Road Kill – By Jeff Taylor

Before you read, a little history…. This story is the second most evil thing I've ever written (The first being Love-Bites) and also the first where I've started to 'plan' the story. Everything else has been written from the heart, and soul. This story is based upon one of the most horrific things that has ever happened to me so far. I was in a friend's car when we ran over a fox on the motorway. There was nothing she could do to avoid it, but the sound, and feel, of this poor animal rebounding beneath my feet has lived with me ever since. There is nothing I can do to purge that memory, but at least I can try and show it to you all.

This one's for all those furry little animals that never quite made it across the road, but did make it to the other side.

Jazz

'Road Kill '

Death, for the country animals that lived alongside the M1 corridor in England, usually arrived in the form of a violent, bloody, mess. Teeth tearing flesh from bone, dripping in viscera and acid. Old age claimed very few. For some though, death arrived behind the roaring of lights and the wheels of Jack Doherty's twelve-wheel truck. Spattered up the side of his cab, in Vermillion red paint, were the words 'Road kill'. Underneath were a multitude of children's stickers depicting small animals he'd run over. Hedgehogs, rabbits, foxes... There was even a cow and a horse. Jack looked upon the roads as his domain. If any animal was stupid enough to get in the way of his roaring engine, then fine. He was doing evolution a favour by taking them out of the equation. Sometimes he would actively swerve to hit them. He'd got two foxes and God only knew how many rabbits skulking on the sides of the roads, stupidly eating lead laden grass. Better to die quickly under the wheels of his truck, than die slowly from pollution poisoning. Taking'em out of the food chain probably meant a fox would live elsewhere. There was always the plus point it was damned enjoyable. Feeling the bump in the steering as the animal went under the wheel, hearing flailing legs batter and snap along the underside of the cab. Ha! Watching the horror on other drivers' faces, as the poor little furry animals disappeared forever under his lorry. Yes, he enjoyed it. He didn't hide his enjoyment either. He was well known in roadside café's the length and breadth of the country as Doherty Death. They never said that to his face of course. Oh no, at least not since one of the truckers who had, got accidentally run over in a hit and run accident. The police had never found their way back to him. Although Jack thought they probably suspected. The rest of the truckers knew well enough to stay out of his way. That, and never call him DD to his face again.

Jack was happy in his life, until the day he managed to splatter a cat. Suburban animals knew plenty about roads. They sometimes got it wrong, but if there was something loud and bright coming fast, then they stayed out of the way. That was why Jack sometimes drove without his lights on at night. 'Catch the little buggers out.' He thought, as his vehicle growled menacingly through the towns and villages en-route to his destination. He'd caught the cat in a tiny, ten house and one shop, village in the middle of nowhere. It had been sitting in the middle of the road, playing with something when Jack had come screaming around the corner thirty miles faster than the speed limit. The cat had looked up, and ran away but in the same direction as he was going! A slight turn of the wheel, and he felt the satisfying crunch of feline bone against tarmac through his wheel. Looking back through the left mirror, he was very pleased with the result. He'd caught it length-ways pressing its guts out through its mouth. Its insides were spread, dramatically, across the road and there was quite a bit of blood, for such a small cat. He turned back to the wheel, and concentrated on the dark road ahead.

Morning constituted a big breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, fried bread, beans and black pudding piled high on a grease-covered plate. There was also large mug of tea with at least three sugars in it, and because his doctor insisted, a large glass of orange juice as well. He was half way through, when he suddenly felt the presence of a hair. Moving the food around in his mouth, he eventually pulled out a long, two-tone, hair. "Hey! Marge! There's hair in this!" He shouted across the café. The slightly over-weight waitress came over to his table. Jack made no effort to suck in some of his gut, as it pressed up and over the lip of the table. "Sorry Jack. A cat has been hanging around this morning. Nice little thing. Do you want another one?" He looked down at the half eaten plate and quickly weighed up the pros and cons of another whole plate. "Yeah, I'll have another." He gave her the plate, and daintily placed the part chewed cat hair on top. "Better tell your cook that animals are unhygienic in kitchens." He growled, and took a gulp from the mug of tea. The orange juice was untouched.

An hour later he walked back out to his cab. Sitting on top was a ginger and black tabby cat, laying back in the weak spring sunlight sunning itself. As he approached, it lifted its head, and looking straight at him, hissed evilly. Jack calmly picked up a large piece of gravel and threw it at the animal. It yelped and sprang off the cab. Moments later its head appeared around the bottom of the passenger wheel, hissing like a kettle boiling over. " Just stay there, puss. Jack'll just pop your evil little head under his tyre and you'll stop hissing." Laughing he climbed into his cab, and started the engine.

Two a.m. in the morning, and Jack was feeling sleepy. He'd been driving all day, and his eyelids were heavy with fatigue. Even though this was the best time to catch his favourite pass-time, tonight he wasn't in the mood. The throaty roar of his trucks engine was muted somewhat by the soundproofing of the cab. Turning it into a constant, rumbling, drone. Hypnotically, it slowly penetrated his mind, rattling around inside his skull like a golf ball rolling around the inside of a bowl. He wound down the window, letting in a frigid breeze that whipped around his balding head and neck. A few miles later, he pulled into an old, closed down and ramshackle, roadside café. Sleepily, he crawled into the space at the back of the cab and lay down to sleep.

The cat on the road sat there and looked at him, feral hatred burning in its eyes. Its insides hung listlessly from its mouth, and its flattened body swayed gently as if being pushed by a breeze. Behind it, coming cautiously out of the black beyond, came an emaciated fox. It cautiously placed one snapped and shattered limb in front of the other as it moved to sit down next to the baleful eyes of the cat. It too, stared at him. Fire lit the rime that covered its eyes with white. Soon two or three rabbits hauled their broken carcasses, painfully, across the cold tarmac to lie, or sit, next to the cat. As before, these damaged and torn creatures stared at him, viciously, revenge powering their crushed limbs enabling them to move. Slowly a menagerie of the macabre grew in front of him, looking at him through popped, smashed and devastated eyes. Barely concealed snarls of rage and fury covered smashed and ruined teeth. Blood, slowly began to pool around the ghoulish pack as the cat lifted a paw and pointed at him. Gradually a cacophony of wails and snarls filled the air until they slowly came together and formed a voice. The dead spoke as one.

Jacks eyes snapped open as he lay in the bunk at the back of his cab. Something tasted of salt. Reaching up, he found that he was soaked with sweat. Frigid beads quivered on his brow, as he wiped them away. He looked around his cab, weak morning light filtered through the curtains showing motes of dust dancing in the air. He took a shuddering breath, and watched it cloud and spiral as it left his lips. It had been a long time since he'd had a dream as bad as that. This was the first time he had seen furry, dead, animals. It reminded him of that T.V. commercial against fur, with the blood trailing out of the back of a model as she walked up the catwalk. Trembling slightly as he pushed his overweight body upright, he pulled back the curtains. Light flooded the cab, and he caught a glimpse of his pale and drawn face in the rear-view mirror. He smiled morbidly to himself. Better than any T.V. makeup. He pulled a small cup heater out of the glove compartment and poured a mug of cold coffee from his flask. The little heater fizzed and popped as he dropped it into the mug. Soon, the smell of stale coffee being reheated filled the cab.

Finishing his coffee, Jack turned the key in the ignition. From the engine compartment came a loud juddering noise, and the sound of something thudding off the inside of the bonnet. The starter motor coughed, and died. He looked balefully at the dash, and pulled the release so he could take a look. Jack climbed down from the cab, and lifted the lid. Blood and gore was spread over the engine compartment. Small chunks of meat, fur and bone were spattered up the side of the engine itself. Obviously something had crawled inside the engine looking for warmth, and had gone to sleep in the hoop formed by the starter motor and the fan belt. He'd turned the engine over, and it had shredded whatever had been asleep. Reaching in, he scooped out the remains, and wiped his hands in his overalls. "Stupid fuckin' animal." He muttered as he climbed back inside the cab. He turned the key again. It took five or six tries until the engine finally roared back to life.

The spring sun was warming the fields and a light early morning mist clung to the ground, lapping at the wheels of "Road Kill" and rippling away like a wake on still waters. Inside, Jack was not having a good morning. The rodent that had crawled inside the engine compartment, the previous night, had screwed the heating system as well. So he was forced to wear his bulky jacket, and watch his breath curl in the cool morning air. Hunched over his steering wheel like some huge homunculus, he glowered and growled at the road ahead, pushing cars and vans aggressively out of his way as he headed towards his latest delivery.

The Swanscombe and Sons was a large sprawling place. A factory of the old school, they produced plastics and moulding products for a variety of other industries in the area. Jack's truck swung smoothly into the large loading bay, surrounded by grey panelled pre-fab buildings. Manoeuvring his bulk out of the cab, Jack jumped to the ground holding his delivery notes clipboard in one huge hand. Yanking down on the handle, he opened the back of the truck. Two tons of plastic beads, of various colours, cascaded out of the back in a veritable waterfall. Both he, and the workers around the bay who were waiting to off-load the huge bags, watched in dismay as a mound quickly built up around the back of the lorry. Slowly, shock turned to rage as the reality of his decimated delivery began to sink in. The sniggering started behind Jack, as his face slowly turned beetroot red. Flying into a fury Jack span around and attempted to land his huge fist on the labourer behind him. Around him, the sniggering and laughter stopped, turning to shouts of "Hey!" and "Hold'im!" The young lad in front of him, sidestepped Jacks punch and managed to land one of his own. It was easily absorbed by Jacks flabby stomach, and unfortunately placed him directly in front of Jacks huge frame. Moving with surprising speed he backhanded the young man, knocking him to the floor. Spittle frothed at the corners of his mouth as he moved in for the kill. The man looked up; fear in his eyes and blood running from his mouth. Jack raised his hammer fist, as something cannoned into him from the side. Quickly, three or four men pinned him to the ground as he ranted and raved, swearing to kill them all. Suddenly a huge, and very sharp, pick appeared by his ear, followed by the whispered threat of the bay manager. "If you don't calm down, you'll find this shoved where the sun don't shine, Jack. You know I'll do it too. So shut the fuck up, and get your fat arse out of my bay before me and the lads do you some damage." Jack's frantic thrashings stopped, and he glared at the manager as them men restraining him got up. Across the way, the bay's first aider was pressing a cold compact on the swelling face of the man he'd hit. Jack got up, a snarl fixed to his lips and a thin trail of spittle running down his chin. The sound of someone wading through the plastic beads came from behind the open doors. Followed by an "Aww, Jesus no wonder they're all broken open" One of the bay hands had entered the rear of the truck, and now appeared holding a dead weasel in one hand, and one of the shredded bags in the other. "Poor bugger must've got trapped in the back. He tore the bags to shreds trying to reach the hole in the roof." Jack looked at the weasel, and flashes of dream flickered in his sub-conscious. The manager stood in front of him. "You fucking apologise to Mark, and get your lard-arse out of here. I'll put what happened to the delivery in the system, and next time I'll let them know you hit one of my guys. For now, just get you and your truck out of my sight!" At that, he stormed over to the incumbent man and started shouting again. "Fuck'im." Mumbled Jack, closing the doors at the back. The broken bags and plastic beads littered the rear of the truck, so he just slammed it closed and pulled the bolts shut. The stiff, dead, body of the weasel swinging from that guy's hand had firmly lodged itself in his mind. It's beady, black, eyes watching him from its dead head. It's muzzle, pulled back in the rictus of death. Grinning maniacally at him, its tongue lolling from the partially open maw. He tried to shake the image out of his head, as he climbed into the cab.

Later that evening, Jack got to do his favourite hobby once again.

The fox had been one of the nervous types. It had seen too many brethren killed when crossing the long river of black mud, which was hard even when the skies opened and water rained down. It had sat next to its mate, waiting for her to die as she lay in the gully next to the road. Sat next to her broken legs, her bloodied body and the dying cubs twitching in her womb. This fox knew what roads did to animals. It, and the brightly lit things that travelled it, held no mercy for him or his brothers and sisters. There was nothing here but death and suffering for all. The call had been made though, and it had to answer its mate's screams with those of his own. Fear making its hackles stand on end, it tentatively placed one paw on the deadly tarmac.

Jack was still steaming from his ruined load and his encounter with the lads at the plastics factory. He muttered constantly, thinking of ways he could exact his revenge for the way he had been summarily dismissed from the loading bay. Occasionally he would shout out swear words, and shake his fist at passing motorists whilst yelling incoherently from within his cab. As it got darker, so his mood darkened. He didn't bother turning on the lights as Road Kill thundered along narrow country roads on the way back to the motorway. He saw the fox well before it saw him. It was roughly half way across the dew sodden road, clinging to the tarmac like a drowning swimmer clinging to a lifeguard. He quickly put Road Kill in neutral, and coasted towards his latest victim in near silence.

The fox looked up at the sound of rubber rolling on asphalt, accompanied by the dull throb of an engine idling quietly. It made no effort to run, the ghost of his mate was waiting on the other side for him.

Jack swerved towards the fox, lining it up with the wheels. It just looked at him. Its eyes reflected in the moonlight; two tiny disks of metallic green. The crunch wasn't satisfying, but the thundering screech of tearing metal brought reality crashing down, as the huge lorry stumbled into the ditch running alongside the road. Putting it in gear, Jack tried to pull away, but it was too late. Scrunching, tearing noises came from beneath the cab as he fought with the steering wheel. He hadn't realised he'd been so close to the edge of the road, and now he'd probably damaged his lorry beyond repair. Road Kill slowly ground to a stuttering halt as he stamped his foot down hard on the break. At that point the engine died, and all he was left with was the cool green glow of his radio's L.E.D. display. "Aww, shit!!!" Shouting, he punched the dash in anger. "Shit, shit, shit!" Opening the door, he climbed down from the cab. The front was covered in dirt, blood and dents where it had gouged it way through the trench. He kicked the huge wheel, and climbed back into the cab. Radioing for help was the next order of business, before the batteries gave out.

That done, he sat back and listened to the radio, sipping stale, lukewarm, coffee from his flask. Every now and again, a car would flash past. Speeding into the night, regardless of the speed limits on the road. Soon he felt the urge to relieve himself, all the coffee and the half-flask of whiskey he'd drunk had gone straight through him. Once more he left the confines of the cab and, walking away a small distance, moved over to the ditch to empty his bladder.

He didn't hear the car until it was too late.

The Universe slowed to crawl. Seconds turned, miraculously, into minutes as the corner of the small sports car clipped his back. He felt the rush of air, and the bones of his pelvis and lower spine crack. The noise reaching his ears well before any pain was registered. Gravity took a temporary leave of absence at that point, as his huge bulk was spun around and floated to the floor. He felt the fat around his stomach ripple with the impact, as both his legs were crushed to a pulp by the rear wheels of the car. Then time snapped back to normal, and the night rushed in.

In the near distance he heard shouting and the slam of a car door, quickly followed by the screech of accelerating tyres. Soon he was left with the sounds of the night, and the distant echo of the radio in his cab. Consciousness left him at that point, and the black of the night turned into the blackness of insensibility.

He slowly awoke to the sound of something moving. He didn't feel any pain, and he surmised his back, or neck, had been broken. He opened his eyes. The skies had cleared somewhat, and a brilliant moon lit the scene with a theatrical glare. The cab door was open as he had left it, and atop, sat a lone cat. Around the base of the cab, glinted the eyes of numerous small animals in varying states of decomposition. Glistening smeared with revenge and justice. Then he realised where the sound was coming from. The truck was moving, inexorably towards him. Obviously the ditch had broken the hand brake, and now he saw that he was to become the latest victim of 'Road Kill'. There was nothing he could do, but watch the incredibly massive tyres as they rolled slowly towards him in the darkness.

The cat got down from its perch, and looked at its handy work. The rest of the animals had sloped off into the ether, retribution having been granted. The cat cleaned an ear in contemplation, and strutted off into the night. It's tail raised high in the air. Eight lives left, and all the time in the world. Behind it, the crushed and bloodied form of Jack lay underneath the front tyres, where his head and brains were sprayed across the road and ditch. Far off in the distance, the bright yellow lights of an AA van flashed across the trees.

Justice? No. Vengeance. The cat stalked into the night. Time to get back to Nanny. The old witch was probably wondering where her she'd got to.