Cervidae, Arah McManamna
You don’t know it yet, but early in the morning, the dead deer will lift their broken bodies from where they’ve fallen. It won’t matter if they’ve been bounced off a car or littered with arrows. Their vast eyes, if they have any left, will blink, and they will rise.
Tomorrow, if you pay any attention, you’ll hear your neighbors screaming, but you’ll probably have the tv up too loud. No, you’ll only notice it when you’re making breakfast, hours after the first deer gets back up and starts walking. It’s your wife’s scream that will alert you to the fact that the three mounted heads, the ones you are so proud of, have started thrashing wildly on the living room wall. You’ll wonder if it’s the bourbon you splashed in your coffee, but then, in the garage, something will thump against the inside of your chest freezer. Scratching at the lid like a dog that wants to come inside.
Your wife will lock the garage door with shaking fingers, while you grab the shotgun from the mantel. She’ll turn to you, look past you to the kitchen window, the one you opened to let in the birdsong and morning sun, and freeze. When you look, you don’t recognize the undead doe. All you’ll see are her dripping hot nostrils and her slim, pretty head. But she knows you. You never found her after you put one in her soft belly. At the time you felt bad about it. It’s not how you liked to hunt. But she was long gone, staggering deep into the green before you could end it. The doe will fix you in her bottomless gaze, and you’ll feel trapped until your wife pinches your upper arm so hard she leaves marks. Then, the two of you will run out to the truck, your shotgun slapping your back, urging you on. You’ll soon realize that between you and the city are miles of forest, riddled with grudge-bearing corpses. You’ll try to outrun the doe and the crush of cervid bodies slamming into the sides of your vehicle. Maybe you’ll make it.
But right now, you’re cozy in bed, reading next to the peaceful form of your wife of twenty years. It’s shocking that in the nearby woods, a dead deer is lifting her head to suck in a breath, and that in just a few short hours you’ll be out there, running.
Arah McManamna writes and lives in the creeping damp of the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as Hobart, Rejection Letters, Sledgehammer, Gravel Magazine, and Outside In.