The Dark

THERE WAS NO LIGHT. That was precious knowledge. The realization of which had cost her more than she would have thought possible, if she had but known.

Everything needs a context. And for the darkness to mean anything there had to have been a memory of light. The memory was fading fast.

It would happen, and then, more often than not, happen again. Sometimes there was more than just the tentative awareness that, in its-self, did not always register.

She could not remember.

It would come back to her, things usually did. She always remembered didn’t she? But she couldn’t remember.

Time was something she had an eternity of, milliseconds were like millennia here.

Here?

Wherever here was. Time’s last foundation had fled, leaving her…where?

She remembered. What was it? She had it a moment ago. But what was a moment? Something about light, whatever that was.

She could have wept but there was nothing to cry with; nothing, period. There was no sensation, or physical awareness—nothing but the perpetual dark.

Horrors crawled just beneath the thin veneer of consciousness.

THERE WAS NO LIGHT.

Hadn’t she been here before? Yes, but don’t let that thought go. She needed that thought, it was all she had. She had been insane many times, but what was insanity anyway. What was anything to her, any more? She didn’t know and that frightened her more than anything, more than the dark itself.

There were thoughts, fleeting memories, fading fast. She chased them through the dark. Vague spectral images that haunted her. Images of what? Of who? Then it happened. Like someone striking a match in the dark. Everything jumped into clear view. Life, hers, rushed in upon her, almost drowning her in a tidal-wave of vision. She grabbed at it all and swam in a confusion of unconnected thought that flowed this way then that, converging on madness. She pulled along little realizing she was fighting for her existence. Whatever existence it was that she had.

There was a moment’s sanity when she thought she understood. Understood the nature of her dilemma.

Sensory deprivation.

A few hours of which could turn the sane and healthy into gibbering idiots. She remembered. Look for breathing, heartbeat, the twitching of a muscle. Anything. She searched in the only way she knew how, but found and felt nothing. She couldn’t locate what her memory told her, should be there.

Pressure then. Something please, anything, if only. Then it would prove to her that she was not, as she was beginning to believe and fear, dead.

Death?

Wasn’t that supposed to be the absence of consciousness?

So what if she did lack a body? This was all wrong. She struggled with notions that came and went. Was this a glimmer of something far worse? What if—and she had been through a few of those—what if you didn’t die, ever. But when your body died you had this; eternal nothing.

Was she in fact dead? Or… Doubt lurked. Regardless, she clung to what she had.

There seemed to be no way out. No way to take her from where she was, except to remember. She used that thought to go beyond the dark, to that last look at light. A substance that was fast becoming myth. That precious substance that warmed body and soul. Where was it now when she needed it most?

Somewhere there had to be a body to support her, her thoughts. Somewhere there had to be substance.

Somewhere was a fading memory hung upon a bough—

Where silent fishes swam down a dry canal—

Where birds winged their way through a burning sky—

Images assailed her, but this time she felt detached. Dreams or reality? It didn’t seem to matter.

The endless aching need to weep overwhelmed her. She had no way of knowing how long this had been going on for. A minute or an eternity?

Waking was gradual this time. Was that possible?

THERE WAS NO LIGHT.

She sobbed into the silence, while something stabbed at the back of her awareness. It happened again, even as she was thinking about it. She must be mistaken? Shock rocked her as she tried to rationalize what was taking place, to understand, while waiting for it to happen again. This was no trick, no illusion or false memory.

She had a body…she had a leg…that twitched…in the dark. She had—sensory overload.

Somewhere she swam through the waters of life. She had a body, one that she had no control over. It twitched of its own accord, independent of her wishes. It was unnerving. As if everything else had not been enough.

At times she wished for more, at times she just wished. And still the dark held her in its thrall.

Sensory information now provided for her needs. Bringing her to the conclusion that she was entombed. And as important, she was floating in something. Had she been right with the sensory deprivation thing? If only she could put the pieces together—then she would understand.

Something was taking place about her. She only wished she knew what. She felt pressure squeezing upon her. She didn’t dare think about it. It was happening and she knew, somehow, she had to flow with it. An irresistible force had taken over.

She tried not to panic when there was movement. At least she thought it was that. An arm jerked, while a hand clutched at something liquid, which oozed through fingers.

A cold chill of fear raced through her as she began to understand, to finally equate what was happening. As her body moved, going somewhere.

A barrier of some sort stayed her progress, but only for a second. She felt the contours of her head press against it. Then it began to yield, giving way round her. And still the pressure bore down on her.

In these final moments there was little time for reflection. She broke through the barrier, her body freeing its self in one last tremendous effort. Only to feel a pain like none she could ever remember. Lungs emptied of mucus. She screamed a momentary protest and slipped into unconsciousness.

She breathed, she lived, she dreamed, but would she remember.

— THE END —

Jehanne D’Arc

SHE FELT A BEAD OF SWEAT trickle down her back, while others formed ready to soak her shirt beneath her encounter suit. The overwhelming urge was to scratch at the irritation from the carbon that leached out from the suit, but she couldn’t. Couldn’t because of the large rubber gloves covering her hands. Hands that rested either side of the communications rig, waiting. Waiting for a signal. A word. Anything that would tell her what was happening in her own little sphere of the war.

She had not taken her eyes from the leader board, out front, in over ten minutes. Concentrating on the ever changing data, as the lettered tiles flipped over, relaying the alarming truth of their situation. The battle was not going well. Four squadrons had flown out in the early hours of the morning to engage the enemy, through the thick fog that covered the tiny hamlet. The base lay hidden, nestled in the sheltering cover of trees. All but the runway that is. A thin ribbon of concrete that gave away their position like a lit beacon flashing, ‘look we’re here!’

We’re here. She tried not to think about it. About what had brought them to this moment in time, this moment in space—in such a short time. Diplomacy having long since failed. The Peace talks having fallen on deaf ears, the bombs had starting flying instead of the rhetoric.

Concentrate on your job, she chided herself. To do other wise was to invite the ‘what ifs’ and she knew where that path lead. She ignored the physical irritations of thirst, sweat, hunger and the onslaught of fatigue. She ignored the reality of the stats board a while longer. Regardless, a small needle of fear stabbed deep inside her. It reminded her this wasn’t just some drill, wasn’t just another exercise. This time it was for real.

From within her tiny oasis of calm, alone in the semi-lit claustrophobic room on the ground floor. Which, in truth, was no more than a furnished ten by six, with two doors and a desk that ran the length of the glass panel. She looked out onto Eng. Ops and to the three officers who, likewise clothed in dark green encounter suits, sat waiting for the inevitable.

The end.

Their faces obscured by black rubber gas masks, eyes lost to view, she wondered what they were thinking. Had fear begun to creep into their thoughts, their conversation? She envied them their company in her solitude.

A light glowed on the console, which squeaked. She flicked a switch to respond.

“Intel.” The word came out muffled, inaudible even to her ears. She tried again, louder.

“Status report.” The disembodied voice asked without any hint of emotion.

“Nothing as of this time.” There was a moment’s silence.

The voice spoke again. “Nothing?”

“Nothing, Sir.” She added.

Four squadrons, twenty planes to a squadron. Eighty planes in all. Not one, in over three hours, had reported in. If they were talking to anyone at all, they weren’t talking to her.

“Nothing, Sir, nothing at all.” She repeated her statement of fact. No one had made a mission report. She’d already surmised no one was ever going to make a report, of any kind.

When she’d dialled through the bandwidth earlier, she’d heard nothing but background static. She hadn’t been able to find chatter of any kind this last hour. Nothing. She knew the enemy could be blocking all communications. And so, breaking protocol, she’d tried all the other major frequencies. Even the emergency channels. Nothing.

The world had gone silent. Her world had gone silent. It had made her feel quite sick. If it hadn’t been for Petrie coming in from the corridor on his way through to Intelligence, she might have lost it then and there. Even thrown up. As it was, the mounting tension was eating away at her guts.

“Thank you for your service.” The disembodied voice said as if, in a moment of divine revelation, it knew the truth. The line went dead.

She adjusted the headset sat atop her head. It didn’t quite fit while wearing a gas mask. Nothing fit. Her clothes, the situation, anything. Her personal jigsaw puzzle was missing pieces it would never have. As an analyst it was her job to sift through data, to piece together information, and report it’s content. Nice, neat, concise.

She did so now, to herself. Taking what she knew and filling in the holes with intel taken from subtext—she read between the lines, divining. The conclusions were unmistakable. No one was coming home. Whoever the enemy was, and she still didn’t know for sure, they had vanquished everything they had sent out to meet them.

Germany and, maybe, the whole of Europe, was falling. Had fallen. The world too?

She scanned both sections of the leader board. Engineering had ceased updating maybe twenty minutes earlier. The flutter of tiny flashing lights, on the Ops board above it thought had continued up until a few minutes ago. It was no coincidence that the updates had stopped the moment Group Captain Howard had asked her for an update.

All Intel, both upstairs and down, had stopped flowing. They were, in all probability, no longer in contact with HQ at Rheindahlen let alone the now missing squadrons. And next door, in Intelligence?

She wondered what news they had from their own sources. It would have been a simple matter to get up, walk to the door open it and find out. But she didn’t, instead, in frustration; she flung the now useless headset down on the tabletop. It skidded to a stop against the plate of congealed, stone-cold eggs that had been breakfast. Served almost to the minute the intercom system had sounded an alert and everyone had donned gas masks.

Nine seconds, it was all they had. Get it on in less than nine seconds. It was the drill. Only, this wasn’t a drill.

That had been several hours ago. Several painful long hours ago. Time stretched, seconds became as minutes, minutes as hours. Now, she felt as if she had just run out of time. If she had been religious in any way she might have begun to pray. As it was she felt a strange emotion well up from deep inside her, one of desolation, one of loss.

Peeling off first one, then the other glove, she tugged at the straps of her mask, loosening the pull-ties. She lay the mask down in front of her. Hands still clutching the vulcanized rubber. She knew with a certainty that she couldn’t explain to herself, let alone anyone else, she was never going to need it.

That she was never going to see the light of day dawning over the conifer forest at shift’s end. Or feel the soft caress of a gentle breeze upon her face. To breath in the scent of her mother’s cologne or her treasured roses. And never again smell that sweet smell of her father’s pipe tobacco of an evening out on the balcony back home.

In a heartbeat she would lose it all. In a heartbeat she would pass from being, to ghost. Pass from living to dead. And, with a conviction that only the dead know about, she picked up a red-wax pencil and wrote on the Plexiglas desk top.

Jehanne d’Arc.

Not an epitaph but a statement of fact. Her name. A name that she felt she’d had to live up to her entire life. Now, aged 19, she was going to be burnt alive.

The acrid smoke that had begun to creep beneath the door to her right was filling the room. An intense heat penetrated the buckling metal door, which squealed in pain and finally gave way.

Life had only one certainty: Death.

The flames of Hell came looking for her.

Standing tall, she met them head on. After all, she had survived one fire, so long ago; maybe she could this time round.

— THE END —

Finley’s Last Chapter

“Hi, my name is Finley,” she writes on the scrap of paper with a broken pencil Georgia gave her earlier. “You can blame Georgia for this, for what I am about to write, it was at her suggestion. Well, insistence, that I write it all down, how we came to this moment in time—” She pauses and looks out across the ink black darkness, straining to see anything moving, but sees nothing. It’s all gone quiet.

Too quiet, the incessant shelling having stopped a few hours earlier. No one knows what it means. Was it the proverbial calm before the storm, or maybe the eye of the storm? Did it matter which? The small pockets of resistance fighters, like her small group, were losing the war. She isn’t even sure what it is they are fighting for anymore.

Survival? That was a joke.

They were, according to Thomas, down to their last few scavenged tinned rations. And no one had found anything ‘living’ for several days. Nothing flew across the skies; no birds sang a morning chorus. No animal, if any still yet lived, scurried or foraged above ground. Not even the rats showed their faces. Those hardy creatures could survive through just about anything. They had vanished.

Finley knows they are living on borrowed time. Georgia knows it too. By the morning, the rest of them will know it as well.

A slight breeze blows and ruffles the last of her straw-blond hair. It started coming out in clumps days ago. She hides the fact during the day beneath a wool-knit hat that proclaims her a fan of the Ottawa Senators. She has no idea who they were or what team sport they might have played. But she’s thankful nonetheless for the warmth and head cover it affords her.

Drawing her attention back to the dirty piece of paper, Finley focuses her thoughts once more, trying to make sense of it all. But instead of writing, she stares at Charlie. Then almost laughs out loud at the absurdity of it. Here she is, a petite 35 year-old woman dressed in Army fatigue sat on a shattered wall. Writing her life story on a scrap of paper by torchlight. With a small plush monkey sat on her knee watching the proceedings.

“Do you think I’m going crazy?” She asks the monkey in all seriousness then grins. Charlie stares back, his dirty face no doubt mirroring her own.

Here then is her thread, she thinks, the one thing that leads her back through all the years to her childhood. A monkey. Not this particular monkey. This one is a tattered remnant that Georgia rescued a couple of days earlier from a heap of abandoned rubbish. A mot amid the wreckage of what was once a children’s hospital.

No, the original Charlie, a chimpanzee that had been twice the size of the child Finley, was long since lost. As were all the ‘Charlie’ monkeys she had owned over the ensuing years. Just like they all would be, all to soon. Not just her little group of bedraggled rag-tag fighters—dug-in amid the ruined skyscrapers of what was once a part of civilizations crowning achievement—but the entire human race.

Extinct.

The ache in her chest threatens to overwhelm her.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about, of course, she’s right,” Finley writes. “The more I look at what possibilities lie in wait with the coming of a fateful morning, the more fear grows in the pit of my stomach. So I’ll try, for her, for everyone, but most of all, for myself to remain calm, and focused.” Finley looks at the words written in a small, tight scrawl. They seem as alien to her now as do the invaders who have swarmed across the planet obliterating everything in their path. To these invaders, it wasn’t about destruction. It was nothing less than the complete and utter annihilation of every living thing on planet earth.

Why do I need to know where it is I came from, and what it is I’m fighting for to be able to do what needs doing tomorrow? That was the million-dollar question.

Because. It’s Georgia’s favourite word of the moment. Because we need to. Because it has to be done, and it might as well be us because, someone has to stop the invaders.

Because. This is for her mother. This is for her father. This is for all those who have gone before her. All those who gave so much in order for there to be a future for their children, and their children’s children.

How could she do anything less than they had when the need arose?

Finley chews her pencil and beseeches Charlie.

“What do you think, should the crazy lady just march up to the ugly alien and shake its hand?” It is all so plausible.

They had at hand maybe the greatest weapon they had to offer, against what seemed like an indefatigable enemy.

“That’s if it works…” Finley mutters.

“It will do…it has to.”

Startled, Finley knocks Charlie from her knee. Georgia, mouth curved with a lingering smile, sits next to her leaning in against her.

“Is that it? Is that all you’ve written?” The smile stretches.

“My life, in one chapter,” Finley says, realizing she’s managed to while away a couple of hours. All the while Georgia was dealing with their crew, giving her some much-needed downtime alone.

An arm snakes across the back of her shoulders. She leans into the comfort that act offers. Her head going to a welcoming shoulder. She feels Georgia press her face into her hair, warm breath caressing the top of her head. The taller woman consoles Finley against the coming dawn and what’s to come. Time running out for them both.

“Didn’t Charlie give you any pointers,” Georgia finally says.

“No, not much, his spelling isn’t that much better than mine.” Finley sees the monkey lying in the dirt staring face-up at her, as if beseeching her. She moves, scooping him up, clutching him to her chest and leans back in against the warmth of her companion hearing the soft laugh.

“You know a girl could get jealous of that monkey.”

“Really? I never thought you the jealous type and, after all, it was you who introduced us, remember?”

“Hmm … that was a bum move on my part then?”

“Jealous.”

“Am not.”

“Are too—” They stare at one another for one long moment.

Opening a button of her shirt, Finley slips the dust-cover monkey half in, half out. He looks as if he’s saying to the world, ‘Hey, look where I am!’

“And do I get to slip inside there too?” Georgia asks.

Feeling a rise of colour to her cheeks, Finley gives the woman, who means so much to her, her answer. A mouth-stretching grin. Taking Georgia’s hand, she stands. With Charlie stowed, she likewise flips off her torch and slips it into her combat pants along with the scraps of paper and pencil. With a gentle tug of the rough-skinned hand she holds, Finley takes a step backward. Thinking, there are far better ways they could be consoling one another before the dawn’s early light.

“I might lead this bunch of reprobates, but in matters of the heart, you’ve always mastered me,” Finley says.

“Then I’d better lead you to where I’ve bedded us down for the night, before first light steals what little time we have left.”

“You’d better,” Finley says, falling in step with her lover, as they move off into a darkness, which swallows them, whole.

* * *

The overhead sun beats down from out a clear blue sky, adding to the heat haze that gives the vista an ethereal quality to it. A lone figure, bathed in the sun’s white light, stands atop the rubble of bricks, waiting. In her left hand she clutches her one and only possession, a small stuffed monkey. In her right, she holds a detonation switch that will end it all. Unleashing what they all hope will be humanity’s last chance—tiny engines of destruction—deadly bacteria. Deadly that is to the aliens, as they had found out weeks earlier. How ironic the scientists’ bacteria were harmless to humans yet, so deadly to the ‘Uglies.’

Vials and vials of it lay housed in the underground laboratory right beneath the point where she now stood. A laboratory they had rigged with enough explosives to make their own miniature mushroom cloud.

All Finley has to do is flip the switch and it will all end—for her at least—in one cataclysmic explosion. Raining down a biological terror from the skies upon the alien invaders now just visible through the haze, in the far distance.

She doesn’t turn and look behind, knowing she’ll see no one there. As the others of her unit, now under Georgia’s command, have long since left the ruined city. Georgia had made love to her in those last few hours together. As if memorizing every last piece of skin, every curve and contour of her wrecked body.

Now, with her gaze fixed on the future, the future of mankind, she lifts her right arm to hold it out in front of her. Steady.

“Is it time, Charlie…what say you?” She brings the monkey up and holds him against her chest. The child in her needing the comfort against the dark as, with her right thumb, she does one last act of bravery.

— THE END —

The Impossible Girl

THE LEAN AND LANKY RYAN CONNOR jumped out the back of the 4-ton truck and landed in the wet mud with a soft thud. It sucked at his wellies as he moved off toward a large pit, and the reason they were all there. He turned just in time to see his Corporal, Jack Blase, a man in his late 20s, man-handle himself out of the truck like a 60 year-old. Working bomb disposal did that to a person.

“Come on, Old Man, you’ll be late for the party.” Jack flashed him a look that said, ‘don’t mess with me.’ Ryan cocked his head to one side, fixed his Service-issue woollen hat further back on his head at a jaunty angle, and grinned. He waited for Jack, William ‘The Bagman’ Herschel and their lieutenant, Sandy ‘Shingle’ House, to catch up with him. He turned back toward the gapping maw of the pit. Workers had been hand digging the area up until yesterday when, as it happened all to often in this area of Hanover, a perfectly preserved and unexploded 1000 pounder had been unearth.

It was one of theirs, that much was for sure. Someone had taken the time to write on the pointy end, ‘a gift from Ol’ Blighty’.

Connor pulled out a pack of smokes from an open top pocket and made to light one.

“Not here, you bloody idiot.” Connor turned just as Herschel dumped two bags and a couple of shovels at his feet. Connor shrugged and slid the smoke back into the crumpled packet and re-pocketed it.

“You really are dumber than a spud,” the man continued bending to retrieve something from one of the bags. Connor made a sour face at the man’s back and walked off toward the lip of the pit, scrambling over loose earth, cracked brick and rubble. It was ten years plus since the war had ended but still, people were unearthing unexploded ordinance. It was their job, as part of the British Royal Air Force’s bomb-disposal task force, to clean up the mess. Connor wondered why there were no German teams scouring London doing the same thing for them, and shook his head. He would, of course, ask Jack.

“Jack, you better survey what the construction workers found up there,” the Lieutenant asked as he hauled on his regulation grey duffle coat. It was only early autumn but already the mornings dawned brisk with a definite chill in the air and this morning, a fine mist coiled its way over everything. He felt it seeping into his bones and shivered.

Blase just nodded to his junior lieutenant, eyes fixed on Connor. The young man was green, brash, and prone to being rash. He needed to knock some sense into him, and quickly, otherwise he wouldn’t last long at this game.

Turning to the Lieutenant, Jack saw he was more nervous than usual. This, Jack knew, was the young officer’s first command. Training was all very well in a classroom, but out here, in the field? It was life or death if you made a bad decision.

“Maybe you want to set up on the other side of the truck,” he suggested, “I’ll get the kid to start a brew going, how does that sound?”

The officer, blowing in to his cold hands, smiled and nodded. That sounded just dandy to him. “Thanks, Jack, this damn weather gives me the creeps.”

It was true, the whole place was beginning to look like a scene from some Hollywood movie. He watched as the grateful officer went off to sneak a smoke with the truck’s driver and Jack knew, it was up to him.

“He off to grab a fag?” It was Herschel. He looked liked he rather go do the same but still, he stood next to Jack waiting for orders.

“It’ll keep him out of our hair,” Jack qualified as both men turned, as one, and looked about them.

“It’s like a blood cemetery round here,” Herschel pulled his collar up, “were is everyone?” It was a question Jack had asked himself the moment he’d hit the soil. At least two of the construction company workers and a German official should have been there to meet them. But, as far as he could see having done a three-sixty already, there wasn’t even a local to be seen. Though, it was true, it was still only seven thirty in the morning.

“All still in their cosy beds, I guess—” Herschel added without waiting for Jack. “Shall I get the greenhorn to start a brew?” He asked moving off toward Connor.

“No, I’ll send him your way, offload the truck with him, I’ll go take a look-see first.”

Any excuse. The man nodded and walked off toward the grey four-ton truck. Jack watched his back for a second, turned, and thought he saw something off to one side. He peered at the coiling mist, shook his head at imagining something lurking behind a broken wall, and headed toward the greenhorn before he fell in the excavated pit. Not that it was all that deep but, Jack thought to himself, it was just the stupid thing a twenty-something like Connor would do, as an excuse, to go down there and kick the 1000-pounder and see if it started ticking.

“Get away from that bloody hole—” Jack called out and, too late, watched as the young man turned, grinned and slipped backward on his damn arse down and out of sight. A pair of dirty wellies was the last thing Jack saw as the hole swallowed Connor.

Then, he did something he never did. He ran. Not away from the pit, but toward it.

“Shit … shit … HERSCHEL!” Jack yelled at the top of his lungs. He squelched to a halt at the lip of the pit and looked down at the spread-eagled Connor grinning up at him.

“I slipped—”

The lad lay across the bomb covered in mud, his face showed his rising panic.

“Stay where you are we’re coming down to get you.” Jack yelled down and turning saw Herschel racing toward him fear etched into his face. A step  behind him were the Lieutenant and their driver, Marshall.

“Is it ticking?” Jack heard Herschel call out. He turned back to the stricken Connor and asked.

“Can you hear it ticking, lad?” Jack held his breath. All he could hear was the pounding of his own heart in his ears.

“I … I don’t know, I—”

“Don’t move, be quiet, listen!” Jack ordered the young man. He couldn’t decide if the stain spreading between the man’s legs was from the puddle of standing water, or if Connor had peed himself. Jack didn’t ask, he crouched down and held out a reassuring hand.

“Just take a breath, be calm, and listen.” He tried to calm his own voice as he spoke. The other three behind him had stopped short. They knew the drill. No one moved. Hell, no one breathed.

Jack watched as Connor tried not to move, but panic was against him.

“I think, I think it’s okay.” The young squaddie offered up, unsure if he was hearing anything other than the sound of his own shallow breathing filling his ears. He hadn’t got a clue what a ticking bomb sounded like outside of the classroom. Not really.

“Okay, just stay put,” Jack teased with what he hoped was a smile, “we’re coming down to get you.” He stood, and turning, took two steps toward the waiting group who tried not to look like they were ready to run in the other direction.

Those two steps were all that saved Jack that day from being the bomb’s intended victim.

The 1000-pounder exploded up and out showering everything within several hundred meters in thick, viscous mud, shrapnel and shredded body parts that would never be recovered let alone identified. The thunderous noise was deafening. The compression wave, flattening.

Death was not pleased, not pleased at all.

The man named Ryan Connor though he would never marry and have children, was not scheduled for a visit from Him for another seventy-two years. Jack Blase, on the other hand, was meant to depart three minutes and seven-seconds from now.

Death stood to one side of the fallen Jack Blase as Time hung between heartbeats. Continents shifted, stars whirled across the dark void, eons came and went. The ethereal shadow asked in a sonorous voice that no human ear could hear.

Why? Death turned toward the glimmer. A brief light that teased the edges of the mist, played upon the foundations of time and reality.

Not I. Was the reply.

Then who? But Death heard nothing. The glimmer had gone just as quickly as it had appeared. He was left lingering between one realm and another, unable to reach out and take Jack Blase at the appointed time and place.

Like the mist, Death swirled, coalesced then dissipated and was gone.

Time resumed. Divergent.

Jack would live.

And on this day, this weird, miraculous day, he would go home to his wife still covered head to foot in mud, and not just regale her with a terrifying tale of how he’d missed death by a few yards, but go on to create new life with her. A child that, nine months later, they named Ryan even though she was a girl.

A child that should never have been.

A child that Death could not see. Her soul just a tantalizing glint He could sense but never quite grasp.

She was, the impossible girl.

— THE END —