Cardiologist Chris Holden suffers a life-threatening heart attack on the side of a mountain, not far from where his son vanished five years earlier. Near death, he wonders what it would be like if he had the chance to live his life over again, with the wisdom he has already gained.
Joel Holden never wanted to be like his hard-driving, joyless father. Joel has his own dreams, and when the chance comes to disappear—to begin life again on his own terms—he abandons the past to forge his own future. What he can’t escape are the mistakes he made. And the men who want him dead.
Chris awakens to find himself in his son’s body—younger, stronger, his wisdom and experiences blended with Joel’s thoughts and memories. He lives again, but at a cost. Will wisdom be enough when the mistakes of Joel’s past threaten to bring Joel’s dreams and Chris’s second chance at life to a swift and deadly end?
Twenty feet ahead, Matt stops, turns to him, says, “Dude, this is work.”
“You got that right.” Sweating like a stoker on the Titanic, Joel sucks a deep lungful of crisp air. Ice crystals sparkle to his right, where snow-laden pines cast high contrast shadows on a brilliant white blanket. To his left is a precipitous drop with a view out across a frozen alpine lake and stunning blue sky. Not a cloud in sight. The scene contains splendor far greater than anything ever captured in a nature photograph. Moments like this are the only reason for busting ass on a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoeing! The ultimate stupid sport. And the ultimate break from having to make a decision. One that can cost his life.
“How about we stop for lunch just over that rise?” Matt yells back.
The rumble spans two long seconds of disbelief as the brain isn’t able to comprehend the ominous vibrations against the soles of his feet or the deep rumble in his ears. Two seconds of confusion punctuated by terror.
This is the second day of record-breaking heat after weeks of heavy snows, producing conditions they both knew to avoid but at the same time found too glorious to resist. But Joel especially needs a break from the stress of reaching a decision.
Joel glances uphill and sees a wall of snow hurling toward them. He screams, “Avalanche!”
Matt freezes in horror, eyes locked on the billowing white mass cascading down on him.
Matt can’t seem to move. And then, when he does, his legs seem mired in quicksand.
In the next millisecond the survival odds register on Joel’s subconscious: zero for Matt, fifty-fifty for him. He yanks the personal GPS from his parka and throws it hard at Matt, hoping only to mark the general location. He turns and tries to run—not fast enough either—from the thundering two hundred tons of snow hurtling down on them. A massive blur roars straight through the path they were hiking—swallowing Matt and drowning out any other sound. He catches a glimpse of red swept off the ledge toward the lake, swallowed in a mass of snow. More snow roars past like a long freight train.
Suddenly, the blur stops and dissolves into a quickly dying funnel of shifting snow. The avalanche missed him by only a foot.
Dead eerie silence.
Seconds pass and then a secondary brief rumble of more snow settling into the shifted terrain.
Panting, he bends over, grasps his knees. His heart pounds with incredible joy and gratitude for his being safe instead of suffocating in a dark freezing tomb. One fucking foot!
It registers: Matt is gone, swallowed by the avalanche. He, on the other hand, is alive.
He peers into the valley, sees no sign of Matt, not even a hint of red from the bright parka. Joel takes a tentative step in that direction, but snow shifts against his legs, rolling into the slide zone, warning him to stay away. He tries again. More snow crashes down. He backs up, terrified at being swept into the snow bank and buried too. And if he isn’t buried, the fight to climb back up will sap his strength and make it impossible to go for help. Leaving him no choice but to leave and go for help.
He turns to start the trek back, hoping the GPS unit may, with luck, help them find Matt’s body. But even that’s unlikely.
In 2002 Allen Wyler left active practice as a neurosurgeon to become Medical Director for a start-up medical technology company, Northstar Neuroscience, which went public (NSTR) in 2006. At the end of 2007 he retired to devote full time to writing.
He and his wife divide their time between their downtown Seattle condo and home in the San Juan Islands.