we are driving down the road that turns into a highway. i am in the backseat. there is a small animal dead in the road. it is crumpled and piled in on itself. i cannot tell what kind of animal it is, because i can only see the grey and brown fur from the curve of its back blow and bow in the speeding wind as each car passes by. i make the sign of the cross and say a small prayer for it.

we drive on. we see another animal in the road. this one is torn and spattered across the pavement, pink and pulpy. another sign of the cross. we speed ahead and take a bend.

more dead animals appear in and along the side of the road. they are all crumpled masses, their heads hidden. they are getting bigger. the car has to swerve to miss them. they have paws and hooves. it’s as if a small stampede came through, and no car could avoid them. they are growing in number as the car drives on.

“what is this?” i ask, and look to the side of the highway. piles of dead animals line the road, cover the fields. huge animals. deer. cows. water buffalo. now i can see their faces. their expressions vary from blank to terrified, tongues lolling out of their mouths.

and then it hits me. “oh, this isn’t real. this isn’t real!”

it is too far-fetched. a nightmare. a dream. but somehow, this thought snaps me into the moment, rather than out of it.

as the car speeds on, i repeat my revelation, “this isn’t real!” i stand up through the sun roof, yelling, “this isn’t real! this isn’t real!”

i turn facing the rear of the car and put my hands flat on the roof. i watch the landscape fall away behind me as we continue on the highway. the dead animals no longer line the road; they fade into the distance.

yet despite my revelation, it’s still so clear, if not clearer. i can see the sun, just on its way toward setting in the orange hazy sky. i can smell the grass and the farms as we pass them. i can feel the cool metal of the car roof under my open palms. i can truly feel the wind on my face and arms, hear its chaotic, deafening whooshing in my ears as my hair blows madly around my head.

this isn’t real. and i can feel it all.

“i guess,” i say, “this is as real as anything.” and i sink into the experience.