photo from above of white and black car on road at night through green trees

Gotcha

It was perfect, it looked just like a baby crossing the road. The curve before the straightaway kept you from seeing it until—oh, shit, is that a baby?! And then your brain would like split between trying to stop the car and trying to think how a baby could be out here, in just a diaper, crawling across a road in the woods in the middle of the night. Did it crawl out here by itself? Or, you know, was it left here?

But the first two cars drove right by. No swerve, no brake lights, no reaction, and I couldn’t see their faces so I didn’t know if they even saw it. And then there were no cars for a while, so I spent time trying to find better placement and like crawling trajectory so they’d see it, but not so visible that they could just stop and get out and see it was just a toy. The point was it had to trigger a split-second honest reaction.

You’ve already figured out most of the story. It’s easy to guess just by looking around. But you’re missing the details, the extra thought that went into my plan, the stuff that made it interesting to me.

I saw another light through the trees way off over there—which scared me for a second, because I was using my phone flashlight and I was jumpy about the idea of someone else being out here too. But it was a car, so I put the baby into position on the gravel shoulder, pointed at an angle so when the car came around the corner the baby would be, not facing them, but angled toward them so they’d see its face. Seeing the face made it less likely they’d mistake it for a rabbit or something. And seeing the face is scarier. The expression is funny—it’s smiling, and its eyes are pointed to the side like the baby doesn’t see you or doesn’t care. It was funny to imagine someone in the future trying to fall asleep and having flashbacks of this plastic doll face they saw in the woods.

I have a thing like that with a drawing of a giraffe in a book from when I was really little. The giraffe’s neck is tied in a knot. It’s supposed to be funny or cute, and on the next page the other animals help untie it, but whenever I see or think of giraffes I think of the one with the knot in its neck and I can’t breathe.

That’s not important. I don’t have to remember to tell you that.

With the first two cars I’d figured out a good time to release the baby so it’d be in the middle of the road when the car finished the turn. So I flipped the switch and held the baby crawling in the air, and waited for right when I saw the headlights pass between the two thick trees, which meant it’d be like another fifteen seconds before the car hit the straightaway, which is about how long the baby would take, at this angle, to crawl to the middle of the road. And when the headlights blinked between the two thick trees I put the baby down and it started crawling, and I ran off the road.

When the car started the curve I could tell the baby’d be right on the yellow line when the car saw it, it was so perfect. Around the curve the headlights stabbed through the trees and bushes right across the baby’s face, but of course the driver still couldn’t see it yet. I ducked under the ferns, and I figured since I was hiding on the side the baby was crawling toward, then even if the driver stopped and was brave enough to get out of the car they wouldn’t find me. At least not right away, because they’d first look where the baby was crawling from, and I could run if I had to.

But the baby must’ve caught on a rock or leaf or something, because it turned before the yellow line. When the car came around and saw it, they swerved the way they weren’t supposed to, and they found me anyway without even seeing me. Their headlights spotted me for like a split second, stared right into my eyes.

I remember all of this. I’m trying to remember all of this so I can tell you later when my mouth works again. I can hear you asking questions, and I have the answers. You get that it was supposed to be a joke. “Gone wrong,” you said, which okay, I can’t move or talk now and that wasn’t my plan, so yeah, gone pretty wrong.

Part of me’s glad the driver’s okay, because this wasn’t supposed to hurt anyone, but I’m not looking forward to any lectures or “get well soon” stuff from her. She’s still sitting there wrapped in a thick blanket not saying much more than what happened, so I can’t tell what kind of person she is.

They’re moving me now, carefully changing my position to lie straight on their rolling bed thing. Stretcher. Or gurney, it’s a gurney. So I’m leaving now. Remember the timing of those two thick trees. Remember where I hid. The car is there, wrapped around the tree that was just behind me, which was near the start of the straightaway. The driver must’ve reacted super quick. Impressive.

I don’t see the baby anywhere. Probably stuck in a bush, or you put it in one of those plastic evidence bags. Imagining that makes it hard to breathe.


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