S I-65 mile marker, 15.1, Kentucky
Ring, ring, ring, ring
"Shut up, shut the hell up!"
The corvette sped up trying to outrun the night. 70, 75, 85, 90
S I-65 mile marker 13.6, Kentucky
Ring, Ring, Ring the phone was louder and more persistent, Ring, Ring
"No." Eric slammed the phone on the seat. "No!"
S I-65, mile marker, 1.4, Kentucky
Nashville in ½ hour.
RING, RING, RING
"Ok, Ok," Where is that damn phone? RING, RING
"What! …Who is this... Hurry up, ….talk to me!"
S I-65 mile marker 118.5, Tennessee
"Eric, it's me. It's Charlene, Are you okay? Where are you?"
"Why in Hell do you care? You and Tom made it clear you don't give a damn about me!" Eric was yelling now, "Bitch and Bastard, two of a kind. Both of you can go to Hell." Tears broke free and rolled down his face. He quietly sobbed, "Just go to hell, you don't care about me."
The sleek missile streaked down Interstate 65 aimed at Nashville, Tennessee, twenty or so miles away beginning at S I-65, 98.5 Tennessee.
S I-65 mile marker, 114.8, Tennessee
"I'm so sorry; we need to talk, Please! Are you going to your aunt's house in Franklin?"
"I'll be there in the morning. I've got to talk to you. To explain."
"Damn it, don't brother your … uh, oh, no, not now."
"Eric, what's wrong? You okay?"
"Blue lights. Shit! Gotta go."
S I-65 mile marker, 110.3 Tennessee
90, 100 …. "God, can't this thing go faster?"
"THP Control Center, this is 376 in pursuit of yellow Corvette mile marker 110. Tennessee license no number yet. Suspect is running, He's going 100, 110, I'm going to back off, and cut the lights, maybe he'll slow down. Looks like he's going to Nashville. Can't let him hit town at that speed. Set up block at Trinity Lane. Out"
"Roger that 376 Good job, See you there. Out"
Eric looked in his mirror; he was relieved to see the Blue lights gone. Not willing to take a chance, Eric took the right lane to the I-24 connector hitting 110 mph. This avoids Trinity Lane where he expected them to set up a road block.
The banking on the connector curve is posted at 65 mph but safe for most cars at 95mph. The vehicle was well outside the safety rating. But the low slung Corvette frame hugged the pavement perfectly as it accelerated through the 90 degree gradually banked curve.
"Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring," the phone persisted. "Not now Charlene!" The phone stopped and almost immediately started "Ring, Ring, Ring." "Damn, leave me alone."
Eric reached for the phone more to turn it off than to silence the persistent interruption. Leaning to his right, he pulled the steering wheel of the super sensitive car ever so slightly. But it was enough as the speeding vehicle was beginning to leave the curve, just another 30 feet. But the slight adjustment of the steering wheel was just enough to pull the sensitive front wheels off their course. Out of balance, the rear end broke loose and the tires began to scream as they slid sideways. Startled, Eric quickly reacted, too much and the rear end whipped back to the right; too far. Eric fought the steering and the 'Vet seesawed down the Interstate until the force of the spinning car lifted the side and sent man and machine toppling wildly down the pavement. The car came to rest on the car's reinforced top and simultaneously the gas tank erupted with a horrific roar sending the flaming car to an abrupt stop against the concrete barrier separating the four lanes of I-24. The explosion of the gas tank snapped Eric's seat belt and shoved him out of the grasp of the air bag and 30 feet onto the hot pavement.
As his body tumbled on the over and over, he was conscience of the situation, barely. At least he knew he wasn't going to be burned alive! But when the limp body came to a stop, he could feel his life blood flowing freely from his twisted and burned body. Laying there, in extreme pain in a pool of his own blood, he begged to die and realized this was his last wish on earth.
The realization his life on this earth was over caused little concern now. In times where death is knocking on your door your focus changes from survival to the major question we all have; is there life after this life or is there nothingness, total blank nothingness?
He always wished his life would end quickly just because of this situation. He always was envious of those who died quickly, "He was dead before he hit the floor.". Having time to think about your impending death is a torture he would not wish on anyone. His brother died from cancer but it took six months for the insidious tumor to drive the life from his body. Phillip spent those six months agonizing over his future beyond the grave. And now it was his turn.
This was not a religious or philosophical question for him. He was a nominal Christian and accepted, at least professed, the basic Christian concept of a literal Heaven and Hell as the repository for a person's soul. But that was a faith thing with him, something to be discussed in a Bible study group or at a funeral as in, "She's in a better place now."
But this was not about someone else. This was about him, now, in real time, not theory but real, very real. He thought about the possibilities as if his thoughts would determine the reality; if I think there is a real heaven then there is. But in his mind he knew that thinking something is so does not make it so. And thus he was tortured with the contemplation of his death and what would be the reality when he closed his eyes and his heart pumped the last drop of blood out onto the pavement. He was not the least bit curious; he was terrified.
Heaven or Hell could be a reality. All the official religions of the world, or at least the big three, proclaimed a life after death where judgment of one's life was passed by a Supreme Judge named God or Jesus or Allah. Throughout time these religions fought about many things but the central tenant of all three was there is a life after the death of the earthly body. He would closed his eyes and awake to a new life in some shape or form or condition. When he considered his whole life, this possibility was not a particularly attractive alternative.
Of course, the evolutionist could be right. Mankind was but a result of million of years of successive mutations. There was no divine element in creation of the earth or the creatures that dwelled on it. Death for the flesh and blood creature was the same as for the inanimate objects. When a tree died from insect infestation or a lightning strike or from the hand of a timber jack, it simply ceased to exist except as sawdust or fertilizer for the next tree.
When tiger, his nine year old cat, was hit by a car, she ceased to exist. Was that what would be his reality after he breathed his last? When he died, would he have no sense of being? Would he just cease to exist? In many ways that seemed almost desirable to being judged in some after life. Still he would like to think he might be reunited with his blessed mother and his brother Phillip and the rest of his extended family.
Maybe the Hindus have it correct and he might died and be reborn as a new creature perhaps a beautiful rose or maybe a cow. The thought would have made him laugh except the lifeblood draining from him was a bit more serious.
The sirens blared down the Interstate rushing to save him but dreading they were too late. The sound should have heartened him but didn't. He was convinced he had reached the end of the ride. His eyelids were heavy and could not stay open. Slowly, reluctantly, they closed and his world went black.
Strangely, he was still aware of himself even though he could not see anything; at least, he knew he was there. He just didn't know where there was.
No celestial voice, no light, just a feeling of emptiness, of aloneness, of sadness, of wonder. Eric's mind was working overtime trying to get a handle on his situation. When he finally gave up his mental thrashing about and accepted his inability to figure it out, something changed.
The darkness was beginning to evaporate. He could detect light somewhere. He didn't know whether he was floating toward the light or the light was approaching him or whether the light surrounding him was growing brighter like turning up a light dimmer switch. But there was no mistake, the surroundings were becoming clearer.
There was still nothing he could use to orientate himself, but there were noises. Mumbles at first and then the noises became cleared, the noises became voices. Voices speaking English and another language, not English, but never mind, he understood them! As they got louder he recognized them. Gradually, the light came closer and filled the space he was in. It was just white space with no sense of dimensions, no up or down, no sides, and no floor. He could have easily been standing on his head or lying on his back, with no reference point, he could not tell.
There seemed to be two sets of voices. One he heard and one he felt. The heard voices were jumbled continued and he could make out a few words:
fool … blood … hurry… pressure.
But even these words were subject to change as they were not clear. As he lay or stood there, he was able, however, to feel one distinct voice. The voice seems to originate no where and everywhere at once. As he adjusted to the non-orientation nature of the voice, he also began to determine the words being said. They were becoming clearer and sounded very familiar although he could not pinpoint the familiarity.
The voice repeated, "Son, mumble, mumble." Then, "Son, it's me.
"Me who?" he cried out loud.
Then with a start, "Mama, mama, is that you? Oh please be you" he began to weep. "Mama".
The heard jumbled words continued:
…sorry … damaged …sad… get air lift…
But above the rumble, he clearly heard, "Son, it is Mama. Stay there we will come to you.'
In the next few minutes, his emotions soared. Out of the bright white mist slowly began to appear his mother, his brother and a man his instinct told him was his father, the man he could not remember. Behind them were his Aunt Louise and Uncle Joe and cousin Margaret and several others he knew were dead. He did not immediately recognize everyone but instinctively knew they were part of his family, probably grandparents and great-grandparents.
They gathered around him and all seemed to welcome him and pat him on the back at once. His mother rushed to him, wrapped her arms around him and pulled him to her big bosom. Her hug was as he remembered it when he was a small boy, loving, and long, long enough to smother a young boy. What a joy to feel her love again!
The family reunion continued as did the voices he heard, words like:
hopeless … miracle…stand back..
The family reunion was interrupted by a warm breeze that began to blow. The breeze had a material quality about it as if it had a personality and deserved a name. The family recognized the breeze and began to step aside as the breeze approached him and his mother.
He sensed, not heard, a voice from the breeze, "Is this the boy you have been talking and talking and talking about? Stand back and let me see if I recognize him." To the new arrival he said, "Oh yes, I recognize you now. It's been a long time Eric."
He was scared to death; well, if he were not already dead. He understood he was standing in the presence of someone very, very important maybe even God or Jesus. Whoever the breeze was, it was something to be feared. Timidly, he asked, "Why are you a breeze and I can't see you? How do you know my name?"
"Good", the breeze said to his mama, "I like a bold person. You never have to guess what they are thinking." To Eric, the breeze said,"You can not see me for two reasons. First, you have not yet been released from your earthly body and no human has ever seen me. Secondly, I am not convinced you really want to be a part of my family yet and I only appear to family members. As for knowing your name, trust me, I have known you a long time."
He was taken aback. I'm not dead! How could that be? And what is this family the breeze is talking about? Then it hit him and hit him hard. This is God! The family was the Family of God!
He fell to his knees in fear. His head was bowed to his feet much like a man awaiting the guillotine to fall. Fear racked his whole body until, until … He realized the breeze was still present and, most importantly, he was also still present; he had not been swept off to a literal Hell nor had he been released to return to his earthy body. He still was!
With this realization, he slowly stood and turned to face his family. "Mama," he began but she was not there. Gone were his brother and all the other family members he had been hugging just a few seconds ago. "Mama," he shouted, "Mama!"
The only indication he was not alone was the ever present warmth of the inanimate breeze. Where he had sensed the breeze speaking to him before, now there was silence. Deafening silence! Except for the jumbled and muffled words that seemed to be pounded into his consciences;
"again… hurry… scalpel… losing him… damn… back.
From no where, he sensed a question, "Do you want to be a part of my family?"
"Yes, oh, please, yes."
"To be a son of mine, you must cause one specific person to believe in me."
"Gladly, tell me who."
"You figure it out". And with that the breeze left and his body became hotter and hotter until it was almost unbearable.
"His temperature is rising; he's coming around, thank God." "Nurse, get a monitor on him and get him into ICU immediately."
And thus Eric Jackson was given a second chance