What if you didn't have to die to know that heaven exists?
And what if that knowledge could get you killed?
Following a biking accident on icy Boston streets, grad student Zack Kashian lapses into a coma. When he wakes up on Easter, months later, muttering the Lord's Prayer in the original Aramaic, the media is set abuzz about the "Miracle Man." Religious fanatics flock to Zack's hospital bedside, though he claims to be an atheist.
Zack's revival also catches the attention of Dr. Elizabeth Luria, who heads up a small team of neuroscientists secretly researching near-death experiences (NDE). Their objective: to determine if there is anything to the claims of NDE victims about floating down tunnels into the celestial light and meeting spiritual beings. Is all that evidence of the afterlife? Or is it just neurobiology, as Sarah Wyman, one of Luria's young researchers suspects.
For personal reasons, Luria is desperate to prove the afterlife exists. So are her wealthy, evangelist backers, who can't wait to announce the greatest discovery in human history: that God exists. A discovery that would at last reconcile science and religion. A discovery that would end the world's religious strife and unite all humanity.
Yet Zack's experiences are anything but heavenly. While he and Sarah struggle to understand his horrific out-of-body experiences, they have no idea that sinister forces have taken an interest in them. Forces to whom near-death experiences are utter blasphemy—deceptions by Satan himself. They enlist a menacing agent who, in the name of God, will stop at nothing to terminate the project and all involved.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||487 KB|
About the Author
GARY BRAVER is the bestselling author of Elixir, Gray Matter, Flashback, and Skin Deep. Flashback is the only thriller to have won the prestigious Massachusetts Book Award. He lives with his family in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Gary Braver is the award-winning author of six critically acclaimed thrillers including Elixir, Gray Matter, and Flashback, which was recipient of the 2006 Massachusetts Honor Book Award for Fiction--a first for a thriller--and which in a starred review Publishers Weekly called “an exceptional medical thriller.” His novels have been translated into five languages, and three have been optioned for movies.
Under his own name, Gary Goshgarian, he is an award-winning professor of English at Northeastern University where he teaches courses in Modern Bestsellers, Science Fiction, Horror Fiction, and Fiction Writing. He has taught fiction-writing workshops through out the United States and Europe for over twenty years. He is the author of five college writing textbooks.
Read an Excerpt
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, THE PRESENT
“Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”
“You did. Two jacks staring at you from Anthony’s hand, and you draw another. Don’t you believe in counting?” Damian said. “Bro, you take some wild-ass risks.”
“But I won,” Zack said.
“Yeah, on pure luck. ’Least you don’t have to play beer money for a while.”
“More like blood money. Found a clinic that pays thirty bucks a pint.”
“You mean you’re selling your blood?”
“I’m down thirty-six hundred on my Discover card, and they’re threatening court action.”
“Maybe you should stop gambling.”
It was a little after one in the morning, and a mantle of clouds made a hefty underbelly in the Boston sky. Although it was midwinter, the temperature was above freezing, and the streets were free of snow. Zack Kashian was heading to his bike, chained at a light pole near where Damian Santoro had parked his car. They had just left a friend’s apartment where a Texas hold ’em game was still going on. After four hours, Zack had drawn a high-win hand—a full house, queens over jacks—and walked away with a $300-plus pot that put him in the black for the night.
“What about your mother?” Damian said.
“She thinks I’ve got a gambling problem.”
“And she refuses to support it.”
“Except I don’t have a gambling problem. I’ve got a losing problem.”
They crossed Tremont Street to his bike. Zack’s apartment was on Hemenway on the other side of Northeastern University’s campus. Because it was so close, he didn’t bother with his helmet, just a knitted cap. He unchained his bike and rolled it to Damian’s car.
“Whatever, get some sleep,” Damian said.
Zack patted his breast pocket. “And on Anthony. He sold me half his Lunesta.”
“Maybe you do have a gambling problem.”
“I’m not sleeping because I’ve got debts up the grunt, not because I’m gambling.”
“That’s nuts. You’re borrowing to pay down your debt. And now you’re selling your blood. I’m telling you, man, you might want to get off those online games. That stuff’s dangerous.”
Zack put out his hand. “Thank you, Dr. Phil. Or is it Father Damian?”
Damian took it. “You know what you need?”
“No, but you’re going to tell me anyway.”
“You need to consider finding God again.”
“I never found Him to begin with.”
“Then the first time. It doesn’t have to be a church. Just go where you can find enlightenment, some kind of spiritual enrichment.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“You won’t, but I wish you would. I’m visiting a Buddhist temple on Sunday. You’re welcome to come.”
Damian was a devout Christian who went to different churches in Greater Boston each week. Sometimes even non-Christian places of worship. “I’ve got another commitment.”
“Yeah, the God grumblers.”
He meant the Secular Humanist Society Zack belonged to. “We’re not God grumblers, man. We don’t sit around making fun of religions. We’re planning an outing to the Museum of Science for inner-city kids. If there’s a God, He’d approve.” They had met as roommates in their freshman year at Northeastern. Despite the fact that Zack was an unapologetic atheist, they were still fast friends, held together in part by sniping each other’s dogmatism.
“Whatever, you’re too much the rationalist. You need enlightenment.”
“Would Foxwoods qualify?”
“A casino’s the last thing you need.” Damian gave him a hug and drove off as Zack began pedaling home.
Zack had never been to a casino. He preferred home games and the poker Web sites. Perhaps a little too much. Some weeks he’d rack up thirty hours, missing classes and staying up all night, running three and four hands at once. Yes, he made money because he played low-ante games—$25 buy-ins. He’d often win, but it took hours to amass a decent haul. With his face buried in a flash poker site, an easy seduction was an occasional $250 buy-in or a $500 game. And each time he felt the rush that came with laying money on the next card, telling himself that his time was now. But that was the problem: getting into a twilight zone of your own adrenaline, convinced of beating the odds. Unlike at table games, online you can’t read faces. Instead, you’re locked in a cubby with a dark goddess and no good sense. And his debt to friends, bank, and credit card was what he had to show for it. Maybe Damian was right.
You’re a congenital screwup, pal. Twenty-four years old and going on fourteen.
Zack glanced up at the sky, wishing he had a father he could call for advice. He dismissed the thought and turned up Ruggles Street, thinking that tomorrow he’d head to Mass General Hospital’s blood bank, hoping they didn’t screen for poker.
His apartment was only a few blocks away off Huntington Avenue. But a cold drizzle began falling and chilling his face. Another few degrees and the road would be a skim of ice. As he pumped his way onto the avenue, he felt the wad of bills slide up his pocket. With his right hand he pushed down the lump to keep it from working its way out. But doing so left only his other hand to steady the handlebars against an uneven, slick surface.
In a protracted moment, Zack saw the fatal error. His front tire slammed into the jagged edge of a pothole. In the next instant—played out in weird slow motion—the front wheel snapped to the left, sending him flying over the handlebars and coming down dead smack on the top of his head into the base of the crosswalk lights.
In a fraction of a second, Zack was suddenly looking down from someplace above, seeing himself lying crumpled across the curb with his head at the base of the pole and his bike on its side, the front wheel at a crazy angle. In that sliver of awareness, he knew he was viewing things from an impossible perspective. And just as he tried to make sense of it, the moment blinked to total black.
Copyright © 2011 by Gary Braver