dime novel
The Ruloi Collective


He hated memories.

He’d found it in the bottom of his bag, in a compartment he’d forgotten he had, tucked in half between the pages of a book like an innocent stowaway. It was a photograph - of course it had to be a photograph - of a scene captured in sepia and printed on yellowed cardstock. There was a girl, faded now, but still smiling just the same as she did all those years ago. Her delicate arm was wrapped around a boy of equal delicacy, his face a torn expression of wanting to be there and wanting to be as far away as possible, all mixed together with the aloofness he tried to keep in everything he did. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen those faces.

“Come on! It’ll be fun.”




He was hesitant to look at her directly, instead maintaining eye contact with the ground as he leaned against a whitewashed fence post in all his practiced nonchalance.

She stomped her foot and he knew without looking that her face was twisted up in that little rich girl pout she used on so many people. He expected her to start yelling, screaming about how impossible he was and why she ever bothered when he was just going to be so stubborn. Those expectations dissolved when he felt her gloved fingers tilt his chin up to look at her.

All I want is a picture.” Her pretty blue eyes bored right into him, and he knew he’d lost. “You know...for your memories.”


It had to have been sixteen years by now. The boy’s face in the photograph had that cherubic radiance of youth, that aura that somehow kept creases from being forged even when all he did at best was frown. He didn’t see that face in the mirror anymore; the life of a veteran drifter that the wasteland world afforded him had managed to siphon off every last ounce of elegance in his visage, leaving a battle-scarred testament to time in its wake.

And the girl? Her face had ceased to be her own, just like his face had ceased to be his; he hadn’t seen her in the better part of two decades, but he knew that Father Time would be much less kind to her. The kind of energy she had in her youth, driven by fire and quixotry, always burned out early. She was as much a shell as he was.

“So...being a fugitive is kind of fun.”

He shrugged and stretched out, taking ample time to admire the stars above him before answering, “Not really.”

She threw a handful of dry sticks on the fire and shivered. “I think it’s great.”

“I think you’re kidding yourself.”

If looks could maim, he would’ve left camp in a dripping wicker basket. He muttered a faint apology and went back to stargazing.

“No... you’re right,” she said after awhile, the smile previously lighting her face reversing. He watched her draw patterns absently in the ground with a finger, her pretty blue eyes turned downward and forlorn in respect to her revelation. “This is awful.”


She paused from drawing and looked up at the stars, then back down to him. “...Do you think they’ll ever call off the bounty?”

He bit his tongue and stopped himself from saying, ‘Yeah, when we’re dead.’

He settled with, “Eventually.”

She smiled at him.

He ran his thumb over the brittle edges of the photo. Once upon a time, there had been plans: they’d be the most renowned pair of drifters in the world, she’d muse aloud, and they’d fly wherever their wings would take them. She was the dreamer, the idealist, the girl who ran on goodwill alone; he was the cynic, the business man, far more concerned with material gains than helping those in need. They butted heads more than once; he never liked admitting that sometimes - just sometimes - she influenced him.

Sixteen years of trying to escape the memories only made them that much easier to remember.

Six on two, bounty hunters versus bounty heads; a showdown in Little Twister, right in front of the tavern with the sun barely at zenith in the sky. Just like a dime novel, he thought bitterly. This wasn’t real.

The six bullets fired were.

Five thick, hollow thocks of hot lead ripping through flesh and muscle and sinew followed almost immediately, the thunder after the lightning that made his blood freeze cold. He slowly looked over and caught her pretty blue eyes staring at him in disbelief, wordlessly reaching out for the help that had never been so far away before now. All he could do was watch, helpless as her white blouse began to bloom red.

Her lips parted slightly and her balance wavered. A choked cry, the willowy swishing of her dress - how often had he told her how much he hated that noise? He hated it now more than ever - and time seemed to stop, his eyes wide and trigger finger screaming for justice.

The withered earth drank the blood of seven that day.

He closed his eyes and tightened his hand into a fist, the glossy paper crumpling wonderfully between his fingers before he flicked it behind his shoulder, pausing only to listen to the photograph whisper treason all the way to the ground. It would take no more than a week before the wasteland would scorch the sepia couple to ashes and spread his memories to the wind.

He muttered a faint apology, but knew it was sixteen years too late.