TMI with T-I-M, WRITER SHOWCASE: F. William Lester

It’s ME, It’s HIM… it’s T-I-M writing to you once again from sunny Las Vegas, NV. I recently opened submissions for the sequel to my horror anthologies: MODERN MADNESS. Unfortunately, F. William Lester submitted a really great story but slightly under my cut-off for the book. After talking it over with the editor we decided I should do something for the guy to get eyeballs on his work as it most certainly does not suck!


Here’s my brief chat with the writer followed by his short spook story. Enjoy!




I’ve been writing for 17 years. Interesting, because I hated English and writing, and probably read four books cover-to-cover by the time I got out of college. In fact, I took bone-head English in college because it was required. Fast forward to 9/11, 2001, and someone very close to me survived ground zero. It was the turning point in my writing career and proved to me that I had the ability to tell a good story.




The 2010 Haiti earthquake, I remember watching a rescue operation on the news where a woman was buried beneath the rubble and she talked to her husband or son while they dug her out. One of our greatest fears is being crushed to death or buried alive, so I wrote about someone who suffers that fate and finds redemption in the process.




An outstanding question, Philosophically, I don’t see my career in the same light as someone beginning at a younger age. Forgive me, but I’ll be 72 at the end of this month. I have two stents in my heart and two more arteries candidates for stenting. I have no regrets or excuses. If I’m still upright in 5 years, I intend to be writing. So…where do I see myself in 5 years–a better writer than I am today. I’m in the process of completing my first book. I have 6 or 7 more in the wings and God knows how many short stories and essays. While I have the physical and mental ability, behind my computer is where I plan to be.




No. I find it interesting that my closest opportunity so far at getting something published should be in a genre I never intended to write–that is until you challenged us to write outside of comfort zone. Good advice. I don’t know a lot about Comic Cons, but maybe there’s a place there for my writing.




Unfortunately, nothing at the moment, I have a lot in the works, but nothing presentable. I retired from the military in ’91 and the state in ’12. Over the last 6 years, I’ve done my most writing. There have been a couple of age-related interruptions and the majority of the time I’ve spent on my book, which I hope to have ready by the first of July. Then it’s on to new projects.


Writing has been an enjoyable journey. It has kept me mentally young and certainly improved my life.




A man is rescued alive from the ruins following an earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

The Wreck of the 4:06

By F. William Lester



Wesley Rokka was dying, albeit not in the traditional sense. Stuffed into the cramped back seat of a local taxi, he struggled to stretch his long legs. Knees pushed together, pressing against his chest, he sweltered. Sans air conditioning, the open windows were nothing more than fans circulating the searing blast of a large furnace. The crisp, pressed suit he donned at the beginning of his journey hung damp and limp, the precise creases matted against his pale skin. He rolled his head against the back of the seat, perspiration cascading off his face in tiny rivulets. Body odor wafting throughout the cab magnified his discomfort.

“Is this your first visit, my friend?” the front-seat passenger asked over his shoulder. A thin black beard bordered his olive face. Dressed in light pants and a loose-fitting tan shirt, his cool, dark eyes expressed a genuine concern for Rokka’s condition.

“No,” was Rokka’s terse reply.

“It is a truly difficult time of the year to travel. This weather does make one miserable.”

“As does unwanted conversation.”

“Please forgive me. I was only trying….”

“You’re not helping. I don’t know how you people can stand to live in this ungodly environment—too many people…horrid roads…dust…unbearable heat. The sooner I leave, the better.”

The driver shot a disapproving glance in his rearview mirror at his malcontented passenger.

“I pray that you will soon be comfortable,” the passenger rejoined.

No reply came from the back seat and nothing more was said for the remainder of the trip.

The taxi jostled its way through the crush of humanity and eclectic modes of transportation. Sandwiched between the ancient clay walls of the city, amongst innumerable stalls selling wares of every conceivable size, shape, and color on streets unaware of the advance of time, the taxi plodded towards its destination.

The taxi stopped the hotel’s breezeway. Miserable, unable, and uncaring enough to attempt to understand the monetary system, Rokka tossed a handful of bills onto the front seat and hurried into the lobby. His fellow passenger handed his fare to the driver, thanking him for his patience and service. The driver politely refused the small gratuity included in the payment. Instead, he wished the passenger well and would ask God to watch over him while he was a guest. The passenger returned the politeness, retrieved his small case, and followed the disgruntled Rokka into the hotel.

The lobby was simple but clean. A single elevator was located at the far end, built with little forethought of the expanding girth of passengers and baggage. A narrow set of stairs exited to the left of the elevator. The combination of dark green linoleum floors and pinkish beige walls made it difficult to linger for more than a few moments. Despite these shortcomings, it was spotless and the staff pleasant.

The air conditioning had ceased working. Rokka stood at the counter complaining to the clerk.

“What do you mean the air conditioning is out? What is it with you people? Can’t you keep something as simple as an air conditioner running? It’s not the cutting edge of technology!”

“I’m sorry,” the clerk proffered. “The main generator is offline. We have been without electricity for several hours. I promise you everything will be back to normal shortly.”

“Fine, I still don’t want to be on the bottom floor. It’s too hot and noisy. Maybe a room on an upper floor toward the back.”

“I apologize, sir. I don’t have any other rooms. I am embarrassed to be unable to help you.”

A sharp jolt rocked the lobby. A lamp crashed to the floor. Several occupants dispersed into the street. Others stood motionless, waiting for another shock. The floor rumbled and moaned, and then quieted. The clerk released his white-knuckled grip from the counter’s edge. He cleared his throat, adjusted his tie, and looked back to Rokka, a sagging smile pinned to his pallid face.

“I’m sorry, sir. We have had many tremors over the last several days. They are becoming less, though, and you need not worry. Soon we will have everything running as it should.”

Rokka blew out an exasperated sigh. A strange hand touched his shoulder. He jerked it free, turned and glared at the owner. The unassuming smile and simple nod of his fellow passenger from the taxi greeted Rokko’s glower. The passenger turned to the clerk.

“Where is my room located?”

The clerk ran his finger down the register. “Your room, sir, is on the third floor, at the back of the building.”

“Please give my friend my room. It will be more to his liking. I will take his.”

“Thank you, sir,” the relieved clerk exhaled, handing Rokka the key. With a perfunctory smile, he pointed toward the elevator. “Your room, sir, is 303. You can take the lift and turn left or take the stairs and turn right.”

The room shuddered. A shriek emanated from the lift. Caught between floors, two pair of feet were visible below the ceiling.

“Thanks.” Rokka acknowledged the kindness of his fellow passenger with a faint shake of his head and shuffled toward the stairs.

Narrow and crowded, the stairs were cloaked in darkness. The oppressive aroma of sweat and local cuisine hung in the stale air.

Rokka removed his laptop from his case, flopped on the bed with his arms splayed and closed his eyes. Rolling onto his side, he turned on the laptop. The floor began to vibrate. He sat up. The furrow between his eyebrows deepened. He turned a vague glance from the laptop’s screen and listened. The shaking was different. He gazed toward the window. A loud drone like an approaching train rumbled in the distance. It grew louder. The floor chattered under his feet. Rokko gripped the bedding. The bed began to hop, the feet dancing, tapping against the floor. His bag tumbled off the bed. The droning grew still louder. Then—at precisely 4:06, the train slammed head-on into the building.

Rokka slid off the bed. The floor rolled and swayed beneath him. He ran for the door, stumbling like a drunk navigating a spinning room. An ocean on land, the waves lashed the building’s foundation, the structure creaking like an old wooden ship tossed about on a stormy sea. The sound of a million freight trains bearing down on him was deafening. With the final twist of an angry earth, the structure groaned and hissed and cried, then crumbled under its own weight, a besieged vessel careening against unseen rocks in a long freefall into a blackened abyss. It fell, it floated, it crashed to the bottom of a sea of dirt and iron and furniture and wallpaper and bed frames and computers and human flesh, and finally silence—deafening, unbroken, crushing, fear-ridden silence.

Surrounded by a choking fog of dirt and litter, Rokka lay pinned between two slabs of wall or flooring or something. A sharp pain pierced his back when he moved.

My God! My back is broken!

He wiggled his toes, then his fingers. Breathing was limited to short, hitching gulps. His head was in an awkward twist, the chin pressed against his shoulder. In the darkness, he listened.

“Hello,” he called out in a tentative voice. “Is anyone there?”

The acrid dust stung his throat. He hacked and spit, the spittle a fibrous ball of cotton dangled from his lip. Once more the earth rattled and shook. Further, the rubble settled. Sandwiched vice-like between the slabs, Rokka’s head was ground into his shoulder, his forehead ripped by a protruding nail or screw. Hissing gasps of air drawn through clenched teeth, he wondered how long he must wait to die, crushed to death, suffocated in this tomb.

Blood filled his eyes. His pulse raced. His breathing accelerated to a staccato symphony of sucking rattles. Portraits of slithering creepy things crowded his mind. He felt them crawling over him. Rokka wanted to swat them away. He couldn’t—his hands were pinned against his body. In his mind, he saw them crawling into his mouth and over his eyes and under the lids and into his nose. Rokka’s body jerked and shuddered, frightened grunts slipping unheard through his lips.

Again, the rubble moaned, crushing another inch of life from his body.

Bile crawled up the back of his throat and leaked out the corner of his mouth. Fear seeped from within, warming his thighs, permeating the dank and musty air with the smell of urine.

Rokka shivered and croaked, “Please don’t do this to me. Don’t make me wait to die. Kill me! Make it quick…fucking kill me.” His body quivered. Tears salted his lips. “Get me out of here! Please get me out of here! Somebody! Please! HELP ME! HELP me…help me. I don’t want to die.” His voice faded into despairing sobs.

A woman’s voice called out of the darkness. “Hey. I’m here. Are you okay?”

Her voice startled him. The nail pushed deeper into his forehead and pain flamed hot in his back. His face mashed between two walls, his jaws jammed together, Rokka uttered a piercing, unintelligible shriek.

“Are you okay?” she persisted.

He twisted and pushed and pulled, his heart thudding against the side of his throat. Rokka took a labored breath, closed his eyes and counted. When he opened them, he hissed in a low voice, “Who are you? I don’t want to fucking die!”

“Can you move?”


“Listen to me. You’re not alone. I’ll talk. You needn’t answer. Just listen to my words. Focus on them and we’ll get through this together. I promise.”

Her gentle words and soft tone weaved a soothing warmth through his body. His crushing distress slipped to the back of his mind.

“Who are you?”

“A friend. I was in 806 when the building fell.”

His pulse had slowed, the pain in his forehead and back diminished.

“I was in 303.”

“I know.”

Rokka’s rolled eyes toward her voice. “You do?”

She paused, then replied, “You were delirious. You repeated it a couple of times.”

Rokka’s mind struggled to separate fact from fiction. What he knew with certainty was he wanted her to keep talking.

Sharp jolts slapped at the ground. Further downward the rubble pushed, twisting his head over his shoulder. A heavy, blunt object slammed into his jaw. Teeth cracked and broke, littering the inside of his mouth.

“God! Please end this,” he moaned in thin, wispy bleats. “Don’t do this to me.”

He wrenched his body against the sides of his shrinking coffin, trying to wiggle free…a foot, a hand, his head, anything. His movements irrational and violent, panic overwhelmed him.  Frightened sobs, frenzied breaths, he wailed through his broken teeth, “I got to get out of here! I GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE! Please let me out! Can’t take this any longer…let me out! Help! Help! Someone help me!”

The ground oscillated and twisted, dust and debris burying Rokka up to his chest. Something swung in the rubble above his face. Cold and smooth, it brushed against his cheek. Slower and slower it swung until it stopped. What felt like tiny feet stood motionless on the skin below his eye. Wide-eyed, he rolled them as far as he could see and peered into the murk for the creature.

What was it? Who are you? What do you want?

Then it fell, splayed across the side of his head—a hand.

Somewhere between sanity and insanity, the fabric of his reality was rendered. The hand moved. The fingers searched his face—eyes, nose, mouth.

“Oh God! Get away from me!”

He lurched, trying to shake free from the hand. The building groaned and shifted and strained. The hand slid across his face, dragging cold, dead fingers over his cheek and down his neck. It stopped. Leaning against his neck, the five-fingered rodent, cold and dead, stroked his tense, moist skin. It tapped against his neck wanting his attention.

Rokka’s body trembled in maddening contortions. In his mind, he pushed the beast away and dug his body out of this tomb. His frantic grunts called from another dimension. He saw light and smelled fresh air. Out of the light, a hand reached toward him. Beyond his grasp, he stretched his arm out until it ached. Their fingertips touched, but the hand then withdrew. The light faded. He could no longer see or smell or hear—or move.

“Come back to me,” her soft voice echoed in the haze. “Say something. Talk to me.” She was near.

Was it her hand?

He strained his eyes to see who was calling him. His head wouldn’t budge. There was no rescuer. The tomb pressed in around him. Exhausted he lay there, too spent to panic, too spent to care, too spent to answer. A pungent odor crept from out of the debris. He had shit.

“Hey, you okay? You really were screaming and working yourself up there for a while. Something about a hand or rat or some animal. Then you just stopped. I was frightened. I thought you were dead. Talk to me, please. I don’t want to be alone. Please tell me you’re alright.”

“What?” he hacked in a ragged whisper. Violently he coughed. “Yeah…I’m still here.” He coughed again. “Oh God…how much longer?”

“You were out a long time; seemed like a couple of hours.”

“I was?!” his voice whistled. “Have you heard anything…from anyone like we might be getting close to being found?”

“No. Haven’t heard a thing…awful quiet…except for the aftershocks. Haven’t felt one for some time.”

“That’s refreshing. I wish I could just turn my head. My neck is killing me.”

“You sounded like you were having a rough time there. Maybe it was a good thing you passed out. I wish I could do as much.”

Although her voice was edged with concern, the tone remained calm. It refreshed him as a damp cloth soothed a fever. He wanted her to keep talking, to distract him from the box that has hemmed him in and the slow march of insanity that plucked at his mind.

“How’s things over there…wherever there is.”

“Okay. You feeling any better?”

“No. I feel like clawing my eyes out…but I can’t move my hands. I feel creepy things crawling on me. I’ve been stuck in this position for so long…my mind is playing tricks. I’m seeing things. I want to die…get it over with…fast…now….” Rokka’s throat tightened, the words spilling out in gasps. “God, I can’t take this much longer.” His voice broke.

The demons, the fears, they pushed him deeper into his torment.

“Where are they? Help! Somebody!” His heart pounded. The tomb crushed him…the demons were coming, their voices growling, screaming, their feet beating the ground.

“Come get me,” he screeched. “I’m over here. I hear you. Take me out of here…please take me out of here.”

At a desperate pitch, his heart about to burst, sinking to the furthest depths of despair, a hand touched his shoulder. His agitation quieted. He stepped back from the edge.

The woman spook in a tranquil whisper, “I’m still here. Calm yourself. You’re okay. I’ve always been here.”

With a simple touch, she brought him comfort and allayed his fears.

“Thank you. I was hanging over the edge. You got to me just in time.”

“You were in a real nightmare. It’s difficult…but try to rest.”

The earth tossed and turned in its fitful slumber. The rubble shifted and moved. As if part of some sick joke, a penance, the building stood on him, but refused to kill him.

A violent sneeze convulsed Rokka’s body, driving a nail deep into his scalp. Cracking teeth filled his ears. A drip fell from above and splashed against his shoulder. More spilled down his face and into his nose. Bitter, acrid, the taste of metal…thick, sticky…a slimy putrid sludge puddled in his mouth. He retched. Vomit sprayed from his nose and through his broken teeth. Coughing, then more vomit and more retching, the cycle continued until Rokka had nothing left to puke. Blood ran into his eyes. Pain stabbed at his back. Rokka didn’t care. He only wanted to die.

The odor of stomach bile and sour food and shit and piss mingled with the dust. His eyelids stood at half mast, drool pasted against his chin. He inhaled in an intermittent warble through the corner of his mouth and exhaled in a ragged wheeze through his nose.

He felt her hand on his shoulder.

“Leave me alone,” he moaned. “I don’t’ want your psycho crap.” He tried to shake her hand away and grimaced at the sharp pain that burned his neck. “Leave me the fuck alone. Don’t fucking bother me.”

Her fingers tightened on his shoulder.

“Trust me. You’ll be fine. We’re going to be rescued.”

Rokka broke into a despairing laugh. Bile-laced snot rocketed out of his nose. The laughter became angry sobs, a devilish whine gurgling out of his throat.

“Shut up! Just shut up,” the words wheezed through his twisted jaw. “Please…shut up. I’m dead. We’re dead. It’s a matter of how much more we’ve got to endure.”

She touched his swollen jaw. The pain lessened, a warmth spreading outward from her fingertips. He closed his eyes.

“Please don’t take your hand away.”

“I won’t.”

“You’re the second person who tried to help me and I treated you the same way I treated him.”

“The second?”

“I rode with another man from the airport. He looked like he lived in these parts…he smelled like he lived in these parts. A considerate person, who wanted to comfort me in an unbearable taxi, in unbearable heat, in an unbearable country. You’re the second person to do the same on this trip. I’m two for two at being rude and dismissive to someone’s unselfishness. I don’t even know his name…or yours.”

“It’s not important.”

Rokka’s tomb turned quiet. The darkness hung like a heavy curtain before his eyes. His thoughts drifted to better times.

“I heard you,” she whispered. “I’m still here.”

“Mother?” Rokka shook his head. “Have I been in a dream?”

The smells and the sounds were familiar. He turned toward the woman’s voice. Then it struck him…he had moved his head. He wiggled his toes and straightened his legs. The debris that pinned him down had shifted away. Despite a fit of coughing, he inhaled a deep lungful of air.

“What happened?” he shouted.

The woman from 806 groaned, “It’s okay.” She coughed. “There was another aftershock. The rubble shifted my way. It’s tight…I can still breathe. You?”

“I can’t believe it. I can finally turn my head. Ah!”


“My neck! At least it’s not broken. I can’t feel much in my legs, but I can straighten them out. Have I been out long?”


“Hours! God, how long have we been down here? Have you heard anything? Any voices?”

“No. Nothing. They’ll find us. We’ve made it this far.”

“I can move. That’s something positive.”

“What were you thinking about while you were out?” She retched.

“Why? Was I talking to someone?”

The ground popped like slamming into a pothole, then floated on invisible jelly. She expelled a loud sigh. He wanted to touch her.

“Stay with me. You promised they would find us. They can’t get me out without you.”

A wan response, more like air leaking through a small hole was all she uttered.

Rokka lay back and closed his eyes.

“I’m right here. I’ll keep talking…just for you…like you did for me. We’ll be good. I bet they’re close.”

He thought he heard her cough.

“I want to take you to dinner. Whatever you want. Okay? Doesn’t that sound like a grand idea? We took care of each other. We got each other to safety. It’s my way of saying thanks. How about it?”

He heard nothing.

“Wait!” Rokka shouted. “I hear voices. They’re right above us! You were right…all along…you never lost hope.”

Rokka pounded the rubble with his fist.

“Down here! We’re here!” He broke into a fit of coughing. His pounding and shouting became more frantic.

“The dogs are picking up a scent!” Rokka heard a voice yell. “Yes! Right here! Get some shovels and prybars. Bring more workers …NOW!”

The activity above them crescendoed to a fever pitch. Debris was lifted and moved. The voices grew louder.

“We’re here,” yelled Rokka. “Keep coming. You’re very close. Don’t stop!”

“How many of you are there?” one called out.

“Two that I know of. We haven’t heard anyone else.” Rokka rolled his head toward his companion from 806. “Can you hear them? We’re going to make it.”

“How badly are you injured?” the rescuer inquired.

“We’re okay…considering…I think.”

There was creaking, then a loud crash. The debris opened. Sunlight blinded him. He drank heartily of the fresh air, the pungent sweetness flowing in on a soft breeze.

“Thank God,” he uttered in a prayerful whisper.

The rescuers had punched into a large space about six feet from where he lay. A broken joist stood between Rokka and his exit. The bright beam of a flashlight surveyed the wreckage, stopping on his prone figure.

The rescuer leaned in through the hole and shouted, “I can see your feet.”

“Can you get around that joist?”

“Don’t think we can.”

“We’ll find a way.”

“Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere…,” Rokka sniggered, “…are we?” The last comment a boost of hope for his now silent companion.

The rescuer reappeared. “Where’s the other person?”

“I’m not sure. She’s close enough to touch me. We’ve been talking…but we haven’t been able to see each other. I haven’t heard her for a while. Please hurry.”

To his left, a smaller hole opened. Sunlight streaked across the darkness, illuminating his tomb. Rokka felt lightheaded.

How did I survive this?

Another rescuer peered in through the hole. The face hidden in shadow, Rokka was cheered by the lilt of a familiar voice.

“Hello, my friend. I am joyous that Allah has protected you.” Rokka was moved to tears. “We have only a few more boards to remove and you will be free. Praise Allah! I pray that He gives me the strength to reach you.”

“It’s good to hear your voice…my friend. I’m glad you’re safe as well.”

“It was fortuitous that I stepped out to shop when I did. I must hurry if we are to rescue you before the next tremor. The rubble is very unsteady. We will have time to talk later.”

The rescuers removed each piece of debris with care and the utmost dispatch. The hole widened, and light chased the darkness deep into the crevices. A rescuer peeked in at Rokka.

“Can you crawl a little closer?”

Rokka struggled to push himself up on his elbows. Sharp pains in his neck and back, and stiff, numb legs thwarted his best efforts. He slumped back into the dirt.

The ground rumbled. Dirt and debris rained out of the rubble. The rescuers pulled back. Rokka panicked.

“God no!” he screamed. “Don’t leave me! I can’t move!” He summoned every remaining ounce of strength to crawl toward the hole. He failed and fell back again.

“I can’t move. I can’t move. Please don’t leave me. I can’t move.”

Firm hands grabbed him and pulled him upward. Like a child’s doll, they threw him into the waiting arms of the rescuers. Rokka looked back to see the head of his friend poked out through the hole.

“Is there anyone else?” a rescuer asked with acute concern.

“Yes. A woman. We spoke. She was not more than a few feet from me. I couldn’t see her.”

Rokka’s friend called out, disappearing into the hole, “I will find her.”

A temblor struck with renewed violence. The rescuers dragged Rokka off the pile. It swayed, then collapsed amid a rolling eruption of dust and debris. The landscape had changed. The building was flattened.

Bandaged and resting against a small shade tree, Rokka watched the group of rescuers with growing curiosity. The intensity of their search had taken on a new seriousness, a desperation evident in their faces. Cadaver dogs climbed over the debris and stopped, barking anxiously, alerting their handlers of a scent. He searched the group. His friend wasn’t among them. Weak and dehydrated, Rokka strained to stand up. He limped to where they had gathered, pausing at the edge at precisely the moment they removed a large section of wall. One rescuer, an ashen frown on his face, glanced at Rokka. Rokka stumbled up the pile.

“Sir, please. You mustn’t. It isn’t safe.”

“What did you find? I have to see.”

He blocked Rokka’s path.

“Please. There is nothing you can do,” he pleaded. He reached out a steadying hand. Rokka swatted it away.

“Help me up or get out of my way.”

“Of course, sir. Take hold of my arm.”

The group backed away. Rokka’s breath caught in his throat. A solitary foot protruded from the rubble, a sandal hanging by a single toe. A rescuer stroked the bottom of the foot with his finger. It remained motionless. Horrified Rokka fell to his knees and sobbed into his hands.

“I am sorry, sir. There was nothing we could do.”

“If only I hadn’t told him of the other voice.”

“What other voice?”

Through bloodshot eyes, Rokka stared in disbelief. “There was a woman who was talking to me the entire time. She was only a few feet from me.”

“But…but…the dogs picked up only the one scent. We’ve accounted for everyone in the hotel.” He squinted at Rokka, his eyes filled with confusion. “She must’ve been visiting someone,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head. He exhaled a deep sigh and shrugged. “I guess we will never know.”

“No! She was a resident…room 806,” Rokka exhorted.

“806? Impossible! There were only six floors.” With solemn compassion, he watched Rokka, who was shaking his head. “Sometimes our minds play tricks on us in stressful situations,” he offered in comfort.

“I just sent a man to his death because of a voice running around in my head!” Rokka sat back on his heels and turned moistened, sorrowful eyes up at the rescuer. “My God! What have I done?”

He knelt next to Rokka, laying an empathetic hand on the grieving man’s shoulder.

“I’m fine,” Rokka whispered. “Give me a moment to be alone.”

The rescuer stepped a few feet back.

Rokka smiled at his nameless friend’s foot.

“Thank you, my friend, whoever you are. I treated you badly and still, you willingly gave your life for me. I will not forget you…I will pray for you.” He raised his head, a distant look in his eyes. “And you…the voice of comfort and hope, whoever you are…God, a hallucination, a crazy voice weaving its way through my consciousness…I will pray for you as well. I’m thankful to be alive. I owe that to both of you. I will remember what you have taught me…to be less harsh and more understanding of the people I meet.

He felt the presence of the rescuer.

“Sir, we need to take you to the hospital.”

Rokka nodded and clutched the rescuer’s arm. For a moment, he paused and looked back toward the rubble pile. Deep appreciation lifted the corners of his mouth.

The ambulance pitched and jerked its way toward the hospital. Fading into the distance, Rokka watched the rescuers dig the rubble away from the solitary foot. His eyes retreating behind sagging lids, he drifted into a deep and healing sleep.

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