I want to make this clear: I am not crazy. I have had my fair share, and maybe more, of difficulties with my mental health. I disassociate. I know that I do–my right hand, smooth and swollen, is a constant reminder. My disassociating has always been a feeling of unreality, but whatever happened in that meadow, it was the most real thing that I have ever experienced in my life. I will remember every minute with my face in the musty carpet of pine needles, of feeling beetles crawling across my back under my shirt, of hearing that thing eat, each slurp, each crunch, each awful marrow-sucking sound. I have never felt more connected to a place or time. I don’t know what it was, but it was real, and in that moment, I know I was, too.
It didn’t start in the mountains. It started in that broad valley hemmed in on all sides by the San Juan Mountain Range. It started there, where I sat and stared up at their jealous peaks, their wide foothills, the weight of them, so real it was almost a joke.
When Dad came back for lunch, I was sitting out on the patio next to their rig, watching the clouds play with light and shadow across the broad shoulders of the mountains only a few miles away. It was mesmerizing, the way the light smoothed over those slopes, golden light shifting into deep blues before honey-colored sunlight danced over them again.
Dad drove up to the rig in his golf cart, stepping out of it just as it rolled to a halt. He pulled his gloves off, finger by finger, smelling of gasoline and cut grass like the repairman he was–the job that gave him and my stepmom this lot for the summer–and turned to look at the view I was enjoying.
“Flowers are looking good this year,” He said, for what might have been the millionth time that week. The spring thaw had lasted through the Fourth of July this year, leaving behind a good soaking for wildflowers. The hills were alive with them–purples, yellows, oranges, reds, dark greens and sage scrub, adding to the illusion that the mountains were writhing with light and color, almost kaleidoscopic in their shifting, changing ways.
“Gorgeous,” I said, and stood, stretching. The paperback I had brought outside to read, before discovering the better entertainment in the hills, slipped off my knee and fell to the ground.
Dad picked it up and passed it back to me, careful not to look at my warped right hand, the clumsy way my fingers closed around it.
“Working hard, I see,” He chided.
“I finished up for the day, thank you very much,” I said, defensive at the minor jab. Years ago, I would bitten back and in ten minutes we’d be screaming at each other. He’s just kidding, I thought to myself. This is what normal families do; this is normal.
“When do you think you’ll finish for the day? I thought we could go for a drive,” I said. The hills looked so inviting, and after two days of the RV park, I was dying to see those monoliths up close. The size of them, the way they wrapped around the valley, made it all seem fake. A mirage, maybe, or a studio set. I wanted to look down from their tops, see myself as they saw me now.
I followed Dad into the RV, where we both took off our sneakers and stored them under the driver’s seat. He went into the small kitchen, while his grey cat meowed at him and crisscrossed between his legs. I sat on the couch and watched as he poured dry food into the cat’s small ceramic bowl.
“Sorry, kiddo,” he said. “We still have about ten rigs left to park, and we have to get two more to move out so their spots can be taken. Cathy’ll be busy parking folks until late, and I need to refill a kerosene tanks and double check electric on empty sites. Busy season!”
I leaned back into the sofa with a sigh. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon with the beautiful blue sky and bright sun and crisp breeze just sitting outside alone, staring at the mountains. I wanted to explore the old mines out there, the high altitude meadows filled with flowers, the aspen trees with their rattling leaves.
For the summer, Dad and Cathy were parked with their blue and chrome RV at this site, only a mile or two from the closest town of Creede, over 8800 feet above sea level. They would be here for another three months. Plenty of time for them to explore. But this was my first and only week in Colorado and the days were already slipping by.
It was a bit of a shock when Dad and Cathy first announced their plan to live full-time in their RV and spend their retirement driving across the country. My brothers now took it as an opportunity to vacation in a new place every year, with free lodging and well-versed guides. Things were a little more complicated for me and Dad. Our father-daughter dynamic was strained, and so my visits were less for fun and more of a rebuilding effort–one that needed a good amount of distance during the majority of the year. So here I was, on my annual week-long visit, crashing on the bony pullout couch at night, adjusting to the high altitude during the day, the thin air, the crisp wind in August, and the sharp juxtaposition between the claustrophobia inside the rig with the intense openness of the space outside it.
Dad caught the look on my face before I could hide it. He paused with his hand on the open fridge door and turned to look out the window behind him, at the car parked just outside. The light from the window made his thin hair look even whiter than it was, like a premonition.
“Why don’t you take the car for a drive?” He said.
Dad hadn’t let me use his car for a long time. I didn’t resent this–as my therapist tells me all the time, trust is a house built brick by brick. And I had done enough to tear the whole house down. This offer felt like another brick being laid.
Taking the car out alone was enticing for other reasons, too; the idea of rolling the windows down, playing music loud and wandering up into those empty hills alone–it felt like a balm. A break from the small RV and maybe a bit of a break from myself, from overthinking the next five days before I flew back to the city. I could get some of my restlessness out, give us both the much-needed space our relationship needed–or, at least, the room we both needed to survive this trip.
“You know what, yeah. Just be careful. People drive like crazies out here.” He said this easily, like he was talking to anyone–my older brother, maybe, or me, from before–and then he crossed to the dashboard, where he picked up the keys to the old Jeep, before tossing them my way. “Don’t stay out too late, okay? The roads are dangerous after dark.”
I bounced to my feet and smiled at him.
“Are you kidding? I don’t want to drive in the dark any more than you would want me to! I’ll be back in an hour.”
Soon I was outside, starting the car, moving the seat up to match my five-foot frame, adjusting the mirrors. I paused for one quick second, feeling the gritty wheel under my fingers, how I could even feel the texture of it on the pads of my ruined right hand, taking in every detail of the cracked window screen, the dashboard coated thickly with dust.
It wasn’t the most glamorous car, okay, it was a downright beaten-up piece of shit, but still, it was my Dad’s and he was trusting me to return it to him.
“Love you!” Dad said, leaning out of the RV door, holding the cat back from escaping with one foot.
“You, too!” I shouted, waving out of the driver’s side window, and he gave me one short wave before I rolled down the driveway and he was out of sight.
The town of Creede is small. Houses are packed into small blocks, some right up against the grocery and liquor stores, perched next to the gas station, the shiny new county administrator’s office–with all of it nestled in between soaring hills, dotted with long grass and gnarled evergreens. Each house is drastically different from the one snuggled up right next to it, but they are all small.
In the middle of summer wild sunflowers grew tall alongside weather-worn walls, spiders webbing their silk along eaves and porch railings. Cats slept in pools of sunlight on lawns or on decks or in the grocery store parking lot. Dogs roamed the streets with tags jangling from brightly colored collars.
It took me less than five minutes to pass through town. There was no mistaking which road led to the path that lead into the mountains–Bachelor Loop. The pass itself was framed by two orange, jagged mountainsides standing parallel to each other, right behind the town. These exposed bones of the earth were always present, looming over everything, watching. It was impossible to look up in Creede and not see them, and Bachelor Loop started by snaking its way in between these sandstone, ragged cliff faces.
On the outskirts of town, I passed the Creede Fire Department, chuckling to myself that it was held in one of the many old mines that surrounded the town, and promised myself to take a picture when I came back down. It was practical and whimsical at the same time–all of those big trucks now being housed under the earth, in the only place in Creede where there was room enough for them all.
The road abruptly changed from black asphalt to red packed earth as it followed a swiftly flowing creek. After the fire station, there were no houses, just the hills pressing in on either side. And then, around one turn, as the hills grew sharp and tall, there they were–the famous twin mountains, framing the road, like enormous, primordial guardians. They cast long blue shadows over the road, the twisting creek, the evergreens that grew here and there.
But I realized as my eyes drifted beyond the two faces, there were taller mountains further up the road, hidden from view if you looked up this way from town. I slowed the car as the road inclined up sharply. It was even narrower here, with deep rivulets carved into the earth where ice melt had eaten into it during the spring. I had to keep my eyes on the road, moving slowly, the whole car rocking back and forth every time a tire caught one of these deep grooves, like I was in a ship at sea.
Every time I managed to briefly tear my eyes away from the immediate ground and look up, my whole field of vision would fill one mountain, eclipsing even the sky. It rose up and up, until the trees running across the ridge at the top looked like matchsticks. It gave me vertigo, this first true close look at the Rockies. The entire front of it was just huge rocks and rubble, an entire swath of verticality made up of tan-colored debris. Here and there, punched into the face of the mountain were decaying square wooden structures. Mine entrances, I realized.
Finally, the road widened and flattened out and I summited one last hill and could see the face of the thing in front of me without worrying about driving. There was a parking and viewing area here, not something I was expecting, surrounded by large mining structures made of rugged timber and steel. I parked the car near one of these buildings and crossed to a platform that extended out over the valley.
Looking down, I realized I was higher up than I expected–the stream I had followed in the beginning slivered along the valley floor some fifty feet below me now. It was wider here, and moving quickly, white water swirling around boulders and the curves of the thing. I found myself staring at the shifting waters, the flash of waves, the glimmer of the sun along its distant surface. It was silent, still and quiet, with that stream running in pantomime and brilliant light, down, down, down.
I had to pull myself away, and blink hard several times to clear my head. I felt dizzy, and gripped the low chain fence, afraid for one sharp second that I was going to fall. It felt like a horrible mix of vertigo and disassociation, a sharp drop in my belly that took me away from the world. I repeated to myself what I could touch, see, hear, smell–a mechanism my therapist had taught me to do whenever I felt the distant nausea of disassociation. The cold chain link pinching my left palm, the dull grooves of it beneath my right; the dusty blue paint of the Jeep, sitting innocently across the road; the quiet shushing of wind through tall grass; the subtle scent of old lumber. I worked my way through this familiar checklist until the feeling passed, until I felt safely back within myself. It didn’t take long, which reassured me.
I turned towards the mountain, choosing purposefully to look upwards. There were more mine entrances on the sheer face than I originally guessed during the drive up–most of them collapsed, like closed throats. They pockmarked the face of the mountain. Some still had scaffolding and ladders built into the crumbling facade, connecting two or three entrances at a time, sketching out the appearance of a long collapsed rail system.
I almost started to imagine what it would be like to work up there, along the thin, unreliable walkways, with nothing but a long fall underneath you. I didn’t want to think about falls, about the nasty, lingering thought in my head that I had just narrowly avoided a bout of disassociation, and how long, exactly, had it been since my last, terrible dive into that numbing place, and wasn’t I due for one?
I turned to the plaque to distract myself. It was a sun-faded rectangle, with black and white pictures of miners posing in tunnels, or lined up, sober-face and dirty, in front of mine entrances. This mine closed in the mid-1980s, after the price of silver dropped. That was later than the romantic old photographs suggested. So many men across such a long period of time, going into the dark over and over.
The dark entrances on the distant hillside seemed like eyes to me, then. My skin crawled with the feeling of being watched. I turned and got back in the car, forcing myself to breathe steadily, to stop my hands from shaking.
I should have gone back right then. I should have.
But then a pack of ATVs came roaring around the curve of the road and that feeling of being watched stopped pressing in so much. The noise from their engines tore into that quiet space, bringing with it the normal world. Each driver waved as they headed towards town and the way I had come. The last driver was an older woman with curly grey hair. She had a red bandana over her mouth and wore big wraparound sunglasses, to guard against the dust kicked up by the rest of her group. In the seat next to her was a child, wearing the same.
“Great day for a ride!” She shouted as they passed. I nodded and let out a weak noise in response, and then they were heading down the hill. I watched them go in my rearview mirror, their engine roars fading and echoing away into nothing.
I felt silly, all of a sudden. Here I was, in this unique and beautiful place, and I was scared. The woman in the ATV was right–it WAS a great day for a drive. The sun was out and bright, the blue sky dotted with fluffy, white clouds. The road was dry and even. My gas tank was full. There was no reason to turn around.
So, I didn’t.
The road continued up, with hills and cliffs rising up on my right, and the valley and creek dropping off to my left. The weather held, and the afternoon was bright and cheerful as I continued to climb the mountain, with the car firmly in 4-wheel-drive. Copses of white-barked Aspens lined the road now, their coin-shaped, wintergreen leaves rattling in the cool breeze, their branches dragging across the roof of the Jeep. Occasionally the road would turn and turn and turn and then the trees would give way to a view of the valley, all the way back down to Creede, with the RV park shining in the distance. It was lush here, higher now, popping with evergreens and oaks and lots of other trees I couldn’t recognize, and always there were wildflowers sprinkled throughout.
By the time the second ATV group passed me I was smiling and shouting “beautiful day for a drive” to each member. It was peaceful, driving along that red-packed road, dipping into alpine forests and out of them for sudden, horizon-encompassing views that stretched down and down and out. I saw snow-capped mountains in the far distance and realized that I was by no means on the tallest mountain in the area. The hills rolled and rose around me, and when I was hemmed in by them, it didn’t matter that there were other, higher peaks. I was here, right now. That sense of being grounded in the moment reassured me that the episode by the mine wasn’t disassociation. It was a symptom of the higher elevation, maybe, or just my nerves still jangling with the freedom of the drive.
About a half hour into the drive, the road stopped climbing, and the hills flattened out. Though the sun was still bright in the cloudless sky, the air was colder and harder to breathe. To my right, there was a meadow filled with tall grass and a confetti of wildflowers, bordered by a thick forest of evergreens.
There was only one other car parked in the turn-off, a red pick-up truck, and I pulled in behind it, close to the wooden fence. I’ll stop here, stretch my legs, and then I’ll head back to the RV park, I thought. I can pick a bouquet of flowers for my stepmom and surprise her with them at dinner. I would even refill the Jeep’s gas tank, like any responsible adult would. I eagerly leapt from the car and stretched as I walked by the empty red truck and to the very start of the meadow, where another informational placard stood.
The meadow stretched green and living in front of me, down a slight slope before leveling out and running until a dark wall of forest. The owner of the red truck was nowhere to be seen, but I realized from this angle that the meadow continued down to the left, too, and must have been longer than it was wide. A brown cluster of borer beetle-devastated pine trees stood a few yards to my left, blocking my view of the rest of the meadow, but the space looked friendly and inviting otherwise, with the sun streaming down, and the breeze carving waves through the grass and wildflowers.
The placard told me meadows like this one were valuable to the early settlers of this area–many of whom were miners or were the family of miners–because it was flat enough for buildings to be constructed here, thereby creating whole towns high up in the mountains, and allowing miners to live closer to the entrance of their mines. In fact, an entire city had once stood in the big empty space before me. A city with restaurants and saloons and a school and a post office and roads. Bachelor, it had been called.
Bachelor came and went within one hundred years, slowly bleeding out a population as the mines closed. By the early 1900s, Bachelor was gone. And the meadow retook the land.
I looked up from the sepia-toned pictures of busy town streets, and kids smiling in front of their schoolhouse, and the many blurry-faced citizens of Bachelor living their lives. The emptiness of the meadow felt like a shock. There was just green here now. No footprints of houses or rocky lines indicating roads or foundations. A hundred years to me was a long time, but to this meadow it was nothing, and all it had to do was wait.
I slipped through the opening in the fence and followed the short pathway into the meadow. The breeze followed me, pulling at my hair, my shirt. Except for the breeze, the space was silent. It wasn’t empty–I could see bees moving from flower to flower, could see sparrows resting on branches in the dark forest, but none of these things made noises. I felt that watched sensation again, and I decided then and there that I wasn’t going into the forest, I would stick to the meadow itself. Nothing bad could happen in such a bright, colorful place.
I turned left, and went around the edge of the brown, dead pine trees, where the meadow continued, gently sloping down, with a view of purple and white mountains across the valley. And that was when I realized I wasn’t alone anymore. About halfway down the meadow was a man. I assumed he was the owner of the red truck and slowed, taking care where my feet landed, trying to be as quiet as possible.
I was a small-ish woman, alone at the top of a mountain with a strange man. I had heard horror stories about less than this. But it wasn’t just normal caution that made me move slowly and quietly, it was that watched feeling. It was so intense in that meadow. I recognized it as something completely opposite to disassociation–it felt like I was too real, like the world was all too close to me. This time, the appearance of another person did nothing to stop it, and I found myself grinding my teeth and holding my breath in the tension.
The man was facing the pale mountains in the distance, his back to me. He wore all black. His clothes were nice. Not fancy, not exactly. But definitely too nice to wear for a short hike into an overgrown meadow, most of it full of knee-high grass. He wore a nice, long-sleeved, collared black shirt, with what looked like black slacks. He wore a black cowboy hat, too, his white hair flowing out from under it. The hat and jacket brought to mind those pictures of Bachelor citizens from the 1880s–the blurry-faced anonymous subjects of the photographs I had just been looking at. There was nothing contemporary about the man. He held a flower in his hand, limply.
The flower was what did it, what made me see what was so wrong about this man. His arms were too long. And, once I noticed that, it hit me that the rest of him was all out of proportion. His legs were too skinny, I realized when I saw the way the wind tugged at them, the silhouette of what they contained, how there were too many joints there, how he stood at the wrong angle.
But it was the hand itself that made me stop dead in my tracks. His hand wasn’t a hand at all. It was fingers–long, sharp fingers. More than five of them, too many to count, all coming out from the edge of his sleeve and holding the flower, lightly, by their needle-tipped ends.
He dropped the flower, then, and without looking, swept his hand down and cut another. I say cut, because I mean cut. He didn’t pull this new flower from the earth, he snipped it free of the stalk with a simple flicking motion of those tapered fingers.
The copse of dead pine trees was still to my left, up a shallow incline. There was new growth there, about waist high, where I could hide. Standing there, watching that thing drop the second flower and easily scythe down a third, all I could think of was getting away from it. At any minute this thing pretending to be a man could turn around. I was afraid of what would happen if he did.
Slowly, I tiptoed towards the dense collection of trees, stepping over stones and dry grass, avoiding greyed sticks, holding my breath and willing the thing to keep watching the horizon. The altitude here, two thousand feet higher than Creede, almost gave me away. I found my breath coming in ragged gasps with the strain of climbing the small hill. I grew more and more afraid that my breathing would give me away, which led to more sharp intakes of breath. I could feel panic crawling up my throat.
Finally, I slipped in between the dried-out trunks of the pine trees, moving so I wouldn’t crush too many needles under my feet, and then I knelt and laid down there, among the tall grass and tree trunks, pushing dirt and needles over myself, never taking my eyes off the man in the hat. He gave no indication that he heard me and continued to stare at the mountains in the distance, wrecking flower after flower.
I don’t know how long I lay there, watching the man through the tree trunks and sticks and grass. There was no easy way out of the copse behind me–felled trees leaned against the still standing ones. I could see the red of the truck in the lot just out of sight, but I was trapped there and could do nothing else but watch the man in black. He stood there motionless, except to cut a new flower or to chop a bee out of the sky and, once, a bird. I don’t know what he was looking for in that expansive view of the mountains and the valley and the town, and for a while, that’s all I thought he was doing.
There were little movements that became clearer to me as I watched, little sounds that the breeze carried to my hiding space. His right arm never did anything but play with the flowers, but his left would occasionally lift to where his face should have been, before drooping slack to his side and dropping something into the brush. It took a while for me to see what it was dropping, but eventually the sun caught the round edge of a tibia and it became clear that the thing in the meadow was feeding.
I thought of the red truck, empty, in the parking lot. A new fear bloomed. It took all of my control not to bolt from that stand of trees, to see how far I could get before the thing got me. I imagine something with arms and legs that long can move very fast. It wasn’t even self-preservation that kept me in that hiding spot, covered in dirt and rust-colored pine needle and beetles and ants–it was the simple fact that my father was down in the valley, waiting for me to get back.
My father waving to me through the door of the RV, the way he tossed me the keys to the car, so careful in its carefree way. Sadness tore into me worse than the fear, until I was numb, watching the thing as it dropped bones unceremoniously to the ground. I thought of the fire then, and I don’t know why, except that it was the worst thing that I had ever seen, before that afternoon in the meadow.
It was before treatment or medication or acknowledgment that anything was wrong. I was trying so hard to appear okay, if only so no one would talk to me about it, so I didn’t have to think about it anymore than I already was, which was all of the time. I was home alone at my Dad’s house, in the kitchen, with the white tile floor and warm Edison bulbs. It was all so familiar and so far away. That’s the only way I know how to describe what disassociating is. It feels like my senses are wrapped in material that insulates them, keeps them quiet, so the voice in my head could say clearly that world isn’t real, that I’m not real. It felt like already being dead, and it’s horrible. I used to cope with pain, with a swift cut or burn, something to break through that white noise.
I took the lighter from the drawer to the left of the sink. I clicked it to life and held the small flame under my palm. Nothing happened. I couldn’t feel it. When I turned my palm upwards, there was a nickel sized spot of shiny pink–a burn I hadn’t felt. I felt nothing, and in that nothing was a bone-deep terror. What if this was the time I slipped away entirely?
It didn’t make sense, and it still doesn’t, but in my dreamlike state the only logical thing to do was make a bigger flame, a bigger burn, a bigger pain. I lit bunches of paper towel and threw them onto the table. All of it felt like I was standing just to the side, watching, as this strange person lifted her hand and held it above the flames, as the fire caught the edge of her sweatshirt sleeve, as it melted the tablecloth, as it climbed the curtains. And then the burning tore through that distance and I was inside of myself again. I could feel the heat of the fire eating my father’s kitchen, turning the room into nothing more than blackened bones, could feel it gnawing up my arm. I couldn’t feel my fingers, though they were gloved in a bright white fire.
I was able to put myself out, but not before I suffered nasty burns to my right arm and hand. My fingerprints were burned off entirely, and a shiny white disk was melted into my palm. At least the whole house hadn’t burned down. I don’t think Dad ever believed me when I told him I hadn’t done it on purpose. Even after my diagnosis, after treatment, after every brick I laid trying to rebuild that trust I burned down.
Lying there, my face in the dirt, all I wanted to do was to get back to my dad. To prove to him I wasn’t a fuck up. That when I said I would do something, I would really do it. I didn’t want to end up like the driver of the red truck. I didn’t want my Dad to ever have to drive up to another emergency that involved me.
Slowly, I pulled myself out of the memory of the fire. I forced myself to list what I felt, what I saw, what I heard, what I smelled. The cool dirt beneath my cheek, dried pine needles pinching here and there. Fire ants with black, bulbous abdomens, crawling across the back of my hand. The sound of that thing eating, but also the quiet buzzing of bees further up the meadow. Black earth, musky and ancient.
The sun was setting, the sky a bright fire, when the sounds stopped. I lifted my head up, slowly, and watched as the thing froze, before it turned and started to cross the meadow.
It moved quickly on its long, many jointed legs. It stepped in an awkward, jolting way, like its joints were made of springs or the ground soft rubber. The light was fading into orange at this point, and the shadow of this thing seemed to sweep up the entire length of the meadow. I stayed very still, and finally saw the creature in its entirety.
Its long arms, the ones with the sharp fingers, were only two out of many. In the center of its abdomen were dozens of smaller, slimmer arms, each tipped with different fingers–long, yes, but not sharp. They were rounded at the ends and covered in what looked like octopus suckers. These shorter arms were red and slick, and it raised each to its face. That’s when I shut my eyes hard and held them shut until the sound of its loping, uneven stride faded.
I never saw its mouth. I’m grateful every day I was saved from that particular horror. When I opened my eyes again, it was already blending into the forest on the opposite side of the meadow, its long, white hair already fading into the gloom.
I ran, abandoning stealth entirely, breathing hard and heavy as I sprinted to the blue Jeep, parked where I had left it. I almost cried when the door opened easily–I’d forgotten I hadn’t locked it. I did start to cry when it started on the first try, when I slipped it into reverse and tore out and then down the long road back to town.
I didn’t make it back to the RV park. The tears and my panic and what was probably shock, plus the narrowness of the road and the setting sun, all of this was enough for me to lose control on a sharp turn. I rolled the car four times and it ended up on the roof at the bottom of a ravine. I don’t remember any of this. My father told me it all later, in the hospital, after I woke up.
I swear, though, before I lost control and everything sharply cut to black, those hills were moving. Undulating and folding over themselves, boiling and rolling, shifting in front of my eyes, like the image in a kaleidoscope.
It could have been worse. The ravine could have been deeper. There could have been water at the bottom of it. The search party could have found me later than they did and I could have died from exposure. It was around midnight when a flashlight bounced off the jeep’s bumper in just the right way amid the dense forest where I landed.
My dad assumed something bad had happened when I wasn’t home by dinner. By the time the sun was setting, he had already called the sheriff. They assume I got lost up in the back roads, since they found me off of one of the more obscure roadways. I didn’t correct him. When he asked what happened, I lied and told him a deer ran across the road. I lost control of the car when I swerved to avoid it.
I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t angrier. During those hazy few days in the hospital, fuzzy from the concussion and exposure, I noticed how quiet he was when he spoke to me, how he kept deflecting whenever I brought up the car. I was so worried about fracturing the tenuous bond we’d forged in the last few years, afraid there would be the same argument reignited. That thought scared me more than the thing in the meadow had. Well, almost.
I didn’t find out why he wasn’t angry until after I was back home in New York, as far as I could get from the rolling hills and open meadows of Colorado. Apparently, during the search, some volunteers combing through Bachelor Meadow found a boot. With a foot still in it. The ankle meat was cut with such precision that the cops assumed a scalpel had done it.
“You could have run into whoever did that, instead of the deer!” He said on the other end of the phone with a laugh.
I went cold and felt that same sense of being watched, the sense of the hyper-real, that everything was hideously concrete, even things I didn’t think could be, things too horrible to be true and yet somehow were.
I didn’t ask him about the bones, and he didn’t mention them. After I said goodbye and hung up the phone, I packed my laptop into an old backpack. I’ve spent the last few weeks working out of the library, rather than be home alone.
I do feel bad about the car, though. After some discussion, Dad and I decided I would send him some money, instead of getting a plane ticket to visit next year. I’m more than happy with this compromise and have no plans to leave the city any time soon.
Christina Harrington is a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College writing MFA program. She is the managing editor for AfterShock comics, and lives in Queens with her boyfriend and their dog, Rocket. You can find her work in The Boiler Journal, Roanoke Review, Glassworks Magazine and others.