Authors: Zack Mason
Tags: #Fiction - Science Fiction, #Fiction - Historical, #Fiction - Thriller
is a work of fiction. All names and places are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Published by Dogwood Publishing
Copyright © 2011 by Zack Mason
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Dogwood Publishing, a division of More Than Books, Inc., Georgia.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request from the publisher.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition: December, 2011
Cover Design by Matt Smartt
This book is dedicated to
the Creator of Time and source of all good inspiration
to Jack & Barbara Mason,
without whom my writing
would never have been possible.
Like Secret Codes?
The author has been given exclusive access
to ChronoShift’s website while it is under construction.
1. Go to
2. Login: 09071890
3. Click on “Notes” to see if you can solve
It was a great day.
Mark Carpen eyed the deep, azure sky as he drove. Its bold blue hues were such as can only be seen in full summer, the kind of sky that never fails to buoy the spirit. White, billowy clouds towered endlessly above the horizon, further enriching the panorama. It promised a beautiful end to what had already been a wonderful afternoon.
He was tempted to roll the window down, to feel the wind on his face and the burn of the sun on his arm, but the air outside would be hot, and the kids were still sweaty from play.
They were on their way home from McDonald’s. He’d taken Daniel and Brittany out as a special treat since Kelly would be stuck in parent-teacher conferences until at least six o'clock, and they’d had a blast.
Brittany, his toddler princess, all of three years of age, had been adorable as always, jumping around the brightly-colored playset with ice-cream running down her chin, calling for him to come and see whatever she was doing every fifteen seconds. Daniel, two years her elder, wore himself out till his hair was a dripping mop. He'd thrown himself down the curling tube that served as a slide so many times he’d probably worn a new rut in it.
Both were quiet now, settling in for the ride home, but Mark could still hear their laughter echoing in his mind as he maneuvered through suburban traffic.
You’d think they’d never been to a McDonald’s before
, he smiled.
He treasured moments like these, these simple pleasures he could still give them, which were too few and far between since he’d been laid off.
Most days, the loss of his job weighed on his mind like an elephant on a rope bridge, but every now and then, there were afternoons like this, when the unbearable pressure lifted for a while, and he savored the relief.
Nevertheless, later tonight, after all were tucked in bed, he knew the feeling of failure would return to roost like a crooked vulture, hunched on its branch, biding its time until its prey gave up and died.
A man needs to be able to provide for his family. It’s deeply ingrained in his DNA. Even more so in a former Marine. As the days ticked on, one barren rotation of the earth after the next, his frustration built. He was failing at Mission One: Provide.
Kelly had to return to teaching in an effort to plug some of the gaping leaks in their financial dam. In spite of her reassurances that she didn’t mind, he knew she did. Any day of the week, she’d rather be at home with the kids, and that made the pressure all that much greater.
He wasn’t one to sit around twiddling his thumbs playing Mr. Mom though. He’d known other men who’d lost their jobs and been content to stay at home throughout their job search, idle on the couch while their wives brought in lesser salaries. He’d watched as their families slid further and further into debt because the guy’s ego was too big to accept a job he viewed as beneath him. Mark had no intention of laying that kind of burden on his family.
Instead of waiting for the improbable: Having his dream job handed to him on a platter, Mark wasted no time in seeking lesser work. Within days of being laid off, he began waiting tables at a local restaurant. Whenever Kelly wasn’t working, he was serving food, which was every night and all weekend. It brought in about $450 to $500 a week, which wasn’t insignificant, but it meant he rarely got to spend time with her or the kids.
Daniel had just begun kindergarten. Brittany was still too young for that, so while Kelly worked at the school, Mark stayed home with his little girl. The days she went to preschool, he did his best to scrounge up extra work doing handy man jobs around the neighborhood, but times were tight. Few had discretionary funds for home improvement projects.
The moment Kelly pulled in the garage, he’d take off for the restaurant, only to return late, exhausted and smelling of stale grease. Their lifestyle wasn’t a pleasant one, but as long as the set-up remained temporary in their minds, they could tolerate it. For the most part, they’d managed to keep their heads above water.
“Daniel! What are you doing?”
He could see his son in the rear-view mirror, wiggling around much more than he should be able.
“Get your seatbelt back on! Now!”
In that instant, a sports coupe whipped out of a parking lot ahead of them like a mad demon bent on destruction. It somehow made the turn without spinning out of control and then inexplicably stopped short with only twenty feet of space between it and Mark’s Camry.
There was no time. Nowhere to go.
Mark desperately stabbed at his brakes, but panic pushed his foot past the correct pedal. Reaction time being what it is, it wouldn’t have made much difference anyway.
They plummeted into the back of the other car at full speed. The screech of tearing metal ripped the air like a rude buzz saw. Mark rocked violently forward and his face crashed into the steering wheel. The explosion of the impact threw Daniel from the back seat into the windshield.
To this day, Mark knew he’d remembered to check his son’s seatbelt before they’d left, but as kids will do, Danny had unfastened it.
The image of his son’s body striking the windshield conspired with the damage to the vehicle to make Mark lose control. They twisted sideways, clipped a telephone pole, and flipped. Later, he would learn that it was in that moment he lost his little angel, Brittany. Daniel was already gone.
The acrid smell of burning oil filled Mark’s nostrils as he fell unconscious.
The other driver had been a sixteen year-old football star from the local high school named Stephen Chadwick. He’d been out drinking and carousing with some of his buddies after school and had decided to show off in his new hot rod. He’d never seen Mark coming.
The mass of Mark’s vehicle had forced the teen’s into a ditch. The impact snapped the jock's spinal cord in two places, effectively ending his football career forever.
It finally occurred to the police five hours later to order a blood test on the boy at the hospital. Even after so much time having passed, his blood-alcohol level was still 0.13. Why and how the young man had gotten so drunk by 4:30 in the afternoon no one understood.
Nor would it matter, for when the teen’s day in court came to face the DUI charge, the records of his blood-alcohol level were mysteriously lost, forcing the judge to drop all charges.
As it happened, Chadwick turned out to be a nephew of the governor of the Great State of Georgia. The governor’s brother, father of the paralyzed quarterback, began to publicly blame Mark as the real culprit in the accident. He sued Mark civilly for two million dollars in damages, which was much more than his homeowner’s policy would cover.
Tonight, Mark watched the rain.
It was heavy enough he could hear the deep patter of it on their roof even through the asphalt shingles. Clear rivulets rolled relentlessly down the outside of the darkened panes in their meager kitchen, creating vertical tributaries whose life-span lasted mere seconds before being wiped away by new ones.
Crumpled envelopes and unwanted bills littered the crowded desk at his fingertips. He was powerless to pay any of it.
He’d been unable to work at all since the accident. He was as paralyzed emotionally as the Governor’s nephew was physically.
Now, the lawsuit. The weight of it all was too much.
He felt impotent to face his grief, much less overcome it. The grief was the real weight, sitting like a ton of iron upon his chest, crushing his heart, pressing the air from his lungs every time he thought he might actually breathe anew.
He blamed himself.
Everyone reassured him with endless platitudes about how it wasn’t his fault, how he wasn’t to blame, but guilt haunted him nevertheless, a growing specter tethered to his soul. Why hadn’t he realized sooner Daniel’s seatbelt was unfastened? Had he been going too fast? Maybe even just a
These were the questions his friends asked themselves and muttered to others in hushed whispers when he was out of earshot. And why shouldn’t they? He tormented himself mercilessly with the same ones.
Secretly, he knew Kelly blamed him too, though she would never say that outright. On the surface, she’d tried her best to feign support. Underneath, she was writhing in agony and fury. He’d been the one driving. That it could have just as easily happened to her didn’t matter.
Some part of her deep within didn’t really believe his version of the accident. Mark had hit the other vehicle from behind. Wasn’t that the bottom line? If Mark really had no blame, would the outcome have been so tragic?