I’m not sure what I am, but I know I must be something.
For now, I am Pocahontas and she is Sacagewea. Kelsey creeps through crunchy leaves a few steps ahead of me. I stop to stare at a dark damp hole at the base of a tree. I consider mining it for slugs with a twig, but look up to find Kelsey first. She’s way ahead of me. Her fleece coat a drop of red in the vast, cross-hatched tangle of the woods. I hurry to catch up, to see what she’s got, certain it’s better than slugs. I crash towards her, small and loud in the creaking silence of countless trees. They stand around like a crowd of tall chaperones, watching us not know a thing.
The deer looks dead. Up close and still, it takes up more room than I expect it to. A young buck, with sharp, curved antlers and its pink tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Kelsey and I stand and gawk. I squeeze a finger under my faded neon bracelet. The skin of my wrist feels smooth as the inside of a shell there, protected from the world. I look over at the matching one on Kelsey’s wrist, just above the firm fist of her hand. I can’t see a bloody hole or anything, and the deer seems to be charged with that dangerous energy of wild animals that makes them fascinating, but also terrifying. I have this feeling it will suddenly move. The eye shines up at me. Kelsey can tell I’m afraid by the way I stroke the skin under my bracelet. She’s the brave one, with scabs on her knees and elbows to prove it. I bet she’ll get her period before me.
She kneels to touch it. The moment her hand meets the fur, I can see it, the deer will lurch awake, an explosion of hooves in our screaming faces. A zombie deer. Freddy Krueger disguised in a deerskin. I close my eyes, pretending to blink, when Kelsey’s fingers hover just above the dead fur.
I lift my eyelids slowly and through the sliver I see Kelsey’s hand smoothing the lean neck, as if it were a pony at a party, friendly as a pet. Her face is tight, which means she’s sad, unsettled. I compare her bright eyes, lighter and more sensitive than mine, and the one dead deer eye, black as a deep hole and staring, surprised. I motion for her to hurry up so we can get. A cloud of dark birds sprays out of a nearby tree, and I lift my head to squint at them, unsure if they are ravens or crows or blackbirds. Kelsey rises and a shot cracks the woods to bits. She collapses onto the deer. I squat, search her body for the wet wound, say her name until it’s not her name. A soft, bloody moon slips out of me and falls on the dirt.
Polly Bresnick is currently studying fiction in the MFA writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Weave Magazine, The Six Sentence Review, and a few other small journals.