Who sees the future? I am conscious of being only an individual struggling weakly against the stream of time.
The dream always began well.
It was a moist and warm spring afternoon, and a soft breeze blew over the lush grass of our backyard toward the house, carrying the strong smells of the newly tilled earth. The sun partially blinded me as I ran over the grass toward the edge of our corn fields, stumbling on my short legs, yet not falling, my arms stretched out to embrace a tall shadow in the light before me. I could not have been more than five years old.
Suddenly, the sun was dimmed as my father’s broad frame eclipsed its radiance, and the shadow transitioned instantly into his familiar form. I leapt into his outstretched arms squealing, and his soiled hands caught me tightly and swung me around as I giggled, staring into his bright-blue eyes framed under locks of golden-red hair. Then he tossed me upward. The ground below me, half green from grass, half rich brown from the newly plowed field, receded as the blue sky enveloped me, and I felt the thrilling tug of gravity grab my stomach, and pull me back to Earth. Several times he threw me, and I went farther and laughed harder each time. Higher and higher I soared, until the blue turned black and the Earth below became a mere sphere, dotted with continents and oceans, and above the stars shone through the thinning atmosphere.
For a moment I floated, thrown so high I nearly escaped the bonds of gravity tying us to our home world, and the stars seemed to tug at me as well—beckoning me, luring me with a cold intensity that my child’s senses felt as vaguely threatening. My giddiness began to turn to anxiety as I felt something wrong, something impure out there that waited in the diamond-pricked blackness in front of me. Something searching…for me.
But then I began to fall again, the air rushing over me, through clouds and air currents, seeing the ground first as a patchwork of squares and rectangles as from an airplane, resolving slowly to the familiar patterns of our neighborhood, and, at last, to that of my own family’s farm. Spinning slowly in my downward trajectory, I saw my father from above, patiently waiting for me, arms outstretched with hands held high to catch me. The air whipped my clothes back behind me as I hurtled downward. Wasn’t I going too fast, falling without aid from the edges of space? How could he possibly slow my momentum, catch me before I plunged devastatingly like some fiery meteor into the ground?
But he did. With a slight impact, I was caught and safe in his arms, some extra momentum diverted into a swinging motion, once more spinning me in circles until I laughed. Slowly, he came to a stop and set me on the ground, my head a mess and dizzy, my legs wobbly. He smiled down at me, tousled my hair and said, “Only you can go so high, Ambra Dawn. You were meant for more than just this place.”
His words were so lovingly spoken, and yet in my heart they echoed ominously. And, as if in answer to my deep fears, his face clouded, and he focused behind me, rising from a partial stoop and gazing across toward our house. My eyes followed him upward, and then my entire body turned to track his gaze.
Standing outside the back door that exited from our kitchen was my mother, her long red hair caught like a sideways waterfall in the breeze. Yet she stood still. So terribly still. Her face was frozen in stone: anxiety, fear etched in every line. One arm was raised at ninety degrees to her body, pointing like an arrow in front of the house. She remained pointing, unmoving, like some directional sign indicating the path we must follow.
My awareness sped toward her, stopping in front of her face, then turning and following her arm from the bright light of the day outside and into the dim blackness of the kitchen, through the inside of our house, and then out again from the front door.
Three black cars with tinted windows were parked in front of the house. Out of these cars stepped a troop of tall men in suits and dark sunglasses, several of them very broad and muscular, with earpieces and wires dangling from them. I found myself no longer in a small child’s body but now inhabiting that of a preteen of eleven years. They brushed me aside and herded my parents into the house. I followed behind them, feeling ignored and unwanted. A terrible sense of foreboding hung over me, and the darkness of the men’s suits seemed deeper than that of the space I had gazed into only moments before.
Short, and yet long separations of time. The way of dreams. For me, the way of life.
They sat around the kitchen table, the smaller men talking to my parents, the larger ones posted like soldiers around the house and out by their cars. My mother was getting very anxious. She spoke with a shrill note in her voice. The small room was so still and quiet after the wind and openness outside.
“I don’t understand. We don’t know who you are. We can’t just turn her over to you without more information, whatever you say.”
“Mrs. Dawn,” said the smallest man, with a raspy voice that made my skin crawl, “we are a special governmental division, and we have developed unique technologies for the military. One of these is a special type of laser. Army doctors have shown that it can be used to kill cancer cells. We can promise you a full cure, without major side effects. No one else can. But this is top-secret technology. We cannot share this with you or anyone else – not even your doctors. Therefore, her treatment must remain secret.”
He took off his dark glasses and stared at my mom, but I was sitting behind him and couldn’t see his face. “A doctor in the Omaha unit is a friend of mine. He was direct with me – she won’t live past next year with current treatments. We are your only hope.”
I saw my mother tear up and my father’s jaw become set. “Now you look here. You’ve got no cause to be speaking like that and upsetting my wife. This is all irregular. Government or not, it ain’t my way to trust shadows. If what you’re saying is true, we’ll work with you. But I’ve got to know more.”
“But Frank, you heard him,“ my mom began.
“Never you mind what he said. I don’t like this talk. We ain’t shopping for some used car right now.”
Just then, I dropped the wooden toy I was holding in my hands. It was a small hand-carved globe, with all the continents embossed on the surface. I can see it now hitting the wooden floor with a thud and rolling out of the kitchen to the living room. My heart constricted. The Earth! I did not want to lose it! The man in the dark suit with his back to me turned around, and then I screamed.
I couldn’t help it. I was only eleven, and it was too much for me. That demon face – I had seen it before. In another dream. Dreams within dreams. His face was part of a foggy future vision, one I had forgotten and that rushed back through me like nails in my veins. Flashes of future memories whipped through my mind of pain, and fear, and loneliness, and horror – all connected to this face grinning back at me like some fiend from hell.
I ran. I jumped from my seat and ran like I’ve never run in my life. Behind me I half-heard the shouts of my parents calling my name and the harsh barks of this man to his soldiers. “Get her!” Then the horrible screams of my parents behind. But I could not stop running. That terrible sense in a dream of a monster approaching from behind grew within me, and I could feel its breath and fangs approaching, gaining ground, nearing to grapple at my back and legs.
I ran so hard I thought my chest would explode. Across the manicured green of our backyard, into the high fields of corn that spread out like a sea on all sides, grown thick now near harvest season. The stalks slapped me in the face, on my arms, across my chest as I ran, my breath like deep wheezings from some dying thing. Where was I going? I didn’t know. Away. I had to get away. “On the other side of the cornfields,” something screamed in my mind. There was safety, if I could just get through the fields, to the road, I would find a car, someone to take me to get help and protect me from the monsters following behind. I was close. My panting was like a windstorm in my mind. So close.
And then a sharp pain, a bright light like a flash in my eyes, and I was on my back, a dark figure towering over me. Warm liquid trickled down from my nose, and I felt too weak to move.
A second figure stood over me, blocking out the light of the day. In the shadow of his body, I saw that demon face again, smiling, laughing as he stared down at me.
“We’ve been looking for you for a long time, little girl. Don’t think you can escape. Don’t ever think you can escape from us. We have plans for you.”
I couldn’t respond: fear, pain, and nausea swept over me, and the world above me shrank to a small point as darkness filled in the sides. In a moment, all was black, and the sky was gone.
The same dream. Experienced countless nights. Memories of the past recreated. But this time it did not end with the darkness.
In that absolute black, I heard voices. Your voices. Millions of them, rising like an ocean of sound, a chorus calling to me across the ever-changing fabric of Time. And in that half-asleep state, moments before waking, when inspiration meets the practicality of day, I knew.
The answer was clear before my mind.