Mia has been dead for weeks, but she can’t bring herself to leave Nowhere, Pennsylvania. When it had become clear that the chemicals she’d poisoned herself with had only worked on her body, she’d planned to make for Los Angeles like she and her best friend had always dreamed. She makes it as far west as the patch of woods between her family’s farm and the next before she gives up and curls beneath the curving branches of a wild forsythia bush. Mia wonders if she can starve her soul if she stays there long enough, but a Carolina wren sings to her every morning, and its easy beauty crushes her.
So, one evening she follows a small herd of deer north off her family’s farm to Route 422. She watches the three-point buck and four doe nose the ground for fallen seeds, nip fresh growth from shrubs and low branches. They lift their long, thick necks to watch cars and trucks rush past, tails flicking.
An idea comes to her when she sees the first tractor-trailer speeding down the highway. Mia takes a step past one of the doe. The doe doesn’t move, or show any sign of noticing the girl’s presence. Mia takes another step. Another. Another, and she’s close enough to the highway that she should feel the wind of cars passing, but she can’t. Death has dulled her physical senses. She wanted to stop existing, but she’ll take what she can get.
She waits until she sees another tractor-trailer in the distance. She takes the final steps, and she’s standing in the center of the highway. The deer look up, their eyes blank, unknowing. The big truck grows as time shrinks. Mia tenses in spite of her resolve. Dying felt like a thousand rats chewing holes in her organs, eating their way out. She hopes this will feel better, knows it will just feel different.
The truck is huge now, getting still larger. One of the doe looks across the highway to the meadow on the other side. She leaps. The truck fills Mia’s vision. She hears a sickening thud and an animal whimper. She feels herself pulled apart in a thousand directions, and then it’s over.
Mia lies on the far shoulder of the highway, whole again, looking across the empty road at the doe’s broken body, blood thickening around her back end, where her hind legs have been almost torn away. Her mouth opens and closes as blood dribbles from the corner. Her front legs paw at the pavement. Then she is still. Faintly, Mia smells iron and rubber. She crosses the highway to the doe and rests a hand on her head. A light rises from the deer’s eyes. Mia holds out her fingers and tries to catch it, but it evaporates. The rest of the deer have fled. She is left standing alone with the doe’s body, empty-handed and still herself.
Kelly Lynn Thomas graduated from Chatham University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in 2013 with concentrations in fiction and travel writing. Her creative work has appeared in a number of journals including Permafrost, Sou’Wester, Pacifica Literary Review, Flash Fiction Online, and others.