Chapter 6:

It was cold. It was really cold. Dan couldn’t seem to move. He felt himself floating. Was he in the air? No. He felt wet. He was in water But, he couldn’t see any light. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t know up from down. He was afraid. He had to try and move. It took all of his will to exert enough force to even move his arm. Where was he? How did he get here? As he stared off into the murky water he thought he saw a hand reaching for him. He reached out ....
Dan opened his eyes. Good lord, how long had he been asleep? He jumped up rapidly from the couch to check on the mysterious woman who appeared to be his former dead wife. As he approached the bedroom he noticed the door was shut. He did not remember closing it. As he reached for the doorknob he felt a slight chill pass through him. Slowly, he opened the door. She was gone, but the blankets were still rumpled up as if someone had been sleeping there.

Panic consumed him. He glanced toward the bathroom door. It was open just a crack. "Hello! Ronnie? Are you there?" he asked. Why had he called her that. He still wasn’t sure she was his 'Ronnie'. He proceeded directly to the bathroom and pushed the door open the rest of the way. Nope. She wasn’t there either. Now he was scared.

Dan rushed through every room of the house looking for her but with no luck. He only fell down once, which was surprising for him. Just as he started for the front door he heard a couple of the dogs bark out back. She was out in the back yard! Yes, that had to be it. He ran out the front door and around the house toward the back yard where the kennels were.

As he rounded the corner of the house he saw nothing but the aussies, who were quite anxious for some reason. They seemed to be concerned as if one of their buddies had gotten out and was running about. But no, they were all in their pens as normal. Where was she? And what had his boys all upset?

First, he ran to the front of the house again to make sure she wasn’t there. She wasn’t. And the van was still there as well, with no one inside. Dan's head was aching and his heart has pounding very hard as he ran back to the dogs again. "Hey guys! Do you know where she is?" He asked. They began whining worriedly.

Chiller and Raider ran back toward the back of their kennels and barked towards the creek. Cooler had never let his eyes leave the direction of the creek. Dan could hear the creek running. Had it rained recently? He couldn’t remember it raining enough to cause the creek to start flowing. Fear gripped him as he went around the kennels and through the gate that led to the creek.

All the dogs were watching him intently. Their eyes transfixed. It was with the greatest of apprehension that he made his way down the bank to the water. When he reached the edge of the creek he looked downstream. Nothing. He immediately jerked his head upstream. Dan almost fell into the creek he was so startled by the image that confronted him just a short distance upstream.

It was the t-shirt she had been wearing. It was lying on the bank half in the sand and half dangling in the water. But no sign of the girl who in so many ways seemed to be his beloved Ronnie. Dan waded into the creek ducking branches hanging overhead and stumbling over boulders beneath his feet. He couldn’t move fast enough to get to the shirt in hopes she might be nearby. Or, maybe there would be other clues as to where she had gone. He finally made his way to the shirt and picked it up. It was very wet,very cold, and slightly torn. But, there was no other sign of her.

Just then the aussies became very active as if someone was beside their kennels. He quickly made his way out of the water and back up the bank to the front of the kennels. They were certainly anxious alright but the only person there was himself. He was about to turn around to go search the house further when he heard movement just in back of him. The dogs were all gazing back towards the right side of the house. He didn’t know whether to be afraid or anxious or both.

As Dan turned toward the house he felt a drop of water as it splashed upon his forearm. It was beginning to rain, but there was no sign of 'Ronnie'. In fact, there was no sign of anyone. He dashed over to where he thought his buddies had been looking. A small cottontail ran off into the brush. That seems to be what had garnered their attention. But why had they been watching the creek and where was his ‘born again’ wife and why had she ventured down to the creek? What does a person do now? How could he ask anyone to help him when he hadn’t told anybody she existed in the first place? Right! How does a person tell someone that your dead wife is alive again? Let’s see, how would that go:
I was walking at the beach the other day and found my deceased incinerated wife’s body all back whole again lying in the surf, without any clothes on. She was stone cold dead and not breathing. Then when I saw tears coming from her eyes I blew a single breath into her lungs and she started breathing on her own again. So I carried her to my van and drove her home. She has been with me ever since. So can you help me find her ‘cause she seems to be missing. Oh, and by the way what do you think I should do with her ashes?
Wow! That should get him into a straight jacket for sure. But, enough of that. If he was going to find this 'reincarnated wife' of his, he would have to do it on his own. But, where could she have possibly gone. Maybe the sad truth was that he had dreamed the whole thing after all. No. Someone had been sleeping in the bed and it sure wasn’t him. And he was still holding the drenched t-shirt she had been sleeping in.

As Dan reentered the house he found himself rechecking every room. 'Ronnie' was nowhere to be found. However, the dishes from her last meal were still sitting on the counter, the bed was still unmade, the TV was still on, so he was certain that she had been there. And yet her ashes were still right there on the mantel in stark contrast to all the other evidence lying all around him.

At this point he was barely able to cope with the situation. If he was going to find her it had better be soon as it was getting late and the sky was already dark from the light rain that was coming down. Assuming he still had a handle on his sanity, then where the dickens had his rejuvenated 'Ronnie' gone off to?

Dan grabbed a flashlight and began walking the perimeter of the seven acres hoping to locate her. After an hour or so he returned to the house and checked again only to find nothing. Finally, he decided to get into the van and start searching the roads both north and south.

After driving a couple of miles south he turned back and headed north. When he pulled up next to his neighbor’s ranch he saw the gate was open. That usually meant that Mr. Williams was there. Now he had a new choice to make. Should he confront his neighbor regarding his wife? No. That would only lead to more difficult explanations which he couldn’t come up with for himself.

As he sat there in his van Dan thought the best thing to do was to tell his neighbor that he was looking for a female friend of his who may have become lost after taking a walk down the road. After coming up with this idea he pulled into the driveway and headed down the short road to where he saw Mr. Williams standing by his truck talking to another man sitting upon a beautiful palomino stallion.

Dan pulled up along side of the two men and rolled down the window. "Hello Bob! Aren’t you guys going to get wet?" he asked. "Hi Dan!" said Mr. Williams. "This is Sam Rutgear, my roping buddy." he added. "What brings you over here today?" asked Mr. Williams. "I know it’s getting dark but I was hoping you could help me look for a friend of mine." He pleaded. "One of your dogs get loose?" asked Mr. Williams. "No. A female friend of mine was taking a walk down the road by your place perhaps and she hasn’t come back yet. Since, there is little light left I was getting worried." he explained. "We haven’t seen anyone. Has she been missing long?" asked Mr. Rutgear. "No. I just now noticed that she hadn’t come back yet." He answered. "Does this female friend of yours have a name?" chuckled Bob. Just great! What was he going to tell them now. "Babe! Her name is Babe." he said. "She's about 5'6" maybe 135 pounds and has honey blonde hair." he added.
The two men said they would both look for his friend on horseback. Mr. Williams leaped up on his saddle and he and Mr. Rutgear rode off toward the backhills. "We’ll make a big circle and come back next to the road!" yelled Mr. Williams.
Dan climbed back into his van and drove back to his house. As he got out of the vehicle he heard the aussies barking again, even louder this time. He ran as fast as could to the back yard. As soon as he got to the front of the kennels they stopped their barking, but kept looking in his direction, almost past him. Just as he was about to turn around a warm soft hand grasped his arm from behind. It began shaking his arm quite violently.
"Babe! Babe! Wake up!" Dan forced his lids open and looked up into the those big blue beautiful eyes that he knew and loved so well. "Are you O.K.?" asked 'Ronnie'. "I must have dozed off." he answered. "You were moving your legs and flailing your arms all about!" She added. "I must have been dreaming." He replied. He didn’t dare tell her about the dream as it might upset her all over again. "What was the dream about?" She inquired. "I’m not sure. I think it was more like a nightmare." He ventured. "You’re all sweaty and pale. Are you sure you’re alright?" She asked again. "Yes. Everything’s fine. Now. I’m awake and you’re here now so all’s well that ends well." He added. "What do you mean I’m here now?" She wondered. "Never mind. I don’t even want to try and remember that dream." He finished.

This was beginning to be way over the top. Now his dreams were as bad as his reality. Good God, what was he thinking? Dan still didn’t know if he could discern dream from reality even if it came right up and called out his name, just as this 'wifely clone' of his had. Or at least that was her name for him. But then they had always called each other ‘Babe’ as long as he could remember. Suddenly, he remembered what must have been a dream within a dream. He wondered if this was typical of those who go slowly and silently insane.
"Why don’t you sit down here in the living room and watch TV. I need to make a phone call." he suggested. "OK, but hurry, I’m not sleepy any more and I miss you." she answered.
As Dan stood up from the couch to make room for her he noticed 'Ronnie' was still in her panties and wearing the T-shirt he had found down by the stream, only it wasn’t torn. "This can’t continue!" he whispered to himself.
Even though it was getting late, he decided to call the Neptune Society again to try and verify just which dream he was in now. He moved into the kitchen and quickly punched in the number for the crematorium and waited for a reply.
You’ve reached the Neptune Society. We are closed right now. Please call back during our regular hours. We are open from 9 AM to 10 PM Monday thru Friday. If you wish to leave a message please wait for the music to end and record you message. We will get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you for calling and bless you and your family.
"A recording?" he asked in a low voice. He had just talked to them earlier. That was strange in itself because they shouldn’t be o
pen on Sunday. Had he really called them earlier? he wondered.

As he stood profoundly in the kitchen holding the phone at his side Dan looked back at his ‘born again’ wife. She was even more beautiful than he ever remembered. "Maybe I should stop trying to make sense of all this." he mused softly. He quickly became aware that he was now talking to himself. Maybe that was just another way of thinking he thought. "Either that or I'm in la la land." he mumbled.

Dan kept gazing at the girl who appeared to be his former wife as she watched the horses on the TV. It seemed that she also loved horses just as his wife had. Just as he was about to ask her if she liked horses, a car horn sounded outside in the driveway. Panic sticken he looked first toward the front door and then back toward his supposed 'dead wife'. She was smiling at him, and her shirt was torn.....