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Wishing For Dreams
Author's note: Honestly, I have no idea where I got this from. It literally just came to me. The only expectation I have from this is that some people will like it! So I hope you do!! :)
As a child, I believed in the phrase “be careful what you wish for.” But by the age of nine, my belief was lacking. Then came that wonderful era when wishes were the best thing in the world, but reality crashed in and the saying held true once again. I doubt I had meant to make the wish, but on my ninth birthday I wished upon the first star in the sky to be knowledgeable. I wasn’t the brightest in academics, but I made my way. All I wanted was to make my parents proud and be a good role-model to my little sister, Angela, who was four. Even today I am unsure about whether to call it a demon or an angel. But, regardless, someone, no, something heard my plea and granted it. A few months later, more specifically, two months before my tenth birthday, I had a dream that is still burned into my brain.
I was in the passenger seat of my father’s Volvo, worrying about the children I had left at home with the babysitter. I looked to the driver’s seat to see my father looking over at me, while managing to keep the car in the right lane. He made no noise while his lips moved, but he must have told a joke because I laughed. I knew I should’ve been confused at this point; the noise that left my mouth was my mother’s tinkling bell giggle, but I didn’t think anything of it. About 10 yards ahead was a red-light, and my father slowed down to greet it, but the light suddenly changed green, so with a slight hum from the car, we began to speed up and pass the intersection. That’s when the truck hit. In that moment, everything was gone in a blinding flash of headlights, and a shattering of glass as the windows broke. After that, all I saw was black.
When I woke up the next morning, I was puzzled about the dream, but I didn’t think about it too much, I had had weirder dreams about flying ice cream cones with laser-eyed gummy bear toppings. Over breakfast, my father told me that he and my mother were going to a co-worker’s dinner party that night and my sister and I would be left home with our babysitter, Maria, for a few hours. My sister and I shared squeals of delight, because out of all our toys, Maria was our favorite play-thing. In hind-sight, Maria was not a toy, but in youth, everything that makes you laugh is a toy.
The scenario was all too familiar; my parents were leaving the children with the babysitter, and they were going out. It was exactly like my dream, but they had done this a few times before, so it came as second nature to play board games with Maria and have her make our favorite noodles for dinner. Later that night, around 7 PM, Maria got a call on the house phone. When she finished, she ran to us both and embraced us where we were playing dollies in Angela’s room. A tall man in a police uniform came to our house and took us to a strange building where many people were rushing around. We demanded to speak with our mother or father, but we were not spared any details when we were told that they had died in a car crash with a drunk driver. We didn’t understand, so Maria pulled us aside and answered our stream of never ending questions. As the truth became clearer, so did the meaning of “be careful what you wish for.” I felt crushed, but most of all, I felt infuriated. I could have stopped them, begged them not to go. They might have listened, but I knew they wouldn’t have. My father’s job was very important to him. The rest of that night is a blur, but the next day we were told that someone would be coming to live with us.
Our Aunt Sarah came the next day with a few suitcases. She said she would be taking care of us for some time. She was great, although she had Maria come over more often than she ever had before. But, sure enough, I had another strange dream a few weeks after my 13th birthday. I was at the bank, asking a teller to deposit a few checks into an account for my niece. A man wearing black and a ski mask came in and screamed out that he wanted everyone’s money or he would shoot everyone in the place. With a shaky hand, he pulled out a jet black gun which glinted seductively, promising swift death to all who opposed. Sheer terror pumped adrenaline through my veins as he approached me and grabbed me by the neck. He put the gun to the side of my head and cocked it. He demanded the money from the teller with whom I was speaking moments before. The teller tried to reason with the man, but I heard nothing leave her mouth, just muffled silence. All I could hear was my own hammering heartbeat. Aggravated, the man pulled the trigger and with a searing pain in my head, all was black.
I woke up dripping with sweat. All day I pleaded with Aunt Sarah to not leave the house. I remembered that I was depositing checks for my niece in my dream. She stayed home all day and watched a movie marathon with us. A few days later, I forgot about the dream. My aunt was fine and never went to the bank. I received a few belated birthday checks which I gave to my aunt. A week and a half later, Aunt Sarah left to go to her job at the hospital – she was a surgeon – and I left for school with Angela. Halfway through the day, I was called to the office with my belongings. They told me that I had to leave school early that day and my babysitter was here to pick me up. I went outside and climbed into Maria’s car.
Angela was already in the car and as I put on my seatbelt, she turned to me and asked “What’s going on Lelie? Maria hasn’t said anything since I got in the car.”
“I don’t know Ang. And my name’s Leslie, remember?” I joked with her trying to lighten the mood. She had never said my name right, she has always called me “Lelie” from when she pronounced it wrong as a toddler.
We drove to a place I was familiar with, the police station, with its busy people and loud telephones. The same police officer from many years ago spoke with us about a man named Ned Leternof, who was a drug addict and he was low on money. He attempted to rob a bank and killed three people in the process. I wondered why he was telling us this until he showed me Ned’s picture. Ned looked exactly like the man in my dream, the one who killed me.
“Where’s Aunt Sarah?!” I demanded, then shrank in my seat as I remembered that I already knew. The officer told us his apologies, and escorted us out to the lobby. Aunt Sarah had no one listed to take care of us, so we were to stay with a distant relative. I wanted to know how distant, and who this relative was, but my voice wouldn’t work and I just stood there as Maria took us home and told us to pack our bags and a social worker would take us to our new home.
“Maria? Will you come with us?” Angela asked, quietly. Maria shook her head as the tears streamed slowly down my face. My shoulders shook with the sobs I couldn’t voice, and I stood with my back to Angela, not wanting to be weak in front of her. I vowed right then and there that I would take care of my sister no matter what.
Our new home was a dingy apartment in a loud, crowded, smoky city. The man taking care of us was even worse. For the first few weeks, he was fine. A month passed by and he started not speaking to us. Another week and he started excessively drinking alcohol and he was constantly drunk and away from the apartment. But, this time, we had no Maria to play with and keep us company. We went to a school that I couldn’t care less about, and led a boring and grey life. Then, the beatings came.
The man (I refused to call him father) returned home one day, drunk to the bone. I wouldn’t have been surprised if his blood was alcohol. He was upset about having no more beer in the refrigerator and he took off his belt. He held one end of it and raised it at my sister. Just in time I thought of my vow and jumped in front of her, taking the full force of the belt on my back. The metal ripped my shirt and my skin, and I felt the icy hot pain drip down my back. Again and again the belt came, until my back was soaked red and made a small puddle on the floor. I got up slowly, walked my sister to our room, and left to take a shower, double checking that the man was passed out on the kitchen table. The water from my shower stung my back, but it was better to clean the wounds before they were too bad. The next day, I called the police officer that I had met from my parents’ death after another beating. They were unable to do anything since I was in another town now, and it wasn’t their jurisdiction anymore. I suffered through another week before I had the dream.
The only thing I felt or saw in this dream was red and orange and a very hot sensation all over my body. This time I woke up feeling completely empty. I didn’t care what happened to me or that man as long as it wasn’t my sister. I helped my sister get to school, then went to my own. When I got back to the apartment after picking up at the end of the day, the apartment building was on fire. I briefly wondered what happened to the man when it dawned on me that I already knew. In that instant, I felt like laughing at the world, and I was glad I had this dream, because now the man was dead and my sister would be forever safe from his filthy, drunken clutches. I started to smile when I heard my sister stifle a small sob. I turned to her and she told me that all the pictures of our parents were in her room, and were probably ashes. That stopped all feelings of joy and felicity because those pictures were the last things we had from a happier time.
After a few minutes of looking up at the building, some policemen took us to the station and told us the man had started a kitchen fire, and he perished in the flames. The officer explained how the man had not updated his will when we arrived, so we had no guardian. Because of a lack of guardian, we would be sent to a foster home a few miles away so we could continue to attend the same school without interrupting our curriculum. We obliged and were brought to the quaint-looking foster home shortly after, because we had no more belongings to pack.
By this time I had turned 14 years of age and my sister was eight. I still wished to take care of her even with the nice caretakers to help us adjust. One that was constantly attending us was a woman we addressed as Ms. Sterling. She was very kind, and no matter how many times we shooed away her attempts to help us, she always returned with another way to help. Other than that, I didn’t know much about her or anyone else in the foster home. The other children and kind caretakers just faded into a grey background. Even with overflowing kindness from Ms. Sterling, my sister insisted on being touched and helped only by me, and I happily agreed because I knew she was growing up fast and wouldn’t want my help. We were the quietest children in the home, and rarely asked for anything. We quietly went about our days and lived there for a few years.
A few months into our stay, I walked to the kitchen to get my sister and myself a snack. I grabbed two Pink Lady apples and started to leave. I walked past Ms. Sterling’s room to overhear some voices talking through the door. I leaned my ear against it after hearing mine and Angela’s muffled names through it. I heard Ms. Sterling gossiping about mine and Angela’s past and previous residence to someone.
“Sister Harrison, do you think the children can be saved?” I overheard Ms. Sterling say. By the term “Sister” I assumed Ms. Sterling was talking to a nun from the local church. I never knew Ms. Sterling was so religious, but then again, I’d been paying less and less attention.
A lady with a tenor voice responded, “God can save all children, but it seems as if the smell of death coat these children in a strong mist. I’ll see what I can do to force Satan’s hands off His children.” I had never been to a church, so I didn’t understand what Sister Harrison was talking about. I decided that she’d light a candle for my sister and I or something and let us be on our way. I was wrong.
I proceeded up the stairs to the room Angela and I shared. We sat on our beds, munching on the apples as I told her about the strange Sister Harrison and we made slightly cruel jokes to mock her accent. A sound we heard for the first time since arriving here hit the door: a knock. Knocks meant someone actually wanted to speak with us, which had never happened since our arrival many months prior. Sister Harrison entered our room and with our unwilling consent, started a lecture for the next half hour about God and spirit. When she left, my sister and I sat in silence, wondering what the words could mean and how they would save us. Ms. Sterling came in afterwards and told us that she had prayed for us and now we would be granted a space in heaven instead of hell. I was grateful that my sister would be treated nicely after her death, but the idea of heaven and God and praying and life after death seemed a little hard to accept. Either way, once a week, Sister Harrison came and prayed to us in our room. Even after two years, the idea of heaven eluded my area of understanding.
The seasons were just starting to change between winter and spring, and it was time for the flu. I had caught a small cough. It was nothing to sneeze at and I slowly but surely got better. What worried me, however, was my sister. Because of our experiences in life, she had grown up faster than other girls her age, and by 10 she already had the attitude of a teenager. I was 16 and acted way too old for my age and was thus treated as an adult, which is why my sister began to resent me. She resented that I took care of her and she resented that I was treated as an adult when I wasn’t much older than she was. She became distant towards me and other children and kept to herself a lot, reading books or playing cards. We still shared a room, so I asked to play cards with her, but she usually refused. Even so, I took care of her in secret, making sure she stayed out of harm’s way.
After I finished getting over my cold, my sister got very sick with a bad case of the flu. Her temperature soared into the 100s, and she was constantly in bed. I stayed by her side and often skipped school to take care of her, but no matter what I did, her condition worsened. She was having trouble breathing and was coughing up blood and vomiting. The care-takers took her to a nearby hospital, hoping they would make her feel better, but she stayed in this awful state. I visited her often and brought books to read to her, never leaving her side. But just when I hoped things would turn for the better, I had a dream.
This time, I didn’t really feel like a person. I just floated in a white hallway, as if viewing instead of participating. I turned to see the hospital room my sister was in. I could hear the heart monitor from where I was floating and took some joy in hearing the somewhat steady thump of her heart. It didn’t occur to me to remember the dreams I had in the past, because I was so happy there, floating and listening to my sister’s heartbeat and shallow breathing. Then, I saw my sister’s body jerk and the heart rate sped up as my sister coughed up more blood and wouldn’t stop. The heart beat accelerated faster and faster and more and more doctors ran to help until I heard just one single beep.
I jolted up out of bed with tears in my eyes and remembered the past dreams I had. My parents, Aunt Sarah, that man; they had all died after I had these dreams, and my sister was next. The thought brought bile into my throat and I staggered to the trash can and threw up all my fear. I couldn’t stop the feelings of fear and pain rising in my mind at the thought of losing my sister. If I lost my sister, I’d have nothing left. The only thing that greeted me now was death. With that, I walked down the stairs in the darkness, and fumbled around in the kitchen before returning to my room. I lifted the blade I swiped from the kitchen to my throat, and thought in that instant how quick life was. Compared to the eternity of the time when one is dead, life is a simple flash of light in a land of eternal darkness and empty feelings. This all went through my mind in the instant as I held the blade to my throat, thinking of losing everything I lived for, yet knowing that no one lives for something else, only for themselves. I couldn’t bear the thought of a future without my sister and slashed in a quick motion, cutting as deep into my throat as I could. I lay on the floor, letting my pain and blood seep into the carpeted floor as everything went black. My last thought being to let me be forever with my sister.
Although I was dead, I saw into the hospital room as doctors rushed to help my sister, just like I dreamed. One brought out a device and started pressing it to her chest which made her body rise when the machine touched her and fall as it let go. I heard her voice whisper two words “not yet” and the monitor started beeping again. Tears of relief flooded my face as my sister’s heartbeat resumed its normal pace and the doctors slowly emptied the room. One doctor remained, and looked straight at me and winked.
“You should have waited,” he said, “you gave up too easily, and all though it may not be in your belief to be careful what you wish for, you should believe in patience and knowledge.” The man disappeared as I floated over to my sister’s bed. In the end, I had truly achieved my wish. I knew that the dreams were just a path for me to achieve my wish from when I was nine. My knowledge was achieved now, in death. Because there are two things that the dead know that the living do not: death, and the life that comes after death, if any. I learned through the years of watching my sister grow up and get married that my final wish in the end to be with my sister forever is what kept me to have a life after death, and achieve this knowledge. As a spectator, I watched my sister’s life play out before my eyes until her death at the age of 97.
“Lelie,” she greeted me. I replied with a curt nod and embraced her, receiving true happiness for the first time in about a century. After so long, she will stay with me forever, now that we had both achieved the ultimate knowledge and happiness.