by Rebecca Snowden
She felt it before she saw it, the dull, soft thud of metal meeting flesh. She heard the headlight shatter, the violent crunch of the fender crumbling and then—silence.
Be careful, her husband had said before she left the house. Keep your eyes open.
She’d blinked, for just a second. A small moment, but one with consequences.
The deer lay a few feet in front of the car, its legs splayed out at odd angles. A fawn, its brown fur mottled with white, soft nubs in place of where antlers would eventually grow. Most likely, he’d wandered off from his mother and gotten too close to the road. A small moment, but one with consequences.
Its mouth was open, the soft pink tongue exposed to the cold. A thin trickle of blood ran down to the pavement and its breath came in short, shallow gasps. The eyes, a glossy black, rolled wildly in their sockets.
She reached out a hand and laid it flat against the deer’s heaving side. The hind legs kicked feebly, animal instincts taking over. She could feel its heartbeat slowing, weakening. She had never killed anything before. This was not a power she relished.
The only witness to her crime, a lone utility pole, stood silent in the darkness. She wanted to offer up an apology, a prayer. She owed the deer this much at least. In the glare of the remaining headlight, she knelt in the snow and paid her penance to the moon.