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I'm looking for a short story about a man who thinks he sees a face on a piece of trash while driving to work.I think it looked like a bag or a piece of cardboard blown about by the wind.Seems like it "blew" onto a piece of roadkill and ate it. He thinks he imagined it, but keeps thinking about it. He goes back to the intersection where he first saw it and it causes him to have an accident.It ended up being some type of creature that hunted by pretending it was garbage.

I can't remember if it was in a magazine or an anthology, but I first read it about 20-25 years ago. I keep thinking it was by Harlan Ellison, but I'm in no way positive about that. It may just be that I read it around the same time I first read Ellison.

  • This is probably enough detail, but can you recall anything else about this story? – Adamant Oct 24 '16 at 4:58
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    The man was going to work and kept thinking about it while he was there. Seems like he went back to look again during lunch, but it could have been at the end of the day. The creature only "attacked" him because it realized he knew it wasn't trash so it was protecting itself. It wasn't a very long story. For some reason, I keep thinking it was either the first or second story in an anthology. I do remember the author had written a bit about what his thinking was behind the story or maybe what his inspiration was. – Cherie Oct 24 '16 at 5:28
  • This also sounds like Alan Dean Foster's 'Into The Out Of', a 1985 novel where the protagonist recognizes a monster attempting to hide as a piece of tire retread (chunk of rubber) on the side of the road. – Mark Ripley Nov 27 '16 at 12:32
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Roadkill, a short story by Mercedes Lackey. I'm very nearly certain. I found it in the anthology, Werehunter (published 1999), but it was published summer 1990 in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, which can fit your timeline. It isn't the first story in the anthology, but it is nearly the last, if that helps - and the anthology has a short blurb at the bottom of each story, about the next story in the anthlogy (so there is a short blurb about "Roadkill", about where the idea came from, on the bottom of the previous story, "Stolen Silver").

In the story, the main character is in the habit of making mental calculations about things as they cross his path - this leads him to notice something that looked like a flattened cardboard box, when it seemed to skitter out of the way of a jerkish driver, against the wind. Later he notices the roadkill the box had come to rest against had vanished.

He recalls some memories of stories, about a shape-shifter that would scavenge food by pretending to be inanimate objects (for example, a carry sack which people would place food into, which would then walk off with their hunt when they weren't looking). He thinks about how such a creature could survive the changing world, full of people that it doesn't know how to fool, and thinks about the amount of roadkill that might entice such a shapeshifter to look like trash, instead of actively tricking people (who don't believe in magic, or may react very badly to such tricks).

And in the end, he does go back, finds the box, and deliberately aims his car at it to prove is is a similar sort of creature, or else prove it's just a box. The story ends with the creature leaping onto the windshield, where he sees its flattened face (and huge, chisel-like teeth), and the car going out of control because it had bitten through his brake lines.

  • This is it! Thank you so much! I have no idea how I forgot that it was Mercedes Lackey that wrote it. No wonder I couldn't find it. – Cherie Oct 24 '16 at 13:46
  • @Cherie - Glad I could help! – Megha Oct 24 '16 at 14:03

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