Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Second Childhood: Prologue (Pages 6-10)

(Continued from Pages 1-5)
                “Home, Chapman.” Marc pointed toward Claudia on the other side of the parking lot. “After what that tramp over there just did, I’m not hangin’ with you guys tonight!”
                “Dude, you’re freaking DRUNK, man! How about you walk with us to Aggieville and have a good rest of the night with us?”
                “I’ve done enough partying for tonight. I wanna be with my family now. New Years will be my and my twin brother’s birthday,, and after what Claudia pulled on me, I’m not gonna wait ‘til the morning now. Excuse me.”
                As Marc tried to continue towards his car, the party buddy, relatively sober, stopped him by his shoulder. “You’ll get in an accident! Or get picked up by a cop! You really shouldn’t drive, man! Oh, and if you’re the birthday boy, we’ll also let all your food and drinks be on us too. You’ll get to celebrate like the Game Hour winner. So come on, why don’t you celebrate your birthday with us, too? Your celebration with your family can wait. Oh, and even though you won’t be twenty-one tonight, some of us older dudes will still get you the drinks , and some of our guys will scout the doors for any cop lookin’ for MIP’ers. Our lookouts will get you out of their sight before they find you, so how does that sound?”
                Marc’s fury grew. He belted out adamantly: “Not only did Claudia REALLY ruin it for me, I’ve attended all your parties, and participated in your other fraternity brothers’ birthdays, so I know mine will be no different. I don’t care too much about you guys paying for me tonight, because man, I feel trashed enough. Claudia’s dumping made me feel even more trashed.” Marc caught his breath and wiped his forehead out of annoyance. “Sometimes, I just need a break from parties if I’ve partied too much, ya know? And one rejection too many. I’ll attend your future parties, but New Years is really the time to get with family. They’ve got a lot planned for us tomorrow, so I shouldn’t sleep through all of it. If my twin joined me tonight, I’d stay and hang out with y’all in Aggieville, but he’s already gone.”
The party buddy started to have a concerned and sympathetic look on his face. “I know family’s important, man, but you see, you’re building a second one here at our fraternity. If we’re gonna be friends for life, you may call us an extended family. And still, you know what could happen if you drove away drunk right now.”
Marc was getting exasperated “I know we’ll be an extended family one day, but that feels nothing like being with my blood family. They feel more… priceless. Nothing replaces face-time with blood relatives, and I’ll only get that tonight.” Marc got into an irrational drunken irritation, and continued talking. 
“And hey, I learned how to drive drunk in the ‘Boomshine Saigon’ mission in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I finished the mission without causing damage to Phil Cassidy’s Humvee. Now I can make it home just fine if I can do that, so back off!” Marc pushed the buddy to the side.
                The party buddy looked cross at this point. “Video game driving is nothing like the real deal, dude. You know, maybe some nights in the hospital or the drunk tank will teach you a lesson, man. Have fun getting in an accident.”
                Marc made some curses at him, and as he started to drive off, the frat buddy took out a pocket knife and attempted to slash a tire in a last-ditch effort to save Marc from himself. Marc drove away too fast for him to succeed.
                At about 11:40, when Marc was driving on K-18 up to the Interstate, the alcohol caught up with him. He started swerving thanks to the impaired vision. Marc couldn’t be sure whether he was on the correct side of the road. The road started turning left, but he assumed it was just a straight road playing a trick on his eyes. He started to feel the rougher ground on the edge of the shoulder.
                Marc realized his mistake. He swerved back to the left, over-correcting, just in time to see a large gas-guzzler of an SUV headed right towards him. At that moment, he realized that he didn’t have his seatbelt on, so he frantically reached for it and fumbled to fasten it on. It was too late.
                A huge smashing of windows upon metal ensued. Smoke filled the vicinity as glass went clinking across the roadway. Nearby motorists pulled to the side of the road to call 911. One opened his trunk frantically and brought out a first-aid kit. Several of them emerged to see how everyone involved was doing.
                Three good Samaritans pulled Marc out of his mangled-up compact car. He was bleeding heavily. “Sir, are you with us?” One of them asked. Silence.
                Another one responded, “I’m afraid he’s not conscious, you guys. I’ll take my jacket off and use it as a tourniquet to stop up his bleeding. While I do, somebody feel his pulse. From the looks of it, it’s a toss-up on whether this poor buzzard will make it!”       
Nearby, the occupants of the other collided vehicle emerged, with only minor bruises, cuts, and flecks of glass hanging from their clothes. They all wore seatbelts, and their SUV’s size ensured minimal injuries.
                A cop pulled up, and began to take statements from everyone involved.             
The cop pulled Marc’s wallet out of his pocket, and revealed the ID. The drivers’ license read, “Marcus Michael Shuttles III.” The officer told his colleague who came with him, “Someone’s been drinkin’. I can smell a lot of alcohol here. But how about we get him a B.A.C. test once the paramedics patch him up at the hospital. We have a way to calculate what his Blood-Alcohol Content was at the time of accident hours later.”
                An ambulance arrived. The paramedics got out and loaded Marc onto a stretcher, leaving a pool of blood on the ground.
                “I hope this guy hangs on. We’re rushing him to the Geary Community Hospital in Junction City.” The paramedics attended to him right away as the ambulance burned rubber westbound on K-18. While feverishly trying to keep him alive, his vitals went flatline about five minutes into the ride.    
In the first moments after flatlining, Marc could see again, but with a far more vivid tinge than ever before. Suddenly, he felt a feeling of levitation. He was fully conscious, but out-of-body.
                “HEY! Can you guys hear me?” The paramedics kept working, completely oblivious to Marc’s calls. His spirit gradually wafted away from his body’s position, and around the ambulance.
“Rip it open. Put epinephrine and a defib on his chest, STAT!” One of the paramedics injected a syringe in Marc’s chest. “CLEAR!” The defibrillator zapped; the EKG flatlined again. “CLEAR!” Again the defibrillator zapped. The EKG beeped rhythm once again.
                Marc’s emotions lit up at the sight of the EKG. “Wow, I guess this levitation won’t last much longer! I’m coming back!” A few seconds passed, and he did not get pulled back into his body.
                “What the hell! I’m supposed to wake up now! Why am I still a spirit? I didn’t know this paranormal deal had a delay!” Marc felt a supernatural pulling sensation, but away from his body. It was a light nudge at first, but the tugging gradually increased. At this point, he noticed that his spirit was permeating through the ambulance chassis.
                “What the flip! I’m being pulled AWAY while I live again? What IS this? This is complete NONSENSE!”
                Floating alongside the ambulance as it turned onto the 303 entry onto I-70, the pull increased. “GOD, if you’re listening, you KNOW that my EKG shows a heartbeat again. That means I’m supposed to be back IN my body. I’m floating farther out. What the HECK are you doing to me?”
                Now Marc’s spirit was gaining speed, heading up and north-eastward. At this point, he was floating through the air as fast as a commuter jet. “My body is alive again, but I’m STILL going to Heaven? I hope you explain this once I’m up there! Or explain it NOW, I know you can!”
                He could see city lights – of Topeka, then Kansas City, then St. Louis and other major cities as his spirit was being pulled many miles above the land, now faster than even the Concorde. “Now why am I headed east? I thought Heaven only meant I was going straight up, as in 90° up.” Marc recognized the patterns of city lights, from having seen satellite images of America at night. Seconds later, he looked back,  andcould tell, by the wide tell-tale river pattern, that he was east of the Mississippi. Then Marc started falling.
                “What? Why am I falling now? If I’m due to go to Hell, then why not just throw me down from the get-go? Why up first?” The descent continued at a rapid clip. 
                Sometime later, Marc passed over Philadelphia, and as he continued on, he knew he had to be headed toward  New York at this point. Marc wondered what kind of business God may have had for him in New York.
                A short time later, Marc wondered, “I think those lights are New York. If your idea for Hell is New York City, then you really crack me up, God!” As he glided over it, Marc realized that he was not headed towards New York because he kept floating north above the Hudson River. His descent gradually slowed. “Oh, okay. Not NYC, but where then? Where ARE you taking me?” His spirit glided past the Bronx, Yonkers, Sleepy Hollow, and then Poughkeepsie. Continuing on, the skyline of Albany was getting large on his sights.
                “Oh, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, or wherever the hell this is? Is this your idea of a Heaven or Hell on Earth?” The speed and rate of descent slowed on Marc’s spirit. He clipped through an office tower, completely unfeeling of the contact, as if a bullet through smoke. He caught a fleeting glimpse of a janitor wiping down a cubicle, then passed through the walls as if nothing was there. Marc spotted an airport closing in fast.
                “I guess this place is it then, is it?” Marc’s spirit slowed down at house’s height in a neighborhood a little west of the airport. “You’re taking me into one of these houses? What gives here? Oh, and this was the most exhilarating ride I’ve ever seen. Not even the Mamba from Worlds of Fun could’ve beaten this!” His spirit clipped through a bedroom window on the second story of a house on a corner lot. Before he knew it, Marc’s supernatural hover-ride was over, and he was unconscious once again.

                The phone rang at the Shuttles household. Chris was surfing away on the Internet on the downstairs office computer, so he answered the phone a few feet away. At this time of night, Chris was in the mindset to jump to conclusions. “Hey Marc, did your car break down?” He glanced at the caller ID. “No, wait. That’s not his number.”
                “Good evening. This is Lieutenant Tim Hegarty of the Riley County Police Department. There has been a serious accident on Kansas Highway 18 westbound to the Interstate from Manhattan, which involved an Marcus Michael Shuttles the Third.”
                “Oh my god! He’s my twin brother! I’ll give the phone to Dad. One moment.” Chris raced upstairs, turned the light on in his parents’ bedroom, and shook his dad awake. “Dad, it’s urgent, it’s about Marc.
                “Um, hello?”
                “Yes, this is Lieutenant Tim Hegarty of the Riley County Police Department, and I presume I am talking to Marcus Michael Shuttles Jr., am I correct?”
                “Yes. Go on?”
                “Your son Marcus was involved in a serious wreck on Kansas Highway 18 on his way to the Interstate from Manhattan. He is being taken by ambulance to the Geary County Community Hospital in Junction City as we speak. He looked seriously injured when I arrived at the scene, so it’s pretty grim right now. I advise you to take your whole family to the hospital to see him. We don’t yet know if he’ll pull through.”
                “Yes, Marcus, it did. There are many drunks out on the road around New Years, so we set up DUI checkpoints at around this time. If he had left later, we could have stopped him because we were planning on setting up a checkpoint on K-18 at 12:30. The accident happened about 11:42, according to eyewitnesses. The twist here is that your son was the drunk driver. My partner was able to smell the alcohol from his breath while I was busy taking statements from other motorists.”
                Marcus shook his wife awake with such a force that for one second, she could have sworn that an earthquake was jolting her out of her slumber. “SUNNY, WAKE UP. MARC’S BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT! ALL RIGHT SIR, MY SON HAD BETTER SURVIVE! NOW, WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN THE OTHER CAR?”
                “Sir, they all wore seatbelts in their late-model SUV, so they all emerged with only minor cuts and bruises. Marcus was driving an older compact sedan, so you know how that stacks up.”
                “Okay officer, I’ll be taking my family to see my son now! Thank you.” The call ended, and the dad got everyone up and ready.
                Sunny rousted Natalya and Dora out of their bunks. “Get dressed. We need to leave now.”
                “What? Now?” Nine-year-old Dora pouted.
                “Where are we going?” Thirteen-year-old Natalya inquired.
                “We’re going to the hospital in Junction City because Marc got into a big accident driving home from Manhattan. It sounded very serious.”
                “How hurt is he?”

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