Jack ran. As he ran he wept, hot burning tears falling. He wanted her back. He wanted to rewind time. Kerry. Kerry. Her name was swirling around his mind.
He was outside now. The sky had clouded over. He looked up in some vain hope. He was running, running. He needed exhaustion. The cold air crackled into his lungs. Unbidden, images of his life with Kerry displayed themselves on the TV screen of his mind, like some bizarre ‘This is your Life’.
He found he could only cry in bursts. Mostly he was numb. It seemed to Jack as if the world had shifted and he was running slightly out of synchronicity, on the edge of a world of shadows.
Back at St Patrick’s the fight to save the life inside Kerry Madigan went on. Doctor Wilbrahim placed the premature bundle of nerves and skin into the incubator. The baby cried briefly. Nurses washed and cleaned her, fitted her up with sensors and fought to keep her alive.
“Is she going to make it?” asked a junior doctor.
“Let’s hope and pray she does,” replied Doctor Wilbrahim. “She’s strong. I think she’ll pull through. Where’s the father? Wasn’t he here?”
Doctor Wilbrahim washed up and then went to see senior nurse Constantine.
“Mr. Madigan isn’t here,” she told Wilbrahim. “He just disappeared. I’m worried about him doctor. He took it very badly.”
“We’d better make every effort to find him. It’s a tragedy, but he is a father now. What do we know about him?”
“The police are investigating. It was a road accident. The driver’s dead and now; apparently Mr. Madigan witnessed the incident.”
“Poor man,” sighed Wilbrahim, “I’ll talk to the police pathologist now.”
Inside an incubator within the intensive care unit, a tiny heart was beating.
Jack kept on running, gulping in lungfuls of air. Gradually he slowed to a halt and leaned against a wall near a bridge. The clanging of the rail cars above echoed along the dark quiet alleyways.
“She’s dead, she’s dead.” He kept repeating the phrase over and over, under his breath as if trying to make new sense of it, as if trying to make himself believe it had not happened. Within his tortured mind, the baby was dead too. Both lives extinguished in minutes. All that hope; all that potential just snuffed out like a candle. You can always re-light a candle, Jack mused in his grief, but you can’t re-light a life.
“I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” Jack cried out loud. A few passers by looked at him. Another freak, they thought.
Jack looked around him. He recognized familiar landmarks. He heard the call of the gulls near the river.
“At least you could have let me say goodbye,” Jack screamed at the winter sky, imploring any God who was up there. “Why didn’t you let me say goodbye?”
He looked around him again. Here were the warehouses, the rundown tenements. And there was the Refuge. He had run instinctively to the only place he could call home. He walked now, soaked with sweat, dirty, face streaked with rain and tears. He had cried himself out. His spirit felt crushed under the enormity of fate. He shuffled like a bum towards the door.
For a long moment he stood across the street, looking at the place. Grief welled up inside him again. Then, there were arms around his shoulders. Jack buried his face in Abraham’s embrace. The old man had been waiting for him. Somehow he knew.
“She’s dead, Abe. Kerry’s dead, the baby too. Jesus, what am I going to do? I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.”
“I know, I know,” murmured the old man consolingly.
“It’s not right. Jesus, it’s not fucking right.” Jack fell to his knees and rammed his fists in his mouth.
Abraham watched him with sorrow, almost driven to tears himself. His eyes glazed over for a moment in contemplation of the infinite. Then he lifted Jack to his feet.
“Jack, listen to me, listen to me.”
Jack leaned back against a grimy wall. Abraham looked intently at him. “Do you want to see her again? Do you want the chance to say goodbye?”
Jack gazed at Abraham with a mixture and incredulity and astonishment.
“Why are you mocking me, Abe? I thought we were friends. She’s dead for Christ’s sake. That’s it, that’s the end.”
“Not really.” Abraham placed his arm around Jack’s shoulders,” It’s another beginning. I’ll ask you again. Do you want the chance to say goodbye to Kerry. Jack, this is something that is rarely granted to anyone.”
“What are you talking about?” Like a drunk who is suddenly snapped into sobriety by a sudden shock, Jack looked at Abraham. And he saw something in his eyes he had always known was there but had never really seen.
“Who are you, Abraham?” Jack whispered.
“Who I am is of no consequence. What I am about to offer you is a chance few human beings have ever been given; the chance to go beyond the veil. You can see Kerry again. But only for a short time before she travels beyond reach and while some remnant of her memory is still functioning.”
Jack stumbled around trying to make sense out of Abraham’s proposition. Logic was fighting desire. He was telling himself that under normal circumstances he would tell Abraham he was overtired, to get some rest. Normal circumstances, what was normal anymore? He turned to Abraham. “What exactly are you saying?” he asked him.
Abraham stood in front of Jack. “You must act quickly. You must trust me. If you think I’m talking nonsense then nothing will happen. But if you trust me, you will see Kerry again. Time is running out.”
“Yes,” said Jack. “Yes, I want to see her again, even for one last time.”
“There is a price you must pay, Jack.”
“Yes, you must let someone else, another soul, have one more chance to come back and occupy your body. If that soul repents you may be trapped in limbo forever and never return. Jack, do you understand what I’m saying.”
Jack stared at Abraham in amazement. “What am I suppose to say to all that mumbo-jumbo. Abe, please, do me a favor.”
“Yes or no, Jack. Decide.” Abraham took Jack by the shoulders.
“Yes, yes, yes!”
A giant interstate truck appeared around the corner heading for the docks. It rumbled like a mighty behometh along the slimy streets. As it approached, Abraham was holding Jack by the shoulders. Jack was staring into the infinity within his eyes. He felt peaceful. He didn’t feel a thing as he lurched back suddenly into the path of the truck. He regained his balance as the truck roared by but took a knock that sent him spinning into a wall. As he collapsed on the ground, he knew he was still alive but his shoulder throbbed and he could feel unconsciousness welling up like a huge black pool. He saw Abraham’s face. It looked younger. He was saying something.
Jack could hardly make it out.
Abraham was saying goodbye.