Patrick laid half-dead on the icy cold bitumen and unaware that his wish was about to come true, although, being an engineer, he had envisaged and planned for a less painful way to leave—in an old Torana GTR, with the engine running and windows down, in the garage of his holiday home down in Busselton.
The Vasse Highway, despite adding considerable time to his journey, was chosen because of its isolation from populated areas. It was Christmas Eve, and the last thing he needed was for the bright lights and cheer to remind him of his lost.
The chilled fresh air tethered him further away from the abyss. Bit by bit, Patrick regained sensation of his battered body. Every breath he took caused sharp stabbing pain in his torso. Broken ribs, he surmised. His arms wanted to push up, to lift his torso from its horizontal position, to inspect his car, but his world was still spinning.
Patrick let out an involuntary groan. One of his arms was broken.
Opening his eyes led him to a distorted view of his wrecked vehicle, its roof pancaked and panels wrinkled with flames licking from the rear, where the fuel tank was encased.
Still on the rough surface of the single-lane two-way road, Patrick struggled to remember the events of the last hour. There was a hard swerve to the left. Was there another car? Maybe a kangaroo? No. He was alone on the road, there was no doubt. Debris. That was it. He yanked hard on the wheel but had been just a split-second too slow. There was a brief moment of weightlessness, then the ground smashed into his windscreen several times. He must’ve crawled out in his confused state of mind and then passed out.
At least, he sighed, there wasn’t another person involved. Patrick didn’t want the feeling of guilt anchoring him back to existence.
What did bring him back to reality was the sudden splashing of liquid against his cheek. It took a split-second for the fumes to hit his nostrils. From half-dead to fully conscious and now inadvertent immolation.
I’m being punished by God for wanting to take my life, Patrick concluded and chuckled in disbelief. At least he was going to die, albeit in a horrible way.
A faint cry. It was inaudible, but as the moments passed, it grew louder and persistent. Patrick had dismissed it as a hallucination. Perhaps his mind was giving up and a sign that the end was near.
“Fuck sake!” Patrick cursed under his breath. If it was a real baby—however bizarre that seemed given that he was in the middle of nowhere—and he did nothing, Judy would never forgive him. And that was the purpose of suicide, wasn’t it? To join his family in the afterlife?
“Alright! I’m coming!” he yelled.
Patrick pushed down against the rough surface and grimaced, his left forearm going limp in an instant, the pain excruciating. Gritting his teeth, and with careful maneuvering to avoid using the left side of his upper torso, Patrick was finally up on two feet. He moved towards the wail, already sounding forlorn. As he approached the source, he noticed something odd—splintered stumps of Jarah trees before him, all collapsed away from an imaginary trajectory. Something had crashed.
“I’m almost there,” Patrick projected his voice. He felt silly a second later.
It took him a full minute to reach the epicentre, and what he found was an odd-looking object, resembling a gigantic capsule that was sleek and shiny. He reached out with his working arm and rested his palm on the surface having felt an odd welcoming sensation flooding his body.
The giant black footy hissed without warning.
Patrick lost his footing and fell backwards, both arms extending out. Searing pain barbed through his arm from the inside out, and up his shoulder. “Fuck!” he yelled again.
He was up again. This time, the placements of his feet more deliberate, his eyes more focused on the periphery. Patrick found himself rounding the soft corners of the large ovalised structure until he was peering inside.
There, just within reach, an infant swaddled within a transparent, gelatinous, synthetic... the words to describe what was being witnessed escaped the young man’s imagination. Eventually, Patrick settled with just the one: Surreal.
Have your suicidal tendencies subsided?
Patrick jumped, but caught himself. “Who’s there?” he searched the vicinity.
He stepped forward. “Are you...?”
Negative, I am not her majesty. I am the vessel. The space-ship.
“How are you talking to me without saying anything?”
Irrelevant. There is no time. The authorities will arrive within the hour, you will need to be ready.
“Ready for—” Patrick paused, his mind stuck somewhere between disbelief and incredulous awe. “Ready for what?”
Transformation. Place your hand on the protrusion.
Patrick watched as part of the glossy outer surface separated from the rest of the otherwise perfect curvature. The extruded section, large enough for an adult male palm, presented itself, indented and ready to receive an imprint. But he hesitated as his fingers came within an inch.
Patrick, the voice continued. Husband of Marguerite. Father of Harvey and Coraline. Life hasn’t been fair to you.
Tears streaked down his cheeks. Floodgates overwhelmed.
However, said the voice, for exactly three years, five months, one week, and eleven hours, your life was enriched by the presence of your family. Each day you awoke with the zest of a thousand lemons, worked tirelessly in a soul-demoralising job, understanding that your first and foremost responsibility was to provide for your family. You never wavered. Never faltered. And it is this reason you have been chosen.
For the gift.
Patrick blinked away the moisture. His brain and heart threatened to tear him into two. Far, far into the starry night, away from his current predicament, a different wail drifted into the back of his mind. Three highway patrols, two ASLAVs, and one 2-4 rural fire appliance.
He had no idea how he could discern the type of vehicles storming down the road.
Trust and have faith, Patrick. It has not led you astray.
Patrick bit his lower lip. Glanced over the lip of the opening, into the otherworldly cradle, where a beautiful baby girl sat, cooing and gorging on her thumb.
“I choose life,” he whispered.
He pushed his hand in. A warm vibration reverberated through his body. Patrick felt relaxed, enlightened, even optimistic. The entire process lasted only a few seconds, but already, he noticed the increased strength in both arms.
Protect her. Everything will make sense.
“Understood,” said Patrick as he picked up the toddler. No words were needed to convey his intentions as the little one snuggled right into his nurturing arms. He didn’t know what had happened, or what was happening to him, or what awaited him; but he knew that Margeurite, Harvey, and Coraline would be proud.