For Jake Townsend, the loss was shattering. And every night for the past two years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The moonless night. The piercing screams. The horrific crash. The night his wife was taken from him. The last time he saw her alive.
Everyone tells him to move on. But for Jake, there can be no closure. A message appears in his dreams—a warning he is reluctant to heed.
The omens ignored, Jake finds himself caught between the desire to see his beloved wife again and disrupting the delicate balance of life and death. The technology he developed has shown him the path, and others will do anything to use it, but at what price?
He must choose, and the consequences may ultimately shatter his world.
Jake Townsend turned to his pregnant wife of two years and said, “Sorry it’s so late. I can’t believe I kept you out this long. Do you hate me?”
Beth smiled, touched his face and said, “No, silly, I was having fun too. Karen and Vito always throw a good party.” She rubbed her slightly distended belly. “I don’t think she sleeps anyway.”
Jake was annoyed at himself for losing track of time and keeping his wife out past 2:00 am. He knew better. Their unborn child was not getting its proper rest and this was his fault. Beth seemed to somehow sense his distress and grabbed his hand, placing it on her rounded stomach. She then shifted it a little to the left. He felt a little burble under his fingertips as their child shifted inside her.
His angst melted away and he smiled. “He’s practicing his field goal kicks again.”
Jake signaled and maneuvered the old Toyota Land Cruiser off of A1A in Callahan, Florida, and headed south on U.S. 1 toward home in Orange Park. The vehicle was the only one on the road at this late hour.
“You mean her cheerleading kicks?” Beth said.
Jake laughed. The baby continued to press softly against his palm. He still couldn’t believe he was going to be a father in just four short months. He was excited and terrified all at the same time.
Jake’s cell phone rang and it startled him at this late hour. It was 2:45 in the morning and he couldn’t figure who would be calling him this late. He glanced down at the LCD on the phone and shook his head as he smiled.
He said to Beth, “Tony.”
She nodded and smiled. “He probably wants you to hang out tomorrow. He still tries to take you away from me.”
Jake laughed. He pressed a button on the phone and said, “Yo! What’s up man?”
An obviously drunk and angry Tony said, “I left the bitch, that’s what’s up! I can’t stand her! She’s ruining my life.”
“Whoa!—calm down buddy. What happened?”
Beth asked “What’s wrong?! What happened?!” and Jake couldn’t hear what Tony was saying.
“Hold on honey, give me just a sec…no, not you Tony, go ahead.”
Just then, Beth gasped and Jake looked up to see a huge deer standing in the road. He jammed on the brakes and swerved to miss it. The top heavy Land Cruiser never had a chance and as the vehicle began flipping, Beth started screaming.
It was the most violent thing Jake had ever experienced. He was tossed from side to side like a ragdoll and before the Land Cruiser came to rest on its passenger side, Jake’s head slammed into the door frame and everything went blank.
Jake awoke to almost total darkness and the sound of dripping and hissing invading his mind. His head pounded and he could feel something wet and sticky on his face. It was then he realized he was hanging almost upside down from his seatbelt and the memory of the deer in the road filled him with shock and fear.
He called out “Beth!” but all that escaped his lips was a whispered croak.
He coughed, spat blood and then yelled louder. “Beth!”
He searched frantically around the inside of the car and could see nothing. He was beginning to panic now as he struggled with his seatbelt, blood running into his left eye hampering his vision. He kept calling her name, but could hear no answer. The seat belt finally let go and he suddenly found himself face down against the pavement, but still in the car, the passenger windshield shattered, and the cold asphalt digging into his skin.
He was momentarily pinned at an awkward angle but wrestled his legs under him and finally stood with his head popping up through the driver’s window. As he tried to clamber up and out of the window, his right shoulder protested painfully and he fell back into the SUV.
He struggled up and out and fell onto the pavement outside the car landing badly on the injured shoulder, crying out. He stood shakily, looking around, trying to find any sign of his wife, but the only light in the moonless night was the eerie glow of his taillights casting a dim, red pall only twenty feet or so behind the car.
He thought he could make out a vague shape lying in the road back there.
Terrified, hurrying back along the road and calling Beth’s name, he came upon her motionless body and sank to his knees beside her crying out to her. “Beth! Oh God. Beth! Can you hear me?! Are you alright?!”
He stopped, trying to calm himself, and could see and feel her breathing ever so shallowly. She was alive!
He glanced up and down her body looking for injuries, but the low light and the blood in his eyes kept him from really being able to look her over. Headlights appeared over the horizon, and as the distant car approached, more light bathed the scene and his wife.
A lot of blood was around her head and pooled around her upper body. As the light brightened he could see a steady ebb of blood flowing from a large gash on her neck.
Jake moaned. He knew it was bad.
He tried staunching the flow with his hands, but blood still oozed and leaked from around his fingers. He knew she would need immediate attention to survive, but there was no one to give it out here.
“Oh God, Beth, no…hang in there! Come on!”
He ripped his shirt sleeve and used it like a bandage, pressing firmly on her neck and the flow seemed to subside a little.
As the car approached and slowed, Beth woke and turned onto her back. She immediately coughed up blood and her breathing sounded harsh and ragged. When she stopped coughing, small bubbles of blood formed on her lips and burst silently as she struggled to breathe. The wound in her neck now had air escaping through it and a wet rattling sound came from Beth. She must have injured something inside.
Her body position before had been keeping the blood out of her lungs, but now, she was drowning in it.
“Beth! I’m going to roll you on your side so you can breathe. It’s alright! I’m here.”
The approaching car stopped and Jake could hear footsteps rapidly coming toward them as a voice called, “Oh, man! Is she alright?!”
Jake yelled, “Call nine one one! Hurry! My wife!”
The stranger yelled back toward his idling car, “Sammy! Use the cell! Call nine one one! Now!”
Beth was trying to speak, but Jake couldn’t hear her.
“Don’t talk,” Jake said. “You need to save your strength.” But she continued to say things he couldn’t hear. “Hey man. Can you turn your engine off?” Jake said to the man kneeling beside him. “She’s trying to tell me something and I can’t hear her.”
“Sure—yeah—sure. I got it!” The man jumped up and ran off.
As the engine died, he leaned close and heard Beth say, “Jake, I’m so cold. And I can’t see you. Where are you?”
“I’m right here, Baby. Right here. I’ve got you. Just stay still. You’re hurt and you couldn’t breathe on your back, so stay on your side and lie still. I’m here and everything is going to be all right.”
She coughed hard, her whole body wracked with spasms. More blood trickled from her mouth. She looked pale and ashen and felt so frail and weak. Jake was scared she was slipping away.
“Jake, I’m feeling better now. Not cold anymore, but I can’t see you. It’s so bright here. Where am I? Where are you? I can hear you, but I can’t see you. It’s so bright! Jake?”
The man came back to Jake’s side and said, “They’re coming. What can I do?”
“Can you turn off the headlights, she keeps saying they’re too bright?”
The man got back up and ran to the car, extinguishing the headlights.
“There Baby, is that better?” Jake asked Beth.
“Is what better, Jake? I feel ok, just tired. So tired. I still can’t see you and its getting so bright. It feels good. The light. Mom? Where did you come from? Where’s Jake?”
Jake knew Beth’s mother had passed away when she was young. He couldn’t understand what she was talking about.
“Beth, I’m right here. I love you! Everything will be ok.”
“Oh—there you are Jake,” Beth said smiling weakly. “You’re so far away though—ok Mom. Jake—Mom’s here with me now. I’m ok. I’m not cold anymore and I don’t hurt. I love you! Be good to Madison and Lucas.” This last part so faint, Jake wasn’t sure what he’d heard.
“Beth, what? Stay with me! I’ve got you! I’ve got you!”
“Madison and Lucas—Ter…” Beth said, faintly. “Love you…”
She went limp in his arms and the blood stopped flowing from her wound.
He cradled her tight to him and cried, “No! Beth! No! Stay with me! I can’t lose you. No! Beth! Please!”
Sobbing into her still breast, a pain erupting from within him so great he thought he would burst, he wailed in anguish, and felt her slip away.