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The Coma Lights
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-478-2
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 128 Pages
Published: August 2007
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Vividly conscious of suffocating while lying in the view of the “coma men” standing in the mist, Sully grows aware of his girlfriend’s assuring him that he just woke from a bad dream. He nonetheless suspects that it wasn’t a dream. Having survived a horrendous automobile accident in which he almost died, Sully knows that blank spots exist in his memories. A high-school teacher who is the father of a small girl and the lover of Anna, a writer possessed of an intriguing personality, Sully dreads driving any long distance from home. Each time he does so, he experiences strange visions while on the road. He also discovers that when he has those disturbing experiences, someone in the local area dies in a fire. As time goes on, and he grows aware of a strange presence living in his home, he struggles to understand what might be happening to him. After his father supplies a clue, and Anna provides enlightening insight, Sully finds the courage to confront the shadowy menace casting so troubling a pall over his life.

Will Sully ever break free of the evil force menacing him? Will he ever be able to live a normal, unthreatened life?


The Coma Lights (Excerpt)


Chapter One

The coma men are there. They stand in the distant mist. But that mist is thin, so they must see him lying on the ground. They have to know that he is suffocating. He wonders why they won’t help. He longs for air.

Finally, it no longer hurts to suffocate. A sense of complete tranquility rushes over him. He feels light. As if he can float away. His vision begins to blur, but he thinks he can see one of the coma men moving his way. And now he is floating.

Everything goes black.

***

Air. He needed it again, because something had pulled him back. But he was no longer in the mist. And the coveted air rushed in on Sully Jacobson, like a dam breaking. Disoriented, he sat up in the dark and hyperventilated.

"It’s okay!" a voice said. "It was only a dream."

A sense of familiarity. He was supposed to recognize that voice. Where had he heard it before?

He felt the fingernails sting his back and heard her voice again. "You’re okay now, Sully."

It came to him. Anna was his girlfriend now. Anna, who was strong. Anna, who was conscientious. Anna, who at times seemed to know what he needed more than he knew, who had dug her fingernails into his back, knowing that the sharp pain would hasten his recovery from oblivion and fear.

Anna removed her claws. No need to maintain the pain. A jolt was enough.

"Slow down. Get your breath under control."

Yes, he could slow down. Air was abundant. And not going away. No need to rush it in. Another minute and it was under control.

"That’s the third time this week," he said, though he knew it might have been more, the other dreams forgotten.

"You’re probably just nervous about the trip," Anna said.

Yes. The trip. That was the last piece of the orientation puzzle, the latest change in his life, the final part of time catching up with him. His ex-wife, Faith, had moved further away, out of state, three months ago. When the phone calls did not come immediately, Sully thought that she was gone for good, having given up a part of her life, the four-year-old daughter they had together. Then, about a month ago, she had called. And though it was within his rights to shut her out completely, he being the parent with full custody, he would not do that to his daughter. So for one week, every two months, little Monica would go and stay with her mother.

Next year, when Monica was in kindergarten, the system would have to change. But that could be worked out later. Right now, there was tomorrow’s trip to think of.

"Let me do it for you," Anna said, reading his mind.

"No," Sully replied, though the word didn’t feel right. He wanted to let Anna take care of him.

"You can pick her up, but I have to drop her off. I have to face this."

And he did have to face it. For so long, after returning from his state of near-death, he had just avoided it. He had only to travel one mile to town, where he taught his classes. Almost everything he needed-his family, groceries, entertainment-was right there in Little Axe, Oklahoma. And he could handle going a little further, so long as he was home at a reasonable hour and someone was with him. And if what he needed was even further away and could not be taken care of by phone, Internet, or mail, then Mom or Anna would always take care of it.

But he couldn’t do that forever. He had Monica to think of. Soon, she would be old enough to notice the things people did, and the roles they served in life. He didn’t want her to think it was okay to be dependent on others for what she could do herself. And he didn’t want her to learn that she was supposed to let some man become dependent on her.

"You don’t have to be strong in everything," Anna said. "Let me do it for you."

How could she say that? How could a woman who valued personal autonomy the way she did expect her lover to depend on her? And what was worse was that this scared Anna. She thrived on horror. Her livelihood depended upon things that were scary. Her threshold for fear was much higher than his. So if this scared her enough that she asked him not to do it, then maybe it should scare him to the point where he put it beyond consideration.

Sully thought of arguing with her, of telling her that she was making it worse for him. But then she placed her naked breasts against his back and tasted his neck with her tongue. Chills ran up and down his spine, and his whole body seemed to swell with anticipation. She then moved in front of him and laid him down. She went down low and used her tongue on his thighs. As she moved up slowly, covering him with her hot, wet mouth, Sully forgot about his arguments. Tomorrow, he would make the trip himself. Tonight, he would let Anna take care of him.

***

Sully arrived at Little Axe High School around 7AM the next morning. After grabbing a cup of coffee from the teachers’ lounge, he went to his classroom, where he studied his lesson plans for the day. It was easy for him to get lost in his work and thus forget about the trip that he would have to make after school today.

It was September now, the beginning and most difficult part of the school year. There were thirty in the entering freshman class. They were about evenly split between farm kids and town kids. Some acted cool, but he doubted that a single one of them wasn’t intimidated. Whether a football player for the first time suiting up with guys three years older and forty to a hundred pounds bigger, or a princess being eyed for the first time by older guys and resented by older girls, or an academically minded kid for the first time being in a place where GPA really mattered, or just an average kid trying to avoid being noticed and singled out for cruelty, each of them felt as if somebody was out to get him. Sully didn’t want them to feel the same way about their math teacher.

The freshmen came in at eight. There was no remedial math at Little Axe. All entering freshmen took Algebra 1. The challenge for Sully was figuring out how each student best learned math. Some were abstract thinkers and would learn by studying written concepts. Some were visual learners, and could understand through charts and diagrams. Then there were the practical ones, who had to know how the square root of X divided by Y squared would ever apply to their lives. And Sully accommodated them all. By the end of the year, all would be through the first Algebra section, about half would be through the second section, and a few would be onto Geometry.

The rest of the day he would be with students he knew and who knew him. He taught all four years of math. Then, at two o’clock, the end of the day, he taught a college prep class.

Sully considered the prep class his reward. He had already taught these kids for three years, and, in the prep class, he got to see the fruits of his efforts. The first part of the year was focused on preparing for the entrance exams: word lists, extensive reviews, timed practice tests. But today being Friday, Sully took it easy on them. They went to the computer lab and got on the Internet. Some, as they were supposed to, looked at college websites. Some played games, checked their E-mail, or did whatever computer activity suited them, as long as they thought they could get away with it, as long as they thought Mr. Jacobson would maintain his façade of indifference. It was Friday.

He loved the prep class. Last year, they had actually placed a student at MIT and another at Stanford. There were twenty-eight seniors scheduled to graduate in the spring. Of those, twenty-five were in the college prep class. Sully fully expected to place all twenty-five at four-year colleges.

He was wrong. Because on Tuesday, he would see one placed in the ground. Then there would only be twenty-four.

***

At three PM, Sully was walking through the parking lot. He barely noticed the students moving around him, heading to their cars, walking off campus, or loading onto the buses. The sounds of their laughter and shouts, of their car stereos blaring, all seemed distant.

This was it. He had packed Monica’s things this morning. No need to go by home first. He would just pick her up at daycare and then hit that long stretch of interstate, just he and a helpless child. A helpless child and a helpless adult.

He felt a strange energy. Part of it was anticipation: excitement over the prospect of recovering, the closed avenues this would reopen in his life. But another part was fear, not knowing what lay ahead, the possibility of failure. It was hard to tell how much each emotion contributed to the energy. But he thought he would soon find out, when he was driving and one or the other came to the front.

Sully had just started his Ford Taurus when he was startled by the high-pitched chime issuing from a point close by. He laughed at himself, realizing that it was just his cell phone. He took it from the passenger seat.

"Hello."

"Hi, Sully. What are you doing?" It was Anna. Her voice revealed a mixture of sadness and anger.

"I just got out of work. I’m on my way to pick up Monica at daycare."

"She’s not at daycare."

Sully hesitated. She was playing some kind of game with him. "Oh. Why not?"

Anna’s voice was suddenly aloof. "Because I decided not to take her today. I’m used to seeing her everyday and now she’s going to be gone for a whole week."

Anna had not always played games. This addition to her personality had come when Sully started talking about making the trip. Sully tried to think of how to avoid being drawn into this little emotional sparring match, what words to use. He finally went with, "Sounds nice. Did you two have fun?"

"Of course," Anna said, the anger creeping back up.

"What’s wrong?" he asked, despite knowing the answer, not wanting to sound presumptuous.

There were a few seconds of pause, and then Anna said, "Don’t go."

Sully sighed. "I have to."

"No, you don’t!"

"We’ve been through this. I have to get over my fear. You traveled before you met me. You’re going to want to travel again."

"I traveled because I’m a writer, and I didn’t have any reason to stay in one particular place. Now I have two, and they’re both getting in a car when…"

"Anna. Come on. We’ve already done this."

"I don’t care, Sully. If you want to travel, then we can all travel. I can go with you. I can go with you tonight."

Again, Sully sighed. He knew this was not an argument that logic would win. Anna was brilliant. He had no doubt of that, but when it came to this particular issue, she seemed to tune out the entire logical part of her mind and listen solely to the emotional centers.

"Anna. It’s only a five-hour trip. I’ll stop at a hotel if I get overwhelmed."

"No. It’s ten hours there and back. And that’s too much for your first time alone."

That actually made sense to Sully. Ten hours did seem like a lot. But he didn’t want to take it slowly. He would rather jump right in than prolong his misery by taking this in ever so slightly increasing increments.

"Anna. I’m coming home. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes."

"You don’t have to," Anna said, right when Sully was about to hang up.

After a few seconds, it occurred to him what she might mean. He got out of the car and looked around the lot. Over the tops of several cars, he saw her. He hung up the phone.

Even in the distance, he thought he could make out her sad-angry expression, her red pouty lips standing out in contrast to her light face. That face also contrasted with her night-black hair. Though he was sure that to many people of this rural community in nowhere, Oklahoma, this woman looked like a freak, he was equally sure that in other places in this huge world, her eccentric style was beautiful, just as it was to him.

They both moved to the back of their respective cars. Now, across the way, he could see both of his girls, Anna in her casual pullover skirt outfit, Monica, her hair as blonde as the sun, in her pink shorts and white T-shirt. They walked hand in hand and converged with him in the middle of the parking lot.

Sully lifted Monica up to his chest and hugged her tight. "How’s my little girl?" he asked.

"I’m okay," she said in a subdued tone.

Sully put his daughter out in front of him and inspected her to see if he could figure out what was wrong. Was she sad or just tired? Seeing her droopy eyes and subdued breath, he knew immediately. He looked at Anna and said, "No nap?"

Anna, who now had tears in her eyes and her arms wrapped on her chest, shook her head.

Sully looked around. He was relieved to see that none of the remaining students in the lot seemed interested in them. Then he remembered that it was Friday for them too. They had more important things on which to focus. It would take quite a scene to get them interested in what their math teacher was doing.

Sully placed Monica back on the ground, and then the three of them walked to his car. Monica got into the back seat and Sully fastened her into her booster chair. Her eyes went to the various books and games he had placed in the car this morning. He kissed the back of her head and then stood up.

Sully shut the door and then turned on time to feel Anna rush into him. He had to take a step back to keep from falling over. She gripped him tightly, so strong for a little woman.

"I love you," she said, sobs in her voice.

"I love you too," he returned, wrapping his arms around her, lifting her slightly off the ground. Though he didn’t like how upset she was, he loved the way she felt in his arms. Clinging to him. So light.

A few seconds later, he sat her down. Nearly a minute passed, and he realized that she did not intend to let him go. He gently pushed her out in front of him.

"Hey," he said. "That new book you’ve been outlining is not going to write itself."

Anna started to say something, but stopped. She then nodded her head in resignation.

He looked hard at her, tried to decipher why this scared her so much. There just seemed to be more to it than what she was saying. But after a few seconds of trying to read her face as if he were reading one of her stories, he thought of how ridiculous he was being. She was probably just worried for the same reasons as he, the same reasons she had told him.

Sully kissed her on lips that barely moved and then left her standing beside the car.

A little while later, he backed his car out. He caught a glimpse of Anna, who was still standing where he had left her, a dejected look etched on her face. He hated to leave her this way, but he knew that it was going to be leaving her this way or not leaving her at all. And he knew that she would eventually put it to her own logic. She valued freedom and autonomy. She would be able to respect his decision. And after he made it back okay, they would both be glad that he had made the trip.

After pulling out of the lot, Sully looked at Monica in the rearview mirror. It looked as if she had gotten into her playthings, but now she ignored them.

"Are you exited to see your Mommy?"

Monica nodded her little head. Then she said, "I’m tired." Five minutes later, she was asleep.