“Who is she?”
“Rictus says it’s man. That it has a tiny schlanger.”
“Then . . . why?”
“She does not breed true.”
The breeders are a chirping, twittering hubbub. Like how she might imagine birds to be, a burble like a half running Aqua Cola pipe. They watch Immortan Joe run his meaty paw over her head, bless her riding and her pack of War Boys. She despises them. Despises their pale skin and soft voices. Despises their fertile wombs and reddened lips. Despises their softness.
When she circled round the Spear-Men’s camp, she was cut off from the pack.
She drove through dust and death.
She drove through the day.
She drove through the night.
She drove through the canyon . . . and was turned back.
When she limps back to the Citadel, bloodied and beaten, dragging a Spear-Boy, she is hailed a hero.
Her wheel returns to the shrine.
And for passage through the canyon, she needs something to give the Rock Riders in return.
“Where did they find her?”
“In the wild.”
“She’s a feral?”
“So I hear.”
“But she’s so pretty.”
“Skin so pale.”
“Skin like mother’s milk.”
“Skin like mother’s milk!”
“But she’s feral. They don’t breed true, do they? Isn’t that what happened to Furiosa?”
“We will find out, will we not?”
“What do we call her?”
“Call her The Dag, like the hair she came in with!”
“She won’t breed true. He won’t keep her.”
“Skin like mother’s milk.”
“Skin like mother’s milk.”
“He won’t want her for a year or so. She’s too little. He doesn’t breed us early.”
“She won’t be now.”
Furiosa decides she will allow the Organic Mechanic to touch her. Furiosa decides she will allow his hands upon her limb. Furiosa decides she will accept Immortan Joe’s gift.
She decides she will allow this.
They think they own her. They think the mechanical arm they strap to her waist is a great honour. They think they have chosen.
But no. She has decided she will allow this.
The other choice would be to fight, to run, to die. Is it a choice at all, she wonders in the night while she rubs the red weals the straps have dug in her flesh. Decide to submit or decide to be punished.
It is her decision. They cannot take this choice from her.
“Where has Tricky gone, Miss Giddy?”
“To make milk.”
“She’s quick to be up the duff.”
“Who knows, child.”
“But why has she left us to make milk?”
“Because the babies don’t stay. Quick to conceive, quick to leave. She is better as a milk maker.”
“It’s not fair, she was our friend.”
“It’s not fair.”
A buggy, a spare tank of guzzoline, a quart tank of Aqua Cola, and her foot heavy on the gas. She tears so quick across the sand she is sure the Green Place will rise up over the next dune.
The Rock Riders will have their price.
And she will be in the Green Place.
But the buggy is small and light and the winds that curtailed the patrols in this area have whipped up a storm that flips her buggy. The guzzoline burns and she is buried under dead, acid dirt.
When the winds die down she thinks . . . do I climb from this grave?
But she does.
She decides to.
She decides to walk back to the Citadel.
“Was it a boy?”
“I am so sorry.”
“Did . . . was she . . . ?”
“She was perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes.”
“Tell me true, Miss Giddy. Was she perfect?”
“She was as perfect a human as I ever saw.”
“Does she live?”
“No, my darling.”
“He drowned her.”
“He did. I saw it. He held her under.”
“He held her under the pool of mother’s milk, held her tiny body till she was not struggling. Held her till the air was gone. Why did he do that?”
“Thank you, Dag, for telling me my daughter’s fate.”
“You didn’t need to hear that.”
“Why shouldn’t she? Angharad bred true. Why would Joe drown a ten fingered babe?”
“He won’t breed with his own daughters, Dag. I do thank you for your honesty. And I will remember my daughter. My first born.”
Furiosa bears their praise and their celebrations and their honour. She bears it, though it is intolerable. Each accolade burns her skin.
She bears it because now her wheel alights the stem of the War Rig.
She might bear many things, to run her fingers over the hot black metal, to sit atop all that power, to drive the War Rig across the scorched land.
She would even bear meeting the Immortan Joe in his harem.
“My name is Angharad.”
“And mine is Dag.”
“Thank you for your service, Imperator.”
“Yes we all thank you for your service, one armed valkyrie.”
“That’s a compliment, from Dag.”
“I mean only to compliment.”
“And this is Toast. This is Capable. Cheedo and at the back there, on the couch? That’s Silvie.”
“Did they cut out your tongue, Imperator?”
“She never speaks.”
“You should come back another time, Imperator. Without Joe. We have water here. Plenty of water for you. Come back any time.”
The breeders are weak, soft, pathetic and detestable. She loathes them. She hates them. They don’t fight.
No, it is her decision to drive the War Rig. To wait for the right time.
The War Rig will survive the storm.
The War Rig would be a mighty prize to return to the Vuvalini.
She hates the soft breeders.
Because they, like her, decided not to fight.
“Imperator! You came back! Are you thirsty? Would you like water? We have some food. Mothers milk? It is good to see you. Please, sit. The others are sleeping, resting. Too hot to do much else. Are you sure I can’t get you water? I will feel better if you drink water. Please.”
She visits them sometimes. The breeders. The wives. She watches Silvie’s belly swell, the way the others fuss around the dark eyed woman. Silvie, she learns, has borne Immortan Joe sons, but all misshapen.
It is the tall, gold one who invites her back. Each time. The tall, gold one who speaks when Furiosa says nothing. The tall, gold one who takes Furiosa to the archway that looks out onto the arid, empty air, and sits and talks long into the night.
But it is the night Furiosa sneaks up to find Silvie is gone, and the breeders are quiet and tearful, that she speaks back.
“My people are from a Green Place.”
“Yes, green. They take care of the land there. One day I will go back.”
“I know you will.”
“You know it, Angharad? Ha.”
“If Dag knew it you wouldn’t laugh.”
“Yes I would.”
“I do know you will go back, Furiosa. Because I know you. You will go back to the Green Place of Many Mothers. When you choose to.”
“And when will you choose to ask me to take you?”
“When I think you will say yes.”
“I will say yes now, Angharad.”
“You will say yes for me. But we all go. Me. Dag. Cheedo. Capable. Toast. When I think you will say yes to that, I will ask you.”
“It can’t be done.”
“One breeder is insult enough. All his prized wives? He would chase me to the end of the earth.”
She stands by her War Rig as the black caps work on her. She stares out at the desert, her back and her aching arm warmed by the heat her War Rig emanates.
When the winds rise, the patrols are cut short. That is easiest.
But only the War Rig could survive the storm.
The War Rig is always accompanied by War Boys.
The storm might take care of some of them.
Pay the Rock Riders their price.
Go to the Green Place.
The women could not come with her. Even Angharad. Immortan Joe would chase her to the ends of the earth.
She watches the sun go down between the rock pillars of the Citadel and she does not go to visit the women. She stays with the War Boys. She stays with her War Rig.
“Furiosa, we haven’t seen you for a while. How are you?”
“I am sorry for staying away.”
“There’s no need to apologise. I scared you, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Never mind, Furiosa, I don’t hold a grudge.”
“Perhaps you should. Hey, Toast. I brought you a present. Here.”
It is hard to stay away. She likes them. They are clever, they are funny, they are sweet. Toast must understand the workings of anything given to her. Capable can create any piece of clothing with her clever hands – and she adjusts the straps of Furiosa’s arm to keep them from digging in so hard. Cheedo is quiet and sweet and soothes over every argument. Dag is . . . Dag. And then Angharad. A Vuvalini by any other name.
She talks her plan over. Her plan for her, not for them. How she will take the War Rig and drive through the storm, past the Rock Riders, and to the Green Place.
Toast leans forward. Furiosa holds her breath. She does not want to be asked again. But Toast does not ask to be taken. Toast asks to be told when Furiosa will leave. Toast offers to keep Immortan Joe occupied. Toast is due a breeding.
She sits back on the pillows, these women nodding and talking to one another, agreeing their plan to give her the best chance.
So she decides. “But Toast, how will you come with me if you are with him?”
There is only one chance. So they plan. They need a day with the wind, for the storm. A day with the wind where the War Rig is being sent to one of their sister cities. Each time the War Rig is prepared, the women get ready, but the wind is unpredictable. The Rock Riders have agreed, one day when the winds are bad, they will drop rocks in the canyon, for the price of guzzoline.
They wait and wait. Angharad’s belly gets larger.
“You take me. Even if I am birthing, you take me,” she hisses one night. “I will not stay.”
But the winds come. Her War Boy escorts are excited, they’ve caught a feral – a real prize. They’re celebrating too, they’ll be slow to get on her tail. She’ll never have a better shot. The women creep, helped by Miss Giddy. They’ll never have a better shot.
Furiosa takes her wheel, accepts Immortan Joe’s blessing, and she and her War Rig and her squadron of War Boys set off on the road to Gastown.
She knows they won’t make it. The best they can hope for is a quick death on a furious road.
The women think they will. The women have hope.
And she has made her decision as the sun flickers in her rearview mirror, mirrors catching mirrors, everything reflecting off one thing and another.
The decision is to turn the wheel.