The asphalt below her feet was crumbling and decaying, and weeds had grown through the cracks. Every now and then under the especially hot sun, the smell of tar would rise from the asphalt which led many to call the it Tar Road. Heading north back into town, smelling tar and dust, Donna thought about the city. It had forced her to fight since her childhood, and she was tired. She hated the city and the people. They were raiders and pillagers. They were barbarians. Even though Desmond had raised her, he was a barbarian at heart; he just expressed it differently. Desmond was a savage for money.
The town was baking under the sun and was hazy in a mirage. Donna walked back into the town and hoped it would be her last trip. With each step she took she grew more resolute in the thought. Goodbye town, she thought as she continued on the path. She walked past the small crumbled homes, part of which were used to build shacks like Tyson’s. Donna was distracted taking final notes of her childhood home, the in-town shacks, the shops, and eventually the arena. All places she once frequented without much a thought, and now she would be abandoning them. She would let them be consumed completely by the savages. Good riddance, she thought as the arena fell behind her.
Five figures stood on the road just before the city surrendered to desert. On both sides of those five figures stood a crowd of people. Donna heard the growing commotion before she noticed the men blocking her path. she looked for another way around but it was the only route out of the city; the other ways were blocked by toppled skyscrapers. Each step was laborious, yet she had to take them to face the men who were certainly Marcus and his crew. She counted her steps to take her mind off the impending fight. Two. Ten. Twenty. Fifty steps. She stood face to face with Marcus, and the chatter that had risen to an uproar fell once again to silence.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Away from this shit hole.”
“And taking off with all my money? Didn’t think I’d find out where it went that fast, did you? It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Good lesson for you to learn Donna. Always ask the bookie. Knowing that Tyson bet against himself through a third party was all I needed to know that you were involved.”
“So what? You just want the money?” Donna showed the cash bound by rubber bands.
“That’d be a start. Then I’d like a public apology. Then we’ll go from there.”
“Fat chance. I’m leaving. Deal with Tyson, he seemed bent on staying here.”
“Tyson will get his, but you’re the one wanting to leave.”
Donna wondered how Marcus had found out about her leaving in the first place, but the thought wasn’t worth the time. People in town kept their mouths loose with other people’s business. The rule of the town was to trust no one, after all. Donna squared her shoulders to fight the five men in front of her. There was a commotion on both sides of the road and laughter from Marcus.
“Come on kid, just give me the money and say you’re sorry.”
Donna said nothing. The wind blew, sending the fine black particles into her face. She felt them hit her teeth. They tasted like coal. The scent of tar rose from the road, and all the while the side chatter grew.
The tale of the fight would pass on through drunken nights for decades. People would tell it with a gleam in their eyes as they recalled the battle between the gang and the fastest fighter alive. Each time a drunkard told it, the wind blew harder, the men grew larger, and the odds more frightful. Donna Dawson grew more extraordinary until it was said she moved like lightning. When Donna Dawson confronted Marcus and his gang, the crowd was on Marcus’ side. They cheered as his men gained the advantage and jeered as Donna made any headway in the fight.
“The wind blew so madly,” one drunkard said, “that for a second no one could see Donna or the gang. But just as the dust settled it was only Donna who remained standing. She looked like hell. She was beaten blacker and bluer than she’d ever been. But she’d beat them.”
The barbarians of the town celebrate the legend of Donna not because she stood up to the gang or because of an morality she might have shown, but because her sheer ability. And though no one cheered her on that night, whenever her story is told those in the crowd tell it as if they were cheering. The townspeople had no true alignment to anyone other than to cheer for those who would win. And those townspeople who celebrate her legend haven’t heard from Donna since.