County Route 10 is snaky and dark, and Jay’s driving is bad as usual. The knob of my skull knocks against the headrest. My right foot presses into an imaginary brake pedal.
Yellow caution signs mark the edges of the twisting road. The headlights split the night apart, bouncing off neon reflections, and scatter right into my brain stem. My eyelids close and I focus on the orangey dimness of my blood vessels or whatever’s in there. Capillaries maybe, I think.
When I open them again, a white-tailed deer steps out into the road. Jay swerves, and the Honda skips into a marsh like a pebble.
When the car stops moving forward, we get our bearings, and I see Jay’s face is bleeding from the airbag. He grabs his phone and leans forward. “I’ll call 911. There’s a first aid kit in the trunk,” he said as he pops the lever.
I’m able to shove my car door open against the reeds, so I get out and make my way toward the back of the car. squelch. The muck is still slightly sun-warm and about knee deep. squelch. It sucks my Birkenstocks right off my feet, which is a huge bummer. It took forever to break them in.
The katydids and frogs fall silent for about a minute, sizing me up, but soon pick up their scratchy mating rattle. All around me, fireflies shine their abdomens and bump into each other. They fly in patterns that, if I stare long enough without blinking, look like a stop-motion.
I round the passenger brake light and the hum of insects grows and grows. Soon the noise throbs like I’m standing inside the chamber of a heart. The fireflies flash. Then the marsh takes a deep gulp of air and sucks the car down with my friend inside. squelch.
I lean down and try to dig with my hands, but the ooze fills in any hole I make. I realize I could get swallowed whole too. The moon is full and bright, so I can see the road’s edge across the marsh. The frogs and katydids are still beating at full volume. I head that way one labored step at a time.
I’m close, but something is crawling on me. Fireflies are landing in my hair. And on my arms and back. I’m waist deep in mud and the tickling is so intense, I’m laughing between gasps. The fireflies swarm on my neck and face. The yellow glow is blinding. They pulse with light again and again. I taste their bioluminescence on my lips as they flow into my laughing mouth and into my belly.
I make it to the road, and see headlights coming around the bend. I step into the road and wave my muddy hands up and down. The truck stops. My throat floods with warmth. I bend over and throw up what feels like a gallon of neon liquid onto the black pavement. It tastes like alcohol. My nose is dripping fluorescent mucus and my face is streaked with glowing tears.
The driver motions for me to get into the truck bed with his sheepdog, on account of I’m covered in mud. I climb in back and we head off into the night. The dog rests its chin on my wet lap and I watch the stars whirr by along the tree-line.