Chloe wakes up wedged between two trees, the specter of her mangled Volkswagen looming above her. She can’t feel anything. “Fucking Beetles roll so easy” she mutters to herself.
The rain is gone, and the air smells fresh and sweet. She watches a bird, then several, through the cracked windshield above her. Silhouettes glide in circles, appearing and disappearing behind the car and some trees. They get closer, but Chloe is not afraid. She is excited as they come closer, revealing themselves as vultures. They rest heavily on the branches that hold the car. It gives a metallic creak, but stays aloft.
Chloe recognizes the red face and the wind tunnel nostrils of the closest vulture as the injured bird she saw two years ago at the county fair, and wonders how this can be. He stretches the injured wing out, showing her. Then, the vulture comes closer yet. Gently he rubs his beak on her cheek, softly, with affection. His breath is alarmingly sweet. Shouldn’t a vulture have putrid breath? Chloe begins to think she is dreaming. She struggles to remember where she was before she was here. In bed with a fever, for certain. This is a lucid fever dream, and she wills the vulture, the whole group of them, to pull her from this tree to safety.
She is only mildly surprised when they do so. A bird holds each of her injured limbs, and carries her up through the trees, riding an updraft to their usual perch on the water tower that Chloe, on a clear day, can see from her kitchen window. She looks down, but all of the houses, all of the windows look the same. The vultures lay her down and and place strips of torn food in her mouth. It tastes like smoked salmon and she swallows it, grateful, before falling asleep like a baby bird against its mothers wing.
Chloe wakes craving a bagel piled high with cream cheese and smoked salmon. She wonders briefly if she wants to brave the autumn rain in search of breakfast or stay at home drinking coffee in her pajamas. In the end, she makes a compromise. She stays in her pajamas, pulls on a pair of slippers, and runs through the rain to the car. She flips the wipers and the radio on, forgets her seatbelt, and off she goes into the gloomy morning of her death, singing.
Shawn McClure is a visual artist and writer who resides in central New Jersey with her family. Her work has been in Unbroken Journal, Kindred Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others.