slipstream by Nathaniel Williams
I’m a few miles from home when the buck leaps into my headlights. Only as I hit the brakes do I realize it’s a man in a deer costume.
My tires rise and fall, and I bounce into the steering wheel before careening to a stop. I pull off as far to the side as I can, and put the flashers on. The engine’s still running as I open the door and rush to the lump in the road behind me.
The streetlights out here are too far apart to help me see much. Somehow, in the last bit of pine-obscured sunset and the rhythmic glare of hazard lights, I can make out his face.
It’s my neighbor from down the road. His suit is covered with short, tan hair, and I can see a metal zipper in the middle dividing the white blaze across his chest. His face is uncovered, except the tip of his nose which has a black smudge of makeup for a snout. Blood trickles from it.
God, what’s his name? Doug? Donald? And why the suit? It’s almost March.
He tries to raise his head and fails.
“Why… weren’t you… paying attention?” he asks.
I recall why I never liked him. The kind of guy you move out to these parts to avoid. Plays his stereo so loud you can hear it for miles when he washes his car on Saturday mornings. And I think he’s the one who called the county when my lawn grew too high last spring.
He lifts his cowl. Antlers droop around his shoulders.
“Son of a bitch,” he says, then coughs blood and goes limp.
If I stay out here, another car will come. Probably driving too fast on the two-lane. Probably someone paying attention to a cell phone call instead of the wheel. We need to get out of the road.
I grasp his ankles, above the little hoof-shaped booties, and pull him to the ditch.
Leaves crunch in the roadside timber behind us. Several figures emerge from the woods. I see dark, pointed ears and shaggy tails. I begin to recognize the faces shining in the intermittent orange glow.
A crowd of my other neighbors. People I’ve met despite the acreages of land between their homes and mine. Jaime. Francine. Mr. and Mrs. Winchell. Others I barely know.
They’re all wearing coyote suits.
They stand silently, studying the body of the man near my feet. A few lean forward, pointing their furry, black-tipped earpieces my direction. They’re waiting on me. For movement. For inevitable questions. I inhale chilled night air.
I don’t want to know.
As I run back to the car, I hear the wet sounds of tearing flesh. And the growls.
copyright January 2010 by Nathaniel Williams
Nathaniel Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He is coordinator for AboutSF, which is a joint project of the University of Kansas, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association.