Roads. They wound up on themselves and through the greens and browns and blues, sometimes aging worse than the cars and people that traveled on them. This Harvey knew. He’d spent plenty of time on rough nights after a screaming match with his fiancée, out floating along the curves until he wished back home floating his fingers along her hips. Even though most of those drives were when the outside was black and obscured out passed the reach of his headlights, he knew it was still beautiful despite man’s progress and its attempt to stifle it. The greens and blue, reds and yellows, and everything in between flourished… and probably bided their time. Beauty that disarming didn’t come without consequence. This was also something else Harvey knew. Emily, his fiancée, was a smoking gun in God’s right hand, but along with the sugar and spice it seemed a dash of malice or spite had slipped in. For all her gorgeous angles and sweet words, the woman was a vicious wolf in dainty sheep’s wool. He’d once seen a kid torn into by a rabid wolverine and he’d come to feel a sense of comradery with the child, much like being the lone survivors of a great tragedy.
He hit the brakes lightly to hug a curve and heard the hum from the tread of his tires rolling over the blacktop. The wind came through the window in bursts, fluffing his hair violently while a white-hot sun hung in the middle of the bleached sky. They didn’t have a fight today, Harvey was only on a joy ride drinking in the scenic beauty at 60 miles an hour while his camera rode shotgun. The passenger was there in case something completely gorgeous or grotesque came across his path, or near it. Harvey was only a photographer by hobby, not by trade, and that’s all he felt it could be in the digital age where any idiot with a cell phone could make “art”. The profession was crowded with wedding vultures and pretentious would-be geniuses as he saw it anyway, so he stood content with doing math for money and leaving the lens-gazing for downtime. Hundreds of pictures littered his hard drive, flowers, seeds, trees and landscapes, bones and decomposing shacks in ruin and all always just feet off the road. It always started with a glimpse of something different and lead to a collection of frozen windows of time.
The engine hummed a series of repetitive v’s in different inflection as Harvey eased on and off the gas pedal. Trees and bushes waved at his passing, like they were saying hello and goodbye all at once. In front of him, the road laid out like a giant black and yellow serpent as it twisted a path to nowhere in particular. It was exactly where he wanted to go. Yellow squares with black arrows stood guard at the edge of another curve. They guided him away from a careless wide turn that would otherwise lead him astray. On the opposite embankment, at the bottom of the slanted road, a guardrail held the green at bay inside the curve. Leaves and branches leaned over the steel and threatened to take something back from man. Harvey’s eye twitched at the corner as he came upon the curve. The green behind the guardrail looked like a giant face. It wasn’t completely human in its reflection, but the very basic formation of two eyes and a giant, gnarled nose was prevalent. His heart smashed against his ribcage until he realized it was only the overgrowth. He loosened sweaty palms from the steering wheel that they had instinctually throttled in fear and pressed his foot back on the gas as the cold hallucination washed out in the tiny beads of sweat from his pores.
He pulled the wheel toward the inside of the curve. The leave all pulled back tightly around the face Harvey had thought he’d seen. The car floated by the inside of the curve and the face turned to follow it. Leave and branches had tucked firmly together and defined more features than before. A green, rustling brow pulled together in the middle of the face, smashed up in an aggravated grimace while a deep, hollow wind howled through the trees. This time Harvey knew the face he saw from the corner of his eye was real and not another trick in his mind’s eye that haunted him like some post-jitters paranoia. His foot sunk into the gas pedal. Behind the giant, green face more leave pushed out with knotted branches and trunks behind them. They rammed against the driver’s side door. Harvey’s face slammed into the window and caused a spider web crack where his head hit. The frame around the window had become grossly distorted. His head felt like a baseball tossed into a solid wood bat. The car spun to the top of the curve, nearing a full circle, and faced back the same way on the road while he foot was still heavy on the pedal. The tires smoked and start to gain traction. The rubber squealed against the blacktop. Before the car could lurch forward and away, more tightly woven branches came back like an angry god-fist and caved the frame in further. Slits in the metal opened and curled while shards of glass littered the road and leather interior.
Harvey’s left eye stung, salty with blood as it ran from his scalp. A jagged piece of scrap had peeled away from the frame in the impact and had sunken itself into Harvey’s upper thigh, he felt it scape against his femur. The squeal of the metal on his bone reverberated through the meat of his body and turned his stomach in heavy knots. A third hit sent the car off the road and into a ditch on the far side. The front wheels hung inches off the grass. Harvey pulled his foot back and let the battered engine idle as it choked out its last breaths. He glanced up in the rear-view mirror. The living embankment was behind him. The leaves had drawn tight again and in a blink he heard the trunk of his car collapse like an aluminum can. The car lurched further into the grass and dug into the earth below. The grill planted itself like the head of a spade while the crushed rear suspended from a moment before gravity pulled it down. The grill pulled open a gash in the skin of the earth.
A tornado of steam and exhaust rose up from the car and filled the cab. It seeped into Harvey’s lungs. He gagged and choked. His eyes pooled and blurred and everything worsened from the smog of the car. He tried to free himself, but the piece of the metal in his leg had him pinned. It was still attached to the door frame. Metal scraped against his bone again. He felt slices of it peeling off like bark from a stick. Bile climbed up his throat and sat in his mouth. He swallowed it down, hard, and reached for his thigh. With as much strength as he could gather, he pushed the flesh of his leg down with his right hand and slowly pulled the frayed piece of metal out with the left. Blood spurted out more and more vigorously then closer he came to freeing himself. It oozed from the hole and washed out over his pant leg. His left hand shook. The jagged piece had been at least three inches inside of him and now it wouldn’t give anymore as it hovered barely an inch outside of his skin. Harvey tried to move his leg, but when his muscles tensed more blood left him and unbearably sharp pains crashed into the nerve clusters in his body. The blood loss was beginning to show its hand, as well. His arm quivered ferociously. He was barely able to keep the scrap out of his leg. He unlatched his seat-belt and rolled toward the passenger seat. The metal slipped from his fingers and caught the outside seam of his pant leg. It tore away a generous chunk of denim. His leg, though freed, was saturated in blood. He dragged himself across the cab to the undamaged passenger door. A trail of red smeared across the seats like thick, watery paint. He opened the door and fell out onto the upturned grass. The brown earth clumped and stuck itself to the blood all over him and even worked into the wound. It burned as it unleashed new elements into the gash. Harvey pulled his shirt off and did the best he could turning it into a makeshift tourniquet. His head swam. All of his concentration had started to wane with his composure as it all leaked out his leg.
The ground shook beneath him in patterns like slow, plotting drums. They were spaced apart enough to seem like long, drawn out footsteps. Confusion built inside his dizzy mind. Each thrum shook harder and soon audible thuds began to accompany them like small avalanches over in seconds. Harvey pulled himself passed the cover of his car and stared out blankly to the horizon. The clutter of trees that lined the edge of the tame field had begun to rise like a series of randomly firing pistons, though once they were at their peak they didn’t return back to their casing. And the trees began to walk away like they’d given up on the ages they had tried to coexist with man, or worse: they were revolting. Harvey felt his heart drop in his chest. He questioned, for a moment, if he wasn’t delude from the blood loss. It was completely plausible that he’d had a terrible crash and imagined everything else after the fact while he remained unconscious. There was only one way to have any proof if what he was seeing was real. He pulled himself back into the car and reached for his camera. Quickly, he wiped the lens with his sleeve and pointed it toward the edge of the woods and shot.