My first ever completed short story.
I don’t remember how I started writing this, but I’m pretty sure I was in college. I was so proud of myself for finally finishing a story, you have no idea. (Avert your eyes from my pile of unfinished/untouched stories/ideas, don’t– look! It could smother you in a second!)
Summary: One day I could glimpse the future, and the next it felt like it tore my life apart.
You may feel free to share, repost, or comment, but please do not steal my words or take credit for them. Thank you. © Alison Juste
By Alison Juste
If I told people the truth, I would never see sunlight again. If I did, it would be from the reflection on the padded walls, filtering through a tiny skylight too high for me to look through. No doubt I would be locked up for the rest of my withering life.
You see, sometimes, I can see the future. You must think I’m crazy. But I’m not, even though I thought I was. I haven’t always been able to, which is why I thought I was losing my sanity, but ever since I started college– I can glimpse the future. Although I’ll tell you that “the future” is a rather broad term, I can usually only see what’s going to happen a minute from now.
For instance, I was sitting in a rather boring California Geography class one day when the classroom disappeared. Instead, I found myself in a bland hospital room, staring at a patient lying in bed. He was a pale, bald man who looked rather weakened. He called for someone despite the empty room and I waited with him until a steady beep interrupted the silence. It was only later, after googling the name I’d seen on his chart, that I realized the patient died of cancer.
If that doesn’t satisfy you, I’ll share with you another occurrence. I was at my first college football game, mindlessly watching the white, gold and blue players run from one end of the stadium to the other, when the field gave way to a highway. A black car swerved unsteadily between two lanes, causing others to break or veer off abruptly to avoid a collision. However, the swerving car smashed into an incoming car, slamming it into the wall at about 85 mph. I knew, without seeing, that the driver was dead, but I really felt it when I found an article with a picture of that exact car the next day.
Do you believe me now? I can see the future, but not predict it. I’m only a college student, studying to get a bachelor’s degree and find a suitable job to live a satisfying life. I’m what you’d call “normal,” except for the times when I nearly faint. Of course, my new “skill” didn’t go unnoticed… My closest friend, Leah, concerned about my reoccurring short spells, decided to drag me to the on-campus student medical center. I had no choice but to confide in her before she succeeded.
As expected from a best friend, she kept my skill a secret, but I could still see some disbelief in her eyes, even when she witnessed my face – and apparently my eyes – paling two shades. “I can’t help it you know…” I rubbed my temples after another spell. Good thing I was sitting down, this one might have buckled my knees.
Leah, blocking the sun from me, simply nodded before looking into my eyes. “So… what did you see?”
“… Nothing much. A pizza boy will keep a $5 bill someone dropped in front of the store.” I averted my eyes onto her shadow.
“Should we go then?” She was more than ready to go home. I just nodded, trying to keep the truth concealed until we left campus, each our separate way. “You don’t look too good.” She frowned at my face.
I attempted a smile, but only succeeded halfway. “Just tired.” It was a usual reply, and most people bought it, knowing that I behaved like a marmot. We walked to the bus stop in silence and waved each other good bye before boarding our respective buses. I had come to terms that I had to lie to my best friend ever since she found out. Yet with every lie, I felt a piece of my sanity crumble. My lies weren’t so pervasive at the beginning, since my very first visions were of less brutal happenings. All I had to do was replace one or two details. Yet as time ticked by, the visions worsened, and the lies deepened.
As Leah’s best friend, I felt it was my duty to keep her sanity safe. I quickly realized that the only way to protect her was by uttering harmless visions instead of the dreadful reality that always came true moments after I’d seen it.
I sank into a seat by the window and waited for 1:35 to strike and the bus to depart. My sight blurred as I revisited the vision I had just seen. An innocent and helpless child, somewhere in the Middle East, had just been shot in the heart.
Needles pricked my eyes and I immediately blinked. Crying on the bus would not do; I could only steel my heart and mind and accept reality. How could a 20 year old girl stop the world from ripping itself apart? I had no power, yet I’d received this “skill” for some reason unknown to me. Some would call it a gift, but right now, it was a curse meant to become my personal hell on earth.
Every time I glimpsed the future, my present dimmed darker. This world was hopeless. For centuries humans fought each other for no other purposes than personal gain. Even with my “skill,” there was nothing I could do. Every time, for two years now, the reality had spread wider, farther and more desperate. From old people dying of heart attacks to cancer patients unable to surmount the disease, and now war, genocide, and senseless killings?
I wondered how long I had before I became truly insane. I also wondered if Leah would ever notice that in lying to and for her, I slowly lost myself. The bus neared my complex after what seemed like a minute. I yanked myself out of my thoughts by pulling the yellow cord, signaling my stop before I fled from strangers’ eyes.
I let myself in the empty apartment. My roommate was on a trip with a club, and my housemate had gone home for the weekend. The rest of today should be peaceful, assuming the people in the complex wouldn’t throw a party until 2 A.M. It was Friday, and I had absolutely no willpower to start tackling any work whatsoever. My latest flash of what undeniably happened left me like a carcass. I needed to check, though, and update my diary.
Once my laptop was on, I quickly searched for recent stories in the Middle East, and sure enough, the carnage was there. Journalists that later came to the scene posted some vivid pictures of a massacred village. What caught my eye, however, was the body of a child, his dark brown eyes staring blankly at the sky. The same bright eyes I saw extinguish less than thirty minutes ago.
There was no helping it… I slammed my laptop shut and went to the kitchen, eager to distract my thoughts by fervent cleaning. But there was nothing to clean, I’d done so the night before. Maybe I should start cooking, yet there was nothing left to cook. Pieces of my mind started drifting apart, pulling in more directions than I could ever fathom.
What would become of me, when all my sanity had left? I already felt dehumanized by seeing death upon death without any hope of ever tuning it out. But now the deaths became gruesome and slowly chipped away my humanity and my heart. Once those gone, would I still be alive?
I realized at that point that it was past 5:00 and the apartment was disappearing in darkness. Standing up to turn on the light, I stumbled backwards, nearly falling back onto the couch. My open eyes staring widely as a man clad in black appeared in front of me while the apartment dissolved around him. A ski mask concealed his face, but I noticed his too long dirty blond hair. Then I could only see his eyes, greedy and erratic, moving frantically around the store before he grabbed a duffel bag stuffed with money and dashed towards the exit.
A security officer intercepted him at the door, pointing his gun at the thief. “Freeze!” For the second time today, I witnessed a cold blooded murder. The robber, without hesitation, aimed and shot the officer in the chest before disappearing in a Jeep.
Gasping for breath, I blinked the vision away. My face somewhat itched, as if all the blood had been drained from it. I quickly sat down and waited for my body to stabilize by putting my head in between my hands. It was getting worse… Two horrible ones in a day– I couldn’t help but ponder tomorrow, and tomorrow’s tomorrow. What if I had to see murders every minute of every hour of every day?
Surely, by then, I would be insane.
I waited maybe thirty minutes before I tried to stand. Nothing happened. Taking a deep breath, I proceeded to my room and sat at my clustered desk for another hour. Finally, I decided to go online and distract myself by randomly browsing. Effective as that was, I opened my diary soon after to recount today’s events. This diary – a simple word document – somehow managed to keep me somewhat sane for the last two years. I paused my typing and stared at my hesitant reflection in the screen.
What if I was crazy? I had to have some fucked up imagination. But that didn’t explain the physical symptoms, like fainting. I knew I didn’t have anemia or anything of that sort, but at this point, I almost wished I did.
A week passed, and midterms drew closer. Needless to say, I found concentrating on anything these days quite challenging, especially since having two visions a day, and murders every other day, seemed to be the norm now. Leah noticed I lacked any real joy, though I thought my acting was for the most part pretty convincing. I suppose as a best friend, it was her job to know, wasn’t it? I just wished she hadn’t asked me anything.
“You don’t look good. All week you’ve been acting the same– putting on your happy pretense to fool everyone. You didn’t even eat seconds!” I opened my mouth to retort but she didn’t even give me time to speak. “I’m your best friend Jen, I know when you’re pretending, and I don’t like it.”
I averted my eyes to the side in shame. “You’ve only told me you started seeing things twice a day, but you never tell me what unless I ask.”
“It’s not– that important…” My voice was weak, and I couldn’t manage to look into her eyes.
“Jen… stop acting tough.” The serenity in her voice incited me to look up. My brain memorized the sincere look on her face. I took a short breath, but dropped my gaze again. No, I didn’t want this to become her burden as well! It was enough that it took everything out of me, including lying to everyone.
I felt a hand nudge my shoulder. Leah adorned her most caring smile. “…” The words refused to come out, so I swallowed dryly. “I… don’t want this to affect you.” I whispered, now suddenly afraid again. All week, I’d jumped from weak to terrified to insensible. I certainly didn’t want Leah to adopt this as her daily routine.
“It already is. Look at you! You used to laugh at everything, and now you barely see people falling off their bikes! You’ve– just changed, like you’ve become a shadow.” She sounded upset.
“Sorry…” Will she hate me?
“You’ve lost your spark Jen…” She sounded mournful now, because of me? I looked up at her again and saw her saddened face. “You don’t crack jokes anymore, you don’t– laugh, you don’t– you’re not alive!”
“Sorry.” I repeated, somewhat bitter. It’s all for your sake Leah, don’t break my resolve! You can’t be a part of this. This hideous part of me that I tried so hard to keep locked within myself, just to lessen the damage as much as I can.
Leah heard it, my bitterness. What she was deaf to, was the sweetness hidden beneath. “… Okay then, I guess I should go home. I have a midterm on Monday.” She walked towards the door. I could only nod and shadow her steps towards the entrance.
“Thanks for coming.” I wonder if she sensed my uneasiness. For some reason, it felt like a fault had suddenly crept between us, and my “skill” was the earthquake to rip us apart. Leah simply nodded and had her hand on the doorknob when my head suddenly fell back.
I only remember seeing a store clerk collapse on the ground with a gunshot to the chest before it went dark. The next thing I knew, I heard Leah anxiously call my name, repeatedly. I remembered I had yet to open my eyes. “Oh thank goodness–!” She proceeded to crush me in a bear hug, reminding me that I hadn’t left the apartment. “I thought you were having a seizure or something! You became as pale as a ghost and crumpled to the floor! I had to catch you before you broke your neck or– or–”
Wow, she sounded so worried. “Thanks… and sorry.” I twitched my fingers and my toes to regain feelings in my limbs.
“Please tell me this hasn’t happened before!” A worried frown accompanied her scolding.
“Of course not, this was– by far the worst.”
Leah looked a bit surprised. “In what you saw?”
“No… I mean, in actually affecting me.” I tried to chuckle dryly a few times, though I was half expecting that murderer to appear again since he seemed to be on the run.
“That’s it, we’re going to the hospital.” Before I could even object, I was strapped in the passenger seat of her beige car, on the way to the hospital.
I glanced at my best friend from the corner of my eyes and took in her fierce, determined look. I knew I wasn’t going to have a say in anything for the rest of today. “Can we at least stop by the grocery store? I haven’t eaten yet…” As if on cue, my stomach growled audibly. Leah conceded with a tiny smile, and soon enough, we found ourselves on the parking lot, next to a dirty Jeep.
It was only 6:15, but the sun had already set, leaving the sky a dark, opaque blue with a few sparkles. We made it inside and walked past a blond man staring too intensely at the beer. Wandering down the aisles – past a policeman checking the calories on cereal – I finally settled for some granola bars, under strict supervision of my seemingly new mother. “Okay let’s go, we don’t want to wait until they close everything but the E.R. now do we?” she pressed.
“Relax, this won’t take more than five minutes.” For the first time this quarter, I was actually somewhat amused. Towards the back, some glass shattered but I paid no mind to it. Arriving at the cash register, I put down the box of granola bars when my sight blurred again. Leah, talking to the cashier in front of me, noticed and grabbed me by the elbows before I crumpled to the floor.
I blinked the vision away, and stared in her eyes, mouth gaping open. I heard someone yell in the background. Today was the only day where I glimpsed into the future more than twice. The voices got closer. I should have realized that all week, the visions had been getting closer to me each time. “Freeze!” I opened my dry mouth.
“I’m going to d—”
Blood splashed onto Leah’s jacket. The screams bounced throughout the store. The policeman got up, unharmed, and chased the armed blond man, once again murderer. Leah still held onto my limp body, shocked beyond words.
Sometimes, I can see the future, but only a near future. I can’t predict it.