Dark Earth

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Dark Earth

By Jason Halstead

©2011

Prologue

“I’m getting nervous,” Karen admitted, turning to her husband with a nervous smile.

Eric looked back at her, ignoring the snow covered Alaskan roads for a brief moment. He could not help but take a quick look at his beautiful wife, smiling as he looked into her eyes. He knew what she was going to say next.

“Are you sure you can take an entire season off?” she asked him.

He reached over and placed his callused hand reassuringly on her thigh. “Honey, we’ve got enough saved up. The season’s only about four weeks, and they promised me there’d be a spot for me next season on the First Star. You know I can make up what one year off will do. Besides, there’s other side work I can do to keep some money coming in.”

“It’s going to put it off though, you getting out of crabbing,” she said with a frown. “It’s so dangerous – I want you home with us all the time. I’m afraid just one season and I won’t want you to go back.”

Eric just smiled. He had gone to a few of the doctor’s appointments and talked to plenty of veteran parents. He knew what she was going through and knew that she had been dealing with rampant hormones for eight months now. Let them get through one more and they would have a daughter. Then it would be just a few more weeks until her emotions were back on an even keel. It had been rough on him, but he knew it was worse on her. Besides that, she was worth it. “We’ll do what we need to, don’t you worry. It’ll all work out.”

The truth was that they had a lot saved up. Eric earned more in the four to six week crabbing season, catching Alaskan king crab and snow crab, than most guys earned in a year of steady work. Off season he would engage in salmon fishing or work on fixing boats if he couldn’t find a job. After four years of this, they had a tidy bankroll saved away and plans for him to soon leave the dangerous life of crab fishing behind.

Eric enjoyed the work, and there were times when he still had a hard time accepting the thought of retiring. He was getting older though; he had been doing it since he was eighteen-and he was pushing twenty-two now. Still in his prime, he knew, but now he had to worry about his newlywed wife-and, in another month, their baby. He did not dare leave them alone in the world, he had to provide for them and be there for them.

He smiled at his young wife and said again: “It’ll all work out for the best.”

She nodded, sniffing back a tear, and smiled lovingly at him. Being with him made things seem all right. She believed him this time, just like every other time he told her the same thing.

Contrary to the words Eric had just spoken, however, disaster struck. Checking there was no cross traffic at the four way corner, he accelerated hard from the stop sign. Suddenly, from the opposite direction, a large truck came hurtling across the intersection, the driver pulling frantically at the wheel to try and avoid them. Unable to stop in the icy conditions, it slid sideways, turning partially, then caught just enough to flip it over. Eric slammed on his own brakes, useless in the snow, and cranked his wheel to the side to try and get away. His other hand shot protectively in front of his wife’s chest even as she squeaked in terror at the impending collision. What happened next he would never remember, it was so chaotic and unimaginable.

When reality righted itself again, Eric blinked. He heard a horrible ringing in his ears and some distant noises that he could not identify. He could smell something too, -a mixture of gasoline, steaming anti-freeze, and melted rubber. He looked around, slowly recognizing the things he saw. He was in his truck, but the truck would never run again. The windshield was missing, save for a few chunks of crushed glass on the dashboard. He could see the remains of the other truck alarmingly close to him, steel melded with steel from the two vehicles. His side window was gone and a fresh but frigid breeze blew through it.

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