam cup with burnt coffee and drank the bitter heat in one long scalding swallow. It soaked into her, warmed her to human. She laughed, and it was a living sound, delighted with itself. Her face was alive but her eyes were dead as the parking lot, where the wind still blew and already her sisters were thronging…