6. Bill

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I can't I can't I can't I can't I can't I can't I can't I can't. White light and heat and pain and mama, I wanted mama, why was Bill there where was he taking me why wasn't mama coming with us the sun and the rush of the wind once more and it felt as though my entire life now had been spent on the backs of these metal beasts, strapped to the people driving them, my entire being spinning very fast around the central point that was my pain. 

We traveled until my head was empty. The wind reached in with hot sandy arms and pulled out all of my thoughts and needs and fears and they flew away behind us like scarves. We stopped just after the sun went down. Bill unwound me from him stiffly, and I tried to stand up in the purple dusk. I was shivering, and my mouth was dry, and my arm was bound again, tightly up against my chest like before but something had changed, and mama wasn't there, but somehow all of those things seemed very far away. I was empty as the shiny brown shells Mother Emme used to save after harvesting their snails. When my legs gave way under me I stayed there, sitting in the sand, watching Bill unload things from the bike. It was as though he was very far away and I was watching him through Mother Hazel's tele-lens. My ears rang with the ghost of the bike's roar. 

I kept thinking of the all the fire, the night I left home. That fire had scared me and I had ran. The idea seemed so strange to me now. Sitting on that sand, I thought that the whole world could be on fire now and I would just stay there watching until it ate me up. Nothing mattered. It was the most curious feeling. I thought I might prefer to never care about anything again.

Bill eyed me. "You with me, girl?" He snapped his fingers in front of my face. "Maybe I dosed you too high with that poppy." He shouldered his pack and plucked me roughly from the sand. "Best you sleep anyway. Cave's just ahead." When he ducked through a low arch hidden behind a swell in the sand, I nearly smiled. Cave's hiding, I thought.

Bill set me down in some damp sand in the dark of the cavern and went about building a fire. The light of it soon cast shadows into the far-off edges of the space. He unrolled the bedding -- one little and one big, so I guessed mama wasn't joining us tonight -- and reached deep into his pack for a smaller green bag filled with clean rags and jars and ointments. I had seen that bag before. It was the first-aid kit the mothers took on watch. Mama must have lent it to him.

"I'm going to tend to your arm," Bill said gruffly. "You see those white coals in the center of the fire? Your job is to keep your eyes fastened tight on those. No matter what happens, don't look away from them. That's your job. If you do your job, I can do mine, and this will go just swimmingly."

There's no swimming here, I thought vacantly, water tank's back at home. But then Bill was starting to unwind the bandages that kept my arm bound up tight against my chest and something very urgent cut through the mist to tell me that Bill was right, and I must keep my eyes on the fire. And I did just that, until I couldn't see anything but the coals in front of me, and then everything went red, and then to black.


"Who are you?" I tried to say later, starting awake. I had been dreaming of strange long-legged birds with Bill's face. The real Bill was spooning warm broth down my throat. I sputtered and coughed, and brought my hand up to my face to cover my mouth. Instead of a hand, though, there was a ball of rags, half-soaked in blood. I stared at it. Bill dropped his spoon.


It was the first time I had ever heard anyone but mama use my given name. Even she had only ever whispered it on my name day, and she would say it reverently, wrapping me with warmth. The mothers and my friends had always called me Worm. Names were special, the mothers said. Names had power. And now, here, Bill knew mine.

"Furiosa, listen to me," he said. Gently he grasped my arm below the bandages and put it back down at my side. "Your arm was injured. Fever got into it. Your mother had to --"

"Where's mama?" I interrupted. 

"She's not here. Furiosa..." Bill sighed. "Christ, girl. How many name days have you had?"

"Four," I said. "When is she coming back?" There was something fighting at the edge of my thoughts to get in, something very very bad, and I was keeping it away, it couldn't come here, I wouldn't let it. "Why did she tell you my name?"

Bill took a deep breath. "Furiosa," he said, "...I'm your father."

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