Traveling Through the Dark (1990)
It was late. I was driving home on Wilson River Road. The sky was a deep blue, stars sprayed across the heavens. On the right was the sheer side of a mountain. The dark and featurelss rock raced past the passenger window. On my side was the canyon – a vast black pit just a lane away. The road narrows at the county line; I could feel the change of pavement under the car. A new vibration. The tires hummed constantly on the blacktop, only pausing on potholes. As I rounded the mountain, I saw the deer lying on the road. I braked slowly, easily. The tire hum dropped in pitch then disappeared as I came to a stop.
I got out of my car and stood in the path of my high-beams. My shadow reached her first. Her – the doe was dead. I shook my head. This curve was dangerous for man and deer alike. Deer couldn’t cross with cars flying blindly around the curve at fifty-five miles an hour. And with a dead deer in the middle of the road, cars had nowhere to go except straight down a thousand feet into the river. I took of my coat and rolled up my shirt sleeves though it wasn’t more than forty degrees. I kneeled beside the doe, my breath clouding around my head. I touched her gently; she was still warm.
Suddenly there was a tap at my fingertips. I jerked my hand back so fast that I sat down hard in the middle of the road. It took me a minute to figure it out. The doe was pregnant. Her fawn was still alive – though it wouldn’t be for long. My body heat was sucked out through my jeans. I looked up at my breath; thin white clouds hovering in the headlights. I watched as they passed out of the beams, their loose ends cut straight by the darkness. Sitting there, alone, on the blacktop, I shuddered. Not from the cold. Everything was black. And silent. No crickets, no night birds, not even a breath of wind to dissolve my breath. That was the worst part. I was completely alone.
Then I heard the car. It was low muffled sound at first. I looked up, but I couldn’t see anything yet. There wasn’t a choice anymore. I ignored the waiting fawn as best as a I could and pushed the deer. Hard. Her soft hide scraped against the road, catching on the blacktop. I pushed harder, sweat dripped into my eyes. The car was louder. I still couldn’t see the headlights, but they couldn’t be too far away now.
“Come on, damn you!” I exploded. The carcass slipped over the shoulder. I fell forward and scraped my hands. The doe fell slowly. Her body cut straight by the shoulder’s edge. I watched as the earth swallowed her up, but didn’t hear the fall. The air was glowing – a reddish haze. I stood up and pressed my burning palms togther. The other car came and went, passing me in less than a second. I didn’t leave – not then. Not for a long time.