By Alexander Jones
A furry lightning bolt flashes from nowhere.
Your eyes widen, heart clenches, fingers dig tightly into the pliable gel of the steering wheel cover and you slam on the brakes, all the force of your quadriceps stomping the pedal down as far as it’ll go and the heavy heavy SUV swerves and fishtails and pitches you forward, rubber shrieking, but it’s too late. You didn’t have enough time, the trees were too crowded, the night too dark, the deer too quick.
You hit it.
Not dead center; the bouncy thud is toward the passenger side, and the deer is thrown toward the side of the road as you pass it by, skidding to halt maybe fifty feet in front of it.
You’re stopped. If you hadn’t come to a complete stop, you would just tap on the gas and go, leaving it. But you’re stopped. Driving away is different than merely accelerating back to cruising speed; a break in your karma, a chink in your self-assurance. If you hadn’t stopped, you’d have been way down the road by the time you decided you should have and by then it would have been too late to bother.
But you did.
Here you are.
The deer is moving around. You see it in the rearview mirror.
You unbuckle your seat belt and yank open the door in a single motion, the cold of the night blasting you as you are birthed from your climate controlled womb, hatched from your snug cocoon out into the cold, dark night.
The firmness of the pavement beneath your feet is unreal and supremely hard as you huff and puff your way to the deer, breath visible, coat in the back seat because the car was too warm.
The deer is lying on the side of the road, kicking its feet, the front hooves beating and scratching irregularly on the dead grass beyond the shoulder. There’s a smear of inky black shiny blood on the road leading up to it, and it’s screaming, screeching, crying, braying, beating its front hooves. The back ones move only from the rocking of the front ones.
Closer still you see how damaged it really is. It had a nice set of antlers, but they’re cracked and broken, hanging half way off its head, swinging around, tearing free of its skull.
A loop of blue guts is all you can see, but the blood leaking out of it, a widening, oily pool tells you that the side of it facing the ground is burst open like a popped water balloon, a melon dropped out a window onto a concrete sidewalk back in the world, but you’re out here in the deep woods all alone, pressing your hands over your ears so you don’t have to hear this dying bursted open thing screaming as it dies, but it’s not really so loud that you have to cover your ears, but you have to cover them because you don’t want to hear it, it hasn’t let up or quieted down or given in; it just keeps braying and yelling and shrieking at top volume and you’ve got your hands over your ears but you can still hear it anyway.
You don’t want to listen and you don’t want to watch; maybe it deserves a little privacy, not have you stare as it beats and scrapes against the side of the road, the movement agitating its body, making that little loop of guts longer and bigger as more blood pours out.
You turn and run back to your SUV. Get in, pull the door closed.
Your hands are shaking, shaking not from the cold and you grab hold of the steering wheel to stop them, but the shaking just vibrates up your arm to the shoulder.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a noise?
That’s not abstract philosophy, it’s a screaming you hear as you look at the space on the gear shifter for ‘drive,’ impossibly loud through the factory smoked safety glass windows a baseball couldn’t shatter.
You surprise yourself.
You surprise yourself by putting the SUV into reverse, twisting around to look out the back window as you lay on the gas pedal, the seat belt reminder dinging as the engine roars. You reverse backwards in a straight line up the straight stretch of pavement and hit the deer again.
You aimed right, got it dead center and you feel it yield and crunch and squish beneath both rear tires this time, followed by the hiccupping eye of the storm before your front tires roll over it as you continue backward, swerving to avoid the ditch and seeing the deer emerge from below your front bumper and the grill protecting your hood which is barely dented because both headlights are shining to illuminate the deer.
Finally crushed into peace.
Alexander has had short fiction published in Bastion Magazine, Crack the Spine, FarCryZine, Origami Journal, and Squawk Back. He has a BA in English/ Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz, a novel inching its way to publication, a second one inching its way to completion and a cool day job. He lives in Jersey City.