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.


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