Proof of Life, Beyond the Veil Mysteries
Release date: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Write Choice Ink
Print pages: 304
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Behind the book
When my daughter was killed by her boyfriend in 2000, I needed to know what happens next. It was a great comfort to learn that there is life after earth and the people we love are still very much involved with us. In 2017 I realized that I needed to write a book about a young woman who discovers she can communicate with the so-called dead. And then I realized that young woman was Jessica from my book, What She Saw. And then, I was told by three different mediums that my daughter, Jennifer, would be channeling the book through me.
And, she did.
Proof of Life, Beyond the Veil Mysteries
Jessica Mack’s head hit the windshield, killing her instantly.
Her spirit hovered for a few moments, making the adjustment before detaching from her body and rising higher and higher above the cliff. High enough to see the twisted guardrail where the Camry had gone airborne, rolling over and over until it came to rest at the bottom of the steep canyon. High enough to see the driver of the eighteen-wheeler they had hit park his big rig on the shoulder of the highway and jump down from the cab, his yellow slicker a neon point of color in the night.
In defiance of the torrential rain, a smoky plume drifted over what was left of the Camry’s engine compartment. Where her head had connected, the passenger side windshield was reduced to a spiderweb of glass mesh. Probing the moonless night, not finding what she was looking for, Jessica saw only her husband, full of alcohol and road rage, struggling up the cliff, clinging to the manzanita and scrub brush.
Justin! Justin, where are you?
At the very moment her child’s name entered her mind, a tunnel of blinding white light opened in the heavens. From her new and unfamiliar perspective, Jessica witnessed the luminescent spirit emerge from the small body strapped into its safety seat, and begin to ascend. She tried to call out to him, but like a dreamer whose voice fails to produce sound in the dream, her vocal cords were as unresponsive as the physical shell she had left behind.
Wait, Justin. Wait for me.
Entering the tunnel, the spirit child moved toward a knot of hazy figures waiting on the other side.
No, don’t go—
They reached out to welcome him across, waving to let his mother know he had arrived safely, and the tunnel, contracting to a pinpoint, disappeared as if it had never been.
“Dear One, you must go back.”
No words were spoken aloud, but Jessica became conscious of a shimmering presence—a magnificent Being dressed in pure white robes and bathed in golden light as bright as the sun.
Although its features were indistinct, she sensed it smiling at her with great tenderness as it connected with her mind, impressing thoughts upon her. Instinctively recognizing that the Being knew her completely, she opened herself to the connection without reservation.
Are you an angel? Am I dead?
“You might call me an angel, or a messenger.”
Where has Justin gone? Why can’t I go with him?
“This is not your time. There is work for you to do on earth.”
But I don’t want to go back. My baby needs me.
“He will never leave you, Dear One. He will be cared for, and at the proper time you will be together again.”
She wanted to resist, to argue and insist that no one could care for her son the way she could. Yet, in the deepest reaches of her soul, she knew that the Being spoke the truth. Justin would be protected and cherished, even without her presence.
An impossible choice, to let him go. But making that choice for his sake, she was at once swathed in unconditional love more profound than anything she could have imagined. Glorious, incredible music permeated her soul. She was the music. She was part of the energy of every living thing—every animal, every plant, every element. And she knew she was being shown what Justin would experience infinitely, cared for in the Light.
As that understanding registered, as if cresting the highest roller coaster on earth and rocketing down the other side at breakneck speed, Jessica found herself shocked back into her physical body. A body wracked with searing pain. A heart broken by the unspeakable loss of her son. And the utter wretchedness of being separated from the Light.
The whispers, quiet but incessant, started soon after Jessica awoke from a two-week coma.
For five years she kept them at bay.
Now, they refused to be silenced any longer.
Irene Anderson Arts on Main was one of several boutique galleries in downtown Ventura. Its high-ceilinged airiness and polished teak floor made it the one Jessica Mack loved the best.
She backed through the entry door, cradling a pink cake box as carefully as if it held the Crown Jewels, immediately becoming aware of the magnetic pull of her client’s eagerness to see what she had brought. Even before Irene called out, “I can’t wait to see it,” Jessica knew she was in for a warm reception.
The box contained no pastries; its contents were far more lasting and interesting to a patron of local artists like Irene Anderson. Jessica set it on the countertop and took a step back. Scarcely before it had touched down on the glass, the gallery owner lifted the lid with a murmur of satisfaction and a pleased smile.
“Oh, Jess, It’s exquisite.”
Jessica forced a smile in return. Irene’s excitement made it the slightest bit easier to part with the miniature English garden housed in a vintage jewelry box, but it still hurt like a bastard.
Every piece she created was infused with particles of her soul, which made it hard to be pragmatic about handing one over to a new owner. But as her hardheaded father had been fond of saying, “When the belly is empty, love flies out the window.” And as much as she would like to pretend otherwise, the insurance money from the accident wouldn’t last forever and the bills would keep coming. She knew she was lucky that her art was a reliable source of income.
“Would you look at that gown,” Irene gushed.” How in the world did you sew lace that tiny?”
What could she say in response? Would Irene want to know that Jessica had been lost for days, sculpting the matchstick-sized Edwardian lady in her wide-brimmed hat, the tangle of roses and hollyhocks climbing the trellis arch, the crocus, lavender, heliotrope; the wren perched on the rim of a sundial? Or, that the pink satin afternoon dress and gold lace jacket had been a bitch to sew, but at long last, when the lady was sitting at her table, a delicate tea cup held to teeny-tiny lips, it had been worth all the fingers pricked with a super-sharp needle?
Irene, voluble as usual, wasn’t waiting for an answer. “You can almost smell the scent of the flowers. And the cookies! And that little tabby cat—it’s just charming.” Her smile widened. “You’re so talented, Jess. I can’t imagine a more wonderful spot to sit and have tea than that garden.”
Jessica thanked her and picked up the empty box. “I’m so glad you like it. I’ll be—”
Oh, no. Not now. Please not now.
“Jessica? Are you all right?”
Irene’s voice was coming from miles away, as distorted as though she was talking through layers of crinkly aluminum foil. “Hon? You’re white as a—”
The sound in Jessica’s ears had started as a low whistle and was getting louder. She knew what came next and dreaded the blurring of her vision, the high-pitched shriek that would follow.
A soft voice whispered, “…my grandma.”
Leave me alone.
She tried to answer Irene, but her tongue had grown thick and sluggish in her mouth.
“Tell her I’m here.”
The sculptures on the display stands, the seascapes on the walls were growing hazy. Her hands, alien things attached to arms that refused to obey, let the cake box clatter to the floor.
Get out of here. Now.
She still had some control over her legs. Jessica lurched across the gallery and through the front door, pushing past a startled customer on his way in. Grateful for the parking space right outside the storefront, she fumbled the key fob from her pocket and pointed it at the Mini Cooper.
Focus on the breath. Her therapist’s instructions were deeply imprinted on her brain and had become automatic. Focus on the breath until the noise stops and the darkness fades.
Collapsing into the driver’s seat, the darkness only she could see was almost complete.
Breathe in slowly to the count of four. Hold it. Out to the count of four.
Ninety seconds passed. She counted each one, blessing silence when it fell, then checking in to make sure she knew who she was. The answer came on a flood of relief: I’m Jessica Mack. I live in Ventura, California. Breathe. In. Out. I have an identical twin sister named Jenna Sparks.
Facts she had not always known.
Breathe. In. Out.
Dying in the accident and coming back to life without her child had changed Jessica in fundamental ways that were beyond her ability to put into words. A few months after that unfathomable loss, her twin sister had been kidnapped, triggering the onset of retrograde amnesia. For a time, Jessica had lost virtually every part of what made her who she was.
The episodes, which were a secret she had shared with no one but her therapist, began after she left the hospital, usually when she was stressing. Dr. Gold called them syncope, which sounded almost romantic. But there was nothing romantic in randomly blacking out.
Until a few weeks ago, she had simply waited out the shrieky whine and fading vision, which were usually over in a matter of seconds. Lately, though, the episodes had exploded out of control.
And then, there were the whispers.
Jessica counted down two more minutes. The violent trembling calmed. Her respirations slowed. Through the gallery window, she could see Irene and her customer chatting, repeatedly glancing her way. Discussing her weird behavior seemed like a good guess. They probably thought she’d had a seizure. Let them think it. It was easier to accept than the truth—that dead people were talking to her.
Making her way along busy Main Street, the last thing she wanted to do was go home and deal with what was happening to her. Instead, driving past the antique shops and thrift shops and restaurants, she hooked a right at California and a left at Harbor.
Thanks to the June gloom—what Southern Californians called it when the sun hid under a marine layer until mid-afternoon—parking at the beach was, for once, easy.
Jessica climbed out of the Mini and inhaled a lungful of seaweed-scented air. Walking north on the Promenade, she passed the pier and the playground in the sand—both closed—no children swinging or climbing on the brightly colored equipment on the cheerless afternoon. The homeless folk who frequented the area were nowhere to be found. Even the ground squirrels that acted like they owned the place were in hiding, waiting for better weather before they popped out of their burrows to forage among the boulders for peanuts and other treats.
She stopped to watch the tide rush over the rocks to the barrier wall, sending spray high into the air. Lifting her face to meet the stinging drops that fell like rain, there was a perverse pleasure in the discomfort of cold water on her hair and skin.
Jessica started jogging, trying to outrun the whispers and other things she would sooner not think about, but her twin’s voicemail refused to stop playing in her head: “There’s nothing more painful than losing a child, Jess, but it’s been five years. Don’t you think it would get easier if you could just face the truth and stop pretending it didn’t happen?”
“Face what?” Jessica had shot back at the phone, as if Jenna could hear her. “That my husband’s drunken road rage stole my son’s life? Is five years supposed to be some kind of milestone?”
She had faced that truth every goddamned day for one-thousand, eight-hundred and twenty-five of them. She wasn’t pretending anything. Anniversaries came and went, never easy. And yes, this one was even worse than the four that preceded it. Maybe it was a milestone after all—one that reflected the misery that lived on in the cold, hard lump where her beating heart used to be.
Jessica had emerged from the coma asking the question nobody wanted to answer: what about Justin? Of course, she knew. Impossible for a mother bereft of her child not to know that he was no longer breathing the same air; that the atoms and molecules that made up his physical form had ceased to exist. Why memorialize the anniversary of the day she had lost her child—his third birthday—when it was with her every minute of every day?
The day after checking out of the hospital, she had filed for divorce. Nine months later—an irony not lost on her—Jessica had attended her ex-husband’s trial on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Jenna had sat beside her, holding her hand through the three-day case; had cried with her through the truck driver’s testimony and the crime scene photos of the wrecked car; the car seat with Justin’s lifeless body strapped into it. Her own blood on the windshield.
She had gladly waived her right not to testify against a spouse. Greg, like too many drunks whose irresponsible actions cause fatal crashes, had suffered no significant injury. Jessica had sat in the witness chair sobbing uncontrollably while her ex-husband looked away as she talked about losing their child.
The judge’s stern words rang in Jessica’s ears: “Mr. Mack, I am appalled by your reckless disregard for your family’s lives. You, and you alone, caused serious injuries to your wife and the death of your young son. I wish I had the power to double the maximum sentence. Ten years is nowhere near punishment enough for what you caused.”
Finally, tired of running, Jessica sank onto a bench at Surfer’s Point. On most days, the ocean sparkled like diamonds on blue silk. Today, it was the color of a Brillo pad and matched her mood.
The tips of her ears burned with cold. Pulling the neck of her sweater up over her nose and mouth, she breathed into the wool, imagining Justin sitting beside her. He would be bouncing up and down, thrilled to see the die-hard surfers flouting the foul weather, riding their boards on the rough waves, looking like tasty shark snacks in their black wetsuits.
Her little boy had loved splashing in the ocean. She and Jenna would each take a small hand and dangle him above the shoreline ripples while he whooped in delight. Or let him paddle in a tide pool under watchful eyes, protecting him from danger. Today, his birthday, she would have given him a boogie board to get started. Her mind skittered away from what might have been to what was.
She should have protected him from the biggest danger of all—his father.
Perpetual self-recrimination was a form of penance and a bad habit. But no one else was going to say that Justin’s death was her fault, even if they secretly believed it. Jessica closed her eyes and focused on the soothing white noise of the ocean’s roar, the steady whooshing of waves running up to the shore and slipping away again. The soothing back and forth, back and forth was better than a massage. The muscles in her shoulders relaxed and she started to drift…
The sun is a glittering golden disk in an almost cloudless sky the color of Justin’s eyes. One cottony puff follows two boys playing football. They run down the field shouting to each other, kicking the ball, coming closer to her.
The way the smaller boy moves, the familiar way he laughs…she reaches out to him with her mind. “Come over here, please. I need to see you.”
The boy turns and runs toward her, his eyes—the same blue as the sky—alight with mischief. An achingly impish grin. He’s five years older now, growing up without her.
“I’m fine, Mom,” he yells to her. “You don’t have to worry about me.” With a cheery wave, he kicks the ball to the other boy.
She calls out again: “Justin, come back.”
But her son dissolves like sugar in water, leaving the other boy alone with her and her mangled heart.
She yearns for her child, but this other boy needs something from her. When she beckons to him, he runs to her, head bowed. In front of her now, he lifts his face and a strangled scream bursts from her mouth. She stares into empty eye sockets and melted flesh, scarred and terrible.
Bewildered, Jessica found herself staring at the churning ocean. What happened to the sunshine-drenched field? The two boys? Justin? Had she fallen asleep and been dreaming? No. The boy with the melted face was real. He had died in a fire. Somehow, she knew it was true. Questions rolled like film credits:
Who was he?
Why did he show himself that way?
Will I see Justin again?
“Hey. Hey, lady. Are you okay?”
Jessica jumped up and swung around to the man, straddling a bicycle, looking at her with concern. Unkempt wavy brown-grey hair escaped from a short ponytail made him look like the wild version of Einstein. No helmet; she noticed that. Scorning the chilly temperature, he wore cargo shorts with a sweatshirt, and sandals.
“Are you okay?” he repeated.
Mortified, Jessica tried to shake loose the horrifying image of the boy in her dream—or whatever it was. To an onlooker, she must seem unhinged, screaming at nothing anyone else could see. What did he think she was going to do? Climb over the railing into the water and drown herself? She could hardly blame him if he did.
Resting his bike on its kickstand, the man came around the bench to where she stood, trembling. “Want me to call 911?”
She shook her head. “Please don’t. I’m fine.” He didn’t need to know that her temples were throbbing, her stomach jumping.
He shook his untidy head. “I hate to say it, lady, but you don’t look fine. You ought to sit down, take it easy for a minute.”
He was right. Wordlessly, Jessica followed his advice and he took a seat on the bench next to her. She was conscious of him speaking, but her mind was back on the two boys. The impact of that ruined young face had thrust her out of the vision too soon. There had been no time to hear the message he wanted to give her.
“Message? You’re imagining things again.”
The snarky voice in her head was different from the whispers. This one had lived with her for most of her life, nitpicking without mercy, and always when she was at her most vulnerable. It sounded a lot like her mother.
Snapping herself out of it, Jessica saw worry in the man’s kind, hazel eyes and summoned a small smile. “I’m okay, thanks. I just need to eat.” As she said the words, she realized she could not remember her last meal. Lunch, yesterday? Maybe. No wonder she was spacing out.
“If you say so,” he sounded less than convinced. “By the way, I’m Jay.” He held out his hand.
His big paw closed around hers. “Nice to meet you, Jessica. Seriously, is there anything I can do to help?”
“Uh uh; but thanks for stopping to check. That was nice of you.”
“No problemo, senorita.” With a friendly wink, he rose from the bench and climbed back on his bicycle. “Dr. Jay prescribes hot soup, and the sooner the better.”
Jessica got up, too. “I will. Thanks again.”
Watching his broad back fade into the distance, tears welled in Jessica’s eyes. Tears for the burned boy. Tears for Justin, who had taken the best part of her to the Afterlife. Tears for herself, a young woman with a head crowded full of unwelcome voices and visions.
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