Drive By

Autor’s Note: This one is from my college days, written as an allegory on the senselessly destructive things we do to each other.

     With sweat-slicked fur and wildly searching, fear-widened eyes the possum slips on some unseen obstacle and slides headlong into a shallow gulch filled with loudly crackling leaves and popping twigs — remnants of the previous week’s torrential rains. For a moment the woods around him fall silent.  Everything — the snuffling and rustling of hunters and prey, the deafening monotony of the cicadas’ songs, the squeak of the night flying things, even the tree-tickling wind — simply stops for the briefest moment.

     In the lull, the possum senses his murderous pursuers all around him, hidden among shadows and undergrowth and overgrowth, as they, with watering mouths and adrenalized bodies, adjusted their headings and checked their courses so as to reacquire their panic-clumsied victim. As the possum’s mind reels with curses, the woods once again explode into the symphony of the night. Now though, lying motionless in the gulch and assessing the consequences of his misstep, the possum’s terror-honed senses detect the underlying beat of pursuit even louder and more distinct than before.

     They are closer. Their paw-steps and movements are more certain. From every direction but one, death closes in.

     For a moment longer the possum hesitates — listening to, smelling, even tasting the electric excitement of his pursuers crushing in around him, and feeling, not for the first time, the vague sense of being driven toward some terrible fate. Then, in one decisive movement, all hesitation disappears. The possum springs out of the gulch and again takes up its instinctive dash for life, and for freedom, in the only direction from which the palpable blood-lust of his pursuers doesn’t repel him. 

     Now though, desperation rules his movements. No more is he concerned with silent flight. The unseen gulch behind him having destroyed all chance of a stealthy escape, all that now mattered, all that now existed, was the murderous mob of his peers, the possum himself, and his last hope of survival glimmering uncertainly between the trees up ahead. 

     Madly, wildly, blindly the possum runs. Crunching leaves, snapping twigs, and spraying dirt from beneath his frenzied paws.

     Still the killers close in. The surrounding trees, bushes, and vines blend into a featureless blur. Snarls, howls, and taunting yelps pursue him. Glancing back and around him, he sees malignant sparks of hatred flashing in disembodied eyes. With a sudden cut to one side, he barely avoids smashing headlong into a rotting tree stump. With a sudden cut to the other, he barely avoids the gnashing bite of a wraith-like set of glistening, growling teeth. Just ahead, and so much closer and brighter than before, the glimmer of hope, of freedom, urges him on.

     Finally, with mouth frothing and fur glistening in the patchwork of moonlight flickering on the ground, the possum leaps, with all his remaining strength, into a dense wall of undergrowth. Crashing through, he discovers the source of the glimmering hope as he lands with jolting force on the unforgiving rock-path of the crushing beasts. In an instant, an instant too late, all becomes clear. Before the possum can even regain his feet, a beast is upon him, the bright light of its unblinking eyes, no longer glimmering and no longer hopeful, barely have time to blind him before the possum’s body is crushed beneath the beast’s unstepping, unmerciful paws. Before it can even begin, the possum’s last scream is stifled as his innards are unnaturally vomited through his instinctively bared teeth. Then, as quickly as it appeared, having killed again without reason or rhyme, the beast is gone — and with his last effort the possum gazes blankly toward the woods from which he was just driven and sees, two by two, the laughing eyes of his pursuers flicker, fade, and disappear into darkness.       

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