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Rated: E · Short Story · Psychology · #2227796
I wake up from a dream, more like a snapshot of a dream. But is it really my dream?
Deer in the headlights

What is the last thing you see before you open your eyes in the morning?

Try to recall before you focus on your morning.


A deer in the headlights, looking away, head turned right, to the edge of the road. Looking over the guardrail, unconcerned. Not worried about other deer, her faun. Or fauns? Simply looking into the woods, which are out of my view though I can see the first row of trees, or just a couple trees from my viewpoint? In the rain or mist. I can also see the guardrails in the morning mist, or thin, angled rain, lit up by the headlights. My headlights? Am I driving or am I a passenger? Is the deer looking into the woods or past a small set of trees into a field? Or is it there more behind those trees in the misty rain?

I wake up before I can turn my head, left or right?, to see if I am driving. Or alone in the car. All I know is that the car's hood is a non-descript grey and beaded with rain, which makes no sense if the car is moving. Is it moving? Am I in the road or parked? I know the headlights are on. And that I am in the left-most (or only) lane or in the left side breakdown lane, facing the wrong way if this is not a one-way road.

Why that scene? Why was the deer unconcerned about the car and not transfixed by the headlights? What is beyond the trees?

Now my day has started and I am surprisingly awake, walking around the bed on my way to the bathroom, looking past my half covered, sleeping wife. Did she sleep through the night or did she spend most of the night awake, half reading and half worried about the workday to come?

After a meeting, via Zoom since this is the time of Covid, I think of that deer looking over the guardrail unconcerned. She was serene, despite being bathed in headlights and thin rain, or morning mist. Why was that the vision I was sent before waking? Was there more to the scene before that snapshot memory? I can imagine many.

         Me pulling off the side of the one-way road and then, later, the deer hopping over the guardrail, using my headlights to guide her path. Looking back the way she came to judge distance, but not afraid of what might be following (a predator) or not following (her children).

         Me as the passenger of the car streaming down the divided highway and then, suddenly looking up to see a deer in my path that has not yet realized she is a millisecond from being killed by a speeding car. Going dead straight and not swerving, which I know since the headlights are aligned with the direction of the road ahead. And then what happens to my car? And to me?

There are many possible befores and afters, I realize, as I stare at my computer screen which is now absent of talking Zoom heads, but still full of work folders.

I consider... The grey rain spotted hood, the deer, the guardrails and the morning misty rain are all fairly timeless. This could be today or the 1930's.

What's to say it was even me? I know, from the vantage point, that I was not the deer, but I do not have any idea of my personal size, shape or color. Or gender.

Maybe the last thing I saw before I opened my eyes was the last thing someone ... man, woman, or child ... saw many years ago, and right before they died? A lost image that found its way, somehow, into my head.

The last thing I saw before I woke up this morning was the last thing someone saw in their life. Perhaps recently. Or perhaps many years ago.

The phone rings and I look down. It's one of my clients. The deer, the car, the headlights, the mist, the trees and whoever's eyes were viewing that scene disappear from my thoughts.


The deer finally looks over towards my car, still unconcerned, where I am broken down on the side of the road awaiting morning. I will wave someone over to hitch a ride to whatever is the nearest town in the middle of this nowhere.

I'll leave the car for whoever wants to fix it and find a new car, or not. My husband might learn where I left this piece of junk and get this close to me, but by then I will be long gone. Longer gone. Tomorrow is the first day of 1970 after all. The first day of a new decade in this confused and volatile world. Maybe my dear hubby will be called up and shipped off. I don't wish him dead ... do I? With luck he will find an Asian sweetheart who can better live up to his expectations and look back on this day the same as I do. As a turning point. As the first day of the new year, the new decade, and the rest of our lives.

The deer begins to cross the road, still unconcerned, but I watch over my shoulder in fear a car will suddenly appear and not be able to stop in time.

The deer makes it safely across and as she hops over the right guardrail, she disappears from view. Good luck deer. Good luck with the rest of your life.

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