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EARTHCORE by Scott Sigler
Chapter Two

Snow blew madly in a near-blinding wave, big wet clumps collecting on the windshield only to be swept away by the wipers. Wind drove at the night, the snow marking the wind’s direction like tracer bullets. Connell leaned forward and squinted out the window. Visibility was only a few hundred feet. Rows of lights on either side of the winding driveway glowed with fuzzy halos of whipping snow.

"Maybe we should stay for a while, hon," Cori said. "The party is still going strong. Although I wonder how long it will last without Mr. Life of the Party there to charm everyone." Her hand reached out to touch his, which clung to the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip. He threw her a glance, offering her a reassuring smile.

"Oh, I’m sure they’ll find a way to celebrate without me," Connell said, holding her hand for a moment. "Besides, I’d rather spend at least some of the first day of the new year with my wife, not a bunch of rowdy, drunken coworkers."

She smiled at him, that warm, melting smile that had caught his eye six years ago. That smile had caught his eye at a New Year’s Eve party. Caught his eye and never let go. He grinned back.

"Don’t worry, Pea," Connell said, returning the smile. "We’ll be fine." The storm was getting worse, and he had no intention of spending the night at his boss’s house, crashed out on the floor somewhere with passed-out coworkers scattered about like victims of some party land mine. This was New Year’s Eve, after all, the anniversary of the night he’d met his wife. He would spend the night with her and her alone, in their bed.

Connell looked hard both to the left and to the right. He saw nothing through the almost solid swirl of snow. He pushed gently on the accelerator and eased the Lincoln out onto the road, tires crunching along the snow-covered driveway.

There was no squeal of brakes, no blaring horn, only the sudden smashing impact and the impossibly loud cries of screeching metal. The car lurched to the left, the back end swinging around on the wet, slushy pavement. The impact threw Connell against his seat belt so hard it cut off his breath. The Lincoln spun like a child’s top, whipping almost a full 360 degrees as the back end flew into the ditch. Connell’s head snapped back when the car crunched to a halt. As suddenly as it started, it ended, leaving complete silence except for the rapid clicking of ruined motors cooling in the night’s grip.

Connell blinked, hands still clutching the steering wheel, trying to form a thought. A dull throb pulsed in his neck. A warm wetness and a sharp, stabbing pain rose up from his right knee. His mind finally centered on a single word: accident.

He turned to look at Cori. Faint light strayed from the lamps surrounding the driveway. The impact had devastated the passenger-side door, glass gone but for a few jagged shards, the once stately Lincoln now a mass of twisted metal, torn leather, and ripped fabric. The other car had smashed the door in so far that Cori was pushed almost to the middle of the seat. Snow blew in through the broken window, melting where it hit blood.

Her eyes were wide with shock and pain. Beautiful blond hair clung to her face, matted down with glistening red. Flecks of glass hung in her hair like glitter. Blood sheeted her scalp, her cheeks, her chin, falling to stain her white coat.

She looked at him, questioning terror written across her face. "Connell?" Something liquid and gurgling masked her smooth voice. She sounded weak, fractured.

Connell felt a stab of panic, a burst of blind rage. It didn’t take a genius to see she would die if he didn’t get help.

"Take it easy, Pea," Connell said, his voice loud and ragged with fear and adrenaline. He fumbled with his seat belt. His hands were slick with blood.

"Connell?" she asked again in her fragile voice. Her eyes looked glassy, unfocused. She weakly lifted a bloody hand toward him.

He took her hand, feeling the movement of tiny broken bones under her skin.

It was already too late, and he knew it. He felt tears welling up; he fought them back. He held her ravaged hand against his cheek.

"I’m here, Pea. I’m here."

Her head lolled forward. Connell heard voices shouting over the whipping wind. Faces appeared around the car; coworkers and concerned friends peered in, asking if he was okay. His eyes remained fixed on his dead wife. Snow swept in around them, soft and silent.

He held her hand against his cheek–her warmth faded away; her hand slowly grew as cold as a fresh fish dropped on ice.


Connell lurched up, a scream locked in his throat. He was freezing–not from the dream-snow, but from sweat-soaked sheets turned icy by air conditioning running fullblast.

He tried to control his ragged breathing. He never knew when the dream would come. Sometimes he’d have it for weeks on end, every night a reenactment of the terror and the loss. Sometimes he’d go months between the dreams, and then he’d feel a strange guilt at the possibility of getting over his wife’s death.

But he knew better. He’d never get over it.

He sat on the edge of the filthy bed, on sheets that hadn’t been changed in months. As he stared out into the black mess of the room, he knew that the car crash had taken his life as well.

His pulse slowly returned to normal, and he steadied his breathing, fighting down the stabbing pain of losing her yet again. He looked at the clock–4:17 a.m. He’d overslept. He dragged himself out of bed. He had work to do.

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