Nessa Cannon is a freelance video game writer living in Southern California. She has written for several viral indie games, such as Endoparasitic and Star Trucker. Passionate about writing in all forms, she started writing tiny ghost stories at a young age and never stopped. Before becoming a video game writer, she was a youth chess coach. This is her first traditional publication, and you can view her website HERE.


by Nessa Cannon


The first time he drove me home, he struck and killed a crow.

It was pecking at some roadkill on the side of the road. I saw it from the passenger seat and reached my hand out to his arm. “Hey, Jamie,” I said, pointing to the bird. “Don’t hit that crow.”

He scoffed, and shrugged. “What? It’ll move out of the way.”

It didn’t.

I felt like I was going to throw up when I felt the tire roll over it as it squished the roadkill further into the pavement.

“It didn’t move out of the way,” was his defense. It’s always his defense, I thought. If someone else doesn’t move, it’s their fault.

And I still think about that a lot, I guess. It is never his fault.

The next day, when I was driving to work, I saw the crow’s carcass, roasting in the sun. Two of his brothers were poised on a rock beside him, mourning. I caught their eyes, and they held eye contact as I drove by.

Crows stare into me now. They know what happened. I can feel it. I’ll always feel guilty for that incident. I’ll always remember it.

I am still thinking about it as he’s driving me home from a friend’s wedding.

The wedding was up on this mountain, in the middle of the woods. A long, winding, isolated canyon road makes up most of the drive home—one lane in either direction, with steep cliffs and blind curves all the way down.

Jamie insisted on driving. I didn’t him to drive, but I let him anyway, because I admit that the canyon’s steep cliffs made me uneasy.

About halfway down the canyon, he reaches over to take my hand. I instinctively flinch and move my hand back. Even in the dark, I see him frown in the corner of my eye.

Jamie scoffs. “Are you seriously still mad about what happened with the caterer?”

I am. I’m mad and frustrated and embarrassed. But I tell him, “It’s not a big deal. I’m just not feeling touchy right now.”

He sees right through it and gets defensive. He drives around a tight curve a little too fast. “He was the one who shoved me,” he says with obvious exasperation.

I don’t want to argue with him, but I do. I correct him. “He bumped into you, and you nearly started a fight with him. You pushed him to the ground.”

Jamie steps on the gas and mumbles something under his breath. I can’t piece it together right away, but it finally clicks in my head a few seconds later. “He’s lucky that’s all I did.”

We’ve been dating for two years, and times like this are hard. He’s always...doing stuff like that. I never know what to say. I don’t feel like I should say anything. I remember what my friend whispered to me a few weeks ago after she saw Jamie nearly start a fight. “Is he normally like this?”

A chill runs through me. I take a deep breath and look out the window.

I think about the crow.

I decide to say something.

“You completely overreacted,” I say softly. “It was mean, and embarrassing.”

He looks at me, incredulous. “Are you serious?”

I want to recoil into my skin. “Yeah,” I mumble, gripping at my seat. He’s not looking at the road. He’s driving too fast.

I try to keep my tone level, but some panic slips out. “Jamie, can you just—”

“Don’t tell me how to drive!” he scolds. Rolling his eyes, he speeds up just a little bit more. The twisting road feels more and more threatening, as he crosses over the yellow line just to make the turns.

We come around a blind curve, and there’s something. In the road.

An animal, I think, stopped in the middle of our lane. At first, I see it as a deer. That changes a dozen times in the next few seconds.

I scream for Jamie to brake.

He swerves to the right. I feel the passenger side wheel nearly lose its grip on the dirt, threatening to send us tumbling down into the canyon.

He hits the thing in the road almost head-on. And when he corrects to the left, to keep us on the road, he hits it again. I feel its bones scrape against the metal of the car.

The car is still moving at a snail’s pace when I grab his arm and squeeze. A plea to stop. He has to stop.

When he brakes, and we finally come to a complete stop, I realize I’m still screaming. I snap my jaw closed so hard it hurts.

“Holy shit,” he kind of laughs. His eyes are wide. He sees me reaching for the door handle, and extends his arm out to stop me. “Babe, don’t—”

But I’m already out, throwing myself from the passenger seat. I’m inches from the steep cliff when I move around the car to look at the damage.

And the headlights and the high beams and the full moon are bright enough for me to see everything. I know what I’m seeing, I swear to God.

It’s me.

It’s…she’s? She’s mangled in a pile, in the middle of the pavement. Her blood is smeared across the front of the car, all across her form.

The skin across her arm, her shoulder, her collarbone and sternum has been ripped from her body. I can see her heart beating in her chest. One of her arms is broken, and the shards of bone were worn down from scraping across the car. Her bottom jaw has been ripped from her skull, and I can see it on the pavement out of the corner of my eye. It looks like her tongue was cut off. There’s shreds of fabric still hanging off her body, stuck to her with blood.

And despite it all, I know it’s me.

And she knows who I am.

I start taking baby steps toward her. I’m scared I’ll startle her. I mean, I’m scared of a lot, but I don’t want her to go.

She groans at me. To me. She’s trying to communicate.

When I’m nearly close enough to touch her, Jamie grabs my arm and yanks me back. She recoils when he grabs me. “Leah!” He scolds, shaking his head at me. “Don’t touch that fucking thing!”

I’m bewildered. I look to her, then back to him. “What? It’s—don’t you see it?”

“See what, Leah? The dying deer?” He asks, sounding just as shocked as I am.

“N-no! I mean, it’s me! It’s...” I trail off, watching him pace to the trunk of the car, open it, and pull something out.

It’s a shovel. A metal, round mouth blade shovel he uses for work.

I step back from him. I wait for him to say something.

He doesn’t.

I finally do. “Why do you— What is that for?”

He seems surprised I’m even asking. “Well, we have to put it out of its misery,” he says. He sounds determined.

“No! No, shouldn’t we, like...get her to a hospital or something?”

“It’s roadkill!”

“It’s not! She’s alive, and—”

He rushes towards me, puts one hand on my shoulder and shakes me. “You’re hallucinating, babe. That’s...” He looks at the pile of bones and blood in the road. “A dead deer. Or nearly dead. We have to get it off the road.”

Everything comes to a stop. I forget about the insane, timeline-breaking doppleganger me in the road for a second.

“I’m hallucinating?” I ask, astonished. “You’re saying I don’t know what I’m seeing?”

He sounds much less sure this time. “You don’t. It’s a dead deer.”

I watch his gaze turn to the dying girl in the road.

I try to see the deer.

I want to believe him. It’d be easier. Maybe he’s right, I think, blinking hard a few times. But every time I open my eyes, she’s still there. I can’t see the deer. “I’m not crazy,” I assert to him, keeping my eyes on her.

His grip tightens on my shoulder. It feels like a threat. He purses his lips tight and looks irritated. “I didn’t say you were.”

I bite back a response. As always, I stay quiet.

I notice these little slices across her ribs and her chest. Where I can see her heart, there’s blood pouring from a cut in the muscle. There are all these little cuts across her arms too, of different depths.

She’s more insistent when she groans begin again. Her eyes are so...intense, wide and panicked. She reaches a twisted, broken arm towards me. Her pointer and middle finger are missing.

She’s trying to tell me something. I can feel it.

Like the crows.

I feel Jamie’s grip tighten when I start to move away, but I pull his hand off my shoulder.

“Leah, no—”

I take two big steps forward and fall to my knees in front of her. My dress sticks to the pool of blood on the ground. God, it’s so cold. It’s like the air around her is colder than the rest of the forest.

She jolts when I drop, clamoring forward with bone cracks and she emits affirming, excited grunts of effort. There’s a sickening squishing noise with every move of her muscles. Things are tearing.

In the distance, I hear Jamie react. I think he’s throwing up behind the car. I don’t really know.

This close to her, I can tell the fabric still clinging to her skin is my pajama shirt.

She’s me. It’s me. She’s me and I’m her.

And if she’s dying, what’s happening to me?

I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I reach out to touch her.

She’s frantic in her movements, like there isn’t enough time. She grabs my hand as well as she can and presses it to the little cuts across her rib cage. Then she presses her bloody palm to my forehead.

And I feel what she’s trying to tell me.

It’s like an out-of-body experience. I’m in an apartment I don’t recognize, arguing with Jamie. I can’t hear it very well. I know I’m angry at him about something, and he’s defensive— it’s not his fault. It’s not his fault, it only happened a few times, someone else initiated it. I can’t get him to say it won’t happen again, just that I’m blowing it out of proportion.

And I throw a suitcase on the bed. I start taking my clothes out of a shared closet and carelessly pack them away. He’s still yelling at me.

It’s been a few years. I look different. He looks different. But it feels like it does now, just worse.

I tell him he can’t boss me around anymore. He can’t just treat me like garbage. He pushes me over and I fall to the floor. He’s over me, with his pocket knife in his left hand.

I feel a stabbing pain in my ribs and—

I flinch back from her palm. I’ve seen enough. She knows I’ve seen enough.

She makes a guttural sound in her chest. It’s sadder this time. It feels like sympathy. It’s like when you tell someone you care about something they don’t want to hear.

“Jamie did this to you?” I ask softly. I don’t have to ask. I’m not really asking her, I think. I’m just repeating it.

She nods.

I take my hand away from her ribcage and look at the blood on my hand. I can feel her blood on my head, sticking to my dress, my knees and shins.

She puts her palm on my hand, pushing it down, so I’ll look at her again. She needs to know I see her the way she needs me to.

We hold eye contact. I remember the crows. I know what she wants.

Now I’m the frantic one. I don’t know what to say, so I press my forehead to hers, feeling skull and skin. I look back at Jamie.

He’s wiping his mouth of vomit. He’s still got the shovel in his right hand. When he catches my eye, he straightens up and snaps at me. “Leah, you’re out of your fucking mind! I told you not to touch that thing—

I scramble to my feet and hold my hand out. “Don’t get any closer to her.”

“C’mon, Leah. You’re being—”

“Don’t get any closer to me,” I say, louder.

Any semblance of recognition, of the light there always was when he looked at me, leaves his eyes.

He pushes me down with his free hand. It’s easy. I crumple like a piece of paper. I hit the ground hard. She lets out a mangled, choked scream.

Jamie keeps moving forward. “We have to put it out of its misery,” he says again to himself, taking the shovel in both hands. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. It’s weighted, in a way that makes me feel like I’m the unstable one here.

My confidence is dwindling. I wonder, for a minute, how it would feel if this all went away. If I could go back to my biggest problem being a fight with a caterer, would there be relief?

I hear her moan, or mumble, something to him. She tries to fall back, but a bone cracks under her weight. She yelps.

Jamie raises the shovel over his head. He’s wielding it like an ax. When he thinks I can’t see, a strange look settles on his face. He looks at her with such...contempt. I know then, for sure, that he sees her. Not a deer.

I look to her, or me. She’s looking up at him, holding a fingerless palm up in some kind of attempt to shield herself. And she’s scared. The same kind of scared I am.

When I put myself firmly in front of Jamie, he doesn’t even flinch. He doesn’t think I have the guts.

I grab the shovel and try to pull it from his hands. He pulls back, and I nearly lose my footing.

“Fucking let go!” he says through gritted teeth.

“No!” I shout, pulling on the shovel as hard as I can.

We’re moving towards the edge of the cliff. I can see it out of the corner of my eye. When he yanks the shovel again, I move us back towards the edge.

Jamie’s got his back to the cliff’s edge. He’s not looking where he’s going. He’s only looking at me, as if he could convince me to let go with just the frantic look in his eyes.

“You don’t know what you’re doing, Leah,” he spits angrily. “When we get home—”

We’re not going home,” I bite back. I tug as hard as I can on the shovel.

He returns the effort and pulls hard. My feet start to come off the ground. I hesitate. Does he deserve this? I wonder, in the split second.

But I know, by the rage in his eyes when he looks at me, that he does. He deserves it.

Jamie pulls back again, as hard as he can, and I let go.

He stumbles backwards. I see his ankle twist under him, and he falls back, over the edge of the cliff.

He screams.

It’s less...horrifying than I thought it would be. It’s more angry. It’s so angry. It continues for a few moments as he plummets, tumbling over and over. I listen as his body slides down through trees and bushes and branches and comes to a stop. I don’t dare look over to see.

And suddenly it’s over.

I let out a ragged gasp that surprises me. I didn’t know I was holding my breath.

I look back to her and even with her bottom jaw missing, she smiles. The corners of her top lip turn upwards. She’s proud of me. I feel an unfamiliar warmth in my chest.

I walk over to Jamie’s car and open the car door. I don’t know what my plan is, but I can’t just leave her here. I want to invite her with me on my journey forward.

But when I turn back, there’s nothing. Only a puddle of blood on the road remains as proof that she was ever there.

She’s gone.

And it’s over.