Her purse slung over her shoulder, Sarah walked along the edge of the road, kicking aside little pine and cedar branches that had fallen during the storm. Her neighbor, Jim, should be along any time, heading into town for his morning coffee and waffles at Flo's. She didn't have to be at work until two, but if she wanted a ride, it was Jim or nothing. That old road could go a week without seeing a car other than her sedan and Jim's big truck.
She glanced at her watch, and then over her shoulder. It was a quarter after eight. Whenever Steve asked her to cover the morning shift for one of the other checkers, she had to be there by eight thirty, and Jim was always in the cafe already. Had she missed him? She groaned and adjusted the strap of her purse. It was only six miles, but that was about five miles farther than she wanted to walk.
Rounding one of the large corners, Sarah stared out into the woods, appreciating the way the sunlight slanted through the trees, tendrils of mist creeping along in the shadows. She often saw deer out her back windows, sometimes even elk, foxes and once, a black bear. That was another reason she didn't want to move to town--she enjoyed living among the wildlife. Although, walking alone and unarmed along a deserted road, a hungry bear was probably the last thing she wanted to see.
Tearing her eyes from the forest, she turned back to the road, and her steps faltered at the sight of a vehicle parked in the middle of the road up ahead, the driver's side door hanging open. Was that ... was that Harold's pickup? Uneasy, Sarah glanced around, but help had not miraculously appeared out of thin air. Heart pounding, she walked toward the vehicle.
"Harold?" she called, her voice sounding small and timid in the silence. "Harold, are you okay?" There was no answer, but she hadn't really expected one. Gripping her purse tight in both hands, she walked along the side of the pickup, hardly able to breathe. Everything in her screamed to run home and call the police, but she couldn't stop her feet from moving forward. She had to see. At the front corner of the pickup, she hesitated and swallowed hard. She could hear flies buzzing.
Sarah looked down, in front of the truck, at Harold, his face white as chalk, his lips blue, eyes wide and staring, as thick, black blood clung to his face. His throat had been torn out. The hunk of flesh lay beside his head, attracting flies. Sarah stared, and then turned away and threw up.