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Toast

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Toast is standing in front of a man she is told is her husband. There is a veil over her eyes and she is dressed in white, a shroud that is draped across her shoulders, her breasts, falling to her calves, unstained and soft. Clean cut like nothing is anymore. Her hair, never cut, silken and strong, is unbound. Her mouth tastes metallic, and when she touches it, her hand comes away silver. She does not touch her neck, which hurts badly, scared she will pull away her skin if she does. She does not know where she is. She does not know how she got here.

It is a wide cavern of rock, with a pool at one end, green as bottle glass, and a tangled pile of steering wheels at the other. There are boys painted white, with hollow eyes, in lines and lines forever, and they are watching her and this gargoyle husband, and her feet feel frozen to the packed earth ground. She was riding pillion on a bike only a moment ago, she is sure of it. She was going to be allowed to ride on her own soon, a Buzzard, decorated in spikes. She was going to cut her hair off, and cut her palm, and be reborn to the road.

“I’m in the wrong place,” she says, and her voice sounds far away and thick, like she’s speaking around sand.

“A bride has been left for me, at the gates of Valhalla,” says the husband. “Shrouded and silvered.”

“Unspoiled,” says another, in a red stained apron with knives in its pockets. “Intact.”

“May she bear boy children, may she sit beside me in Valhalla, may she ride eternal.”

“Glory!” cry the white boys, their voices edged in hysteria.

“Glory,” spits the one with knives, wiping a hand across his mouth.

“Glory,” says the husband, and he turns his red-rimmed eyes to her.

“Glory,” she whispers, trapped in white and silver.

In the vault, Toast comes out of her drugged sleep screaming. There is a girl there, red, and a girl there, gold, and Toast slaps the gold one, and kicks the red one, and is wrestled to the floor by both. They are dressed in white. There are skull scars on their necks. (Her neck burns). They are holding her limbs and breathing heavily. They are just like her, she realises, and she stops struggling.

They let her get to her feet, though the redhead makes sure she’s between Toast and the blonde at all times, and her expression is flat, and fierce. Toast inspects the vault, and she holds her hands in fists at her sides, and she trips on the white cloth that tangles around her ankles, no longer pristine. The rooms are big, and there are a books in piles, and there is water in a pool, and there is green outside the dirty windows.

“I’m told I have a husband,” she says.

“We all do,” the blonde laughs, sharp and bitter as acid.

“Through him we’re raised up,” the redhead mutters. Toast spits on the floor.

They are Angharad and Capable, and it takes a long time for Toast to love them. She is the third person in a pair, she was alone even among the Buzzards. Miss Giddy makes it easier, she is more interesting than she has any right to be, being so old. She teaches Toast to read, and Toast teaches her to make animal shadows on the walls, and the old woman laughs like the screaming of birds.

Toast does not allow herself to miss the Buzzards, but she braids her hair down her back on her second night, and she hacks it off with a piece of glass she breaks from one of the small, square windows. She cuts her hand too, and paints the blood down her nose for the road, and across her mouth for the horizon. She wipes it off quickly, when it reminds her too much of the silver from her wedding, but she thinks it counts all the same. Joe hits her when he sees her hair, and she tastes blood again, and she hates him. He visits in the night, and she hates him. He touches the others, and she hates him. The Organic Mechanic examines them, and she hates him too.

“I could be on on a bike,” she says one night, lying in the water. “I could be on a bike with spiked wheels. I could be at the horizon in the blink of an eye.”

“Close your eyes and you are,” says Capable, and she does it, and she is.

Toast counts bullets in her head. She had learned at an early age what bullets went in what guns, it’s an important thing to know when you’re clinging to the back of a Buzzard. Passing the wrong bullets could mean their death, and yours. It could be an important thing to know still, she reasons, even locked up as she is. The world still exists outside, and she plans to be a part of it again, even if it takes her ten thousand days.

There are other things she learns, like how to tie a slip knot, like the names of stars, like what weeds are poisonous. She learns so quick Miss Giddy calls her knowing, and she takes the name only because it’s Miss Giddy who gives it. She thinks if she really were knowing, she’d be out of the vault by now. She’d be at the horizon.

Angharad makes plans, and more girls arrive, and she tells them too. The green place shimmers in all of their minds, a mirage on the desert, an impossible place, but all of them have hope anyway. They are alive. They have one another. They have water, and they have sky.

"What's the first thing you'll do when we're out?" Cheedo asks Toast, hands on her chin.

"I'm going to get sunburned til my nose peels," she says, and Cheedo laughs.

When they do leave the vault, Miss Giddy stays behind. Toast takes it hardest of all of them, thought she pretends not to. She just cleans the shotgun that’s kept hidden in a hollow in the wall, and checks the shells, and checks them again.

“It won’t misfire,” she says, her voice far more certain than she is.

“I’ll kill him, and catch you on the horizon,” Miss Giddy says, and Toast almost believes it.

When it is Joe who catches them, she knows Miss Giddy is dead, or dying, and it hurts. But the green place is a breath of wind away, and she pushes her hurt to the back of her mind. Angharad has got them this far, and Furiosa will get them further, and Toast will ride the horizon from end to end, just to prove she can, just to stretch her legs, just to feel the breeze. She does not know how Immortan Joe took her, but she will remember every detail of the way she leaves, and she’ll write her freedom in the dirt, and she will scream her victory to the sky, and she will share it with every girl trapped by a world that has tried so hard to bury her. She will be sunburned, and she will cut her hair short, and she will bleed if she wants to, and kiss if she wants to, and she will be free.