It’s one thing to dream about others dying. I’ve seen it many times.
First there was my grandmother. Then my father.
I finally convinced my mother to quit drinking the night before New Year’s Eve, when I recounted the mental images of her mangled car on the side of the highway.
But to dream of my own death was a nightmare I prayed would never come.
I gulp down water from the glass on my nightstand. His face is still clear in my mind—the man who will kill me. I worry how long I am cursed to see it before my dream comes true. With my dad’s heart attack, I was left with little to no time to react before he collapsed. With Grandma, everyone knew it was her time. Dementia had been eating away at her brain for 15 years. Only I had the assurance that it would end. And with Mama, the flashing road construction sign that read, “HAPPY NEW YEAR! STAY ALIVE! DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!” gave the date and time away.
However, in this dream, my only clue is my pink nightie, which I wear now. Instinctively, I want to take it off, but I’ve had these premonitions long enough to know that simply changing your clothes does not alter your fate.
If whatever deity that cursed me with this unrequested gift wanted me dead, they will ensure that it happens.
But then I was able to save my mother, so maybe there is hope.
Like any dream, the memory of what is about to happen fades the longer I am awake. I remember the pink nightie. I remember him standing over my bed, his steel blue eyes captivating me. I never once suspected he had ill intentions. He dragged the covers down the length of my body and let them drop to the floor. I pressed my knees together, but deep down, I wanted him. And when he climbed on top of me, I was ready to let him take full advantage, make love to me deep down, until he wrapped his hands around my neck and I woke up gasping for air.
First things first. I must get out of this room. He cannot strangle me in bed if I am in the kitchen making tea.
I trot downstairs to the kitchen and turn on the electric kettle. While I wait for the water to boil, I reanalyze the clues.
Could he be an intruder? My willingness to be his sexual prey tells me that I know him, but his face is one I don’t recognize, and I would never be so reckless as to open myself like that to a stranger.
So perhaps I do know him, or I will get to know him. If he is a future lover, that at least saves me tonight.
When the kettle pops, there’s a pop across the hall, and my relief is quickly squashed.
“Who’s there?” I call, but there is no answer.
It’s all in my head, I tell myself. Yes, for now, my imminent demise is only in my head. But as I reach for the cabinet to get a mug, I find that I am no longer alone in the kitchen.
First he hits me over the head. I fall to the floor and only catch a glimpse of him, in all black. He pulls me back up, pins me against the kitchen island, puts both hands around my neck, and squeezes.
No, this isn’t right. This is not how I die. I’m not in bed, and I can’t see his face. My dreams have never been wrong before. Why is this different? Because I changed my location? If that is the case, then there’s more I can change.
My legs are spread apart, but this time they kick wildly and refuse him entry. My arms flail about my head as I feel around the countertop until I find something sharp that I can plunge into his neck.
He crumbles to the floor, and I cough and wheeze and massage my burning throat.
But I am alive.
I think to unmask my would-be killer. To taunt him, to taunt my fate. Avoiding the pool of blood by his neck and shoulders, I tug at the top of the knitted cap pulled down over his face, but the satisfaction I anticipated at the reveal escapes me.
It’s not him.
I call the police to report the attempted burglary. When they arrive, I lead one of the officers to the body in my kitchen while the other stays in the car to call CSI.
“There’s been a string of break-ins in the area,” the officer explains. “You’re one of the lucky ones. He murdered a woman just a few doors down.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware.” I’m still rubbing my throat, still perusing my mind. There’s a murderer at large, and my fear is that the man lying on my kitchen floor in a pool of blood is just a patsy. Could he have killed the woman down the street? He didn’t hesitate to attack me, but what are the odds that I avoid death twice in one night?
There’s a knock on the door, and the partner pokes his head in from around the corner.
I catch my breath.
“CSI’s on their way,” he says.
“Thanks, Rigs.” The officer steps over the body, whispers something to the man he calls Rigs, then turns to me and says, “I’ll be outside to make sure they stop at the right house.”
When he leaves, Rigs approaches me. Instantly, I step back.
“Quite the night, huh?” he says.
“But you’re safe now.” He offers his shoulder.
I turn and look at my kettle to avoid his eyes.
His steel blue eyes.
“How about some coffee? I know a place that’s still open. I’ll take you there and you’ll feel much better. I promise.”
He’s flirting with me. There’s a man lying dead on my floor, and he’s flirting with me. Is he so accustomed to such grisly scenes that he can check a pulse and ask a girl out all in the same breath?
But I must admit he’s charming, my prince charming rescuer here to whisk me from the atmosphere of death that has befallen my castle. And when I see the ring, the clues of my dream all fit together like puzzle pieces.
Why I let him in.
Why he killed me.
Why my heart skips a beat now despite my knowing what will come.
Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe a few months down the road—after I’ve grown attached, after I’ve asked for more, after I’ve announced our pregnancy—but most assuredly, it will come.
“Shall we go?” he asks.
I feel so thirsty.
© 2022 Nortina Simmons
Initially, this story was inspired by “What You Need,” but the more I wrote, the more it reminded me of “The Purple Testament” instead. Then again, there are quite a few Twilight Zone episodes of unfortunate souls predicting their own deaths.