Touch of Death

By: Kelly Hashway
To Ayla,

the best daughter and inspiration I could ask for.

I love you!

Chapter 1

A red light means stop. I learned that long before I got my license, but I kept going through the traffic light anyway. It had been broken for weeks and no one really knew why the light was there to begin with. The only thing on the back road was a cemetery that had gone to hell a long time ago. The caretaker had died a few years ago, and no one had taken over after him. So, I didn’t see any reason to pay attention to the traffic light today, especially since I was late for school. After being homeschooled for most of my life, I still hadn’t gotten used to having to get up early and drive to school five days a week.

I flipped through the radio stations and cringed. Static, news, phone prank. Didn’t anyone play music on the radio anymore? I sighed and hit the power button, deciding silence was better than middle-aged people pretending to be young on the air.

I was reaching for my cell on the passenger seat when a flash of brown caught my attention. I dropped my phone and grabbed the steering wheel as the deer slammed into my car. I screamed and stomped my foot on the brake. The deer flipped over the hood and landed in a heap on the ground by the passenger side of the car.

“Oh, God!” I gripped the steering wheel tighter. I could barely breathe, barely move. “Please, don’t be dead. Please, don’t be dead.”

I’d never hit an animal before. Well, a snake once, but that didn’t count—who likes snakes anyway? I leaned my head back against the seat and closed my eyes. Mom was going to kill me. I’d just gotten this car for my birthday two months ago. Sure, it was used, but it was still expensive, and we didn’t have a lot of money. I released my death grip on the steering wheel and opened my eyes. I had to see how much damage there was. I said a silent prayer that the deer had magically gotten up and pranced away while I’d had my eyes closed.

I pushed the door open and stepped outside. The cold February air swirled around me and made my cheeks tingle. Luckily, it was an unusually mild Pennsylvania winter because I wasn’t exactly wearing a warm coat. Shivers ran up my spine as I saw the huge dent in my hood. Yup, Mom was going to kill me. Streaks of blood stained the car in a strip, like an arrow pointing to the deer’s body. I took another deep breath before convincing myself to see if the poor thing was dead. My stomach lurched when I saw it, lying there with blood on the side of its face. Its mouth hung open, and its legs were bent underneath it. Warm tears trickled down my cheeks. I’d killed it. Why had I reached for my phone? Why hadn’t I been paying more attention to the road?

I bent down next to the deer. Its eyes stared out into nothingness. “I’m so sorry. You poor thing. I never meant to hit you.” Something came over me, and I felt like I had to touch the deer. I reached out and gently patted its head. Two tiny nubs made me wonder if this buck would’ve grown huge antlers if he’d had the time. If he hadn’t met me—or should I say my car? But that only made everything that much more real, and I started to cry all over again, my tears dotting the deer’s back. I heard a car coming down the road, so I wiped my face. Warmth trickled from my right nostril. Brushing it away, I noticed a touch of blood on my hand. Another nosebleed, thanks to my allergies. I wiped the blood on the deer’s back, not knowing what else to do with it, and stood up. That was when I saw the deer move. Glassy brown eyes stared up at me, and the furry chest rose. I stumbled back, not believing what I was seeing. I blinked several times. Was I dreaming? No way could the deer be alive, but, snorting loudly, it sprang to its feet and tore across the street and into the trees.

I stared after it in shock. A black sedan pulled up alongside me. I recognized it right away: Mr. Leeman, my next-door neighbor. “Jodi? Are you okay? Did you have an accident?”

“Yes, I hit a deer. Or a deer hit me. I’m not sure which.” I wasn’t sure of anything right now.

“Where is it?” Mr. Leeman got out of the car and looked around. “That’s one nasty dent in your hood. I doubt the deer got very far before it died.”

I shook my head, hoping to jumble my thoughts until they made sense. “It got up and ran away.” I pointed to the woods. “There.”

He narrowed his eyes at me and walked toward the trees. “I don’t see it.” He turned back to me. “Are you sure you’re okay? Did you hit your head or anything? Were you wearing your seatbelt?”

“I’m fine.” I was still dazed.

“You heading to school?”

School! I had to go. I was already late. “What time is it? I have to get to school.”

“Whoa, calm down. You were in an accident. I think the school will understand if you’re a little late.” He took my arm and helped me back to my car. “Can I call someone for you? Have someone pick you up?”

“I have my cell. I’ll call my mom.” I sat down in the driver’s seat and picked up my phone. Thank goodness for speed dial because I couldn’t even remember my own phone number. Mom answered on the third ring.


“Mom, it’s me.”

“Did you forget something? I was on my way out the door.”

“No, I hit a deer. My car is… well, it’s pretty banged up. I don’t know if I should drive it.”

“Are you okay? Where are you?” Her voice was frantic.

“Mom, relax. I’m fine. Mr. Leeman’s here. He stopped to see if I needed help. I’m by the old cemetery on Willow Drive.”

“Stay put. I’ll be right there.” She hung up before I could answer. I let my phone drop into my lap.

“Do you want me to wait with you until your mom gets here?” Mr. Leeman asked.

I shook my head. “No, that’s okay. Thanks for stopping, though.”

“No problem. You be careful, okay?”

I gave him a small smile and watched him drive away. I turned toward the woods. How had the deer gotten up and run away? I had been sure it was dead.

Mom got there in a matter of minutes. She pulled me into a hug and squeezed me until I gasped for air. “Sorry, sweetie,” she said, finally releasing me. “I called a tow truck. They’ll take the car home. And I called the office to tell them I’d be late. Are you sure you don’t want to see a doctor?”

“No, I want to go to school. Second semester just started, and Mr. Quimby said this unit on mythology in literature is going to be really tough. Plus, trigonometry is brutal so far. You know how I am with math. I don’t want to get behind already.”

“All right,” Mom said, as we got into her car and headed to school. “But if you start feeling bad in any way, you call me, and I’ll come get you. Sometimes injuries don’t surface right away after an accident.”

“Really, I’m fine.” She gave me a stern look. “I promise I’ll call if I don’t feel well.”

We pulled up to the front of the building, and I mumbled a quick thank you and goodbye before jumping out and heading straight to the office for a late pass. Mrs. Thompson peered at me over her glasses. “Reason?” I swore they purposely hired people with no personal skills to work as receptionists.

“I hit a deer. My car had to be towed.”

She raised her glasses and looked me over. “You need to see the school nurse before going to class. She needs to clear you.”