Chapter Five

From the instant Chris had come to accept the idea that his dream was, on some level anyway, indeed quite real, he also accepted the possibility that it was not limited to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He knew he had never left his bed. He hadnít been experiencing any of that out-of-body mumbo jumbo he had heard described by people on the Sci-Fi channel or on Art Bellís all-night radio program he often listened to while delivering his newspaper. They were dreams. He knew this. He slept. And he dreamt. The same dream. Every day. Involving real people. But it was still just a dream.

Somehow, however, he also knew it was more than just a dream. He had no idea what that Ďmoreí entailed, nor any better idea on who was contacting whom after talking with Benjamin, let alone how. But he was convinced that somebody was definitely contacting somebody. And that it was real.

Now, what about Benjamin? How long would he have? How long has it been since he appeared, one week? Two? He knew he had to do something, he had to try.

Chris knew with a name like Worthington, finding the one he wanted would be no easier than the proverbial needle, but it was admittedly a lot less hopeless than a Johnson or Anderson would have been. He also realized that Ďlong distance callsí were probably as easy and likely as local ones on whatever channel he had been using for these prophetic dreams, but grabbed the White Pages for Minneapolis and for St. Paul first. That was as good as any place to start.

There were fifteen Worthingtons in the Minneapolis White Pages and another eight listed in the St. Paul offering. Yet another deterrent to Chrisí search was that the name he knew was that of a child. His parents might be listed, but Benjamin wouldnít be. It was only two oíclock in the afternoon and most people would probably still be at work, but he opened up a Mountain Dew, settled in by the phone and dialed the first number anyway.

At midnight Chris rubbed his tired, bloodshot eyes and pushed himself back from the computer. His sixth list of Worthingtons retrieved from the Internet White Pages covering most of the major cities throughout the mid-western states lay next to the computer on his desk. Each trip to the website, he had filled a page, front and back, with Worthington phone numbers and then signed off the Internet to make the phone calls. He had made hundreds of calls, many of them having to be repeated several times throughout the day before getting an answer. None had been the Worthingtons he was seeking. The last twenty calls had all made note to Chris about the current time of night so he decided it was time to stop for now and get ready for his routes. He hadnít stopped to eat all day. The lack of results had been expected, but frustrating all the same. He headed for the shower.

* * * * *

For the first time since the accident, since this nightmare had begun, Chris was anxious to get to sleep.

Hope.

He had clung to that word all night while delivering his papers. Fate was still something Chris thought could simply not be a factor. That being fact, his seeing a face in the coffin, a young face, a healthy face, merely meant it was a probable outcome, not necessarily an absolute outcome. Even Nostradamus had said of all his prophecies that nothing was absolute, that manís destiny and fate lay solely, in the end, in his own hands. (His insight had also apparently reflected a personal lack of faith in mankindís collective common sense and human nature in general as contributing factors to his visions. They were generally not of the more optimistic variety of prognostications.)

But Chris wasnít worried about the destiny or fate of mankind right now. Just the fate of one small boy. Or the probability of one small boyís life, as he felt more comfortable wording it to himself.

The thought had first occurred to him in the shower before throwing a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner. He was feeling very frustrated about the wasted day, the hours upon hours spent fruitlessly on the phone. He didnít even want to think about what his next phone bill would look like after today. Then he was even more frustrated at the thought that the more he broadened his search, the less likely it became that he could do anything about it even if he did find Benjamin. But he felt if he could at least talk to him, the conscious Benjamin, or his parents, or the family dog or anyone in contact with the boy, he might be able to change something. That something might be just enough.

Then as he was working up a healthy lather of shampoo, trying to figure out the best way to figure out Benjaminís phone number, he suddenly thought, Just ask him for his phone number when you see him again! YES! It was that easy! He smiled genuinely like he hadnít smiled in months. Could it be that simple? It seemed like such an easy solution to an impossible question after spending hours upon hours on the phone to Worthington households all over the Midwest to no avail. He was sure, especially if he thought hard about it all night while delivering his routes, that he could remember to ask Benjamin for his phone number in the morning when he fell asleep and met him at the top of the hill.

Hope. There was always hope.

* * * * *

The sun, along with a few cars, joggers and dog walkers, was beginning to come out as Chris delivered his last paper and headed home. Despite the fact that this was just before he normally went to sleep every day, it was his favorite part of each day. He hated going to sleep anymore. He hated being forced against his will to return to the gravesite after every night to stand among the Priest and his band of mourners and meet dying people. But this part of the day--watching the sky change colors, having the finish to a long nightís work just minutes away, watching the houses and businesses and streets slowly come to life, listening to the quiet, still sounds of the night give way to the ever increasing sounds of the coming day--this was his favorite time of day.

On a portion of his drive home after his final delivery each morning, across the median and traveling in the opposite direction, heading towards downtown Minneapolis, the rush hour is just beginning to mass. Chrisí mini-van is usually still a lonely vehicle making use of the three lanes of highway traveling south bound. The analogy and the irony this scene portrays in relation to the direction his life had taken since the accident did not go unnoticed by Chris.

Chris had never been much of a drinker. An occasional glass of wine during the evening. Two or three times a year, despite swearing "never again" after each time, a good drunk with a few friends had still been considered a good time. Lately, however, Chris had begun the habit of tipping back a shot (or two) of scotch each morning before bed to help him sleep. Despite how tired he was each morning when he would lay down for sleep, he was tense, not wanting to go to sleep. The scotch seemed to help him take the edge off a bit. It helped him go where he had to go with a tad bit less anguish and trepidation.

This morning, however, Chris didnít need the new crutch. He had hope. This morning he was simply going to ask Benjamin for his phone number and then give him a call after he awoke. He had never had any problem remembering conversations he had shared with William. He remembered verbatim the first words Sherry had screamed at him in his very first dream months earlier. He was absolutely sure, if Benjamin didnít consider Chris to still be a stranger after their two weeks of sharing a dream together and refused to give it out (his dad was a cop, after all), that he would remember the boyís phone number when he awoke.

For the first time since the accident, Chris couldnít wait to get to sleep.

* * * * *

Chris could still feel the eyes that followed his progress up the hill each time he visited the dreamland gravesite and he tried to ignore them and focus on his task at hand.

The phone number.

The hill lay in front of him, the wind still pushing gently from behind. The Priest was just folding closed his precious book and He and the mourners, as they always do, turn their attention first to Chris as he approaches, and then to the coffin as it opens.

The phone number.

"Hi Chris!" Benjamin said cheerfully as the coffin had fully opened and his eyes had followed suit.

"Hello, Benjamin," Chris replied.

The phone number.

He was so focused on his mission he had all but forgotten the familiar watching audience.

Benjamin had been the dreamís host now for fifteen days. Chris had been watching for any signs of fading, but before tonight, he didnít think there had been much, if any, change in Benjaminís appearance. Tonight Chris saw the sands of time were indeed still in operational order. Benjaminís eyes seemed to be three shades of blue lighter than they had been twenty-four hours earlier. His skin seemed to take on a hint of the colors surrounding him, almost like a chameleon, as if he seemed to be blending in with the coffinís interior a bit more. He was definitely beginning to fade.

"Benjamin, I have a favor I need to ask you. I need to call you on the telephone," Chris started to explain. He took a nervous glance towards the Priest, half expecting him to try to stop the coming obvious next question, to claim it was Ďbreaking the rulesí, or worse, not in the script. But the Priest just stood there as silent and motionless as he always did after closing his book. Still, his mere presence bothered Chris. His silence, feeling he could speak if he chose to do so, made Chris very uneasy. But he wasnít going to ask permission to ask the question. He looked back at Benjamin laying in the coffin and continued his quest.

"I need your phone number, Benjamin, so I can talk to you and your parents. Will you tell me what your phone number is?"

For a moment, he thought maybe Benjamin hadnít memorized his phone number yet, or that his dad had warned him never to give it out. Benjamin looked thoughtfully at Chris and he realized that Benjamin was sizing him up, deciding if it was safe to reveal the secret numbers to the man he had only recently met in his dreams. He had obviously been told by his parents that this was privileged information and not to be handed out to strangers. He was a good kid, Chris thought, and tried not to look as desperate for the number as he felt.

"Why do you want to talk to my parents?" Benjamin asked, without yet handing over the information Chris had requested.

A simple enough question, but one Chris had not prepared himself for. He couldnít just come out and tell Benjamin he might be in danger. He didnít want to scare the boy.

Thinking quickly, keeping one eye on the Priest, Chris said, "I just want to tell your parents what a wonderful job they are doing raising such a fine young lad as yourself. I have enjoyed visiting with you these last two weeks and I wanted to see if maybe I could take you and your parents out to dinner or something like that to say thanks." And then the clincher, "You like McDonaldís?"

"Cool! Yeah!" Benjamin exclaimed. "I love McDonaldís! Happy Meals Rule!" he said, pumping his small fist into the air.

"Well, give me your phone number and I will give your mom and dad a call tomorrow and see if maybe we canít get something arranged. If that sounds good to you."

"You bet! Itís 555-5647."

Chris smiled broadly, and a bit smugly as he glanced at the Priest across the grave. Then he realized he still needed an area code.

"Do you know your area code, Benjamin? What city you live in?" Chris asked.

"Area code?" Benjamin asked in return.

Damn, almost there, Chris thought. "The three numbers in front of the numbers you gave me," he explained. "The area code for what city you live in."

"I donít know any codes," Benjamin said. "But the phone number is 555-5647."

"What city do you live in? I can find the code if I know your city," Chris continued. Come on, Benjamin. Weíre so close now!

"I live in Kansas," Benjamin said, a syllable at a time, making it sound more like ĎCan-Saysí.

"Is that Kansas City or Kansas State, Benjamin?" Chris asked patiently.

"Itís Kansas," Benjamin stated firmly, sounding quite sure of himself. "Like where Dorothy lives."

"Do you live in a town?"

"Nope. We live in out-of-town."

"On a farm?"

"Yep. A BIG farm," Benjamin said with pride.

"Do you know what town your farm is near, Benjamin?"

Chris wasnít sure, but out of the corner of his eye, as he continued to drill Benjamin for the crucial information, he could have sworn he saw the Priestís shadowy lips turn up at the corners. He didnít dare take a double-take or even a delayed glance now. He wasnít sure, but Chris thought maybe his frustration here was amusing the Priest; that he had smiled.

"UmmmmmmmmÖ" Benjamin was saying, trying to think of the answer Chris was fishing for. "Kansas."

"Okay, thatís okay, Benjamin. Iíll figure it out. Iíll call you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay!" Another small pump of the fist into the air.

The Priest was making Chris nervous. More so than usual. He couldnít explain it. But he had the phone number and he had the state. The number of possible area codes would be down to a manageable hit and miss quantity knowing the phone number was in Kansas. Mission accomplished.

But the smile Chris had sensed on the Priest did not sit well in his mind. I didnít see the smile so much as I felt it, he admitted to himself, with no real proof to back up his thought. But he was almost convinced it had definitely been there.

Another thing Chris seemed to realize was that the more he knew lately, the more he wished he didnít know.

* * * * *

Chapter Six


Faith

Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Epilogue