COMA: The Cataclysm; Prologue

COMA: The Cataclysm by R. Brady Frost - Prologue

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COMA: The Cataclysm is a novel I started about ten years ago. My intention is to post it here on my blog for you to enjoy. As a way to help support my efforts, you may notice I have enabled advertisements. It’s my sincere hope that this doesn’t offend anyone. If you are using an ad-block add-on, please consider disabling it on this site.
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Original artwork by Tom Edwards, you can also find him on DeviantArt as TomEdwardsConcepts. Used with permission and modified to fit project.

COMA: The Cataclysm

Prologue

Written by: R. Brady Frost
© R. Brady Frost, 2017
All Rights Reserved.
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Mark looked over to the digital readout on the dash and cringed. Sixty-three miles per hour. She was doing it again, trying to get under his skin and it was working. His fingernails sank deeper into the leather armrest and he braced himself against the shifting inertia.

Bridget hugged the turn and drifted between lanes, howling to the night sky as she navigated the canyon road in her father’s topless convertible coupe.

“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Mark shouted over the ripping wind. “I think we should slow down.”

“Oh, come on, Mark. Live a little.”

“That’s just it,” he yelled, “I’d really like to, you know, live a little longer if you don’t mind.”

Bridget laughed and pressed the gas, accelerating into the next turn. “You worry too much.”

Mark closed his eyes for a moment to fight another wave of panic. The night was a complete wash. What had started out as a nice get-together had rapidly degraded into some sort of bizarre intervention, a last ditch effort to scare him into somehow embracing life, or at least a more exciting version of it. Bridget could be like this. They’d been friends for nearly twenty years, going back further than he could remember. Even as children, she was always the adventurous one. Their parents would tell stories about the spunky Bridget and her sidekick, the ever-introverted Mark. Sometimes they called him sensitive, always wearing his heart on his sleeve and playing it safe.

“Can you please just slow down a little,” he asked.

She pretended not to hear him and pressed her knee against the wheel so she could put her hands into the air, challenging the night sky just as a pair of oncoming lights breached the next winding turn. Then she pulled the wheel, narrowly avoiding impact before swerving through the outer edge of the bend and righting their trajectory on the other side. An angry, fading horn sounded the other driver’s displeasure as it vanished behind them.

Her laugh was gone, but she raced onward as the facade of her joviality crumbled. It was then that Mark understood. Tonight hadn’t been about getting him to break out of his shell.

“What’s going on, Bridget? What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Why did you do it?” Her voice was small at first, but then anger flashed in her eyes and she glared hard at the road ahead. “Why, Mark? Why couldn’t you just stay out of it?”

He was stunned by her sudden accusation and his mind raced as he tried to put the broken pieces of the evening back together again; hunting for clues he might have missed that could explain her animosity.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he admitted with a bit of reluctance. As far as she was concerned, not knowing would make things worse. He’d known her long enough to see the writing on the wall.

“You told my mom. You told her and now everything is ruined. Everything,” she shouted. “It’s all gone because of you.”

The accusation stung and it took a long moment before the fragments came together and he finally understood.

“Bridget, I was worried, what else was I supposed to do?”

“You should have kept your mouth shut and let me handle it. That’s what a real friend would have done.”

He shook his head. “You shouldn’t have to go through it alone. I’m here for you and your parents are here for you. We care about you.”

Tears were dripping off her chin now and she pushed harder into the accelerator, renewing the fevered pace of their flight through the narrow canyon.

“Bridget, stop. Please just talk to me.”

It had been two weeks since he’d spent the night in the emergency room waiting area, hoping for good news. Each time a nurse or doctor walked by, he would sit taller in case they had news for him. For many long hours, they didn’t.

He’d tried to reassure himself that somewhere behind the curtained off corridor, his oldest friend was fighting for the life she tried to throw away. In the pit of his heart, he feared she’d be gone forever.

In the days afterward, Bridget had seemed to make a remarkably full recovery. Not just physically, but mentally as well. It wasn’t right. No one healed that fast, emotionally, after trying to end things. Her shiny disposition had exposed the cracks and fissures in her perfect enamel of happiness. How long had she been faking? He felt like he should have known all along. What could have caused her so much pain?

When she refused to talk about it, he reached out for help in the only way he knew how. He’d broken every promise he’d ever made and called her mother behind her back. It was good. It felt right. Her mother had been just as concerned and promised they would figure it out. She’d even thanked him for being such a good friend. It had been tough and he’d even felt bad at first, but he told himself it was the right thing to do. And now it was time to pay the reaper.

“They’re pulling me out of my college track,” she said. I have a few months of forced recuperation and then they’ve pulled strings to get me into Stanford. Can you even begin to comprehend what you’ve done?”

Mark couldn’t find the words. Her mother had promised, she’d reassured him over and over that things would be better, that they would help Bridget. This wasn’t what he wanted.

“Bridget, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know what else to do and I had no idea it would turn out this way.”

His sentiment died in the cool, rushing air. Unsure of whether she heard him, he tried saying it again. But she cut him off.

“Do you know what it’s like to be treated like a child every moment of your life? Like you have no control over your thoughts and actions? You want to know why I did what I did?”

The question hung between them like cement shoes and Mark felt like the drowning man, watching the world vanish as he sank beneath the surface.

“This is why, Mark. This is exactly why. Do you know what it’s like to live a life that isn’t your own? Do you have any idea?”

Feeling a renewed acceleration, he looked over to the dash. Her fingers were locked in a death grip on the steering wheel and her jaw clamped shut as she swerved into the next turn.

In the aftermath of the crash, Mark struggled to make sense of the images that flashed like beacons in his mind. It wasn’t headlights that greeted them on the other side of the bend as one might expect, but three sets of eyes reflecting back in the darkness.

Bridget pulled the wheel in an attempt to miss the doe and her two fawns. She lost control and over-corrected, sending the sporty vehicle end over end as it tumbled down the asphalt and came to rest in the snapped limbs of broken trees. Somewhere, at the furthest reaches of his consciousness, a small voice told him he was in shock. The sensation of flying and the sudden stop threatened to unravel his hold on reality; he knew he should feel pain, but none came. He was no longer in the car. The seatbelt had done little to stop his forward momentum at the excessive speed, and he was thrown clear of the wreckage.

For a while there was nothing, and then after a time there were headlights. Headlights and then shadows, and then even more. Unable to yell or shout, he closed his eyes for a while and thought of dreaming. Sleep beckoned, but the little voice told him to hold on. It wasn’t yet his time.

His breath came in jagged spikes and then the red and blue lights of an ambulance overpowered the blinding yellow headlights of the first responders. He could hear voices shouting but couldn’t make out the words. And then he heard her.

“Mark? Where’s Mark? Why isn’t he here?”

Bridget’s voice was frantic. The medic tried to calm her, but still, she persisted.

“We’ll find Mark, ma’am. Was he with you? Was he in the car? No, please don’t move. You need to lay back. I have to check for a spinal injury, okay?”

“Mark,” Bridget yelled. “Mark?”

The medic hollered to his partner. “You hear that, Cindy? We may have another vic out here, looks like a passenger. Ask the folks who found her if they saw anything and keep your eyes open.”

The beam of a flashlight panned back and forth, cutting swaths in the shadows, and then one by one others joined the search. Once and then twice the beams hovered over his prostrate form, and he was sure they’d found him, but then the light moved on.

Mark could feel himself fading into the void. The voice told him to stay strong, just a little bit longer now. Just a little bit longer. He wasn’t sure he could do it. The world was taking on new shapes and the night leaned in closer, sapping his willpower and coercing him with the promise of peaceful slumber. And then the guilt came.

It was his fault. He’d tried to do the right thing, but what did he know? He was such a fool.

Please, I need you to hold on, Marcus. Do not give in.

The small voice was louder now, frantic and filling his head to drown out the darker thoughts. It wasn’t the soundless echo of hiss near voice or some rehashed memory. It was then that he realized the voice didn’t belong to him.

Marcus.

There was that name again. No one had called him that in years, not since before his grandfather died.

Marcus Lightbringer, open your eyes.

Lightbringer? He was losing it, there was no other logical explanation, and what a horrible way to die. Others confessed seeing their life flash before their eyes after miraculously coming back from near or full-death experiences. Some described a welcoming light that beckoned them before they realized there was still more to do before the end.

Mark saw only the greedy shadows of darkness instead of calming apparitions of his life. In the place of an angelic choir, he heard strange voices.

Feeling a swell of panic rush over him, he poured everything he could muster into a hoarse cry for help. The resulting moan sounded like it came from a zombie or an injured animal rather than a man. “Here,” he croaked. “I’m here.”

“Wait, did you hear that?” A voice from the growing throng asked. “Shh, listen.”

“I think it came from over there,” another voice added and several flashlight beams danced back and forth until they came to a rest where he lay, bleeding and breathless in the dark.

The light pushed through his closed eyelids, filling his head with blinding red pixies as his muscles began to thrum with the sensation of sleeping limbs.

“Over here,” the voice yelled. “He’s in bad shape, real bad.”

One of the bystanders began to wretch into the bushes and the paramedics pushed past in their rush to his side.

“Mark? Is that your name? Talk to me Mark, stay with us. We’re here to help,” Cindy explained, taking his hand in hers in an attempt to calm his panic while the other medic investigated his injuries.

“We have heavy lacerations. Punctured lung, it looks like. Several broken bones.”

“Listen to…”

my voice, Marcus.

“He’s fading. Stay with us, Mark. We’re not going to let you go. Stay with us,” the man coaxed.

“He’s going into shock. We need the defib,” the woman said, and renewed her grip on his hand; holding it as if they were old friends in case it was the last act of kindness he experienced before passing into whatever came next.

“On it,” the man replied and Mark listened to the fading footsteps as they ran back toward the ambulance. “Dispatch, we need that bird on the ground now. Second vic is in bad shape, possible DOA. Require immediate assistance.”

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Listen to my voice, Marcus. Not yet.

“Not yet,” he mouthed.

Cindy leaned in closer and shushed the folks now gathered around him, “Quiet, he’s trying to say something. Mark, I’m listening. What is it?”

“Not… yet…”

A violent sob shook her body as the unexpected sentiment struck her. Even after years on the job and seeing so much pain and anguish and loss, glimpses of the unbreakable human spirit still moved her. “That’s right, Mark. Not yet. Stay with me, you hear? Stay with me.”


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