From the corner of his eye, Jasper saw the large buck dart into the two lane country road ahead of him. He hit the brakes and swerved wildly to the right. The deer leaped upon the hood of the Mercury Marquis and crashed through the windshield. His wife, Nancy, screamed as the enormous beast filled two thirds of the front seat of the car.
Jasper’s right arm snapped like a twig from the collision and the antlers sliced off a portion of his wife’s cheek, exposing both rows of teeth on the right side of her face and crushing her upper torso with its front hoofs.
The Marquis continued down the slippery embankment and careened off a tree. The air bags inflated and several limbs exploded through the windshield and quieted the thrashing animal with a bone-breaking thud.
Jasper felt blood trickling down his face from the lacerations caused by the broken branches as the sound of steam hissed from under the battered hood of the car and the smell of gasoline fumes were pungent in the air.
Like the calm after a violent thunderstorm, when the car had settled into its final resting place, he saw the horrible injuries Nancy had sustained. There was nothing anyone could do to save the one he loved. The deer’s remains spread-eagled on top of her repulsed him to the point he could scarcely catch his breath. He had never imagined in his worst nightmare anything so terrible could actually come true . His eyes filled with tears and the enormous void of losing his soul mate made him sob uncontrollably.
He heard a voice outside the car coming closer. Turning his head, he saw the face of an elderly man in a flannel shirt in the side window.
“I called 911. They’ll be here soon,” the man said as he tried the car door.
Incredibly, after some protest and a loud creaking sound, it swung open. The stranger reached across the deflated airbag and unlocked Jasper’s seat belt. “The smell of gasoline worries me and something is smoldering under the hood. I’d like to get you away from the car if I can. Can you feel your legs?”
“My arm is broken, but I’m not paralyzed,” Jasper groaned.
The stranger struggled with the airbags and the broken branches and finally dragged Jasper a safe distance from the smoking wreckage. After making him as comfortable as possible, the old man returned to the car and looked in horror at the mutilated remains of the woman in the passenger seat. The car continued to smolder, but there was nothing the old man could do by himself to remove the woman’s body from under the deer that had been impaled by a tree limb.
He reached through the broken window to make a cursory check of the woman’s vitals. As expected, he couldn’t detect a heartbeat, a pulse, or any sign of breathing or movement. He was convinced the woman was dead until he looked into her open eyes and did a double take. Recoiling backward from the window, he stared at the corpse’s menacing fixation on him. The enlarged black pupils that almost covered both eye sockets glared at him with a degree of suspicion and loathing so intense, it felt as if they were boring a hole through his skull. He quickly closed the woman’s eyes and almost fell when he skittered backwards around the trunk of the car.
When he reached the driver’s side, something else in the car caught his attention. He stood with his mouth agape and looked at the woman from several angles with a growing trepidation. When he finally backpedaled up the hill toward the highway, he saw the corpse’s eyes pop open, still staring in his direction.
The rescue squad arrived shortly thereafter, placed Jasper on a stretcher, and hoisted him into the ambulance. Through the side window, he saw two policemen and two firemen attempting to remove the deer and Nancy’s body from the demolished automobile as the ambulance sped away with sirens blaring.
Minutes later, the ambulance pulled into the driveway of the local clinic. Doc Stephens, a middle-aged doctor with a stethoscope hanging from his neck followed the EMT’s into the small office building. A young lady in nurse’s garb held the door open and joined the others inside.
Jasper continued to sob as the doctor set his broken arm and the nurse attended to the cuts on his face.
“After evaluating your injuries, I don’t think you need to be taken to the General Hospital in Harrisonburg,” the doctor replied.
Jasper ignored his comment and continued staring into space, “Nancy is dead and life will never be the same. What can I tell my son? He’s getting married next month and his mother won’t be there.” His words trailed off as the tears continued to flow.
The doctor paused and looked at the nurse. She picked up a tray and left the room.
Inspecting his cast, the doctor looked at Jasper and said, “The man who rescued you from the car is in the waiting room and he would like to speak with you. He says it’s important.”
The request surprised Jasper, but wiping the tears away with a handkerchief, he gathered his composure to meet with the man.
“Send him in, Doc. He probably saved my life. Did the car finally explode?”
“No, the fire department put out the fire in time.”
The doctor disappeared from the room and shortly after the elderly man in the flannel shirt, now wearing a baseball cap, appeared at the door. Behind him, Jasper saw a gurney with a body covered by a sheet pass in the hallway followed by the two EMT’s that had brought him to the clinic. One of them said as he passed, “You were right. It wasn’t your imagination after all.”
The old man turned toward the small procession with a strange look of apprehension. He seemed relieved when he heard a door snap closed down the hall, but he continued his vigil in the doorway.
“You wanted to see me?” Jasper said breaking the ice.
The man turned and entered the room, “Yes. I noticed several things at the scene of the accident that were weird. I was in the rescue squad for years and I’ve seen my share of mutilated bodies, but I’ve never seen open wounds like your wife had that didn’t bleed. It’s not normal. There should have been a lot of blood, but there wasn’t a drop coming from her body.”
“No blood…?” Jasper mumbled, stunned by what the old man had said. He remembered all too well the torn flesh and the huge hole in Nancy’s chest, and knew the stranger was correct; there was no blood. It was impossible, but true .
The old man continued, “I tried to warn the doc and the EMT’s, but they just laughed at me at first and said I had a vivid imagination, but now I think they understand what I was trying to tell them.”
“And what was that?” Jasper asked dumbfounded.
The bloodless corpse on the gurney in the back room with a gaping hole in her chest where her heart should be isn't human.”
“Do you expect me to believe this bullshit?” Jasper screamed. “You must be ready for the loony bin. A real nut case.”
“Look, I’m sorry if I’ve made a bad situation worse, but I had to tell you,” the man said apologetically. “You don’t need to take my word for it. Talk to the Doc and the EMT’s. God knows what they’re gonna find out before the night is over.”
Jasper tried to sit up. Was this some kind of bad dream? The idea that the woman he had lived with and loved for more than twenty years was not human was beyond comprehension. If his wife wasn’t human, what about his son? As he thought back through the years, several things occurred to him. Bobby was actually his stepson from Nancy’s first marriage. As he thought back, he couldn’t remember Bobby ever being really sick. And for that matter, he couldn’t remember him skinning his knee or cutting his finger or any injury where there would have been bleeding. He also realized he had never seen Nancy bleed. He couldn’t recall her ever being under the care of a doctor. In fact, he couldn’t think of the name of her primary physician. He didn’t know if she ever had one.
The old man stood in the doorway fingering his baseball cap and finally said, “Oh, I saved the best for last. By all medical standards, your wife’s vitals say she’s dead, but her black eyeballs followed me from one side of the car to the other. There’s no doubt she’s alive, at least she was then, and I’ve got a bad feeling she’s not happy we’ve discovered her secret.”
“My wife is alive!” Jasper screamed with delight.
“That may not be a good thing,” the stranger replied warily. “Look, I’d best be going before the shit really hits the fan. God bless us all.” He disappeared into the corridor.
Jasper sat on the bed and thought about the incredible story the old man had told. He needed to speak with the doctor and the EMT’s. He heard a scream down the hall and the sound of scuffling.
He struggled from the bed to his feet and moved toward the lights that were on in the rest of the clinic. The first door he came to was ajar and he pushed it open. He screamed when he saw the doctor and the nurse lying in a pool of blood with gaping holes in their chests. Their hearts were dangling from their chest cavities.
He tried to stifle the scream as he backtracked into the corridor in the direction of the lobby. Turning the corner, he stumbled over the body of the elderly man who had rescued him. He had befallen the same fate as the doctor and the nurse.
Steadying himself on the door handle of a nearby examination room, he regained his footing. Was he losing his mind? How could this be happening? His mind was spinning as he lurched toward the lobby like a man in a drunken stupor.
Reaching the lobby, he stood motionless in the dead silence, paralyzed in fear by the sight of the ravaged bodies of the policemen, the EMT’s and the firemen that had been at the scene of the accident. The light coming through the picture window from the parking lot cast a wall-to-wall liquid shine on the lobby floor. It looked like a shallow swimming pool of blood with six bodies floating in it. The reek of death that filled the room was suffocating.
Shuttering violently, he heard what sounded like someone dragging a foot across the floor behind him and realized that except for him, all the witnesses of the accident were dead. In the window’s reflection, he saw the skeletal grin of his wife’s exposed teeth and the deep, black hole in her chest. Cringing in horror, he closed his eyes and waited for the proverbial ax to fall.
And then like a breath of fresh air, he was relieved by the familiar sound of his wife’s thunderous cannonball fart, which had been a source of levity in their household for twenty years. Despite the carnage before him, he started to giggle hysterically as he always did, and then the two of them burst into a fit of riotous, sidesplitting laughter that continued for several minutes.
After Nancy caught her breath, she finally said in her unmistakably pissy tone, “Jasper, we need to talk.”