Fool Me Once
1 - DRIVE
Shelby watched, frozen, as the white SUV came screeching around the corner, careening out of control. She knew it was moving too fast. Callie, her best friend, would not have time to get out of the way. The brakes on the truck squealed, leaving black skid marks on the street. It was too late. The scene unfolded as Shelby cried out from the curb. "Callie! No! No!"
Callie whipped her head around only in time to scream. One second they were racing across the street; the next, Shelby, three steps ahead, turned and watched in horror as Callie was struck. Her limp body flew over the hood of the SUV, spiraling through the air like a rag doll. She smashed head first into the windshield, shattering the glass with a gut-wrenching crunch. Her small body twitched then slowly slid down the hood, leaving a blood trail behind, landing on the concrete with a thud.
Screaming from where she stood, covering her mouth to hold back the bile rising in her throat, warm tears streamed down Shelby’s cheeks. She desperately wanted to run to Callie but her legs held, locked in place. The knot in her stomach made her want to retch at the sight of her best friend’s blood draining from her body. Callie’s lifeless body lay in the middle of the road.
Shelby lowered her head, her eyes focused on her feet where she had unknowingly dropped her books. On top was her school’s homework ledger opened to a new page. The date, without anything written on it for homework yet, was Tuesday, April 23rd. In a trance, she looked up to see a young boy with strawberry blond hair carrying a skateboard standing on the opposite side of the street with a terrified look on his face. She begged him with her eyes to move, to help, to save Callie. In that instant, he was simply gone. Shelby glanced back to Callie’s still body. She dropped to her knees, crying out for her. "No, Callie. Please, no."
Shelby snapped awake, the visions of her dream still fresh in her mind. Grabbing her neck, she could feel her silent scream locked in her throat. At age eleven, this was the first time she had dreamt of someone’s death. Not Callie, not Callie echoed inside of her head. I can fix this! I know I can fix this! Shelby sprang from her bed. Her dream was specific this time; it would happen today; Tuesday, April 23rd.
Shelby learned at an early age that she had an unusual gift. Her dreams foretold future events. She didn’t believe it was a gift at first – not until she learned how to alter the outcomes. Simple things she successfully changed in the past didn’t seem to matter. Her faked appendix attack saved her dad from a broken leg during a skiing accident, but that was different. This was her best friend’s life. Her body trembled as her mind raced with thoughts of how she would prevent her friend’s death. There was a chance she could alter Callie’s fate.
A simple stomach ache would not save Callie. Callie would die if Shelby didn’t stop her. She didn’t know if she could change any of the events that would unfold that day but she was determined to at least try. She would tempt fate in hopes that her friend would be spared.
The two girls were best friends and alternated going to each others’ house after school. They would meet on the corner where, according to her dream, Callie would be struck. Shelby had to persuade Callie to meet her somewhere other than their usual spot before the end of the day. Her heart seemed to be pounding out of her chest as she dressed for school. She quickly gathered her schoolbag, let her mom know the plan to go to Callie’s house today then headed to school. Confident that she would see Callie in the one class they had together or at lunch, Shelby felt a little more at ease.
Shelby knew it was risky to attempt to talk to Callie in Mrs. Kempt’s class but she was desperate enough to take that risk. She entered the classroom too late, frustrated that she had to stop at her locker. She hoped she would have a couple of minutes before class began but already things were going wrong. The bell rang as she waved her hand at her best friend. She mouthed the words, ‘we need to talk.’ Callie did not see her.
"Everyone, be seated." Mrs. Kempt began. "Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday."
Mrs. Kempt’s class was boring as usual. They both spent most of their days in class with their chins in their hands, daydreaming. Not today. Shelby’s leg bounced with anticipation. She knew she had to somehow seize the opportunity to warn Callie, at least give her a desperate hand signal. Her stomach was doing flips as she waited for the right second. Mrs. Kempt finally turned away. Shelby quickly spun her head around to whisper to Callie. WHAM. The ruler came down on her desk. Nothing escaped the hawk eyes of Mrs. Kempt.
"Shelby," Mrs. Kempt snapped, "you’ve just earned yourself a lunch detention."
"But Mrs. Kempt, I didn’t…"
"Would you like to make it two?"
"No, Mrs. Kempt." Upset with herself, she turned her body forward and began tapping the floor with her foot. She could feel her face flush, redden with heat; her whole body trembling, she tried to work out a new plan in her head.
Callie chuckled under her breath along with the entire class. Middle school was not as much fun as they had thought it would be when they were in elementary. Mrs. Kempt looked as old as the Alps, was meaner than the Wicked Witch of the West and could hear a pin drop a mile away.
"Is there someone in here who would like to join Shelby?"
"No, Mrs. Kempt," the class responded in their most harmonious way.
"Now that we are all in agreement, let’s begin where we left off. Callie, please read the next paragraph."
Callie straightened in her seat then began reading. In one second of bad luck, Shelby had ruined both of her chances to talk to Callie. Now she had to figure out another way to let her friend know about the change in plans. The lunch bell rang. As Callie made her way out the door, she turned to Shelby, pushed out her bottom lip then left the class heading for the small cafeteria. If Mrs. Kempt had a heart, she would allow her to leave early. Everyone in the school knew Mrs. Kempt had no heart; ice water flowed through her veins.
Shelby sat in her chair as calmly as she could. Her leg bounced furiously as she watched the hands of the clock tick by painfully slow. Lunch lasted twenty-five minutes; her heart began to pound with fear as she tried to figure out where Callie would be by the time she was released. A loud beep from the intercom made her jump.
"Mrs. Kempt," the voice announced. "Please go to the teacher’s lounge."
Mrs. Kempt sighed and turned to her. "You may g..."
Snatching her school bag, Shelby was out the door before Mrs. Kempt could finish her sentence. She made a mad dash to the lunch room to do a quick scan. She grabbed the arm of one of their friends. "Have you seen Callie?"
"She went to the office a few minutes ago."
Shelby spun around on her heels then sped towards the office. Once in the office, Shelby learned Callie had been there and left. She must be at recess. Shelby ran around the school yard, her eyes searching side to side as she pushed her way through some of her classmates. Callie was nowhere to be found. Shelby began to panic. She was running out of time. The lunch bell rang ending their already short recess.
This can’t be happening! This won’t happen! I won’t let this happen! Callie, where are you? Her head pounded with fear. Callie, please. Where are you?
A voice from behind her shocked her back. "Shelby, are you looking for an after-school detention? You have one minute to get to your class. If I were you, I’d get my head out of those clouds it’s in and get moving."
It was Kempt again. Shelby knew she meant what she said. The last thing she needed right now was to be kept for an after school detention. She forced herself to leave the school yard frustrated, upset; her body shaking from head to toe. She reluctantly headed to her next class scanning the hallways as she went. The dream replayed in her memory; Shelby knew she had missed another opportunity.
The rest of the day was spent tapping on her desk or chewing on a pencil, nervously anticipating the outcome if she couldn’t find Callie. Flashes of the accident never leaving her mind; time was not on her side. She was racing the clock, and the clock continued to click towards Callie’s death.
She stood in the school yard after classes had ended, her eyes frantically searching for Callie before she left the grounds. Her body, unable to move from one spot, began to shake from sheer panic. Her stomach was in a knot; ready to lose her morning meal. She knew this was her last chance to stop fate. I will not let you take her. She’s my best friend. I won’t let this happen. Oh God, Callie! Where are you?
"Boo!" Someone grabbed Shelby’s waist from the side.
Shelby jumped backwards. She nearly hit the ground. "Don’t ever do that again!" she snapped.
"What’s your problem?"
Shelby latched onto Callie, pulling her in tightly. She breathed a heavy sigh of relief; unable to stop her tears, they fell on Callie’s shoulder.
"I’ve been looking for you all day. Where have you been? I looked for you at lunch, I checked the school yard. I couldn’t find you."
"What’s the big deal? You know I would have met you on the corner."
Shelby turned away to wipe her unnoticed tears. She steadied her voice, not wanting to alarm Callie. "There’s been a change in plans. I’m going to come to your house after school today. My mom had to go in to work for something so she won’t be home."
"No big deal," Callie said. "My mom will be home. Hey, what did you think of my escape plan?"
"What escape plan?" Shelby looked at her, tilting her head.
"I had ‘ole hag Kempt called to the teacher’s lounge."
Shelby broke out in a nervous laughter. "I can’t believe you did that."
Callie joined the laugher. "Score one for the bestie!"
Shelby’s strategy saved her friend’s life; Callie’s accident had been avoided. Afterwards, Shelby knew she had to learn how to deal with these frightening situations or one day she would not be able to prevent bad things from happening. Right now all Shelby knew was that her best friend was okay and she was thankful. At eleven, she was too young to feel differently.
Over the years Shelby had learned to develop her skills. She sat in her bed holding her locked journal in her hands. Reaching into her desk drawer, she removed the key and unlocked her private thoughts. It had become a ritual for her to sit on her bed as she jotted down important memories taken from her dreams. When she completed her writing, she replaced the key in her draw and walked over to the oak chest that sat in the corner of her room. She had decided she would keep her ability a secret from everyone; her mom, her dad, even her best friend. Being an eleven-year-old weirdo was not something she wanted people to know. The chest was the perfect spot for her to keep her secrets locked away.
Shelby referred to her notes often, reminding herself of things that stood out in her dreams. Some things were important now, some she thought may be important later -- things like the little boy with the strawberry blond hair who kept appearing in her dreams. Who was he? He looked a little weird to her, yet he was cute. He seemed to appear more often now. Shelby decided to note his appearance in her journal. She had to write about what seemed to be his lifeline -- his skateboard. He had it with him in almost all of her dreams. If he wasn’t riding it, he was holding it tightly. She didn’t know what the connection was to the boy; she just knew she felt tingles deep inside, whenever he appeared in her dreams. Maybe she just liked him – if it was possible to like someone you only see in your subconscious mind. He was somehow important. She made her notes, continuing to do the little things her dreams urged her to do.
2 – IF YOU ONLY KNEW
Screams echoed through the economy section of the doomed passenger plane. Tristan’s eyes widened as he turned to see the flames coming from the wing, billowing smoke behind it. His mom turned, locking her eyes on the view from her window seat. The flight attendants quickly began their practiced exercises, trying to calm the passengers before fear struck them. Their faces turned pale as the realization of doom sunk in. Everyone was frantically strapping themselves into their seats and crouching with their heads between their legs. Cries from children, others praying, some desperately trying to make a final phone call had Tristan’s young head spinning.
He covered his ears from the painful sounds, fought to keep back his frightened tears then looked to his mother’s seat again. Through the window, the flames began to spread. They reached the second engine; within moments there was another explosion. The plane rocked, sending the stashed overhead luggage into the heads of some already frightened passengers. Oxygen masks dropped in that same instant; passengers gasping between screams grabbed for the air.
Tristan’s mom turned her frozen stare away from the window. With tears in her eyes, she followed emergency landing procedure, locking her fingers behind her head then lowering her body to the assumed fetal position. The last thing Tristan saw with certainty was his mom whispering ‘I love you more’ just before the plane exploded into the ground.
Tristan woke from his dream, screaming. "Mom, no!"
It took two hours for his parents to calm him down that night. "It was just a nightmare, Tristan. Everyone has nightmares. You’re going to be okay."
"Please stay with me, Mommy."
"Of course, Baby. I’ll lie with you until you fall back asleep."
Tristan cuddled close to his mom, telling himself, a nightmare; just a nightmare. There was no way he could have known his dream was a premonition. Only seven at the time, he didn’t understand he could have stopped his mom from getting on that plane.
Tristan always had vivid dreams; some good, some horrific. He figured everyone had them and didn’t think his were any different. It wasn’t until his mother died that he realized how important his dreams were. He had the dream about his mother two days before it happened. It was not uncommon for her to leave for a business trip. She would kiss him goodbye, squeeze him tightly. Tristan would say "I love you."
Bending over she would whisper in his ear. "I love you more."
That had been four years ago but Tristan knew, from that point on, his dreams were trying to tell him something. He tried to remember all the particulars, every small detail. When he was nine, those minor details saved him from failing the fourth grade. He hadn’t, however, had any other dreams about someone’s death since. He began to believe that one had just been a coincidence.
It was only after he let his guard down that he had a dream about his friend Jake’s death. It would happen from a skateboard accident. The visions unfolding became crystal clear; like in the dream of his mother, Tristan was not only an observer but also a player.
He and Jake were on their way to the skateboard park, their usual weekend outing. In their rush, Tristan plowed into a young girl with auburn hair and hypnotic brown eyes, knocking her to the ground. As he reached down to help her up, he recalled that this was not the first time he had seen this particular girl. He pondered her presence for just a moment then made a mental note to himself.
"Hurry up!" Jake called back.
"I’m so sorry," Tristan told the girl.
She did not seem to hear his words. She gave him a puzzled looked with her mesmerizing eyes then got up on her own. He blinked… just blinked, then she was gone; an occasional visitor. Tristan turned, quickly catching up to Jake.
At the skateboard area, Jake hopped on his board. "Check this move out. I saw this kid do it last weekend. It’s a pretty cool trick. I haven’t practiced much so no laughing."
Tristan watched as Jake took off down the ramp. As he reached the top of the other side, he tried to propel himself into the air, grabbing the bottom of his skateboard with one hand. Mid way through the trick, Jake grabbed his skateboard with one hand then mistakenly pulled it out from underneath his feet. He flailed upside down, his arms flapping like a baby bird falling from its nest, before landing on the back of his head.
Tristan clearly heard the snap of Jake’s neck and the thud on the concrete before he saw his friend’s body lying motionless on the ground. He stood petrified, waiting for his stomach to cease its spasms. They didn’t. Tristan fell to the ground releasing his stomach contents. He crawled to get closer to his friend. A puddle of blood began to emerge from under Jake’s head. Closing his eyes from the site of his best friend’s blood, he fell to his belly letting out a weak cry. Stretching out his arm, he was just able to place one hand on Jake’s chest then passed out.
Tristan bolted straight up in his bed, his subconscious mind re-entered his body with a shudder. The hair on the back of his neck raised, goose bumps broke out all over his body. He remembered the dream of his mother. If there was anything he could have done… but there was something he could do now. He was determined to not lose another person he cared about. Changing those plans before something happened to Jake wasn’t going to be easy. He knew exactly when; exactly where. He wasn’t sure how yet, but he would have to come up with something smooth. Jake was a tough nut to crack.
Tristan pulled back his covers. He stepped onto the cool wood floor then grabbed his notebook with the pen attached. His hand still shaking, he wrote down his vision as best he could in the dark. ‘This weekend. Jake’s new trick. Died.’ Before putting the notebook away, he added one last note. ‘Same girl. Pretty. Her eyes.’ He had no sane reason to even think about this girl when he just watched his friend die… he just knew there was something about her. He needed to note her in his book.
Their plans for the weekend were to go to the local playground where all the skateboarders hung out. That needed to change. The weather channel said it was going to be perfect weekend weather so the plan had been set days ago. It would take some fast talking to keep Jake away from the playground. Tristan’s plan would require assistance from his dad, but he had a good feeling he could pull this off.
He had gotten a Wii last year from his dad; good grades had its rewards. Tristan would now use this gift to save his best friend. He persuaded his dad to go to their local gamer’s store, finding exactly what he was searching for. He paid for the game with hard-earned allowance money but it would be worth every dollar if this worked.
Typical of Jake, he arrived early Saturday morning, skateboard in hand. "Let’s go, dude."
"Hang on a sec," Tristan said. "You gotta come see this new game I just got. I’ve been saving a few dollars for a while. My dad took me last night to buy it. Man, it’s the best one yet. Come on in, play for a while. We got plenty time to skateboard."
Tristan’s stomach was doing flips. He hoped Jake hadn’t noticed the shakiness in his voice. He reached out, took Jake’s skateboard then shoved him into the den. Hoping to lure Jake even further, he used those magic words: "Get ready to meet defeat." He knew Jake would find that hard to resist. Jake did not take defeat lightly.
"Geez man, the things you come up with these days. All right, we’ll play, but let’s make it quick. I really want to get out to the playground… and just so you know, I’m undefeatable."
"Deal," Tristan said. With a quiet sigh of relief, Tristan set up the game.
"What game did you buy?"
"Only the most popular game in stores right now."
"Whatever, man. What is it?"
Tristan put a big grin on his face as he pulled out a box from behind the sofa. He turned the Wii Skateboard, still in its box, toward Jake.
"Whoa! Dude. A Tony Hawk Skateboard! Why didn’t you say that? Let’s do this!"
Tristan let the grin on his face widen. "I was hoping you would say that."
Tristan’s plan worked out better than he thought. He and Jake spent the entire day challenging each other. They played into the evening then Jake returned the next day to play again, this time without his skateboard. When they returned to the skateboard park the following weekend, they found out they had missed some excitement. A boy was trying to be cool and pulled a flip trick when it went wrong. The kid came crashing down hard on his right leg shattering the bone. He wound up getting screws in his leg to hold the bone together. Tristan knew now he could alter some of the events that he was dreaming about. He didn’t save his mom, but Jake would be fine. They both eventually gave up on skateboarding at the park, opting instead to spend weekends together playing the video game. It was much safer at home.
As the years passed, Tristan continued to record his dreams in his spiral notebook. One meaningless dream he had now could possibly help in the future. He felt better prepared by reviewing his notes every now and again. As soon as the alarm buzzed, he would scribble down his dreams in a fury before they were lost with the rising sun. Some of his dreams were very specific; a certain day, a particular time, a definite event. Some were not as clear. He never spoke of his dreams to anyone, especially not his dad. He felt guilty enough as it was. He didn’t think his dad would understand, and Jake? Well, guys just don’t tell other guys stuff like that.
The girl with the auburn hair was in his dreams often. Her hypnotizing eyes entranced him. Who was she? He hadn’t quite figured out why she was there, always in the background. Was she a figment of his subconscious mind, like an extra in a movie, or something more significant? He was only eleven, but she still captivated him. For now, he would make his notes then worry about everything else later.
There was one other figure that lurked in some of his dreams. It was a man, tall, dark…very dark… and eerie. This shadowy form had begun to filter through, invading Tristan’s dreams after he saved Jake from an early death. The dark figure’s presence wasn’t there as often as the seriously cute girl but he noted his appearances for future reference. There was definitely something about him that creeped Tristan out.