The boy slept peacefully in his bed. Dreams of cartoons characters filled his head with joy and happiness. I have only just awoken. I saw the world though his eyes and the world is beautiful, new and filled with wonder. Tonight I will leave him to sleep. I have work to do and sleep won't come so easily in the nights to come.
Scott is a quiet child. Eleven years of age; he is extremely shy, introverted and socially awkward, all the ingredients needed for a difficult childhood. His days are happily spent locked away in his bedroom playing video games on his Atari game system. A little bit of satisfaction came through the time wasted on such meaningless fun. His imagination is vast and as with many children like him, he is above average in intelligence, even though he lacks the motivation to utilize it. He believes he is gifted with precognition. Often he can finish others sentences and frequently knows when the phone will ring and for whom. I am glad he believes this as his mind is open rather than closed. For Scott there is hope. Like most children his age Scott has an imaginary friend. He talks and plays with his friend mostly because he is lonely. Unlike most children, to him his imaginary friend is very real. Real enough to at times hear the faint whisper of his friend in his head.
A few nights later Scott woke screaming and crying from a bad dream. His heart racing, sweat and tears, this is genuine terror. Scott recounted the story of a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. In his sleep Scott dreamed of himself when he was older, perhaps in his early twenties. He dreamt of driving a white car and talking to a man sitting beside him in the passenger seat. The man had a featureless face, hazy and undefined, and although Scott knew they were arguing he had no recollection of hearing the words. Adult Scott, in the dream, stopped the car near an electrical power substation. Then both men got out of the car and the argument turned physical. Scott ran from his attacker but was pursued. When Scott fell face first to the ground, the man was swiftly on top of him. The man grabbed his forehead, pulling his head back and a knife swiftly slit Scott's throat. This is where the boy awoke with the taste of imaginary blood in his mouth.
After an hour and a little bit of reassurance he is escorted back to his room, tucked into bed and bid good night. After all, it was only a dream and dreams are not real. Sleep this night did not return for Scott. The memory of the nightmare haunted him for a week. I know he was frightened, but fear is motivation. Fear is sometimes necessary for survival.
The following week the same dream ended Scott's restful sleep. This dream would continue to replay in his sleep several nights a week for nearly a year with every detail the same. He told his parents again the details of the dream and only received a small amount of reassurance. His parents believed this is just a phase. In time, the boy grew used to the nightmare and accepted it as a part of life. Then other things began to color his dreamscape. A new science fiction movie called “Star Wars” dominated his thoughts and dreams for period of time. But that was only temporary and soon he began waking every night to the image of his “older self” having his throat cut, burned into his mind. He felt pain as his neck muscles spasm. He tasted blood when waking, although mostly imagined, but sometimes real when he had bitten his tongue or the inside of his cheek while dreaming. The dream continued frequently. I saw to that.
Nearly nine months later Scott's father, who is a police officer asked Scott for more details about his dream. Something had stuck in his head about the location of his sons dream. He seemed particularly interested in the details concerning the power substation. To his father's surprise, the description of the site closely matched a location that city police were currently conducting an investigation. The January disappearance of two high school students, and subsequent discoveries of the bodies in March, near a remote power substation. Scott's father asked him if he had ever been to the place in his dreams. The answer was no and that he had never seen it other than in the dream. It was unlikely he had seen the location in reality, as it is a remote undeveloped area west of the city. Scott grew confused as his father never truly showed interest in his nightmare before. Even more confusing to Scott was that his father talked to him about the place from his dream as if it were a real place.
A week later Scott's father took him for a drive. During the drive he again asked his son for details about the dream. He asked his son if he thought he knew the man in the car with him. The answer was no. He also asked if he knew older high school teenagers named John or Cindy. Again the answer was no. They came to a stop on a gravel road and Scott's father asked him to face him which the boy did. Scott's father put the car in gear and drove a short distance further and stopped again. He looked at the boy and asked for him to describe the place in his dreams. It was easy for Scott since he had this dream approaching a hundred times, never changing, always the same and powerful enough to still invoke fear. The place, a power substation with eight towers beside a gravel road. The plant was fenced in with chain link fence and a palm tree on each side of the structure when looking from the road. A pond was about the length of a football field to the right of the substation. As Scott described the location his father's eyes widened. He told his son to turn and look out the car window. When Scott did he screamed and began to sob. This is the place in his dream.
On the drive home Scott's father instructed him not to tell anyone where they had gone. He told him not to talk to anyone about the dream. In fact he didn't want him to mention it again. He did as his father asked. For the next seven years the dream continued and Scott never mentioned it again to anyone.
When he turned eighteen Scott's parents moved away to Arkansas and he moved in with his best friend Kevin. He has just finished high school and it was time to find a job. He happened across a video rental store and decided to apply for a job. Luckily he got the job but it was a difficult transition for a shy introvert to interact with the public. Scott was awkward in almost every aspect of interaction. But somehow he managed to keep his job and within six months, became store manager.
One day Scott met a customer during work. He is a blonde haired man thirty years of age named Tom. If there was a complete opposite to whom Scott is, this was the person. An extrovert, comfortable in conversations with people he didn't even know and Tom had a level of self confidence Scott had rarely seen. Upon first meeting, Scott's expression must have said "what the hell is this?", as Tom jokingly said as much in recognition of the reaction.
Rather quickly Scott and Tom became friends. Their friendship grew strong enough to spend nearly every week night together with Tom’s family, for dinner and a movie via the video store. Tom is married to Vicky, a woman from a wealthy local family and nearly the same age as Scott. Tom’s three boys were ages six, five and three. Their friendship changed Scott in ways he did not expect. He became more outgoing and developed a light hearted sense of humor. He no longer had the fear of talking to strangers. Additionally, Scott had gained the confidence and motivation to attend college part time. He even applied himself to the course work. In recent days however, a low annoying sound took up residence in his head when he slept.
The dream, or rather nightmare, persisted. The detail for the most part had remained unchanged over the years, with one exception. The face of the assailant began to acquire detail. The waking up, racing heart and night sweats became a nightly occurrence. I saw the boy, now a man, and the awakening in his mind. This is no ordinary dream.
Although Scott considered his friendship with Tom close, he couldn't help but notice small traits in Tom’s personality he hadn't seen previously. Tom loved his wife but is intensely insecure, due to her coming from a wealthy family and possibly the age difference. He felt inadequate as a husband and provider. He lacked trust in their marriage and became angry if any man shows his wife, Vicky, any attention even if it is only in a professional or casual interaction.
Three years later Scott is about to complete his sophomore year course load. A slow process, when working full time and no parental or financial support. He's is a happy young man. A changed person. At the same time, he knows something is wrong. The dream comes still nightly and occasionally twice in one night. The buzzing sound he had been hearing during his dreams has in time become high pitched. It is no longer limited to his sleep, he was now hearing it when awake.
In June, Scott's parents unexpectedly offered to pay for his last two years of college. He is seeking a Journalism degree, and the closest school to offer the degree was the University of Florida. He pondered the offer for a month then elected to accept. A choice he would have never made if the course of his life had remained as it was before working at the video store, and as it was before meeting Tom. In choosing so, he would leave behind the only town he had ever lived in for twenty-two years. As the months passed by, he began to feel sad. He would be leaving for Gainesville in one week facing a future of uncertainty. But the choice was right. I made sure he knew that.
Scott barely slept those last nights. Each time he approached REM sleep he would awaken. His head pounded and the ringing in his ears is ceaseless. The night prior to moving his body collapsed into a deep sleep. The dream replayed more intense than any time prior. Bits of sound beyond the high pitched tinnitus became clearer. Voices. Unintelligible voices. Then the words, 'I know what happened', came through clearly from a voice he recognized. Scott in his dream turned in the car to see that Tom was the man sitting beside him. The remainder of the dream played out the with clarity, with no doubt whom the assailant was. Awake now, sleep wouldn't be possible.
Upset the next morning, Scott packed the last items into the trunk of his white Buick Century. A revelation came to him that the car he owned is just like the one in the dream. Why hadn't he thought of that before, he wondered. Why hadn't he realized that, at the time he bought it, is another thought. He rushed his timeline to leave town, as fear began to grow within him. He quickly wrapped up all of his affairs in a matter of hours, and bid goodbye to a couple of friends. However, he did not, as he had planned, stop by to say goodbye to Tom, Vicky and the kids.
Four hours later he arrived in Gainesville. The noise within his head had slowly subsided during the drive. He received the keys to his new apartment from the leasing office and began unloading his few items. He is tired and stressed so he inflated an air mattress. The other furnishings would have to wait until tomorrow. Tonight was the first night in years Scott would sleep the night through. The dream is there, but lacked the intensity it had built up the last eleven years. For the first time, Scott heard the entire argument that lead up to Tom brandishing the knife and taking his life. Scott woke the next morning realizing that he could not continue a friendship with Tom. The dream never returned other than in fragments intertwined with nightmares.
One year later, in between school semesters, Scott returned to his hometown to visit friends and go to the beach. He had no intentions of seeing Tom but fate had different plans. Across the parking lot of a convenience store where he is filling his gas tank Scott, heard his name called. Tom approached in his pickup truck. Scott's heart skipped a few beats and he was on the verge of panic. "Got a moment?" Tom asked in a tone different than usual. "Sure" Scott replied. Standing next to Scott's car, Tom asked how school was and made casual conversation for a few minutes. Then Tom asked why Scott left without saying goodbye. Scott had no answer he was willing to say. Then Tom said "I don't know if you know about this but the day you left Vicky asked me for a divorce.... I thought all sorts of crazy things... I thought you two had been together and that was the reason she wanted the divorce. I know that's not true now but glad I didn't run across you back then. I don't know what I would have done to you". Scott recoiled inside but tried to show no outward display. He now knew the reason for the dream. They concluded their conversation and bid each other farewell promising to keep in touch, but that didn't happen.
Scott went to the convenience store restroom to splash water on his face. His heart was still racing and he felt light headed. His body felt like it was on fire. He wondered what fate would have become him if he never left town to attend college. But wondering was foolish as he already had his answer. The site of the dream, the site of the murder of the two teens years ago, one and the same. It dawned on him that the site was not more than a mile away from where Tom's father's commercial nursery and landscaping business was located. The two Mexican migrant workers accused, convicted and sentenced to life in prison, maintained their claim of innocence years after their incarceration. Tom worked with his father since high school at the nursery and would have been twenty-four at the time of the teens murders. Scott then turned his thoughts to the persistence of the dream and how it had altered the outcome of what should have been. Did I foresee that possible future? he thought to himself. He looked at the mirror on the wall before him and for a moment he didn't recognize himself. In the reflection, for an instant he wore a smile, but then he realized he wasn't smiling at all. All of this he would ponder for years. He would especially think of that face in the reflection. My face.
I am the echo of things to come and the hint of what tomorrow holds. I am the shadow without substance and the whisper without form in your thoughts. I am fear, given life, and the eyes that burn bright in the dark of your mind. You see me, I know you do. In the mirror. That moment, you see a face that is yours, and not yours. You may understand the gift you have been given today, but you will never understand the effort put forth to change the course of destiny. I am a part of you that died that day. A small part which reached across the chasm of time, and occupied a fraction of your, our subconscious. The message from the future which could only unfold in a nightmare. The rest of ‘your’ life is yours. Live a good life. For now I will sleep in the vastness that is oblivion.