Login   Sign Up 



by bjlangley 

Posted: 07 May 2011
Word Count: 1000
Summary: An edited version of (I am) Roadkill - I hope this version is a little clearer. Also - which title do you prefer..?

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Carrion crows peck at your blackened carcass. Your body is a pulpy mess crushed on the roadside. Only the residual patches of red fur, the same shade as my hair, show me you were a fox. Gavin used to call me his little fox; look at us now.
“Thanks for coming with me,” I say.
“Well, I didn’t want anyone to talk you out of it,” says Gavin.
Another cramp hits me. I reach into my handbag and pick out the leaflet the nurse gave me. I scan the post-op section to see if it is supposed to hurt this much.
Gavin releases the handbrake as the traffic moves on. We creep forward a metre or two, enough to spook one of the vile scavengers. As it flies over the car a chunk of your fox-flesh falls from its beak and plops onto the windscreen. Gavin cries out as the crow caws. Their calls are indistinguishable. He turns on the wipers and your tainted flesh leaves an arc of blood as it is dragged across the windscreen. More death and gore on a day in which I have already experienced too much.
I follow the flight of the crow towards the sinking sun until it settles in one of the leafless trees across the field; the scene a silhouette before an angry and judgemental red sky. I place a hand on my abdomen while he squirts water at the windscreen and continues to caw. When it is clean he turns his attention to the traffic. He opens his window and cranes his neck. I retch as he stench from the nearby waste-management plant hits me, but there’s nothing inside.
“What’s the hold-up?” Gavin asks. His head starts to twitch as he catches the smell of rotting waste. He closes the window then glances at me.
“You better not throw up in here,” Gavin says, “I’ve just had it cleaned”. It must be nice for him to have things in his life that be cleaned up so easily. Drop it off and someone will remove all of the filth. No more worries.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “Are you alright?” He places a cold hand on my knee. I jerk my leg away from him as revulsion swells and builds to another abdominal cramp.
“Listen, Fiona,” says Gavin, “I don’t think we can go on after this.”
A motorbike zooms down the outside of the car. He starts cawing again and I realise that he is right. I turn to look at you. The birds keep pecking. One darts its beak into your eye. I cramp up again, squeeze my eyes closed, and try to block it out.
I’m back in the operating theatre. The surgeon has his back to me. All I can see is his blue gown, and black hair sticking out of the bottom of his surgical cap. Some loose hair drifts toward the floor. I glance down, see a pile of feathers, and understand. It’s not hair. I look again at the gown and the space where the surgeon’s legs should be. I try to get up, but the anaesthetic is already working. The gown falls away. A murder of crows hover in its place. They flap towards me and flock around my frozen legs. Their beaks are inside me, tearing fleshy chunks from my baby. They pull out their blood-wet heads and tip them back to swallow before delving in deeper for more.
I scream as pain shoots through my entire body as if the crows are eating their way out from inside me. I bolt out of the car and scream. I fold my arms across my belly and squeeze. I can feel the emptiness in my womb.
The crows are not startled; they continue to feast on your carcass. And inside the car Gavin is flapping. He grabs wads of paper towels from the glove box and mops the seat. I stomp towards you. The beady black eyes of the crows stare at me. Even as I approach they thrust their beaks down again to tear off one last strip of your flesh before they fly for the nearest tree.
From the car Gavin stares at me with his beady black eyes. He has picked at me over the last few weeks, torn away the flesh of my resistance. His persistent pecking convinced me that he was right. He talked about the thing growing inside me as if it were some kind of deformity, but as I watch him flit about in the car I understand that he is the one who has changed.
The traffic trickles forward. Gavin pulls up beside me. He leans across and opens the door. I know he’s telling me to get in the car, but all I hear is ‘Caw, caw, caw’. I notice the bloodstain on the front of my dress, and start to weep. I sit on the verge and the crows return to you. I pick up a clump of mud and toss it at them. It explodes as it strikes the road and they fly off again.
I don’t notice that Gavin is out of the car until he is almost upon me. His wide wingspan blocks the fading sun’s rays and we’re both enveloped by his long shadow. I imagine those wings spreading around me, suffocating me. I pick up another clump of earth and throw it at him. It strikes his leg and he hops on one foot, flapping his wings wildly.
The traffic moves on again. Horns beep as they pass Gavin’s car. He takes another step towards me, but when I pick up more mud he scurries away. He crows at me from an open window then pulls off.

I’ll stay here to protect you from the scavengers. I’ll stop them from pecking at your body. I’ll stop them from feasting on your flesh. And maybe, if I stay here long enough, I’ll learn how to stop them feasting on mine.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Becca at 15:44 on 09 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Ben,
the content of this story gives me the creeps. Would you call it an urban horror story? Where do you envisage getting it published? The writing itself is competent,and there are ezines where gore-fest stories are published.
I myself don't like reading gore, I have just read a book called In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami which was going along pretty well for me until it quite suddenly turned into very graphic gore. I did read to the end, but I did also wonder what exactly is the point of gore in fiction.

bjlangley at 22:39 on 09 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Becca, thanks for reading. I have that book, In The Miso Soup though I've not read it yet.

I'm glad you see the writing as competent. I've recently encountered a number of websites which specialise in such subject matter, it's just a case of finding one that really fits.

As for gore itself, I think to a certain extent it's seeking something to shock ourselves, proving that we can still be made to feel queasy - there's so much horror in the world if we can still be creeped out, does it prove that we're not entirely desensitised?

All the best,


Becca at 08:05 on 10 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Ben,
I guess this is not the place to write about it, so I'll start a thread, because I see the matter entirely the other way around. All the best in finding a publisher.

Cornelia at 14:16 on 12 May 2011  Report this post
I liked the way you linked the man to the scavenger crow with imagery in this story, especially at the end where the the man's arms are like wings as her tries to enfold the woman's body and get her back to the car.

I think the abortion was very badly managed but the hallucinatory scene in the operating theatre, when presumably the woman was only half-sedated, was very vividly conveyed.

I have trouble with the representation of the woman, though. She came across as very unintelligent/naive to get herself mixed up with this controlling man, who doesn't even bother to disguise his unpleasant nature.

I'm not keen on stories which present women as passively stupid victims, and I'm pleased to say the current trend in fiction and films is in the opposite direction. I know she threw the mud at the end, but it was a futile gesture. He's already told her he doesn't want her anymore. I'd rather she leapt into the car and ran him over. Or he could be killed by a passing driver; a much more satisfactory ending.

“Thanks for coming with me,” I say.
“Well, I didn’t want anyone to talk you out of it,” says Gavin.

One might see this whole experience as a kind of epiphany for the woman, but it seems unlikely she'll change. If she can't distinguish the obvious bastards, she'll have no chance detecting the subtle ones.

I don't have a problem with crows as scavengers and harbingers of death, but I have problem with the woman's 'voice'.

Their beaks are inside me, tearing fleshy chunks from my baby. They pull out their blood-wet heads and tip them back to swallow before delving in deeper for more.

The abortion (and the sex) was something she's consented to, not something that has been done to her. I'd expect her to feel guilt, shame and remorse.

Instead of taking responsibility for her actions she transfers the blame onto her lover and the surgeon. Maybe she is still suffering from the effects of drugs that unhinge her perceptions, but strictly speaking she hasn't protected the child and she must know that; she's chosen an unsuitable/unwilling father for the child and then she's consented to an abortion. For that reason, to me the last line strikes a false note.


bjlangley at 15:59 on 12 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

Fiona certainly wasn't meant to be unintelligent, more a girl who had been naive to get into the situation and had realised too late.

I fear in trying to make this more clear I made her more of a victim, and him too much of a bastard which makes them more like caricatures.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


apcharman at 15:50 on 16 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Ben,

This was one of the most compelling pieces of writing I've encountered on Writewords and I found a lot to admire about it. Having already seen the debate about gore at the Forum, I was expecting something shocking and gratuitous, but I found this wholly well composed and the descriptions worked exceedingly well.

The state of mind of the protagonist comes across very well. She seems still partially affected by the anaesthetic and bound into that subliminal space we encounter when events are emotionally overwhelming. In that space, subconcious imagery becomes very powerful and the combination in this story of the visceral and the metaphorical work very well indeed.

My only re-constructive comment would be that because there is a lot of metaphorical goings on, I found it too hard to read between the lines about what had actually happened. You might want to discount the threat of readers being implausibly dim (like me) by pointing out early and unequivocally that she's on the way home from an abortion. I didn't get this point until the second reading, and since it is so crucial to the story, you might think about making it more obvious.

Other than that, I liked pretty much everything about the story. The distance and resentment between the couple seemed very real, and the woman's isolation from her boyfriend seemed an appropriate response. She clearly feels she has had violence and done to her has done violence to her own baby, so she's appalled by the roadkill. Her boyfriend, not the most empathetic to begin with, cannot begin to understand the distress she feels at her sense of connection, loss and guilt.

Her projection of the foetus on the fox under the 'judgemental' sky is a little bizarre, but for me it works, and I liked the timing and images of his attempt to retrieve her from the side of the road. He made the effort, getting out of the car; was willing to ignore one bout of mud-throwing, but deserted her at the second. He is certainly callous, but his actions are believeable and three-dimensional.

I take James Wood's notion of two-dimensionality (See 'How Fiction Works': the described actions of a character reveal inner processing that is complex and characterful. If Gavin had just driven away swearing about the bloodstain on his upholstery he'd have been a simple bad guy. Instead, his half-hearted attempts to get her back in the car show his inner thought processes, however callous and self-centred they might be. And his revealed thinking is consistent with his earlier comment "I don't think we can go on after this".

As it stands, this story doesn't provide enough information for us to judge these two characters (not that I would be inclined to do so anyway) so the notion that Fiona has been naive or irresponsible strikes me as crass. Love and Wisdom rarely cohabit. Fiona has discovered the true nature of her lover who has deserted her in many ways and at a moment of intense vulnerability. She deserves our sympathy. Certainly your skilful and incisive writing displays a deep understanding of her plight.

I think it is a really fantastic piece of writing.


Stupid smiley was not in my post.

apcharman at 15:56 on 16 May 2011  Report this post
By the way, Ben,

I like (I am) Roadkill much better than Scavengers, although since she is addressing the Baby/Fox the I am doesn't quite work. An offbeat title that hints at the visceral nature of the story would give people some notion of what to expect, so something around Roadkill would get my support.


BifferSpice at 15:14 on 17 May 2011  Report this post
wow this is some pretty visceral writing. very nightmare-like and gothic. i like that the descriptions of him and the birds are intertwined. a short, shocking piece. good job.

jonnyhols at 18:41 on 06 June 2011  Report this post

I thought the voice and description were very accomplished, however I must confess I was a little confused about who the 'you' was meant to be at first. Perhaps its just me being thick, but you could possibly make it more obvious so we know from the get-go, it distracted me initially from fully engaging in the story.

Cheers for the read.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .