full screen background image
  Table of contents Issue Twenty-five ROAD KILL



inda cradles her arm. She once held Troy the same way, back when he was fragile, precious. Her ankle throbs. She shifts in the passenger seat, hoping the deepening shadows will conceal her movement. But Troy notices.

"It's your own goddamn fault. You push, and you push. Pop was right. You don't know when to leave a man alone."

Her late husband's words. Her son's voice. Fear slams into her like fists into walls, into flesh.

Troy's thick, meaty hands slap the steering wheel. "I got all this custody crap with Angie, you nagging me. Don't blame me for snapping."

"I'm sorry." The words sound like even more small, delicate bones breaking.

"Make it up to me tomorrow, Ma. Tell the judge I'm a good daddy."

How would Troy know what a good father looks like? "What about this?" She raises her arm, gingerly.

The road is deserted at this time of night, and Troy drives too fast, fueled on beer and anger. "Tell the judge what you'll tell the doctors. You fell and . . ."

The animal lurches from the woods. It's a hulking, humped beast, more wolf than deer or dog. The impact shudders the car.

"Fuck me." Troy stomps outside. She limps after him.

In the headlights' glare, the road glistens from earlier rain. Linda stares at the massive body crumpled at her feet. Beneath its thick, lush fur a musculature writhes, a sleekness, as if the creature still stalks, still prepares to pounce, even in death. A sulfurous stink almost smothers the scents of blood and damp earth.

Troy prods the body with his work boot then heads back to the car.

"I've never seen a dog like . . . I don't see tags." She squints.

Troy returns with an old blanket. He scoops up the animal. Despite his own bulk, Troy struggles with its dead weight as he heads for the open trunk.

"What are you doing?"

"I'll bring it to the dump later."

"But what if it belongs to someone?" She hobbles after him, leans on the car to catch her breath.

"We all got problems."

"But . . . "

He slams the trunk shut. Linda winces. Beneath her, the old car shudders as if it, too, is afraid.

"The judge finds out I've been drinking and driving, that I hit some stupid dog, I'll never see my boy."

"I'll tell him it's my fault. You were relaxing after work, having a beer, and I fell. That's the only reason you were driving, you were taking me to the emergency room . . . "

Troy jabs a finger in her face. "You keep your mouth shut. You say what I tell you to say."

In that moment, the resemblance to his father steals her breath. She drags her gaze away, manages to nod.

They ride in silence until they hear shifting, shuffling in the trunk. Troy pulls over.

"I'll go." Linda slides from the car. She needs the air, the space.

She opens the trunk with her good hand, studies the creature. The light inside is weak, but Linda knows she's never seen anything like it. It slits one rheumy, yellow eye at her. She gasps, steps back, but it makes no move, only watches.

"Come on!"

Linda and the creature look at each other. She thinks about Angie, the strength it took for her to leave Troy. She thinks about her grandson, about custody and visitation, about growing up with Troy around. She remembers Troy growing up with his father around.

The creature blinks at her once, twice. It snarls, drawing the flesh of its snout over its fangs.

Maybe Troy is right. Maybe it is all her goddamn fault.

"Is it dead or what?"

But maybe she can do something now, stop it now. Maybe she can save her former daughter-in-law, her grandson. Maybe even herself.

Linda closes the lid then gets in the car.

"It's dead." She stares out the window. Later, Troy will open the trunk at the dump. It will be quiet, deserted. He will be alone. The creature will be dead. Or, it won't.

They drive for a bit until more noises from the trunk make Troy stop the car in the middle of the road.

Linda's heart stutters. No, no, no. Not now. Not yet. It's too soon. She can't drive, can't run, not with her injuries. She won't get away in time.

"You said it was dead. Can't you fucking do anything right?" He heads to the trunk.

She leans back in the seat, closes her eyes. "This. I can do this right," she whispers.

Troy's screams fill the night.

The doors are wrenched from the car. Glass shatters. Hot, slick strands of saliva coat her neck. The stink of her son's death fills her nose.

She smiles.




Madeline Mora-Summonte is a writer, a reader, a beach-comber and a tortoise owner. She is the author of the flash fiction collections, The People We Used To Be and Garden of Lost Souls. To learn more about Madeline and her work, visit MadelineMora-Summonte.blogspot.com.

The authors published at HelloHorror retain all rights to their work. For permission to quote from a particular piece, or to reprint, contact the editors who will forward the request. All content on the web site is protected under copyright law.