Jimmy Longthrash felt the briars tear at his face and arms as he ran through the thick undergrowth of the forest. He could feel the vibrations of the heavy footsteps pursuing him. The footsteps came slowly, but felt as if they were right behind him. The faster he ran, the louder the footsteps became. Jimmy couldn’t distinguish which was louder: the sound of the footsteps or the pounding of his heart. Why had he gone back? Why did he risk his life and freedom again? For her…

Jimmy could feel his energy diminish with each footstep he took. As he ran, he searched the woods for any possible place to hide. Jimmy knew there was no place he could hide that the footsteps couldn’t find him. He had to do something, and do it quick. The footsteps echoed in his head as he pushed his body farther and farther into the darkness. If he could make it to the lights, he knew he would be alright.

As Jimmy ran, he began to remember his life before “The Fall”. He remembered growing up in Cana, a little town in the heart of the Bible belt. He remembered the first time he met Michelle. She had fallen off her bicycle and scraped her knee. Jimmy had helped her up and taken her to his mother for a Band-Aid and a bowl of ice cream. They had been inseparable from then on.

They had dated all through high school and college. Jimmy had finally decided to ask Michelle to marry him. They married in the fall of the next year. They had been so happy together; especially when Michelle found out she was pregnant. Jimmy had spent all of his free time preparing the house for the new arrival. He had converted his home office into a nursery and installed a video monitoring system in their bedroom so they could watch the baby at night. Everything was perfect… for a time.

Michelle was 6 months along when Jimmy came home from work to find her reeling in pain on the kitchen floor. Jimmy rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late. They held each other and cried when they found out their baby was gone. The doctor’s didn’t give any explanation; only that “this happens sometimes”. Michelle never recovered from the loss.

Three months later, Michelle left. Jimmy’s heart never forgot the pain.

As Jimmy relived those painful memories, he noticed the forest had fallen silent. The footsteps had stopped and he was alone. He slowed to a walk and scanned the woods surrounding him. He couldn’t make out where he was, but he knew he was close to the lights. He knew he had to hurry if he was going to make it for last call. Jimmy shook the memories out of his head and began to move deeper into the night.

Jimmy made his way through the tall grass and shrubbery as he looked towards the sky for the lights. He banged his head on a tree branch and stumbled over a rock as he looked. He swore at himself as he walked. He should have known better than to come out here again in the first place. He had to let the past go and concentrate on his future. Michelle wasn’t coming back and the baby was gone. Jimmy had a new life now and he should be thankful. Not everyone else got that chance.

Jimmy came across a thicket of trees and noticed a faint glow of light behind them. Finally, he had made it. He could feel the warmth of the lights from behind the trees and he began to walk towards them. He turned to look into the darkness behind him one last time and he felt a tug on his heart. He knew she was out here somewhere; she had to be.

As Jimmy turned back, a figure suddenly appeared between him and the lights. Jimmy was frozen with fear. The figure seemed to be ten feet tall standing with the lights at its back, but Jimmy knew better. He had faced the figure before and won. But this time seemed different; the figure made no move to grab him or harm him. It simply stood there and gazed at him from beneath its dark cloak. Jimmy took a step toward the figure and screamed; ready to fight. The figure sunk back and appeared to cower away from him.

Jimmy was confused. Why was the figure frightened, especially of him? Jimmy stepped closer to the cowering figure and placed his hand on the cloak covering its head. He could feel the head of the being shaking with fear. He ripped the hood back and jumped back when he saw the face looking up at him. Michelle?

This didn’t make any sense. A million questions raced through Jimmy’s head in the space of a second. Why was Michelle in the cloak? Why was she crying? Why was she afraid of him? But nothing mattered to Jimmy at that moment. He picked Michelle up from the ground and held her in his arms. Jimmy began to kiss her all over her face and hugged her tightly. He had finally found her! After all these years of searching, he had finally found her. Jimmy always knew he would have her again; and he finally did.

As Jimmy embraced his lost love, her tears turned to laughter as she hugged and kissed him back. They stood locked in each others arms as they laughed and looked at each other. She hadn’t changed at all. Her eyes were still vibrant blue and her hair was still golden brown. She evened smelled the same; lilac and cherry blossom. As Jimmy held her, he finally felt whole again.

Michelle took his hand in hers and began to run. He had almost forgotten how warm and soft her hand felt in his. Jimmy noticed how softly her hair bounced off her shoulders as they ran and laughed together. The faster they ran, the harder they laughed. Jimmy was ecstatic; he had longed to have Michelle back at his side, ready to face the world together.

Michelle broke free from Jimmy and began to race off towards an old set of gates. Odd, Jimmy thought, he hadn’t noticed them before. But, never mind that now, she was with him again. She ran through the gates and stopped, just inside a small clearing. Jimmy entered and made his way over to her. Just as he was about to reach out and touch her shoulder, she turned to him and raised her arms. Jimmy shrieked in horror and felt sick to his stomach. Her wrists were sliced open and blood was pouring out. Jimmy felt the same sickness the day he found his beautiful wife lying in the bath tub with a razor blade lying open on the floor 3 months after the loss of their baby.

Jimmy began to cry as he ran to her. He had to save her this time; he had been too late last time. She fell to the ground as he neared her. Jimmy knelt down and placed his hands on her wrists trying to stop the bleeding. He kissed her forehead and smoothed her hair down. The blood was everywhere. No matter how hard he held her wrists, the blood kept pouring out. Jimmy cried out in agony when he realized it was useless; she was gone…

Jimmy released her wrists and cradled her head in his arms. He knelt beside her, wailing in agony for what seemed like an eternity, when he felt her begin to chuckle. Jimmy released her from his grasp and stared at his dead wife in disbelief. She was laughing; laughing hysterically. Jimmy stood and backed away from her as she rose to her feet and stared menacingly at him, all the while laughing. Jimmy looked around and noticed the lights were gone.

Just as Jimmy was about to run, he heard the gates slam shut behind him. He stared at Michelle and realized he had been tricked. He looked around and saw the dead trees and smelled the putrid stench of sulfur. He felt the anger rise in him and he started to run towards Michelle. But as he began to run, he tripped over something. He looked down and saw the hand rising from the ground. He stumbled and tried to run again, but another hand shot up, and another, and another. Suddenly, he was enveloped by the hands. They scratched and tore at his clothing and flesh as they tried to drag him down. Jimmy realized it was useless to struggle; they weren’t letting go this time.

Just as he was being taken under, Jimmy realized the selfishness in his acts. He was given paradise in “The Fall” and yet he tried not once, but twice, to retrieve his dead wife’s soul from Hell. He heard the footsteps as he was being taken down, and turned to see his wife putting on the heavy cloak and walk into the darkness.