In the distance the samaritans are vultures, shoulders high and stooped and predatory with the black hump of their packs. Their faces are long, avian: the dust masks they wear are moon-eyed, needle-beaked, bleached white by the sun. As you ride past, your eyes delicately averted from the glittering remains of the crash, they swivel to watch you, blank and still, patient as the desert. The lenses of their eyes catch the world and throw it back to you, wide white sky, narrow spears of rock, endless sand. That reflection is their promise, their threat.

Sometimes you find the wrecks sooner rather than later, metal still ticking as it cools, colorless flames licking around the shriveled remains of the driver, but never faster than the samaritans. Once, long ago, so long ago that you remember the story of the memory better than the memory itself, a ride crashed in front of you, so close that the great wash of heat drove you backward. Under the roar of the fire you could hear the screaming of the driver. While you were still numb they were there, long beaks plunging, and only the flames were left to din in your ears.