Shasta Moran’s reoccurring nightmare:
Shasta scanned the frozen snow covered lake. The cold north wind picked up shards of icy snow pelting her face. Ignoring the sting, she squints through the sunlight reflecting off the ice. Watching, waiting, wondering, “Will Bill surface through the broken ice?”
While the pelting snow mixes with her tears, it happens. Off in the distance, Bill crawls up out of the icy water through an opening in the ice, pauses then sprints toward her. Moments before reaching her, he transforms into a Chocolate Labrador Retriever. She awakens as the dog jumps toward her.
“BILL!” Shasta jerks up in bed. Shaking, sweating, heart pounding, breath racing, the vivid dread replays on Shasta’s mind. The haunting reality: Shasta escaped. Bill did not.
Her love, her husband, William Henry Moran, was gone forever. Three years of blissful marriage turned tragedy. Hopes and dreams replaced by emptiness, grief, and tears.
“Dear God, I don’t understand. Why did this has happened to us?”
Another night of interrupted sleep. Shasta sits up, reaching for the TV remote, she turns on the TV. Shadows like ghouls dance across the room from the glow. Lying next to Shasta and wagging her tail, Mercy looks up at her. Shasta reaches across the bed and pets her.
The infomercial distracts her for but a moment. The mares continue to race through her head. Her thoughts drift to the accident. Shasta whispers into the silence, “Bill. You ice fished this area with your dad since boyhood. You knew the risks. Why? Why did we need to drive out onto the ice?”
Feeling guilty, Shasta sighed, “Why am I angry with you? I know that your excitement overruled your better judgment that day. Your eyes lit up like a little boy’s every time you mentioned us ice fishing together. I finally caved in. Why didn’t I tell you the truth?”
Shasta flipped the channel. Another late night infomercial blasted from the screen. This one was “How to Instantly Lose Belly Fat with the Flab-O-Matic.”
“Bill, my reluctance was not because I didn’t want to be with you; But because I was afraid of falling through the ice.”
After finding “The Notebook” on another channel, Shasta drifted back to sleep.
An unusually mild winter kept the ice fisherman off the lake. With two good weeks of sub-zero temperatures, Bill speculated that conditions were ripe. He convinced Shasta that it was safe.
They had arrived at his usual fishing spot. Bill jumped out of the truck and grabbed his auger and tools from his mounted tool chest. While inspecting for the best drill spot, he heard an eery sound. Fractures formed around their vehicle. “Honey, get back in the truck, NOW!” He threw his tools into the bed and jumped into the driver’s seat.
Shasta frantically rolled down her window to look at the cracking ice. As Bill eased into motion the ice gave way. The front end plunged first into the lake, water rushed to the top of the doors and poured in.
Shasta crawled through the open window into the icy water then swam to the widening edge. Her strength quickly sapped by the cold water. Weighed down by her soaked clothes, she could not pull herself out of the frigid water.
Clinging to the ice with only her head, chest, and arms out of the frigid water, Shasta’s body temperature quickly dropped, and Hypothermia set in.
Vaguely she remembered a dog, possibly a lab running up to her, barking at her. The dog grabbed her coat sleeve into its mouth and pulled on her.
A few moments later, a man ran up, “Shasta, I am here to help you.” That was the last thing she remembered.
Confusion at Our Sisters of Grace Hospital:
Shasta opened her eyes to strange sounds. She glanced to her right. A petite woman hovered over a touch screen computer on a roll around cart. Preoccupied with typing, she was too busy to notice Shasta was awake. The woman wore a purple flowery top, purple pants, and purple sneakers.
“Where am I?”
The woman looked over her shoulder, smiled and said, “You are in Our Sisters of Grace Hospital. I am Violet, the shift clinician. I am one of your care providers. Let me find Scarlett the shift nurse. She wanted to know the moment that you were awake.”
While moving around, Shasta noticed the prick of the IV and the weight of all the wires and tubes dangling from her body. Her movement also set off noises, beeps, and alarms.
She wondered, “Where is Bill?”
With the grace of a ballroom dancer, Scarlett, a tall, lithe woman came gliding into the room. Shasta noticed that Scarlett wore a red flowery top, red pants and red sneakers. Scarlett broke out in an energetic smile. Her presence immediately brightened the room. “Welcome back to the land of the living! You gave us a scare. You nearly died on us from severe hypothermia.”
Noticing the tangled mess, Scarlett unraveled the IV and wires attached to Shasta. “Mrs. Moran, you are quite the mystery. You left the paramedics perplexed. When they arrived, you were in an abandoned old Ford Fiesta parked at Ausable Point. No one was around. You were unconscious. A friendly dog hovered over you protectively in the passenger side front seat. Who made the call? You?”
Shasta responded, “No. The paramedics didn’t speak with my rescuer? All I remember is a dog running up to me while I was in the water. The dog grabbed my left sleeve, then started pulling on me. A man came moments behind the dog. Though he was a stranger, somehow he knew my name. That is the last thing I remember before waking up here. ”
Scarlett shook her head in disbelief, “Huh! Terry, the paramedic, said based on your condition when they found you, the paramedics do not believe you walked to the vehicle by yourself. The 9–1–1 dispatch has no record of a call. The Fire Department swears they received a dispatch. How else would they know where to find you?”
Shasta said, “I honestly don’t know, but has anyone heard anything about my husband, Bill? Is he admitted here?”
Scarlett smiled reassuringly patting Shasta’s arm “Honey, I will find out where he is and get back with you. As far as I know, no other the hospital admitted no other Morans.”
Scarlett checked Shasta’s vitals and made notes on the computer. As she walked out, she looked back at Shasta, “I am going to inform Dr. Bellevue that you are awake. Your husband’s name again?”
Shasta replied, “William Henry Moran. Thank you.”
Awake for only a few minutes, Shasta was already fatigued. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
A Mysterious Visitation
Opening her eyes, Shasta saw a man silently sitting and watching her. With salt and pepper hair and beard, he looked about mid-fifties. Shasta immediately noticed his deep blue eyes. In those eyes, she sensed a deep well filled with wisdom, love, and compassion.
He sat forward and smiled when he saw Shasta stir. “I am so glad to see you alive and awake. How are you?”
Shasta asked, “Are you, Dr. Bellevue?”
The man shook his head no, “Do you remember anything?”
Shasta said, “Not much.”
The man continued, “I am Hyland Powers. Mercy and I pulled you out of the water. Mercy is a Chocolate Lab that I befriended that morning at the lake. She had no collar, so I named her Mercy. Something in her eyes told me she was a merciful and loving dog in need of a companion.”
Hyland then recounted Shasta’s rescue, “While I watched, Mercy went out onto the ice to play. She stopped, barked at me, then took off running. A pickup that was sitting several hundred yards out on the ice had disappeared. Mercy raced in that direction. I grabbed the toboggan sled that I promised to the orphanage.”
“When I reached you, Mercy and I pulled you out of the water. I rolled you onto the sled then pulled you to shore. To get you out of the elements, I put you inside an abandoned car. Mercy jumped in with you. Instinctively she knew you needed warmth. You mumbled for me to rescue Bill. So I went out searching.”
A long moment of awkward silence as Hyland gathered his thoughts. Gently reaching over, he placed his hand on Shasta’s arm. Hyland’s eyes teared up as he spoke, “Shasta, I am deeply sorry. Bill did not make it out of the truck. The seatbelt latch hung up.”
Shasta burst into tears and cried, “It is my fault! I should have refused to drive onto the ice!”
Hyland interjected, “Shasta! Don’t blame yourself. Bill was an experienced fisherman who made a poor decision. Experienced people make errors in judgment sometimes. The important thing to remember is that Bill loved you with all his heart. Hang onto that!”
Hyland paused for a few moments for Shasta to process, “When the divers pulled Bill out of the water, It was too late. The medical examiner reported that Bill suffered a heart attack from the shock of the icy water. He died before drowning. He had an undiagnosed genetic heart condition.”
Broken hearted, the tears gushed down her cheeks for what seemed like forever.
As a father would his daughter, he reached over and cradled her while the grief poured out of her. She Sobbed herself asleep.
An Unwelcome Visitor
Shasta awakened to voices. She heard Violet quietly scolding a man, “Detective O’Malley, please return when Mrs. Moran has recovered.”
Noticing Shasta’s eyes open, the detective glanced over the top of Violet’s head, “Miss, do you have but a moment? I have just a few questions so that I can complete my report. We know that your husband’s death is an unfortunate accident.”
Shasta eyeballed the man. He had watery, bloodshot, gray eyes, rosy cheeks, and a red veiny bulbous nose. She surmised that he had participated in too many happy hours.
“Violet, it’s okay. The detective may have answers about my husband’s death.”
A caricature of a bygone era from a 1970s TV show, O’Malley wore a wrinkly gray suit, white shirt, with a yellow tie. In his left shirt pocket was a pack of non-filtered generic cigarettes. Reaching behind the cigarette pack, he retrieved a stubbed pencil and a note pad.
“You don’t mind?” Without waiting for a response from Shasta, the detective sat down in a chair next to her bed. The odor of stale cigarettes and alcohol drifted her way.
O’Malley looked down at his notes, “The ambulance driver reported that they found you in an abandoned car. Ahhhhh located on the road to Ausable Beach. Is that correct?” O’Malley looked up at Shasta for her response.
She nodded, “Yes, that is what I have heard.”
O’Malley returned to his notes, “A stray Chocolate Labrador Retriever was sitting on your lap?” Again he looked up at Shasta.
“Detective I do not remember very much.”
Not to be deterred, O’Malley continued. “I will read you what I have. If anything comes to mind, let me know.”
Frustration written on Shasta’s face, she sighed and shook her head for him to continue.
“So Mrs. Moran, in the paramedic’s report you were unconsciousness when they found you, but you did mumble something about a man looking for Bill. The dive rescue team arrived shortly after the ambulance. No one else was on the scene. How did you get from the accident site to the vehicle and who rescued you?”
“Mr. Hyland Powers and his dog rescued me. He visited me earlier and told me the story.” Shasta recounted everything that he had told her. While listening, O’Malley scribbled notes furiously.
Scarlett had walked in. She overheard Shasta telling the detective that Hyland Powers had visited. “That is odd; I have been on shift for ten hours. I don’t recall anyone visiting you.” She glanced over at Violet who confirmed no visitors. “Shasta, are you sure?”
Scarlett scowled at the detective, “That is, you have had no authorized visitors. The detective barged in uninvited.”
O’Malley scowled back at the nurse.
Shasta could not believe what she was hearing, “How can that be? I remember him in my room as plain as you are here now. How else do I know the details of my rescue? The report says that I was in severe hypothermia and unconscious when the ambulance arrived.”
Shasta looked down. “How else do I know about Bill’s death?”
Scarlett sighed, “You have a point. I will recheck the visitor’s log. Do you remember about what time Mr. Powers visited?”
Shasta shook her head no.
As she exited the room, Scarlett said, “I will check the visitor’s log right now before I forget.”
The detective wrote some more notes, closed his notebook then said, “Well that should about do it. I will follow up on this Hyland Powers character. He may be able to fill in some of the blanks.”
The detective stood up to leave then sighed, “It’s too bad about that dog. She sounds like a good one. Because she had no collar animal control took her to the pound. If no one claims her, she will get put to sleep.”
Shasta’s eyes widened, “NO! They can’t do that! She saved my life! When will they euthanize her?”
Detective O’Malley replied, “I believe this weekend.”
Shasta exclaimed, “I need to get out of this hospital. I will not allow them to kill her. I will adopt her myself.”
Six months after the accident:
The nightmares gradually stopped.
While sitting on the couch with her legs pulled up to one side, Shasta looked at her wedding pictures, reminisced, grieved with tears streaming. Mercy was on the couch next to her. Her head on Shasta’s lap, staring up at her.
Shasta thought, “If not for Mercy, I don’t know how I would have survived with Bill gone.” Something in Mercy’s eyes reminded her of Hyland Powers. With her other hand, Shasta caressed the top of Mercy’s head. A comforting thought crossed her mind, “In my tragedy, I found Mercy.”
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
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