Chapter 1: Awakening

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I awoke with a jerk, feeling dazed and unable to focus.  What, . . what was happening?  Where, . . where was I?  With my mind still struggling to full awareness, I stared into the absolute darkness of where I was for a long moment, feeling my body slowly return to full sensation with a strange, warm tingling.  Then a sharp knock on a hard surface maybe a few inches from my face, startled me into another shiver.  Was that someone at the door?  But that was downstairs; why did it sound so close?

Frowning, I pushed my brain to full awareness, to try to figure it out.  Abby always told me that I spent too much time overthinking things.  That sometimes I had to think faster.

"Abby."  I mumbled, my voice hoarse and ragged like I had swallowed a desert and spit out the cacti, which had come up rough.

"Abby, honey, I think there's somebody at the door."  And I reached over to my beloved wife of over 50 years to let her know I was going to get up and check.

Only to find my hand hitting the padded edges of something between her and I.  What, . . .?  Thinking to reach over with both hands to see if something had somehow fallen between us, I found that one hitting another padded something.  Frowning, I tried to sit up, and quickly struck something with my forehead in the effort.  Now what??

Dragging my hands up, I let them work over both the things on either side, and what was over me in the darkness which was beginning to feel warm and uncomfortable.  If I didn't know better, they seemed to be telling me I was not in bed with my wife, but in some kind of, . . . . box.

Wait a minute, . . the bump on the head had stirred my memories back to life.  And the only box I remember being in recently was, . . .

My screams of terror filled the small space of my coffin as I began to frantically pound on the lid above me with clenched fists.  Fists that made the heavy panel wood actually jump with each blow.  Why the hell was I waking up in my own damn coffin??

"Hey!"  A voice cried from the other side of the lid.  "Hey Max!  Quit screaming and get yourself out of there!"

"How??"  I howled back, now pounding with both fists.  And watched as the lid visibly shifted enough to let in flashes of outside light.

"Focus!"  The voice yelled back.  "You need to focus your strength and your goa."

Goa?  Just what the hell was that?

"Focus, damn you."  The voice snarled, suddenly twisted with something else.  Something that sounded alot like fear.

"Tate is on his way and you need to be out of there before he gets here."

Teeth grit, I heaved against the lid with both hands, throwing everything that I had against the reluctant slab of paneled wood.  It began to move, letting in a trickle of dirt and light at the edge.  Slowly, surely it went up.

"Now, Max, now!"  The voice, now clear as it slipped through the widening crack.  "He's here.  You need to get out NOOOW!"

The voice galvanized me as I roared and threw all my strength into pushing the lid out of the way.  And watched in amazement as an eldritch blue-green light danced over my arms and hands for a moment before the lid exploded outward with a snarl of discharge and a flash of brilliance.  The lid's abrupt departure left me trying to blink away purple afterimages.

"There you go, Max!"  The voice, now filled with satisfaction, crowed from a position some distance up and away from me.

"Now get him out of there, boys.  Quickly, now.  I can see Tate's carriage pulling into the graveyard's south entrance."

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