I was driving Newfoundland route 480 that winter night. Crested a hill, slightly airborne, when I saw the moose twenty meters ahead. Both lanes blocked. Rock ledge to the left, guard rail to the right, hit the brakes. Tires screamed, car swerved on black ice, and I hit the moose at his knees. I heard the cracks of his fractured legs as the body went airborne, crashing through the windshield at me.

Windshield shattered, air bag blew, fur in my face and pain, muscle-tearing pain. I blacked out.

I screamed as I woke up. Head showered with glass pebbles from the windshield, ribs cracked or broken from the air bag. Rump of the moose pressed my right shoulder into the seat. Car stank of blood, feces and musk.

Think, Barry boy, think. Half an hour from the last village, side road, no traffic, sub-freezing night. Loggers wouldn’t drive through till almost dawn. Started trembling, cold probably or shock. Tried to move my right arm out from under the hairy ass pinning it and yelped. Couldn’t tense the muscles without pain. Everything else felt intact. Engine was off. Left hand and arm free. Reached over and tried to start the car. Nothing, not even clicks. Began picking safety glass away from around my eyes but stopped. Finger tips so numb I couldn’t feel the shards.

Needed to call for help. The glass pebbles cut in as I stuffed my fingers into my pants pocket and pulled out my cell phone. Phone turned on, no signal. Of course not, nobody lived out here.

Sniffed, no stink of gas or smoke. Figured to freeze rather than burn. Reached over and unclipped my seat belt. Felt the moose’s blood dripping into my lap, starting to freeze.

Tried to push the haunch away from me with my left hand and strained my shoulder. Beast was wedged in through the windshield. Was out of ideas and shaking pretty good. Thought about praying but didn’t. Figured I had nothing paid into that account. Worse ways to go. Get all hypothermic, pass out, never wake up.

I looked around. Front end stove in, headlights were still on. Could see where I couldn’t go. Watch was running, watched the digital display. Kept watching. Focus went in and out after fifteen minutes. Not long left. Then noise, branches snapped as something broke trail in the bush. Straightened up and yelled. Arm made the yell come out a wail.

The horn worked, honked and yelled. Then “Stop yer barmping. How’s she cutting, me cocky?”

A woman. Had to bend over to talk to me. Big, filled my busted-out driver’s side window. Bundled up in layers of mismatched clothes. Coarse features, smudged skin. Hair like a dirt-crusted mop. I was too scared to get annoyed. “Help me, I’m hurt bad. Call an ambulance.”

“Yer lookin shit picky, for fair. Got na phone. By the time I finds buddy and gets them here yer dead. Take ya ta my place, getcha warm. Then find buddy ta help ya. Kin ya git out?” She smiles. Discolored teeth, some gone.

“Moose has me pinned. Could you pull it out?”

Quizzical look. “Too much meat, maybe has ta choose,” she muttered. Then laughed, spraying spit. Saw my scared expression. “Don’t fear. Name’s Brigit. Ya hit it, so moose be yours. But I helps ya, boy if you was ta share a haunch.”

“What? Anything, help me please.”

She studies car, moose and me. “Think ya kin still walk?”

“Don’t know, maybe.”

“So moose first.” Brigit pulls a hunting knife from the sheaf on her belt, walks around the car. Passenger door looked crumpled shut, but she yanked it open with a screech, first try. Then she climbed in and began slicing her way into the moose haunch. The knife cut into my parka but not my skin. She grunted as she sawed through tendon and bone joint. Blood and flakes of meat flipped onto me.

Then she backed out, climbed onto the crumpled front hood, grabbed the moose’s hoof and pulled. The moose’s pelt ripped loudly against the windshield frame. She grunted, lips distended into a snarl. The moose’s knee, compound fractured, almost tore through as she pulled the quarter out onto the hood. Pressure on my arm went away. and blood pulsed back into the hurt.

The haunch looked a hundred kilos, but she shouldered it with a grunt, and carried it over to my side of the car before dropping it.

She stared at me. “Yer come-from-away, ain’t ya. Let’s see if ya kin move.”

She grabbed my armpits and hoisted me off the car seat. Pain from my ribs and right arm made me wail. She ignored my writhing, hauled me out of the car, and set me upright against its side. “Kin ya walk?”

My right leg had twisted in the crash, and I could barely put weight on it. “Not without help.”

“My place is in the bush, not far. Get ya warm.” Brigit stepped over to a fir tree and grabbed a branch, twisting and tearing it from the trunk, then hacked the needles off with her knife. “Use this ta walk.” She handed it to me.

I was shaking with cold and blood loss. “I’m not good. Let’s go right to the hospital. I’ll pay you.”

Brigit’s lips curled again. “Oh me nerves! Got na car, no other cars comin this night. Walk toward town, ya’d be froze before I’d need ta pee. Me place, heat, food. I knows somethin about bleedin and bustings. Now, shut up before I changes my mind.”

Brigit hoisted and shouldered the moose quarter in one smooth move, then stuck her hand into my armpit to hold me up. Needed the help when we went off road and started into a game trail. Moose, judging by hoof prints. We didn’t talk. She hummed something churchy sounding.

My leg was ready to crumple by the time we stopped in front of a log cabin with boarded-up windows, just visible in the gibbous moonlight. The moss-covered logs looked to be wet rotted. “Here ya be, boy, step in. I’ll light us a fire.” The door squeaked as it swung crookedly open. Cabin was rank with smells of rotted meat and stale urine.

Brigit lit two candles, then pulled a blanket off the top part of a bunk bed, shook off pine needles, and gave it to me. “Wrap up. Don want ya dead just yet.”

She started a fire that stank of punk wood, then pushed me toward it.

“All there is to eat is fresh killed moose, could fire cook some.”

“Thanks Brigit, but I can’t eat yet.”

The blanket wrapping me felt greasy. Moths had chewed through so often that the holes sometimes met. But it kept my ass from freezing as I faced the fire. Smoke roiled out of the fireplace, chimney probably half plugged with bird and squirrel nests. My eyes watered, shut them so I could hold close to the flames.

“While yer cookin yerself, I’m after dressing some meat.” She went out to the car, and came back with the moose quarter on her shoulder. She dumped it on a kitchen table without cleaning anything, and began skinning the meat. Brigit’s slicings were quick and sure. Bad idea to get in a knife fight with her.

As she skinned, she cut off meat slices and dropped them into her mouth. “Ta fresh” I heard her muttering. “A week ta fresh.” She stacked the meat chunks on the table, and bundled the bones and sinew inside the pelt.

I looked a question at her and she shrugged. “Coyotes,” she said, “scavengers got to stick together. Now yer warmed up and smellin sa mauzy good, let’s look at ya.”

“I dropped my blanket and took off my jacket and shirt so Brigit could examine my right shoulder and arm. She put her head close to my skin, prodding with the backs of her fingers because her nails extended a couple centimeters beyond their tips. She sniffed as she went. “Pretty rawny, but some sweet flesh, boy. Nothin broke, but ya won’t be swingin an ax with that arm fer weeks.”

Brigit moved around to check my back and shoulder and, numb as I was, I thought I felt her lick my skin. When I flinched she pulled back. “Drop yer pants, let’s see the knee.”

Hesitated, but figured she’d get a better look than I could. Right pants leg was sticky with moose blood, gumming up my hand as I dropped my pants. Brigit knelt to look close, deep-fissured face clearlit in the firelight, showing no emotion.

“Not broke, but swole good. Ya bled from a head cut, dried up now. Nothin needs stitchin. And ya stinks of moose shit, nothin for it.”

Blood was pooling under the meat on the table, and I thought I saw black flies hovering. “Brigit, I’m real thirsty. Do you have water?”

“Stream water is all.”

The rivers were loaded with giardia from moose and bear scat, but I didn’t care. My throat and mouth crackled. Deal with disease later. “Could you get it?”

She said nothing, just walked out with a bucket, door creaking shut behind her. Cabin walls were porous, and wind whistled across me as I put clothes and blanket back on. Tumbled a couple half rotted logs into the fireplace and looked around.

One room, didn’t take long. Mouse droppings littered the floor, bunk bed looked untouched for years. Jumbled pile of clothes in the far corner, I limped over, looking to replace my blood-soggy pants and shirt. Men’s clothes, different sizes, a lot less moldy than the blanket. Picked up a pair of pants to check for size, felt a hard bulge. Hobbled back over to the fire for light to see by. Was a wallet. License said John Stokes, local, from Stephenville. His keys in another pocket. John hadn’t left.

I shuddered, nerves fritzing uncontrollably, eyes blurring. Clutched the pants and wallet with death grips. Run, I thought, and cackled. I could maybe stagger with a staff. Weapons, I thought, but Brigit took her knife with her, no axe in the cabin. Maybe I’m wrong, I thought, and knew better. Play for time, it’s all I have.

Put the pants back into the pile, took my place next to the fire.

Brigit came back a few minutes later, handed me a ladle for the water. Refilled it three times before I quit drinking. She stared at me as I drank. “False dawn soon,” she said, “try keepin warm. Use a bed if ya has to.”

I could smell the beds from where I huddled. “No thanks.” But I hurt too bad to sleep. “Let’s talk a little, Brigit. Where do you come from?”

She stared at me and shrugged. “Settlement by the south coast, Cul-de-Sac West. Maybe a hunnerd twenty of us when I was a girl. Was a Cul-de-Sac East too, same size.”

“Must’ve been a hard life.”

“Fishing village, hard winter some folks starved. Ate gulvin stew and dulse when we had to.”

“Gulvin? Dulse?”

“Cod stomachs and seaweed. The arse went out of them folk, long gone. Folks just disappeared, another town, into the bush, nobody kept records. When it was down to just me, knew I had to get on in out of it, moved away.”

“Ever lived in in town?”

“Don’t like living close in, folks too nosy. Better living rough.”

Howling began outside the cabin. “Wolves?” I asked.

Brigit snorted. “Last Newfie wolf shot when I was a girl. Coyotes come maybe fifty year ago, started eatin what went dead.”

I needed more time. “You ever married, Brigit?”

She stared at me. “Kept with a man one season. He didn’t last the winter.”

Her expression hardened. “Going out for a while to check on things. I wouldn’t go outside, I was you.”

“Not planning on it. Thanks again, you saved me.”

Brigit’s expression was unreadable. “Save yer thanks.” She grabbed the sack with moose offal. “Fer the coyotes. So’s they don’t break in for the meat.”

I stared at my watch for ten minutes, then grabbed my branch-crutch and stumped out the cabin door. Inside the cabin was cold, but outside was brutal. The snow crunched with the brittle sound of many degrees below freezing. Figured I had less than an hour.

Brigit’s boot prints joined our earlier ones in the moose trail. Only way I knew to get to the road, had to take it. Tripped as I entered, hands went numb as I broke my fall. Cold kept the pain down so I could stump along. Off to the left I heard snarling, but the wind was blowing toward me, and they were busy. Figured Brigit’d go out to the road, then backtrack to the hut, brushing over boot prints with a fir bough.

Couldn’t get closer to her. Was maybe three hundred meters out to the road. Bush was thick, popple and alder and man-sized boulders. Cut diagonal off the trail to the right, maybe forty meters. Then struck out for my guess at the road.

Eyes weeping from cold, water freezing in the corners. Panting, stumbling into fir branches. Couldn’t feel my feet. Could still hear though, when the wind carried her yell.

“Ya shitbaked squabbyboy, I’m gutfounded enough ta eat ya fresh. I’m comin!”

The coyote snarls changed into howling that sounded coming closer. Shoulder tear omg, I hopped forward using the branch. Crested a rise and fell over, rolling down a steep hill. Lost the branch, banged my head, bounced into a frozen-over roadside ditch. Road had curved round toward me.

Shook my head, heard brush breaking high up above me. Crawled onto the road. Truck lights. Managed to stand, waved my good arm. Empty logging truck squealed to a stop next to me. Passenger door opened. “Get in, fore ya freeze.”

Had to slow step, two feet on every rung, before I could crawl in and shut the door. Locked it. “Drive! As you want to keep living, hit the gas!” Driver looked at my bloody mess a pair of seconds, put the truck in gear and rolled on. I looked in the side view mirror, saw a coyote, but no Brigit.

Heat in the cab hurt my skin everywhere, was hard to breathe, pain-pleasure overwhelming. Couldn’t speak for a couple minutes, then get my breath.

“What happened ta ya?” the driver asks.

I told him a version that didn’t make me seem too crazy. Took four minutes. When I finished, driver chuckled.

“Can tell yer come-from-away. I jest dies at ya. Must’ve been some bad screech ya swigged.”

“No! Believe me, please.”

“Boy, the last wolf on the island was killed around 1910. And Cul-de-Sac’s been a ghost town for a century. Yer Brigit’s over a hundred. Be me, I wouldn’t take up with her.”