The Swanson family was returning home from IKEA, their Cadillac Escalade crammed with furniture, when a squirrel ran into the road. It thumped beneath their tires.

“Oh no,” murmured Susan Swanson, glancing up from her phone.

“You’re not supposed to swerve,” said her husband, Trent, who was driving. “It’s dangerous.”

“What happened?” asked 10 year-old Madison from the backseat.

“We hit a squirrel, honey,” said her father.

“Cool!” said 8 year-old Logan. “Do it again!”

“It’s never cool to take a life, Logan,” said Trent.

But Logan was now staring at his iPad, the dead squirrel already forgotten.

They pulled onto the highway, away from the mall, cruising along in the Saturday traffic. Trent played with the satellite radio, trying to find sports talk. Susan scrolled through Facebook. Logan played video games. Only Madison looked out the window.

A rabbit sprinted out of the woods, straight into the road.

“Daddy, look out!” Madison cried.

Trent looked up from the radio, but not in time to avoid the rabbit, which splattered beneath their wheels.

“Oh my God!” Madison shouted.

“Did we just hit something else?” Susan asked.

“What was it, honey?” Trent asked his daughter.

“A bunny!”

“I haven’t hit anything in years. Now two in one day.” Trent squinted at the road, as if it might explain itself.

“Oh no!” Madison wailed. “Another one!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Trent saw another rabbit dart straight out of the woods. He swerved to avoid it. Another car honked at him, and that car hit the rabbit.

“What was that, Trent?” Susan asked, her phone clutched protectively to her chest.

“I don’t know,” Trent said. “It’s like that rabbit had a death wish.”

“Whoa,” said Logan. “Look at them all!”

He pointed out the window. An army of animals poured out of the woods. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, weasels, foxes, and a few critters Trent didn’t even recognize ran screaming into the road, heading directly for oncoming traffic. In the span of a microsecond, the peaceful flow of Saturday shoppers turned into a frenzy of honking and swerving cars.

“It must be a migration!” Susan shouted.

The Escalade flew down the highway, pancaking small animals. Blood spattered the windshield.

“The bunnies are killing themselves!” Madison cried. “Make it stop!”

It did not stop. Deer bounded into the road, eviscerating themselves upon the grills of speeding cars. Birds flew directly into the power lines running along the highway, frying themselves in a tangled mess of charred feathers.

“What in God’s name is happening?” Trent cried.

“Honey, stop the car!” Susan begged.

“We’ll be trampled!” said Trent.

Madison was crying. Logan cheered as a beaver thudded beneath the car. Susan filmed the spectacle on her phone.

“We need to get home,” Trent said, stepping on the gas. “We’ll be safe there!”

A Mack truck passed the Escalade, honking, pulverizing oncoming fauna.

“Sweet Jesus!” Trent yelled. “A bear!”

Ahead of them, a black bear lumbered out of the woods. Like the rest of the animals, it headed straight for the road.

“We’ll be killed if we hit that thing!” Susan shouted.

Trent swerved into the passing lane, crunching a helpless muskrat.

The bear shuffled into the highway, stopping in the middle of the travelling lane. The Mack truck honked and slammed its hissing brakes. It plowed directly into the animal, painting the pavement with raw meat. The truck veered off the highway, careening into the ditch. It capsized hard to starboard, erupting in a ball of fire. More animals darted out of the woods, throwing themselves into the flames.

“It’s the end of the world!” said Susan, filming the mayhem through her tears.

“Let’s just get home,” said Trent.


At home, they barricaded themselves in their house. Outside, the swimming pool overflowed with hundreds of drowned critters. The intake pump clogged with dead rats, spewing bloody backwash onto the lawn.

The Swansons huddled around their television, desperate for answers. Trent found a 24-hour news channel and turned the volume up.

“Some are calling it a sign of the apocalypse,” said a well-coifed news reporter, standing on a beach along the coast. “Animals are turning up dead in record numbers.”

Behind the reporter, the beach was swamped with mammoth whale corpses, surrounded by a virtual holocaust of dead fish.

“Scientists and government officials have no explanation for this sudden mass extinction,” the reporter continued. “But as you can see, all of these marine animals seem to be taking their own lives.”

The camera panned out to sea, zooming in as seagulls plunged out of the sky into the water, not resurfacing.

“It must be an epidemic,” Trent said. “They must all be sick.”

“Scruffy’s not,” said Madison, pointing to their pet tabby cat, who was reclining on the windowsill licking his paws, as if he had never been happier in his life.

“Maybe it’s only wild animals,” said Trent.

“Why would they do this?” Susan asked.

“They hate us!” said Logan, still staring at his iPad. “They’re mad at us, and they want to die.”

“That’s enough, Logan,” said Trent.

Outside, birds flew head-on into the Swansons’ windows, thumping to the ground with broken necks. Even Scruffy now seemed curious about the carnage, his tail flicking excitedly.

Suddenly, they heard a scratching sound on the roof. Something was making its way along the drain pipe toward the chimney.

“What is that?” Susan asked.

Whatever it was, it was big.

“It’s trying to get in here!” Madison cried.

“Everybody calm down,” said Trent. “I’ll go see what it is.”

Bravely, he ventured outside. The others followed. They arrived in the backyard just in time to see a raccoon pitch itself off the roof, impaling itself along their picket fence.

Madison screamed and covered her eyes. Susan filmed the suicide on her phone.

“There’s another one!” said Logan, pointing toward the roof.

They all looked up to see another raccoon inching toward the ledge.

“No!” Trent cried, holding a hand up toward the animal. “Stay where you are!”

The raccoon glanced at him with wet, despondent eyes.

“I’ll get the ladder!” Trent said. “Don’t let him jump.”

“Please don’t jump!” Susan begged the raccoon. “You don’t have to do this!”

Trent ran to the garden shed, returning momentarily with the ladder. He leaned the ladder against the house, and began to climb.

“Don’t move, little buddy,” he implored the raccoon. “I’m coming to help you.”

“Don’t let him jump, Daddy,” Madison said.

“Be careful, it might have rabies,” said Susan.

The raccoon toed the rain gutter, peering over the edge of the roof.

“Please!” Trent cried. “You have so much to live for!”

“I think he wants out, Dad,” said Logan. “He looks like he wants to end it all.”

“We have to stop this,” Trent said, reaching the roof. He held out his arms to the raccoon. “Come to me, buddy. I’ve got you. Come on down from there.”

The raccoon hissed and swiped a paw at Trent.

“I can’t reach him,” Trent said, straining his arms toward the animal. The ladder wobbled, and he grabbed it to steady himself. “Get a blanket, kids, in case he jumps!”

Madison and Logan ran inside. In the living room, they found a nice quilted blanket draped over their sectional couch.

“We should let him jump,” said Logan. “He obviously wants to die.”

“Shut up, Logan!” Madison spat. “Maybe you should jump off the roof.”

“Maybe I will!”

They ran back outside with the blanket. The raccoon teetered on the gutter. Trent grabbed for it again, but it sidestepped his reach. Susan helped the children open up the blanket, and together they held the corners like a fireman’s safety net.

The raccoon flung itself off the roof, caterwauling through the air. It landed in the blanket, nearly pulling the kids down with its heavy drop.

“We got it!” Susan cried.

Trent scrambled down the ladder.

The raccoon clawed ferociously at the blanket, shredding the quilting to pieces. It broke free of its capture and made a mad dash for the woods.

“Get him!” Trent shouted. “We have to save him!”

The four Swansons ran after the raccoon. Trent led the way, bounding over ground cover and scrub brush. The raccoon veered around trees, jumping over fallen branches. It turned once to snarl at the Swansons before plunging deeper into the woods.

“Don’t let it get away!” Trent called to his family, who lagged behind, unaccustomed to wilderness exertions.

Trent reached a clearing, where a gentle stream ran through the forest. He stopped for breath, bending over and sucking in air.

“I didn’t even know we had a stream,” he muttered.

The raccoon stood at the edge of the stream. It turned, hissed at Trent once more, and then dove into the water. It did not come back up for air.

Susan and the children reached Trent a moment later.

“He’s gone,” Trent huffed, wishing he had a cigarette. “Poor little guy drowned himself.”

“Why is this happening?” Madison sobbed. “Why are the animals dying?”

Trent shook his head. He did not have an answer.

Across the stream, a family of beavers stood lined up along the riverbank, chattering their teeth at the Swansons.

“Look,” Susan said. “I think those beavers are trying to say something. Where’s my phone?”

The largest of the beavers turned to a thick pine tree, the base of which had been nearly chewed through. The beaver dug his teeth into the remaining ligament of wood, and the tree started to tilt. The wood groaned and snapped. The trunk crashed down against the riverbank, braining the entire family of beavers, their teeth and eyeballs splashing into the stream.

Trent stepped forward and surveyed the carnage. The fallen tree had landed perpendicular to another, and he saw that several dozen trees had been felled by the industrious beavers. Peering closer, he saw that the tree trunks had been laid out in a pattern, forming words.

The beavers’ message said: “FUCK YOU.”