His alarm pierced the darkness of the early morning.
For Mason James the early mornings were part of a new normal since he started working for the ambulance. With his shift starting at seven, and a 90 minute commute to the small community he worked in, five in the morning wake-ups were normal when he worked day shifts.
His arm slid out from under the covers to silence his alarm, then retreated back under the covers as Dixie, his three year old calico jumped onto the bed at his feet and walked up his body, looking around for the source of the offending noise. In the last year that James had worked on this shift, it had become Dixie’s norm to survey the room, and finding nothing, curl up on his pillow beside his head purring until he got up.
James could smell the scent of coffee wafting through his one bedroom apartment, the automatic coffee maker he had purchased recently already proving its worth.
After a few minutes of cuddling with Dixie, James threw the covers back, and got out of bed, and headed to the bathroom for a shower. The warm water cascaded over his well muscled but scarred body, evidence of trauma from another life.
After his shower he dressed in his paramedic’s uniform, scooped some kibble into Dixie’s dish, poured coffee into a to-go cup, and put on his cold weather jacket and braced himself for the winter cold.
He enjoyed the morning drive, watching the sky change from black to red to blue in his review mirror as the sun broke free of the horizon. He didn’t enjoy the cold though, the temperature reading -22 C on the dash of his SUV.
He always enjoyed the drive to work, the ninety minutes allowing him to get into a work frame of mind, his subconscious working on the driving. His routine worked, as he sipped his coffee, trying to keep warm until the heater of his vehicle began to kick out the blessed heat. He was taking a sip of his coffee as he rounded a corner and his life changed.
Black-ice had formed on the corner he traversed many times before, and his rear wheels broke free of the road. James dropped his coffee as he attempted to recover the vehicle, but it was too late. The vehicle slid one way, then another on the road, until he hit the power pole with the sound of tearing steel followed by blackness.
James found himself to be walking the streets his hometown. He walked down main-street, finding the arcade where he wasted many hours of time as a child, trying to earn the ever elusive high score on the paceman machine, before later transition to street fighter.
He walked past the waterfront, with many boats leaving the safety of the harbour to get their days catch, Many other boats remained at rest tied to the wharves, nestled together in the safety of others.
James walked aimlessly, finding his childhood home. He felt like if he looked in the window he would see his younger self at play, while his mother, long dead, looked on.
James didn’t understand why he was back here, he left this place decades ago, but still he walked, with no particular destination, but a draw to keep moving none the less.
He walked by the playground, where her played tag with his friends, where the ground became lave, or any other material but the gravel it actually was. He walked by his grade school, where he learned how to fight along with learning all his school subjects. He passed his high school where his love for cars developed.
He walked, and walked and walked, memories cascading back to him. He walked with no particular destination in mind, but still he was drawn to keep moving.
“Something is wrong,” James said aloud. “Why am I here?”
Still he kept walking, past the woods where he made out with a girl in the front seat of his car for the first time. He walked past the mall where the sports store once resided, the source of his sports card collection.
As he walked, the pull became stronger, and he began to move with urgency, yet still not k knowing where he was going.
As he neared the hospital in his childhood town, the pull increased even more, and noise began to seep past his subconscious. A beeping, a low murmur, a noise sounding miles away but right beside him at the same time grew stronger the closer he got to the hospital.
James walked into the empty Emergency Room, he walked down corridor after corridor, the noise getting louder. Down a dark corridor he walked finding himself in a dark room, with a group of people wearing hospital scrubs standing around a table with a bright life shining on it from above.
The noise reaching a crescendo in James mind, he knew the people were talking, but he couldn’t hear what was being said. He walked closer to the table looking at the body he knew to be there. At the foot of the table he looked toward the head. He looked at himself, with eyes closed, with tubes coming in and out of his body, with no sign of life. He saw the medical staff feverishly trying to save him.
He knew then why he was here. He was coming home. James felt himself rise above the medical staff, he hovered over himself, being drawn upward. James resisted the pull, his work on earth incomplete, and descended into himself.
His first thought as his eyes opened, the doctors surround him?