It watched her from just beyond the reach of the car lights. For how long, the deputy couldn’t say. Her arms, her legs, lay loose, seemingly detached, and unable to be moved in any position or direction along with her head. Her only option was to stare into the trees and their casted shadows, lines of intersecting black, which hid the wounded creature from view – though she caught flickers of shiny hard-skin and twitching appendages jutting briefly from the cross-stitch forest pattern.
Remaining wide awake despite the grievous injury on her neck, dripping thick blood onto the road near her face, Doris took to counting the seconds gone past in her head, using the rhythm of the running engine while she waited for pain and for death – though neither came. The poison in her veins, she soon realized, was meant only to hold her immobile while the giant insect took its time devouring her as it did that emptied buck.
Deputy Moors then began to wonder if and when the centipede would strike again, wondering why it lurked so tentatively as if it were afraid. Her gun lay useless some feet away from her ungrasping hand, tossed away in the struggle. Were it in her hand, her finger still clenched around the trigger, it would lie just as futily. So as the seconds ticked on, the deputy couldn’t help but begin to think that it was actually that little cold-then-hot metal thing which caused such an unwelcome hurt that scared the insect away.
If she could have laughed she would have. Stupid bug brain, too dumb to understand what hit it, too smart to disregard safety for a meal. She could hear it, skittering around in the crackling ground cover, click-click-click. Moving like a wave of fluid, the curve of its body rose and fell now close to the roadside, giving Doris a sense of its full length. Panicked heat then emanated from her mind when she spied the hundred-plus legs inside the foliage gaps, remember the sickening feel of them against her own body, groping and holding. Count the seconds, just keep counting, one thousand seven hundred fifty-three and counting, though who could be sure anymore.
At roughly one thousand eight hundred ninety-seven, the marsh turned red and blue, big circles of alternating color painting the scenery, exposing the hideous hidden monster in brief intervals. From above her head tires rolled up close and car doors opened then slammed, boots ran on pavement and hushed voices spoke in heavy, short tones.
“Shit, shit, shit.”
“Son of a bitch.”
“Didn’t I tell you? Knew I heard shots.”
“Looks like she got it on the neck, shit, goddamn that’s a lot of blood.”
“Don’t think you should move her, could be paralyzed.”
“You know how long it’s gonna take for an ambulance to get out here? Middle of fucking nowhere at three in the goddamn morning? She’ll bleed right out by then.”
“Calling it in anyway, meet halfway maybe.”
“Alright, alright, help me get her in the back.”