April 17, Tuesday
BREATHTAKING DROPS ALONG THE ROAD that rimmed Colorado's Dead Horse Canyon terrified Sara Reynolds from the start. Cliffs and gorges stretched on and off for miles, few protected by guardrails.
"Too expensive," Bryan explained. "Not a priority for lean county budgets."
His advice for dealing with roadway-induced acrophobia was simple:
"Keep your eyes on the center line. Concentrate on the road. Whatever you do, never, ever look down!"
His words sprang from memory, recommendations moot. Ignoring the threat didn't make it go away. Especially when someone T-boned your truck on a blind curve.
Their mangled Silverado teetered on a ledge twenty feet below. She stared, incredulous, as steam twisted upward from its crumpled hood in a sultry, hypnotic dance. Vapors crawled along the shattered windshield, then lilted through the medallion-shaped leaves of a young quaking aspen. All that kept it from plunging several hundred more feet into a ravine.
The realization she'd been the truck's passenger only moments before sizzled through her like lightning. Why was she weightless, brunette tendrils floating about her shoulders like a storm cloud? Her horrified gaze shifted to her husband, likewise weightless and wearing his signature crooked grin.
"What happened?" Her words were soundless, thought rather than speech.
"What? Dead? What do you mean we're dead?"
He pointed to their truck. She gasped. Their lifeless bodies were clearly visible in the cab's passenger side window.
He was right—they were dead.
The tender expression in his hazel eyes embraced her heart as affection flowed between them. An unexpected sense of peace defied what lay below. Time froze, the forest hushed and serene as a leafy chorus offered a requiem in the spring breeze.
What seemed an eternity later, sirens screamed through the canyon. His demeanor shifted.
"I'm sorry, Sara. That didn't exactly work out as planned. I know—I should have listened to you. I love you, sweetheart."
Renewed panic surged. "What are you saying, Bryan?"
"You must go back. Promise me. Don't let them get away with this. Please."
He blew her a kiss, then his personage retreated, fading into a swirling vortex of ethereal light.
"No! Wait. Don't leave me! Bryan, please. Don't go!"
He didn't stop, her plea denied, his only response a wave of farewell as he vanished into the light.
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