Prologue
Monday, 10:40 P.M.

The tires released an anguished scream like an animal caught in the steel jaws of a trap. The car slid several feet into the oncoming lane. A truck, a behemoth on eighteen wheels, careened past, just inches from the vehicle. Half a foot closer and it would have ripped the side mirror from its base and sent it tumbling along the asphalt highway.

Instead of slowing, the driver pressed the gas pedal to the floor and the engine growled loudly. A glance in the rearview mirror showed the piercing high beams behind her fall away into the night. Seconds later, the lights began once again to gain, slowly pulling closer and closer.

The lights—stabbing, burning, brilliant lights—were still there, like tiny suns pushing back the cold black of space. Pursuing. Tracking. Hunting. Tears formed in her eyes, as much from the reflected brilliance as from the fear within her. The pursuer was closing the distance. The speedometer read ninety-five, and the needle was still moving up.

"Leave me alone!" she shouted and slammed her fist on the steering wheel. The headlights behind her were higher off the ground than those of a passenger car—a van, a truck, or maybe a sport utility vehicle. Whatever it was, it was big, and, worse, it was fast.

Ahead she could see the lights of a town. That was her hope—her only hope. There would be people, and people meant safety. Perhaps there would be a highway patrolman or sheriff or someone else who could help

Something brown shot out of the desert and into the bright white of her lights. A coyote—a young one judging by its size. Instinctively she hit the brakes. It was a mistake. The car lurched forward, and she was thrown back into the seat as the vehicle behind rammed her bumper. The tires lost traction, and she turned into the swerve. She found herself in the oncoming lane. A horn blared with painful intensity; the high beams of an oncoming car blinded her. Her heart pounded like a piston, and she cried out in fear. Yanking the wheel hard to the right, she accelerated and once again missed a head-on collision by mere inches.

The vehicle behind her rammed her again, and she struggled to keep the tires on the road. Once more she pressed the accelerator to the floor in a desperate attempt to get to the town ahead.

Desert landscape rushed by as she willed the car to go faster, praying that she did not lose control. The coyote had almost been the death of her. If she had hit it, she would have done so at nearly one hundred miles per hour and she would certainly have crashed.

Slam! Her head rocked back, hitting the headrest behind her. A scorching pain raced down her neck. Slam! The sound of crumpling metal reverberated through the metallic skin of the car.

She was losing the race. She would die, they would see to it. They knew about her, and she knew about them.

The attacker was just a yard or two behind her. One more hit would certainly put her off the road. Another pair of lights, higher than those of her attacker, caught her eye. These were farther back but closing the distance rapidly. Great, she thought. He has a partner with a bigger truck.

There was another bump, but more gentle than the previous one. For a second she was thankful, but then she felt herself drifting to the right. The car behind her was pushing her left rear bumper, causing the car to veer. If she hit the brakes, the car would slip into a wild spin. She had to stay on the road, had to keep the tires on the pavement.

It was impossible. The right front tire of her car left the firm surface and dug deeply into the soft, sandy shoulder of the highway. The steering wheel twisted out of her hand as the car flipped into the air. The horrific sounds of tearing and crunching metal, of breaking glass and racing motor, blended in a crescendo of destruction. One moment she was staring into unforgiving desert floor, the next into stygian night. The car rolled and flipped. The windshield blew inward, showering her with a thousand pieces of safety glass.
The two-second eternity ended with the car upright on all four deflated tires. Seconds later, another symphony of twisting metal pierced the night. She did not care. She could not think
.
Her head lolled to the side, resting on the driver's window. Blinking several times, she let her eyes look up at the black velvet night sky. Stars sparkled like sequins—all but one. A tiny light moved slowly across the backdrop of stars. The sight terrified her. "No," she said softly. "No, no, no."

The black of night filled the car; the black of unconsciousness filled her eyes. She took a ragged breath and waited for death.

From Distant Memory by Alton Gansky, copyright 2000, WaterBrook Press. All rights reserved.

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