Part Three

"The past is only proof
that we know not what the future will bring."
---Classified Trash

Chapter Fifteen

Chris stood beside the gaping hole above the casket with the Priest and his small band of black robed mourners across from him awaiting for the lid to open and reveal his dream’s newest host. The previous resident of what Chris still thought of as Sherry’s coffin, Gloria Bitterman she had called herself, was not expected to be returning. She had been looking forward to meeting God and rejoining her family. She had been relatively young compared to most who had known their time was coming, 34 lonely years old, she had said. She had also been healthy, at least as far as Chris could tell. Her parents had died a year earlier in a car accident, her father having a stroke while driving and losing control of the car, taking her mother with him as the car careened into the base of a bridge at fifty miles per hour. Her younger brother had died a month before that while sitting on the front porch watching the sun go down, as he liked so much to do. He had met a stray bullet from a gang dispute a block from their home on the south side of DC. That had been the second strike of lightning in the same place, so to speak. He had already spent the last twelve years of his life, since the age of 14, in a wheel chair, mostly under the constant care of Gloria, paralyzed from the neck down, again from a gunshot, this one from a robbery gone bad at the convenience store a block from the Bitterman’s home.

Now for almost a year with the small house to herself, Gloria had told Chris that she was planning on going to sleep soon, never to wake up again, and rejoin her family in Heaven. She was cleaning up the house first. She didn’t want to leave it messy for whoever was going to discover her later. Then she planned on taking a bottle of sleeping pills, along with a bottle of her father’s favorite whiskey, and go to sleep. Chris knew she’d go through with it. She had only been a host for three days but was already fading fast. He might have tried to talk her out of it during his dream, if he thought it might have helped to save her. But he had pretty much at this point decided he didn’t have the ability to do so even if he had wanted to. Listening to her tell her story and explain her reasons for wanting to take her own life was all he could do. Her life had been a living Hell, one tragedy after another, according to her. Maybe in death she would find her peace. Who was he to try to deny her that, he thought, her escape to Heaven?

As the lid began to open, Chris wondered if the Priest standing stoically at the opposite side of the hole didn’t already know who was about to introduce herself to Chris. If he had to guess, he thought the answer was yes, but he didn’t want to think about what that might mean and he forced his thoughts back to the presumed newcomer.

Ever since his failed attempt to intervene with Benjamin’s fate, Chris had given up on the idea that he could have a role in the lives, or the deaths as the case may be, of his visitors other than as observer, listener, and comforter for those who were moving on. He hadn’t allowed himself to get emotionally attached to any of them as he had to Benjamin.

But that was about to change.

The lid slowly opened, revealing the sweetest, bluest eyes he had ever seen. Her long, straight black hair lay over her shoulders, her bangs resting neatly just above her brow. Her dimpled smile as she looked up at Chris was playful, bordering on seductive. She was wearing an extra large, bright orange T-shirt with the letters "U of I" on it that came down to just above her knees revealing sexy but strong-looking calves. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, close to his own age, Chris thought, and full of exuberant life. Her toes were wiggling and she was giggling as she spied Chris looking down at her.

Chris’ heart sank, hard and fast. He could see no sign of the telltale fading. He knew he was going to have time to get to know his new visitor. He knew his emotions were going to be hard to keep in check. Her voice, as she spoke, sounded friendly and pleasant, like a favorite long-forgotten song.

"Oh!" she said, eyes gleaming like none before in her place on the hill. "One of these dreams."

Chris couldn’t help but smile, a little embarrassed from the insinuation in the tone of her voice. He stood speechless, admiring the curve of her cheek bones, her long, slender neck. He had almost forgotten what her presence here implied of her future as she spoke again in response to his silence.

"Well?" she asked, her smile unwavering. "Is this one of those dreams, or are you going to just stand there making me dream about it?"

"I, um, I’m not sure I know what you mean," Chris finally forced himself to say. Actually, he knew exactly what she meant by "one of those dreams," and as much as he would have loved nothing more than for it to be one of those dreams, he knew that somehow he needed to let her know that this was most certainly not the dream she thought it was. In fact, it was more than a dream. More real than she obviously realized.

"Sure you do," she said, a playful pout forming on her full lips. "I dreamed you up, so you know what I know. Isn’t that how it works?"

"I’m not sure how it works," Chris admitted honestly. "But I don’t think this is what you think it is."

"Damn," her smile in her eyes still overpowering the pout on her mouth. "And you looked so cute, too. Are you sure? Lord knows I haven’t been able to find you when awake. And now you are going to be equally elusive in my dream, too? Just my luck," she said as she stuck out her tongue at Chris. "So," she continued, "if it’s not what I think it is, then what is it? Why are you here in my dream, in my bedroom, if not to make passionate love to me? Tell me. I mean, is this my dream or not? Don’t you have to do what I want?"

This wasn’t going to be easy. Under any other circumstances he would probably have wanted nothing more than to make sweet, passionate love to this beautiful young woman. On the one hand, it wasn’t even real. He was in his bed at home, she in hers. If he were to succumb to her wishes, it would just be their minds, right? No physical contact would actually be made. And in this day and age of ‘safe sex’ necessities, Chris thought, what could be safer!

But even if he wanted to, which he did, he wouldn’t have been able to. There was still the other hand, him knowing what he knows, knowing that he would remember and she wouldn’t, knowing that this is probably more real and less dream than she is aware. He would have felt like he was taking advantage of her, possibly doing something she wouldn’t do if she knew the facts as he knew them. And of course there was also a matter of the audience, the audience she could not see but Chris was ever aware of.

"Yes," Chris replied, trying to choose his words wisely. "This is your dream. But it is also mine. Our dreams have somehow collided, gotten mixed together. I don’t know how else to explain it. But I am real," he continued, "not just a product of your imagination."

Chris saw her face redden in embarrassment as this fact sunk in. But it quickly passed as disbelief replaced it.

"How can we both be having the same dream?" she asked.

"I have no idea how the mechanics of this phenomenon works, but I can guarantee you that things aren’t as they seem to you," he said.

"So what makes you so sure they aren’t what they seem to you," she challenged.

"Because you are not the first one whose dreams I have been a part of," Chris tried to explain. "I will remember all that happens in this dream, yet from my experience so far, I don’t think you will remember any of it."

"So you just travel around invading peoples dreams? Who are you? Some kind of psychic Peeping Tom?" She tucked her legs under the blanket and pulled it up to her neck, though all Chris could see was her knees bend and her hands raise up to her neck. He couldn’t see the blanket she held on her side of the dream. Chris could tell she was beginning to feel uncomfortable. The smile in her blue eyes vanished, the playful pout in her lips changed to a serious frown. She appeared to be undecided between becoming angry or scared.

"No, no," Chris assured her. "Nothing like that. You don’t need to be afraid of me. But your being here is not a good sign, at least as far as I can figure from the others that have been in my dreams."

Chris made up his mind, without giving any time to thinking about it, that he was going to try to help her. He knew he was setting himself up for another disappointment, but the price she would have to pay if he could have helped and didn’t was tenfold worse. What choice did he have? She appeared to be another Benjamin, healthy, young, full of life, a life that was about to be taken from her. If there was the slightest chance that he could help save that life, he had to try.

"You’re scaring me," she said looking up at Chris, her lower lip slightly trembling as she spoke.

"I don’t mean to scare you. Damn. This isn’t easy to explain, but it isn’t me you have to be afraid of," Chris said, trying to ease her obvious growing fears.

"So who do I need to be afraid of? And why?" she asked.

"I don’t know," Chris said, but he glanced up at the Priest as he answered her, silently naming Him as the one whom they should both be afraid of, if he had to name anyone.

Disbelief began to overpower fear on her face once again. Such a pretty face, Chris thought. A face he could get used to looking at, but wished he had never seen. At least not here, not in his dream.

She was an adult, unlike Benjamin. He would have to try to be straight with her at the risk of scaring her. He knew no other way to let her know the danger he felt sure she was in, yet had no real way of proving. It had been a tornado, of all things, that had taken Benjamin. A natural disaster that could not possibly have been foreseen. Yet somebody had to have known. Benjamin wouldn’t have been in his dream if somebody hadn’t known. So how could he help this new woman? How could he forewarn her of a tragedy that can’t be predicted? He could tell her to leave town. But what if she died in a car crash while leaving? Then he would have caused her death instead of preventing it. He could tell her to hide out in a bomb shelter until she didn’t appear in his dream anymore, as if she would actually do that. All he could do, he decided, was level with her, and then let her make her own decisions.

And would she even believe him? And would it matter if she did? Because supposedly she wouldn’t remember anything he tells her in the dream anyway. How could he possibly help? He could get her phone number, he thought, like he did with Benjamin, if she’d give it to him. Then he could try to convince her when she’s awake. Convince her here in the dream that she needs his help when awake. This, Chris decided, was all he could do. But even that, he felt, was probably not going to be enough. It hadn’t been enough for Benjamin. But he had to try.

"Well?" she said, relaxing her grip on the blanket a bit, letting it fall back below her neck line. "What good are you then? Why are you here?"

"I don’t know," Chris said again, shaking his head in frustration. "But I want to tell you what I do know and maybe together we can decide what to do. I need to ask you some questions first though. And I need you to trust me."

"And what if I don’t want to answer them?" she fired back, starting to show the candidness in her face and spunkiness in her voice that Chris witnessed when she had first appeared. "How can I trust you? I don’t even know you. And none of this is real anyway," she said in defiance. "You are just a dream. Or maybe a nightmare, but you aren’t real."

Chris didn’t want to argue with her. He had already told her that he was indeed real, that this was more than simply a dream.

"Are you healthy?" Chris asked, ignoring her question.

"Yes, why do you ask?"

"You don’t have any diseases or cancers or something not noticeable that you have been treating or are worried about?" he asked.

"No. I run every morning. I am 27 years old. I don’t smoke. I am in perfect health," she reported.

"What’s your name?" Chris asked.


What’s yours?" she replied stubbornly.

"Christopher Battles. And I wish I could say that I am pleased to meet you, but I’m afraid I’m not. The fact that I have met you here in this manner means that you are in danger." Chris blurted out.

"Danger? What kind of danger?" she asked.

"I’m getting to that, but it isn’t going to be easy to explain. And you may not believe me anyway, but I assure you that everything I have to tell you, to the best of my knowledge and as best as I can figure out, is very, very true. But it might be easier if I at least know your name," Chris said.

"Kimberly," she answered. "That’s all you need to know for now."

"Fair enough, Kimberly. I wish I could have met you under different circumstances," Chris admitted.

"So what kind of danger do you think I am in?" Kimberly asked.

Even though she was an adult, Chris still couldn’t just blurt out that he thought she was going to die soon. He didn’t know where to begin in order to best make her believe.

"You said you are in your bedroom, right? That’s where you see yourself in this dream? Where am I in your dream?" he asked.

"Yes. This is my bedroom," she said looking around. "You are standing at the foot of my bed. I thought I dreamed you up to make love to me, but then I guess if that were true, you wouldn’t have that shaggy stuff on your chin. I prefer my men to be clean shaved. And your hair would be more trimmed. In fact," she added, "I don’t know why I even thought you were cute at first. You don’t actually look like my type at all."

The critical words did not go unnoticed to Chris, but he wasn’t going to worry about it. Her life was what was important here, not whether or not she liked him or thought he was cute, although at some other level, he still wished she did. But it wasn’t like he was trying to impress her. He was trying to save her.

"I don’t see your bedroom. That is not a part of my dream," Chris said, trying to ignore her commentary on his appearance. "My dream appears the same as it has for all the others that I have dreamt of over the last half a year or so. It started after I had an accident," he explained, figuring he had to start somewhere. "My girlfriend died in the accident, she was the first one I saw in my dream."

"Well I assure you that I am not dead," Kimberly interrupted.

"That’s not what I mean," Chris continued. "I saw her here in my dream, where you are, before she died. She was asking me to help her, and I couldn’t. She died three days later. That’s what I am trying to tell you, but I can’t think of an easy way to do it. Everyone that has been here in my dream has died soon afterward. Most were old and ready to die, even welcoming death. But some, like you, were young and healthy." Chris looked down at his hands before him, not wanting to look into Kimberly’s eyes as he said what he had to say next. "By appearing in my dream," he explained, "I think you are supposed to die soon. But I want to try to help you live if I can. I don’t know how, or even if I can, but I have to try. Do you understand?"

"No! I do NOT understand!" Kimberly yelled. "This is ridiculous! No, it’s just a nightmare! Go scare someone else! I don’t need this shit!"

Chris woke up.

Damn. He remembered everything, as he always did. He hadn’t convinced her. She had chased him out of her dream, or nightmare as she had deemed it. His one consoling thought was that she had had no sign of the fading, which meant her death was not near, at least not in the next few days. He had some time. How much time, he could only guess. At least a couple weeks, maybe more. But he knew the fading could start at any time.

It was Sunday, late morning. He’d only gotten about four hours to lay down before snapping awake. He was tired and sore, even more so than usual as the Sunday paper is always a bear to deliver. He thought about trying to get some more sleep before getting up but knew he wouldn’t be able to find a wink. Thoughts were racing through his mind a mile a minute. He wanted to talk to Carly. He needed some feedback, some input. He wanted a second opinion on what he wanted to do and how to go about doing it from the only person he could trust. But he knew Carly usually wasn’t online on Sundays and he didn’t want to call her in case ‘Rocky’ answered the phone. He had already spent the morning causing grief in one woman’s dream; he didn’t want to accidentally cause even more grief in another woman’s reality. Her opinions would have to wait until Monday afternoon. He would still have to see Kimberly one more time before then.

Chris headed for the shower and began thinking of his next strategy to try to convince Kimberly of her danger. Looking in the mirror, he recalled her comments on his appearance. She was right. He was looking pretty ratty these days. His appearance had been one of his least concerns over the past seven months. Only now for the first time, he realized it showed.

Opening up the medicine cabinet, shoving aside the Tylenol PM and the No Doz, neither of which ever really seemed to do what they were supposed to do, he pulled out an old disposable Bic razor and shaved off his scraggly beard. He also decided, because he really didn’t have anything better to do with his day, that maybe it was time to get a haircut.

* * * * *

Chapter Sixteen


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