Beyond the ordinary, Fiction / Short Stories

Beyond the ordinary (part six)

Catch the previous parts here.


Dr. Lawrence Obermeyer sat in his private study, lost in thought. It was a warm, Saturday morning, a perfect day to be outdoors. Yet somehow he couldn’t get himself to go outside the house; the diffused light provided comfort. His wife and kids were away for the weekend; barbecue at her parents. She did not like it when he pulled out at the last moment; he’d deal with that later. Right now he had a lot going on in his mind.

He looked at the sketches his patient had handed him. He could not deny the likeness to his own self, partly impressed at the level of detail captured in the drawing. This kid had talent, he’d have to admit. Yet the other drawing disturbed him. He remembered those eyes.

A clinking sound pulled him away from his train of thought. His housekeeper, Mrs. Cunningham, had brought him his morning tea and breakfast. The usual; Earl Grey with a dash of cream, mildly sweetened; alongside two soft-boiled eggs and a bread basket. She kept the tray on his desk and spoke, “Good Morning Doctor. Would you like some jam?” “No, that will be all. Thank you Mrs. Cunningham”, the doctor replied. The housekeeper acknowledged him and left the room, shutting the door behind her.

He wasn’t hungry. He glanced back at those eyes, intrigued. He got up and walked towards an old storage unit, still gazing at the face looking back at him. He put the sketch down and unlocked one of the unit shelves to rummage through some old files. This was where he’d kept some of his case files; files that no one else was meant to see. After a bit of searching, he pulled out a ragged, dusty old file. A single word written on it, a number. 1978. A year he’d already forgotten, right until now.

He opened the file and cleared some of the dust; a reminder from the past. He browsed briefly until he found what he was looking for – a specific case history, in the form of a bunch of pages pinned up together. The title read, “William Cooper: June 21, 1978”. He recalled young Billy Cooper’s face, an expression of fear vivid as the boy walked into his office. The doctor had a much smaller practice then; it had been just a few years since he’d finished medical school. Cooper was in his early twenties, with a boyish face and brown hair parted sideways; his face could easily betray the slightest change in his thought pattern. This boy is too young to be seeking psychological help, the doctor thought.

“What brings you here, William”, the doctor recalled his first words to the boy.
“Billy, sir. Please call me Billy”, the boy replied meekly.
“Okay, Billy. How may I help you”, the doctor repeated his question.
“I need your help. If you can believe me, I think my wife is going to die”, Billy choked, the strain in his voice eminent.
“What makes you say that, Billy?” the doctor asked, quite surprised to hear that the boy was married. His face succeeded in hiding his age very well.
“Because I saw it. I think I’m going mad, because I can’t believe it myself. I saw her get hit by a speeding car.” the boy was nearing tears.
“You saw it? Could you be more specific?” The doctor asked, making notes in his file.
“I dreamt it. Last night. I didn’t believe it myself. I dreamt that we were just outside the grocery store, trying to cross the road after we’d bought the weekly staples. And then it happened, a white sedan” the boy broke off, trying his best to be audible.
“Dreams often relate people and emotions we know to situations we’ve seen or experienced in real life. Our subconscious pieces together multiple images and ideas in the form of our dreams. You can be sure that none of these relate to the future; in most cases it is a jumbled up manifestation of the past”, the doctor reassured him, trying to keep it as simple as possible.
“I understand what you are saying, but this isn’t the first time. Last year, I dreamt that my neighbor would die. I couldn’t tell that it was him at the time. Their family was close to ours, so it was quite disturbing. I dismissed my dream then because I thought dreams didn’t actually mean anything, and that no one would die because a hundred year old tree would fall on them. And somehow, it happened exactly as I pictured it. I couldn’t sleep for a week.” the boy said.
“That could be a mere coincidence”, the doctor said, downplaying the bizarre circumstances while trying to dig deeper. “Why do you think that your dream from last night is related to your neighbor’s death?”
“Because of her”, the boy handed a sheet of paper to him. It was a charcoal sketch of a beautiful woman with striking features.
“Is this your wife?” The doctor asked.
“No”, the boy replied, “I don’t know who she is. But she was there when I dreamt about my neighbor’s death. And she was in my dream yesterday, when Janine got hit by a car”.
“Janine, is she your wife?” the doctor asked, writing down the names and events in his file.
“Yes sir”, the boy replied with a hint of excitement, “We’re going to be parents soon.”
“Congratulations. I’m sure you both will make wonderful parents”, the doctor affirmed, trying to put the boy at ease. Billy conveyed his thanks through his eyes.

“Now tell me more about your dreams. About this woman. Where does she fit in?” the doctor continued.
“It was fall of last year. I remember clearly, it was around the same time I’d proposed to Janine. I had dropped her home after our date and decided to retire to bed early. I remember very little of the dream, but I recall seeing this woman riding a horse on the street. There were a bunch of other people around whom I don’t remember, and nothing seemed to be out of place. Except her eyes. I kept staring at her eyes, these eyes”, the boy pointed to the sketch and went on, “and the next thing I saw was a giant tree falling on top of a man, crushing him to death. I did not know that it was going to be my neighbor. Right until everything took place right in front of my very eyes. In exactly the same way, in broad daylight, the following week. It took me a while to get over my neighbors death. Only Janine got me out of it.”
Dr. Obermeyer made a note of everything Billy had said so far. He would study the details later.
“Yesterday, this woman was walking down the other side as we were crossing. I could swear that she looked at me, and I could not help but stare at her eyes. In a moment everything went awry; I turned to my wife, Janine, who was now sprawled out on the street apparently hit by an incoming car. The groceries she was carrying were strewn around her like litter. I tried to check her pulse but I knew she wasn’t breathing. It was then I woke up, clutching my chest like my life had ended.” the boy concluded his story with a deep sigh.
“Look Billy, this does not mean that your wife is going to die. Your neighbor’s death was unfortunate, and you couldn’t have predicted when or how he was going to die. The likeness of the circumstances to your dream could be mere coincidence.” Obermeyer tried to reassure the boy.
“But in this case, I’ve seen a date. A deadline, if you wish. Every shop on the street had signs put up, with a specific date written on it. And I know all the shops will put up signs like those because it is indeed a special day. The signs referred to new years day; January 1, 1979.”

Dr. Obermeyer opened his eyes, now in the present. His Earl Grey had gone cold, forming a pool of condensation on his desk. He looked at the file in his hand one more time, and recalled the horror that happened on that fateful day in 1979. For he was waiting at the street corner Billy had described. And he had seen the woman for himself, and her strange yet captivating eyes.

But the tables had been turned. For it was not Janine who died that day; it was his patient – the one with the boyish looks.

To be continued…

© 2013 Mihir Kamat

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