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May 24, 2013

Excerpt from Lifeboat by AB Shepherd

Excerpt from science fiction/suspense novel Lifeboat by A.B. Shepherd


Five Years Earlier

Rural South Australia

I remembered the argument, but I didn’t remember the crash itself. I was told the b-double pulverized the driver’s side of our car, as Mick made a left turn onto the road that would take us home. The truck driver should have stopped. He hydroplaned out of control.

They said it was a miracle I wasn’t killed along with Mick and Michael.

A miracle. Right. What kind of miracle ripped out your heart, and left you breathing?

Their miracle left me with no heart, no life, and a limp that would never leave me. Folks said I was lucky to be alive. If I were lucky, I’d have died along with my husband and son.

The next thing I remembered after the crash, was waking up with pain in every cell of my body. I was in a hospital bed, with tubes sticking out of my arm, and a cast on my leg that went all the way up to my hip. My mum slept in a chair by my bedside. There was another bed in the room, but it was empty. I heard voices coming from the corridor.

“Mum,” I tried to say, but my throat was sore and dry. I couldn’t get the word out properly. I worked my mouth, trying to build up a little saliva, then swallowed to wet my throat. I tried again. “Mum,” I croaked. My mum startled awake at the sound of my voice.

“Cassie!” she cried. “Oh thank God you’re awake!” She gripped my hand, squeezing it hard as tears ran down her face.

“Mum, that hurts,” I gasped.

“Oh my love, I’m sorry. I’ve just been so worried,” she said, tears welling in her eyes as she loosened her grip without letting go.

“What happened? Where’s Mick? Where’s Michael?” I asked, desperate to know my husband and son were okay.

“I need to let them know you’re awake,” she exclaimed. Ignoring my questions she dashed from the room.

“Mum!” I called after her, but she was out of sight.

A middle-aged nurse in a uniform consisting of a green blouse, navy skirt and flat navy work shoes entered the room briskly.“Hullo love. Finally decided to wake up, have we?” she chirped. “Well, let’s have a look at you then.”

She drew a thermometer out of her pocket, and popped it in my mouth. She then bustled around the bed, pulling out a blood pressure cuff which she wrapped around my arm, pumping the nozzle until it squeezed tight. Tucking the end of her stethoscope under its edge, she grasped my wrist and looked at her watch.

I pulled the thermometer out of my mouth, and said, “Wait. I need to know what’s happened to my son, and my husband. Are they okay?”

She ignored my question until she’d gotten the reading she was looking for. Then she grasped the thermometer out of my hand, shook it, and popped it back in my mouth again.

“You need to leave this in until it beeps. I need to get your temperature.” She made some notes on a piece of paper. “As for the rest, all in good time love. All in good time. Are you in pain?”

I nodded. She made an adjustment to a machine attached to the tubes in my arm, and the bag of fluid hanging above it. She handed me a little bit of plastic with a button on it. “When you are hurting, you can push this button. It will release medication to ease your pain,” she said.

The thermometer beeped and she removed it, noting its reading. “The doctor will be in before long to examine you. In the meantime, we’ll let your family know they can come see you,” she sang as she exited the room.

My family. Mick and Michael. I waited anxiously, watching the tiny bit of corridor I could see from my bed. Waiting for Mick to walk through the door, and flash me the smile I loved.

My dad and my brothers entered the room.

“Cassiel!” my dad cried out.

He’s the only one who ever called me by my full name. As he stood next to the bed, his hands moved awkwardly looking for a place to light. It was as if he wanted to touch me, yet he was afraid he’d somehow hurt me, so he refrained.

Jack and Jake were oddly silent. These two boys - men now I guessed - were never quiet. They always jostled each other, or bickered, even as adults. Competing in that way common to twins. Their stillness frightened me more than anything else.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Where are Mick and Michael?” I asked. The boys wouldn’t meet my eyes. They looked everywhere, but at me. They shuffled their feet awkwardly.

“Dad?” I asked.

“Cassiel, my darling daughter, I don’t know how to say this. How to tell you this,” my dad started. His eyes watered, and his hands shook.

“Tell me what dad?” I started trembling. I knew it couldn’t be good or he wouldn’t be so upset. The boys focused their eyes on dad. They still wouldn’t look at me.

Tears streamed down my dad’s face. I’d never seen my dad cry before.

A sense of foreboding filled me. My chest tightened. I couldn’t breathe.

“Cassiel, do you remember what happened?” My dad asked, tears falling from his chin onto my hand.

“We were driving home from the Show. It was raining hard. Did we crash?” I frowned, trying to remember.

“Yes darling, you crashed,” he answered, his face wet. More tears hung from his chin. Others dripped onto his shirt, leaving damp splotches. I watched them in fascination.

“Michael and Mick didn’t make it darling. But we were very lucky. You did.” He said.

“What did you say?” I asked. I refocused my eyes to his. A rushing sound filled my ears. I couldn’t have heard him right.

“I said we are very lucky to have you with us Cassiel.”

“No. Before that.”

He drew a deep, shuddering, breath, before repeating, “Michael and Mick didn’t make it. They were killed in the crash.”

Even my brothers had tears raining down their fuzzy cheeks. My mum stood in the doorway to the corridor, also watching me with reddened, wet eyes.


My mum rushed to my bedside, and tried to gather the bit of me she could reach into her arms. “I’m so sorry darling,” she crooned. “I’m so, so sorry.” My face was buried in her shoulder, but I did not cry. Not then. Even as every member of my family cried.

It was too unreal. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want it to be true.

I did what the nurse had told me to do. The bit of plastic was still in my hand. I hurt so badly. The pain was unbearable.

I pushed the button. Soon the world faded away, as I succumbed to sleep with my face still buried in my mum’s shoulder.

About the author:

A.B. Shepherd grew up in Lansing, Michigan, but moved to Australia once her children had grown and empty nest syndrome set in.
She now lives in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia, with her husband and their imaginary friends.
A.B. loves living near the Southern Ocean and often finds it inspiring. She can usually be found seaside at Port MacDonnell, or lost in a fantasy world.
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  1. I should be shot. I never bothered to thank you for posting this excerpt Donna. So here it is - officially - THANK YOU! :D