"A crackling thriller brimming with both paranoia and philosophical conundrums."

-KA Bedford on Thomas World

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Rift: An excerpt

one

I have this recurring dream. It involves my own death. My funeral, really. The service is held at Hemingford Unity Cemetery, where every so often a body is hidden in the red clay north of Wichita Falls, Texas. I suppose this particular cemetery was chosen because my father lies there, and because I will eventually bury my mother's body beside his. But did Misty really think I belonged with them? I've lived in Houston for nearly twenty years now, and the drive to Wichita Falls is not short.

The first sign of something wrong is the number of attendees. My wife and my mother and two uncles are here. My best friend, Tom Bishop, is here. And a minister, but of course he was hired to come.

The images generated by my subconscious are impressive in detail. A great, ageless oak tree casts a skeleton shadow across the congregation. Rows of headstone soldiers stand guard over long-dead namesakes. And beside my casket stands a mound of dirt covered with a blanket of synthetic grass.

What's missing is the eulogy. The hired minister finishes his prepared words and looks to pass the baton to the next participant. But no one steps forward. I guess Misty thought Tom would say something, and I guess he thought she would do the honors. My mom suffers from Alzheimer's disease, so no one would have mistaken her for the speaker. Finally the minister asks someone, anyone, to come forward and say a few words for the deceased. Misty and Tom briefly exchange glances and then ignore each other. The uncles watch red dirt ruin their wingtips. My mother just stares into space, probably remembering the time when she was eight and someone in school set her only pair of shoes on fire.

"Very well, then," the minister says and walks away.

After a moment the handful of mourners wander to their cars, fire up engines, and leave the cemetery. I remain with a bearded groundskeeper, who removes the synthetic turf, lowers the casket, and shovels red clay back into the hole from where it came.

Recently I saw a therapist and told him about the dream.

"So," he asked, "do you think this dream might have something to say about you?"

"It seems obvious," I said. "I feel like I'm not doing anything with my life."

"Yet you seem relatively successful to the outside observer--six-figure household income, beautiful wife. What exactly should you be doing?"

My answer was silence. I was either unable or unwilling to think of something.

A couple of days went by, the question still unanswered, and eventually I mentioned my concerns to Misty. She delivered an Ann Landers-esque quote that has increasingly and alarmingly become her standard response to any unpleasant matter she encounters.

"Something will come up," she said. "It always does."

Two days later Batista made me the offer, and I've never seen my wife wish so badly that she had been wrong.

* * *

Channel-surfing on our bedroom TV is doing nothing to take the edge off. It's not like I haven't agonized over this decision to the point of absurdity, but today is the day, after all.

Now is the time.

I've already passed by three "talk" shows, and while I've seen a lot of shouting and a fair amount of screaming, I've yet to encounter any talking. I flip absently, past a baseball game and an infomercial and a "Star Trek" installment, on my way to CNN when I happen upon a televangelist.

". . . lost, just like I was lost, that's right, just like I was lost. When I lived in that sin-infested town, that Babel nestled among the hills and jutting into the bay like an angry finger, like a vile middle finger thrust hatefully into the air . . ."

I can't remember seeing this particular fellow before, but here in Texas, TV preachers are as common as houseflies. According to the caption in the bottom right corner of the screen, his name is Yale Thayer. He's a thin man with pale skin and fire-red hair.

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