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A Failure to Communicate
The sun climbed over the horizon, filtering through the deep green of pine needles into the small clearing. Its warm beams brushed against limbs of frigid, icy trees, thawing the frozen pearl tears that lined their undersides. As the sun rose further, its rays, like soft fingers, became longer and brighter. They cut through the haze of cold, gently bringing warmth and light to the dead leaves and thistles that carpeted the ground, sheltering tunnel networks crawling with insects. Through the corpselike brown of the plants, red berries like beads dotted the scene in small clusters. Small birds flapped and hopped their ways through the webs of branches that housed the berries.
The heat rays were almost steady through the biting cold, and slowly, the ice on the branch began to give way to fragile drops of water. At the very tip of one decaying bough, a bead of water welled up, paused for a tantalizing second, and then left its perch, slowly skating down the icy limb. The water drop slid down the branch, gathering more small drops stuck as it went. At last, the droplet, fat and ripe, became too heavy to stay on its icy track. It fell from the branch altogether, rippling through the air as it descended.
The droplet splashed against the frozen surface of a pond, smashing through miniature ice crystals as it came in contact. The curtain of frost briefly gave way to a shaft of light. Below the water's surface, two lonely fish were startled from a murky slumber by the sudden disturbance. The tentative beam retreated as the enclosing frost choked it. Small waves shivered through the pool of water. They lapped at its edges, and around the nose of a stag that had bent his head for a frosty morning drink.
The lone stag raised its head, horns still covered in the soft fuzz of developing antlers. His nostrils fumed as hot breath escaped them and came in contact with the air. He turned his face from side to side, examining his surroundings. His heart thumped away grandly and his head was held with a proud bearing.
All around the clearing lay stretches of flat, black cement. They gouged relentlessly through the hills and gullies of the countryside, plastering miles and miles of earth with tar and paint. The tar's surface teamed with thousands upon thousands of grumbling, gritty cars. They growled with an animal companionably when their headlights spotted the tail of a fellow traveler. They rushed, each car being pushed by and pushing all its neighbors. An invisible boundary, a comfort zone, separated each car. If a vehicle was to slow down, those behind it would breach its boundary, almost touching it, and it would speed ahead, terrified of contact. The tar of the pavement and the steel and glass of the cars were made by man, but they were not of man. Men strapped themselves into the cars that they made, but they were mere instruments on the great machine that was the roads.
The clearing with the stag and the berries and the gentle light was surrounded by these roads; some perverse island of latent life, isolated by tar-black walls. The stag seemed to understand this with a deep sorrow. He, the only animal of comparable size on his island, was alone. Maybe somewhere across the living stream of neon lights and polish and expressionless people lay more of his kind. But his clearing was empty. His island was empty of food and of companionship- empty of both kinds of sustenance.
The road was lonely too. Every moment, its skin was brushed by the steady flow of cars, but not one inch of it really mattered. No one relished the way the car dipped over a bump. No one made their home on the tar.
Every way that the solitary animal's eyes looked, he saw and felt absence. He knew though, that somewhere beyond the dead trees and hollow cars and lonely tar there was life. This life broke free of the tunnels, and soared through the sky, and welcomed the smiling shafts of sun. He knew all of this, and being alone with his thoughts only highlighted their truth. His heat throbbed. His powerful muscles tensed, and his eyes became focused on the ridge of trees across the road from his clearing.
In a moment of desperation, longing, and blind hope, the deer bounded forward. It darted through the trees and leaped in a graceful ark over the barrier, continuing over into the road. It surged onward, eyes set on the welcoming trees of the opposite forest.
Suddenly, it was jolted by the metal fender of a speeding car. The stag spun around, only to be dashed another time against a car in the next lane. Flesh and bone gave way as it came in contact with hurtling metal. The proud neck buckled as the stag's spine was shattered. The furry horns clattered against the pavement. The sad eyes got one last glimpse across the short stretch between it and the thicket of trees on the other side. The wheel of a third car rushed up and over its face, flattening it to the welcoming tar.
On the other side of the road, among the warping branches and tall grass, a pair of eyes looked out longingly. They gazed over the blur of lights and paint, staring into the trees on the opposite side. The eyes began to move forward, followed by a slender brown neck, dappled with creamy spots. The form of a female deer emerged. Her knees were unsteady, and her irises were watery and had a hard time focusing. Her thin mouth was slightly opened, revealing a wet, pink tongue.
Instantaneously, as if the action had taken even her completely by surprise, the deer launched herself out of her thicket. Vision set on a line of pine trees across the pavement, she leaped over her barrier and into the road, only to be drowned, in the harsh, un-hesitating flow of cars.
A man, strapped into his seat, hands locked around a wheel that he thought he controlled, hardened his mouth and eyes as he plowed into the deer. He felt the rubber of his tires rolling over and crushing out her insides. In his rear view mirror, he caught a glimpse of the bloody corpse as he drove on. He saw another car drive over it, and behind its windshield, another hardened pair of eyes. He shook his head and muttered to himself, 'damn animals'.