There was a knock at the basement door. “Parker? Parker? It's Mom. Dinner's ready.” Mom sounded concerned. It wasn't like me to be late for dinner.
“Parker, I'm coming in,” she called out loudly. The knob turned and the door slowly swung open. From the strobing light of the TV which intermittently pierced the darkness Mom could see me lying in my recliner, with my back to her. After turning on the light switch she walked up to me and gently nudged my shoulder. “Wake up, honey. It's time to eat.”
I didn't budge. I lay motionless, not even snoring.
“Parker, wake up.” Her voice now had a tone of urgency and concern. When I didn't respond she placed her fingers on my neck and felt for a pulse. The cold touch of her fingers on my skin made me jump.
“What's going on?!” I shouted as I sat bolt upright.
Startled, Mom pulled back. From the look on her face you'd think she'd seen a ghost.
“Are you okay, Mom?”
“I will be,” she answered. She let out a laugh of relief. “When you didn't respond, I got scared; and when I touched your neck to make sure you had a pulse, you jumped.”
“Sorry about that. I had the strangest dream. It seemed so real. You were there. Dad was there....” I stopped myself as I was about to speak the words – 'Carmen was there.'
“You have a visitor,” she said, beaming from ear to ear. “A very pretty young woman. Her name is Janelle. She said you two dated a long time ago.”
“Did you say Janelle?” I said. Could it possibly be the girl I dated years ago? The one who broke my heart. The one I couldn't forget.
“Yes, dear. She's waiting upstairs.”
“Parker?” came a soft and sweet voice from the doorway. “I hope you don't mind that I came down here. I got tired of waiting upstairs.”
“Janelle, it is you.” I wondered if I was still dreaming. She looked just the same as she did eight years earlier. Her long blonde hair and tranquil blue eyes took me back. All of those old feelings welled up inside of me. My stomach churned. Surely I must still be dreaming, I thought. This is too good to be true.
“So you do remember me?” she said.
“Remember you? There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about you.”
“I've missed you, too.”
“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “You broke my heart when you left. You didn't even say good-bye.”
“But I left a note.”
“A short note after all we shared didn't quite cut it.”
“I'm so sorry. Maybe we can start over. Do you think you can find it in your heart to forgive me?”
My head was spinning. I didn't know what to think. “You're not going to believe this, but I just had the strangest dream, and you were in it,” I said.
“We traveled to Austria and the moon and a distant planet. You and I were married and we had a villa on a lake just outside Salzburg.”
Janelle smiled sweetly.
“And the weirdest part is – at the very end of the dream -”
“I thought that when you die in your dreams, you die in real life.”
“I used to think that too, but obviously it's just an old wives tale; cause here I am, alive and well.”
“Janelle, dear, can you stay for dinner?” Mom asked.
“I don't know,” Janelle replied nervously, looking to me for guidance.
“Please stay for dinner,” I said to her. I smiled and gave a gentle nod of my head.
Janelle turned to Mom. “Okay, I'll stay” she said.
“Wonderful!” Mom replied. “It will be ready in a few minutes.” She scurried up the stairs and out of sight.
“What was that about?” Janelle asked.
“Mom worries about me being lonely. She is excited to have a young lady in the house.”
“Well, that doesn't put too much pressure on me.”
“Don't worry about it; just be yourself. I think all the pressure is on me,” I replied. “This way,” I said, motioning with my hand up the stairs.
When we got to the kitchen at the top of the steps I was surprised to see only four place settings. Mom offered the chair, at the place she usually set for Carmen, to Janelle. We all sat down at the table and Janelle offered to say grace. Dad smiled at me with a look of profound relief.
Upstairs Janelle nervously finished setting out dinner. She knew I was working hard on my book in our dungeon of a basement, but it was out of character for me to be late for our daily dinner appointment. I tended to get very testy when she interrupted my writing process, so she was reluctant to check on me. However, when five minutes late turned into thirty, she decided to chance it.
I always kept the door at the top of the stairs locked as a reminder to Janelle that I was not to be disturbed, but we kept a key above the door frame for emergencies.
The echo of Janelle's frantic knocks cascaded down the stairs and filled the bare, empty basement.
“Honey, I know you're working hard on your book, but it's time for dinner and you're late. And you're never late.”
Three more firm, rapid knocks followed. Still, there was no response from me.
“Parker. Honey? Are you down there? Please answer me. You're scaring me.”
Janelle felt above the door for the ghost key. After dropping the key on the floor several times, she unlocked the door and made her way slowly down the stairs, calling out my name over and over. The smell of burnt coffee wafted up from the utility shelves which sat right beside the rough-framed wooden stairs. “I'll have to buy you some more coffee,” she said nervously, noticing that my container was empty.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs and turned toward the center of the room, she froze in her tracks. Unable to move or speak, her eyes grew wide with horror.
My cold, lifeless body lay on the floor underneath one of the low-hanging pipes, a large pool of blood spread out in all directions from under my head. She ran over and knelt down beside me, put her arms around my shoulders and cradled me to her. She tried her best to rouse me, but it was no use – I was gone.
Look for these fiction novels by Daniel:
“The Mystery of Lake Clandestine”
(Available on Amazon)
Look for these other titles, coming soon:
“Return to Donovan's Island: Cordero's Revenge”
“Randolph's Gold (sequel to Lake Clandestine)”
Daniel has also published a memoir of his personal battle with “terminal” cancer:
“God Said Not Yet:
One Man's Experience With Terminal Cancer”
- A #1 seller in both Alternative Medicine and Healthy Living books for Kindle (with more than 15,000 copies in Kindle and print)