Chapter Six

Chris was on the phone five minutes after he woke up a little after one in the afternoon. Kansas has only three area codes covering the entire state. On the second one he tried, he got an answering machine featuring Benjaminís now familiar and cheerful young voice.

"Hi! Um, sorry you missed, um, missed us. Um. Please, um, leave a message after the beep and, um, weíll, um, call you back. Bye!"

Chris hung up without leaving a message. He decided he had better write out what he wanted to say on the answering machine to insure their interest and a return call without alarming them or scaring them by saying anything at all about what was actually on his mind. He also didnít want to sound like a kook and lose all credibility in an already seemingly insane and unbelievable situation.

After thirty minutes of writing out dozens of potential messages to Benjaminís parents hoping to ensure a return call from them, he realized he was directing the message to the wrong people. If he directed the message to Benjamin, his parents are going to want to know who he is and talk to him immediately, regardless of what the message says, assuming that they will be the ones that first hear it.

Chris redialed the number without preparing his speech on paper. The third ring was again answered with Benjaminís message. After the beep, Chris left his message to Benjamin.

"Hi, Benjamin. This is Chris Battles in Minneapolis. I liked your message on the phone. Iím not sure you remember me, Benjamin, but I wanted to talk to your parents about the things that we talked about before. My phone number is 651-555-6956. Please tell them to call me as soon as they can. Calling collect is fine, too." Then recalling a phrase Benjamin had recited in each of his Power Ranger stories, he added, "Itís Morphin Time! Bye for now."

Chris hung up the phone and waited.

Usually in the afternoons while he was surfing the Internet, he had the after school childrenís programs on the TV for background noise. The sounds coming from the cartoons and fantasy dramas were as colorful as the pictures that its young viewers were so attracted to. He never watched, just listened, as others might listen to the radio. He was familiar with the Power Rangers, the theme of the pajamas Benjamin wore and of the stories he liked to tell. "Itís Morphin Time" was the phrase chanted by the Rangers before they morphed, or transformed, from average pimple-popping teenagers into galaxy-saving superheroes. Mentioning them would undoubtedly let Benjaminís parents know that he did indeed know their son. Theyíd most certainly now want to know who he was and how he knew their son.

Chris didnít believe that Benjamin would remember their shared dreams or who Chris was the way that he did. Sherry hadnít. He assumed Benjaminís parents would drill their son about him before calling back to see what the two of them had supposedly talked about. His dad was a police officer, after all. He hoped that fact would work to his advantage.

Waiting for the call meant staying off the Internet in order to keep the phone line open. Chris was feeling high with hope. Maybe, he even thought, he had already tipped the scales in Benjaminís favor by making contact and raising the guard and suspicions of a protective cop-father over his sonís well-being and causing whatever was supposedly going to happen, to not happen. He wouldnít know for sure until he found a new face in his dream before watching Benjamin fade too far. Benjamin hadnít yet faded to near the point the others had been before not returning the following night, but he had started to fade. Chris knew there wasnít a whole lot of time left, maybe a week, five days, he guessed. But that was still enough time for hope.

Without the Internet to occupy his time, and having been regenerated with energy from his high hopes, Chris spent the afternoon giving his half of the duplex the most thorough cleaning it had seen in several years. He had decided to give Mr. Worthington at least until after the dinner discussion, if thatís when they decided to bring it up, before he himself tried calling back. But he guessed he should be getting the call sometime around seven that evening. He had absolutely no idea how he was going to convince Benjaminís dad that what he had to say, as crazy at it may seem, might save Benjamin from some unknown and unexpected horror. He simply knew he had to try.

He had guessed wrong about the time, but not the caller. When the phone rang at five-fifteen, Chris was inside the tub scrubbing the tile walls. Banging his knee hard against the bathroom door frame as he ran, he made it to the phone by its second ring. Noticing the "Out-of-Area" reading on his caller ID, he knew at once it was his call from Kansas.

The third ring completed and Chris sat down next to the phone and picked it up.

"One moment, please," Chris said into the receiver and then placed it in his lap, took a deep, slow breath, then brought the receiver back to his ear. "Hello?"

"Is this Mr. Chris Battles?" a man asked.

"Yes, it is," Chris replied, content for now to let Officer Worthington dictate the pace of this delicate and possibly all-important call.

"Good. Iím glad I got you direct. My name is Thomas Worthington. You left a message today for my son that sounded, well, mysterious, for lack of a better word. Needless to say, we asked him about you and he doesnít remember having ever met you. Also needless to say, this concerned me greatly as he is only seven years old and you are not. You said in the message that you wanted to talk to his parents. You have one now. Please explain."

"Thank you for calling back so quickly, Mr. Worthington. I do believe this is a fairly urgent matter, but Iím not quite sure how to begin," Chris said. It appeared that Mr. Worthington wanted to get right to the point, however Chris didnít think giving out too much info too quickly would help his cause. He proceeded slowly, "Youíre a policeman, right?"

"Yes, I am," Officer Worthington replied. He sounded less surprised and more aggravated by the fact that Chris knew this. "How is it you know so much?"

"Benjamin told me you are a policeman. He said he wanted to be one too when he grows up." Here was his last chance to find out different before making a complete fool of himself. If Benjaminís father knew Benjamin wasnít going to Ďgrow upí because of some unnoticeable disease or organ deformity, he would surely say so now.

"When did you talk to Benjamin? And where?" Mr. Worthington asked, beginning to sound a little impatient.

"This is not easy for me, sir. Youíll understand here if you give me time, but please bear with me," Chris said, still trying to figure out how and where to begin. "Iím not quite sure where to start," he admitted honestly.

"Are you connected with the schools?"

"No."

"Well letís start there. Who do you work for?" asked the officer in Mr. Worthington.

"Well, that isnít really important in this, but I deliver newspapers for the Star Tribune here in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area," Chris replied, but offered no more information and waited for the officerís next question.

"So how did you meet my son?" Mr. Worthington asked, now also with a touch of frustration tainting his voice. An understandable and predictable question, to be sure, but equally understandably not the question Chris wanted to answer next.

Taking another deep breath, Chris said, "Okay. First of all, I want you to understand that it is Benjaminís well-being that I am concerned with here. You must trust me on that. I am only trying to help. Okay?"

"What is this all about, Mr. Battles? I am not a patient man when it comes to my sonís well-being, as you put it."

"I understand that completely and I apologize for the way this sounds," Chris said. The last thing he wanted to do was agitate Mr. Worthington. He needed him on his side. "Just hear me out completely and I will tell you everything I know. Is that a deal?"

"Deal," Mr. Worthington agreed with a loud sigh, noticeably straining to remain patient. "So talk."

Chris gave up on the idea that there was a way to make his story sound sane and hoped that Thomas Worthington was a man capable of keeping an open mind, a very open mind. He finally started at the beginning, with the accident he and Sherry had experienced together, and then with the dreams in which Sherry had informed him of her dilemma. He then carefully explained her fading and how she had died.

"Are you going to tell me that you met my son in a dream? Is that where you are going with this?" Mr. Worthington interrupted, his impatience proving true to his word.

"I am getting to that, but yes," Chris said. "But before you come to any premature conclusions from that thought, keep in mind that I am talking to you right now from Minnesota because of the phone number Benjamin gave to me last night in this dream." Chris knew this was probably the crucial point in determining the way the rest of this call was going to go. He paused for a moment to let that last bit of information sink in for Mr. Worthington. He hoped the next sound he heard would not be the phone at the other end being hung up.

Mr. Worthington finally broke the silence. "Are you trying to tell me that you think my son is in danger of dying?" he asked.

He still had an edge to his voice, a touch of sarcasm saying that he didnít believe a word Chris had said. But at least, Chris thought, he appeared willing to listen. He hadnít hung up on the crazinessÖat least not yet.

"Sir, I started seeing your son in my dream about two weeks ago. There have been quite a few others between him and the first one I told you about. One of them lasted a month before he faded and died. I am sorry to put it like this, but based on the people I have met in my dreams over the past few months, I donít believe Benjamin has two more weeks. I donít even think he has one week, he has begun fading." Speaking fast now, getting to the heart of the matter, not wanting to be interrupted, Chris continued. "I know this is the last thing in the world you want to hear and I wish I could be more specific, but I am hoping that just because I see him in my dream, it doesnít mean he has to die like the others have. They were all old or sick or injured. But Benjamin is healthy, is he not? I donít really understand any of this any better than you do."

"Benjamin is in excellent health," Mr. Worthington confirmed, his voice sounding a bit distant. Chris could tell Thomas Worthington was deep in thought, his brain, for the sake of his son, trying hard to grasp what his ears were relaying to it. But Chris wasnít sure acceptance had yet been achieved.

"Yes," Chris said, "thatís what I thought. Then that would mean that there could be an accident that might happen sometime in the next few days, or week. I donít know. I just know that he is alive right now and healthy and thereís no reason for him to be appearing in my dream. But if the patterns hold true, Mr. Worthington, I am sorry to say that Benjaminís life is indeed in great danger. I asked him for his phone number last night in the dream so that I could warn you. He told me you are a policeman. I hope this means you can give him even better protection. At least until I donít see him anymore in my dream. If someone new appears and Benjamin is still fine, then Iíll know that whatever was supposed to happen, didnít, and the danger will have passed. Do you understand, Mr. Worthington? I know this sounds crazy. I also know that I canít be sure about anything, but I do truly believe that Benjaminís life is in danger. Please just tell me that at least over the next week or two, you wonít let Benjamin out of your sight for an instant. I will call you again tomorrow, and every day, to tell you about the dream and whether or not I am still seeing Benjamin in it. Will you do that? Watch him around the clock right now? He needs you, Mr. Worthington. You must trust me on this, for his sake. I donít know how I know what I know beyond what I have told you, but I cannot ignore it. Heís a wonderful boy, as I am sure you know, sir. Will you keep him with you?"

A very loud silence hung in the air. Chris wondered for a minute if maybe Mr. Worthington hadnít heard enough of this hogwash and simply hung up the phone in disbelief during his last frantic pleas for help on Benjaminís behalf.

Finally, Mr. Worthington said, "You are asking me to put a lot of faith into something that sounds like total bullshit coming from someone over the phone who I have never met, Mr. Battles. How on earth do you expect me to believe any of this?"

"Your son wears Power Ranger pajamas to bed and sleeps with the red one. He likes to re-enact their stories in his imagination," Chris said calmly.

"All that proves is that you could be a peeping-tom pervert. You know I can have you picked up by the Minneapolis police in minutes if need be. I have your phone number, too. I called up there to have a background check run on you right before I called you. Iím sure by now they have all the info they need and are just awaiting my word."

"I assure you that is not the case, Mr. Worthington. I am not liking this any more than you are. These dreams have been a curse for me. I wish I did not have them. But I do." Now it was Chrisí turn to express a little impatience. "I do have them and for the past two weeks, your son has been the featured guest star. You can ignore me and call me a kook and then feel like shit for the rest of your life if I am right. Or you can keep an extra close eye on Benjamin for the next few days and possibly prevent something bad from happening to him. Itís just for a short time, Mr. Worthington. Maybe your knowledge of this alone will have already altered something and Benjamin will not return to my dream tonight and heíll be fine. Maybe thereís nothing we can do at all about it. I just donít know. But I do believe, myself, that if Benjamin stands a chance, heís going to need your help. Heís going to need you to believe."

"Why doesnít Benjamin remember you, as you do him?" Mr. Worthington asked.

"I donít know," Chris replied honestly. "As I said earlier, Sherry didnít remember talking to me in my dream either. But what she told me in my dream had been true. This is fact."

"If I heed your warning here," Benjaminís father said, sounding nervous now, which was probably a good thing, "in the unlikelihood that this could be anything other than total bullshit, are you willing to let me send a couple of men down from the Minneapolis PD to talk with you in person about all this?"

"If I must tell more people of this craziness in order to help save Benjaminís life, then yes, send whomever you like," Chris replied.

"I wonít let him out of my sight, Mr. Battles. I canít say that I truly believe much of anything you have told me, but I do believe that you believe it. Thatís enough to cause me more concern than I am comfortable with. I am going to send a couple officers over to give you a little interview, though. Please try to cooperate with them. Iím sorry if it inconveniences your schedule, but Iím sure you must understand."

"I understand fully, Mr. Worthington. Iíll call you tomorrow as soon as I wake up. Until then, promise me not to let Benjamin out of your sight. Okay? Promise me? For Benjamin."

"You can count on it, Mr. Battles. You have succeeded in making me sufficiently uneasy about all this. I will not let anything happen to my son. Iíll be in touch. And I suppose you feel a Ďthank youí is in order here, but I think I will reserve that comment until after this matter is resolved."

"I understand, sir."

The two men hung up and went about their respective tasks at hand--Thomas Worthingtonís task being to find out as much as possible about one Chris Battles of the Minneapolis area while at the same time not letting Benjamin out of his sight; and Chrisí task being to pass the time until work so that he could get back to sleep and see if Benjamin was still hostingÖand still fading.

* * * * *

Chapter Seven


Faith

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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