The current was deeper and swifter than he could have imagined and it carried him too far, too fast. Justin knew he was in bad trouble. At first, he fought the current, struggling to return, but he was too small, not nearly strong enough. With this realization, he relaxed, trying to float in the turbulence. He tumbled and spun, gasping for air, and then gasping at what he saw. The brightness, like a massive locomotive’s light barreling toward him filling his field of vision, then becoming a white hole, the sun at noon. He no longer struggled. He fell. And fell. Justin heard his mother calling. Heard her sweet voice. “C’mon, sweetie. Come inside for a few minutes. Let’s trace your hand for Daddy, so he can see how big you’re getting. We’ll put it in the package for him.” He followed her voice and saw his Dad, in uniform, holding the blue and white soccer ball he’d gotten for his seventh birthday. “You got enough for a game with your dad?” Pulled along, Justin heard and saw Granpa Tatum, Aunt Josie, his cousins Felton and Maddie, Tony T, Mrs. Linehart. It was almost like a cartoon where every face and sound piled up around him. And he wasn’t scared. There was a softness to the long fall, like he would land upon a pillow that would collapse around him in smothering warmth. There was a cleanness to it. An order. Everyone he loved and cared about was here with him. It was strange, yet easy to accept. Then the falling became a rising. Justin didn’t know how he sensed this or even cared how he knew. There was only anticipation, an eagerness for what came next. The brightness around him darkened and narrowed to hazy murmuring, a whispering of his heartbeat and his lifeblood coursing through him and out some unknown passage. He knew he would have to climb. He would have to struggle. Yet the call was strong. Beauty was up there. Comfort. Love. A forever place for him. Deep within or behind came a scream and Justin shook. A terrible cry that shattered his peace and determination. It clawed at him, a beast dragging him back the way he’d come. He fought and resisted, but the grip was strong and took him back, not through light, but through darkness. There were no faces, no voices, no familiarity. Only pain. A crushing iciness in his chest, a mighty glacier grating over and through each limb. Each breath a struggle. Choking. Coughing. Shaking. “Let me go. Let me go,” he wailed. There was sand and blue sky. The surf a few yards away. Dozens of faces. His mom and dad. “He’s back,” someone cried. “He’s safe,” called another. Justin’s mind was a white hot sun and endless black hole. Canaella wept. After the consuming pain and exhaustion of delivery, she wept. For the promise not kept. For the price paid and the balance due. For the stillborn daughter she clasped to her trembling bosom. What kind of universe would take her daughter’s life at this moment? How could her vitality, her endless possibility, her future be snuffed like a holy candle on the most sacred altar? Who was responsible? Near birth, near death, where was justice?