The scene opens upon a small clearing within a forest. The ground is hard and covered in cold, white snow. The trees are all ash trees and have silvery bark. It is night and the sky is clear and star specked. Soft moonlight filters down upon the opening. A crow can be heard cawing. A silhouetted figure can be seen and is slowly illuminated as they walk into the center of the clearing. It is a young girl, perhaps sixteen perhaps eighteen. She has long, curly dark hair, sad grey eyes, pale skin and full rouge lips. She is dressed completely in differing yet complementary shades of red: a woolen rose colored jumper, a long scarlet skirt, knee high blood red leather boots and a long flowing crimson hooded cape. She lowers her hood and cautiously gives a quick scan of the area. She begins to speak; her voice despite her disposition is quite calm and soft.
I love this place. It’s so peaceful, not many people come here. I often sneak out my bedroom window and walk down the road to here, even when I moved I still come here, just to stare at the stars – they are so clear out here. Simple wishes. Some people say your fate is written in the stars. Yet, no one can really tell what their fate is…or can they? I’m one of the few people who can tell you what fate has in store. You don’t believe me. I can feel the doubt emanating from you. It doesn’t matter really. After our conversation tonight, it will no longer matter...
The girl gets cut off as a large black crow flies past her cawing loudly, then disappearing into the darkness. She shudders.
I am Cassandra. I’m gifted with precognition, and I don’t care if you believe me or not. Just listen to my tale, time is of the essence, as in the last week I’ve predicted four things, three have come to pass.
Ever since I was a little girl I had visions of the future. It got so bad, my father left.
My mother told me they were nothing to worry about, they were there just to tell me what will happen simple as that and so I should trust them. My mother wasn’t the nicest woman in the world but one day she became very sweet and caring to my twin brother Wade and me. A few hours afterward she was run down by our neighbor’s ’75 Impala.
After that we were sent to live with our father. He didn’t care about us really all he wanted was the money that was provided to him to help looking after us. That was ten years ago, I’m almost an adult now.
The moon disappears behind a cloud and the clearing becomes dark. Cassandra gasps as she hears the distant crush of twigs coming from somewhere in the forest. We hear her breathing rapidly, and as the moon reveals itself again, we can see her gazing quickly all around her. She quickly composes herself, though her eyes still dart about. Her voice, despite being calm, has heightened slightly in pitch.
Monday, at the start of the week just before my alarm got me up for school I had an odd dream. There was a white wall – the kind with all the tiny stones embedded in it, and a moldy, wooden ladder propped against it. Some guy was on the top of it. Then came the sound, the grating crunch of wood against rock as the ladder slid away from the wall and the top part of it came scraping down the wall dislodging all the tiny, white stones and spraying them amongst the ground. It all resembled snow. The thud sounded straight after – just a dull thud. Then there was the crimson, the deep, deep crimson. That pooled everywhere. It stained everything, even the man’s face. Slowly I walked closer to him, and I just stared at him as I saw who he was – Dad. That was when I woke up. I knew it was a vision, but I never talked about it with dad.
The crunch of twigs is heard again from behind her, it sounds as if something is walking slowly towards her. Then the alarmingly loud sound of cawing erupts in the dark depths of the wood. Cassandra merely gulps and continues talking. Just as she opens her mouth though, the roar of thunder resounds and the moonlight dims slightly, as rain pours down, gently at first then into a heavy drizzle. Cassandra pulls raises her hood and pulls her red cloak tighter around her.
When Wade and I arrived home from school, our street was like a mix of a cop show and a circus. Everyone in the entire street had crowded themselves around the front of our house and partially around the front of our neighbor’s. After we fought our way through Wade and I saw what the commotion was about, being zipped into a black, body bag was Dad. An officer asked Wade to “come over and identify the body”. While he did that, I felt the crowd’s gaze shift to me. I suddenly felt really self conscious, as if standing before a trial. Was it my fault he died? Is it wicked to say I’m glad he’s dead?
Wade didn’t seem all that upset either, he looked at the body his face not registering grief or shock of any kind and then told the policeman that he was indeed our father and then watched as they bundled the dead carcass into the back of the ambulance.
We were asked to gather a few things of ours and then packed into the back of a police car and driven from the suburbia of our home to the hustle and bustle of the inner city to our Uncle Tom’s house. Wade and I had only ever seen our uncle once, and that was when we were three. All I can remember of him was a large polo neck sweater and the strong smell of aftershave. I’m not sure what Wade remembered of him as he sat at the opposite sides of the car and he never spoke once during the entire one and a half hour journey to Tom’s place, despite my best efforts to make him do so. Instead he just sat there staring out the car window. Perhaps he cared for dad a lot more than he let on. When we arrived however, we both could not take our eyes from the front of a particular building. Out there, upon the sidewalk stood our Dad. Wade and I gasped. We communicated between ourselves for the last five minutes of our journey with short, surprised statements: How? I thought he died? Oh no not again! What is he doing here? Maybe he faked the whole thing? Ssh. Don’t tell me... Ssh! What?! It’s not him!
It turns out our father and uncle were twins and that’s how they both looked so strikingly similar. However, unlike our father, Tom wasn’t as chunky as Dad, and he was bigger built too. When he saw us he ran over to us and embraced us in a bone breaking embrace muttering the usual things like “Sorry”, and “It’ll be okay.” We just shrugged it off. We bundled our meager possessions out of the car and into our new home.
The forest sounds all die down and the entire place becomes eerily quiet, except for the soft pattering of the rain. Cassandra pauses and seems to be listening for any sounds from within the forest. She does so for a few seconds before continuing her story.
Wade and I adjusted very easily to living at Uncle Tom’s place. I guess it was because his home was so relaxing and homey. Unlike our old house, Tom’s was quite modern and not so grungy. He had sophisticated, antique mahogany furniture, with satin cushions upon the chairs and sofas. Paintings, collected from markets he had visited in France, adorned his coffee brown walls along with deep red sconces. His floors were laid with rich, chestnut brown teak panels. His dark chocolate bordered windows were covered in sultry crimson velvet drapes. He had two rooms where the walls were lined with bookshelves holding at least five hundred different books, and padded stiff back chairs. Wade loved it in those rooms and very rarely came out of them.
About a day after we had moved in, I had fallen asleep on the sofa and found myself in this strange dream. I was standing outside the front of my school and I saw Wade walking out the front doors. His wavy, brown hair was plastered to his head and his face had tiny rivulets of water were running down his cheeks, it looked like he had just been in the showers. It was pretty dark out and the lamps in the school ground threw light only on a very small percentage of the car park. He walked down the steps and to his black SUV. A mist seemed to have come in and it made everything darker and slightly more obscure. As he fumbled for his car keys a dark shadow appeared from within the darkness. Next thing they were fighting, and then they weren’t. As quickly as it had appeared the shadow vanished. Wade lay slumped over the bonnet of his car and he seemed to be clutching his chest. His face was creased in a state of pain; he slid off the car and onto the ground. I saw then how red his white t-shirt now was. I screamed his name but he just lay there not moving, in an expanding crimson puddle.
I kept screaming his name and the next thing I knew I was lying down in Tom’s living room staring up at the two worried faces of Tom and Wade. I said I just had a nightmare and that I was fine. I kept glancing at Wade. I knew the reason he had walked out of school so late, he had basket ball practice. His next practice was this evening.
I tried everything I could to not make him stay after school, I said I wasn’t feeling well and asked him to stay home with me, but he said he had a college entrance exam to sit later. I called him to tell him to come home as I thought I heard a noise and Uncle Tom was away at a business meeting, he came home then but only for a couple of minutes, just to check around and then collect his gym stuff which he “must have forgotten” to take to school. In reality, I had hid it in his room. He then left. I decided to go back to school, saying I was feeling better, but only so I could keep an eye on Wade. After school ended I waited for him. One of his friends came out of the building and told me Wade would be another hour. I waited, and waited and eventually losing patience I went into the school looking for him. I worried something else may have happened. Wade and I were on of the fortunate group of siblings who grew up very close. Despite this however, I never told him about the visions I get as I was worried they might drive us apart. I had shared them with Dad and that was what made him leave, thinking he had some crazy kid. I couldn’t find him anywhere, not in the hall, the gym or the showers. I bumped into the coach as I exited the boys changing rooms and he eyed me suspiciously. I asked if he knew where Wade was and he said practice had ended fifteen minutes ago. I ran out of the building and found Wade lying by his car. He looked so peaceful. All I remember was crying and not stopping.
She stops to wipe her eyes. The rain has topped and the moonlight has begun to brighten, illuminating the forest clearing once again. Along with the light comes the cawing of distant crows, and the strange cracking of twigs under foot. She glances into the dark interior of the forest, but strains to see anything in the darkness. She begins to speak again her voice, is heavy cracking with sadness and is quite soft.
The next few days were a blur. Dad’s and Wade’s funerals were conducted at the same time. Dad was buried, but I asked if Wade could be cremated. Later after the funerals I went to this forest and this clearing and scattered his ashes here, so that whenever I came here for solace Wade would be with me.
Tom’s place had lost its appeal for me. Everything had. Wade had been the sheen of everything and without it everything seemed duller, and not so interesting. I actually thought about ending it all, I even came close, but realized that wasn’t going to solve anything. So instead I just carried out my day to day tasks as best as I could.
My best friend Drew was my shoulder to cry on. We had been introduced by Wade when we were in fourth grade and had stayed best friend right up into high school. He was the stereotypical jock you would find in a high school, the rugged good looks, the short fairish-blond hair, blue eyes, strongly built, tall. He was also very sweet, and always asked how you were and tried his best to make you laugh when you were down. What I didn’t know then was that Drew had the biggest crush on me and just didn’t know how to ask me out. I found it out however in the cruelest possible way.
I was day dreaming during Maths class, bored out of my skull, when these flashes started going off in my head. It reminded me so much of traffic lights. I then realized what I was seeing. Drew was in his sports convertible cruising down the highway. He was listening to Jackson Brown’s “Rock Me on the Water” and singing softly in time with the singer’s gravelly voice. The traffic lights turned red and he pressed the brake. Nothing happened. He did it again. Still nothing. As he rolled past the light into the middle of a junction a loud honk came from the side along with this blinding light and then the scariest, blood-freezing sound I have ever heard in my entire life – it was like metal scraping metal, then crunching through bone, and the never ending bang upon bang upon bang.
I woke up in the middle of class sitting on the floor and screaming with twenty other students and a teacher staring at me ludicrously. Feeling my face flame, I ran out of the class and tried to find Drew. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I spent half an hour running to his usual haunts: the gym, library, computing room, the playing fields – nothing. I gave up and went to the office and found out that he hadn’t been in school at all today.
So I ran to his house. It was a miserable day, dull skies, rainy weather. Just like my mood. My mood darkened slightly when I got to his house only to find out he wasn’t in there either. I called him on his cell, and I found out he was on his way to Tom’s place as I had called in sick earlier but decided to go into school anyway. I told him to stop immediately and that I was at his house. I waited, and waited. I eventually saw his car coming over the hill that led down to his neighbor hood. What I saw next, I will always remember. The traffic lights shining an angry red, his car passing into the junction and then a huge white van came from no where and ploughed into his car. I screamed and ran up the hill to the wreck. Every step I took was echoed by a large bang of the convertible car as it tumbled. Arriving at the car I saw Drew lying very still in the passenger seat, his face was smothered in blood. His windows were all shattered and the glass littered the street. I ran up to him but people tried pulling me back saying it wasn’t safe. When I reached him, he was barely conscious. I succeeded with a little help from a passer by in pulling him out his car. During this I saw there were torn roses and a crushed box of chocolates in the car with Drew. I sat there on the road cradling his head in my arms muttering, “Help is coming, just hold on.” I eventually enquired about the chocolates, and to try and make him laugh, jokingly asked “Are they for me?” Only to have him open his eyes and then whisper yes. I was very taken aback, as I had never liked Drew in that way before.
After he said that his eyes rolled shut and his head tipped to the side. I shook him and kept shouting his name, but he never woke up. He died right there in my arms. I openly wept, not caring have the street were watching me. It was then I had another flash.
She wipes her streaming eyes with her hands and tries to suppress her sobs. She gasps as a very loud sound of cawing echoes through the forest. It sounds as if it comes from every side and she turns from side to side, her eyes white with fear, her skin paler than normal. The cawing increases in volume, tempo and pitch till it sounds almost like an alarm, so much so Cassandra covers her ears to block out the noise. The sounds die rapidly and silence fills the air.
In my head I saw myself napping on the sofa, in the dark living room of Tom’s house. The front door creaks open and a dim ray of light fills the hallway. A silhouetted figure steps into the living room. It walks slowly up to me, as if scared I might hear it, then there is a glint, and the next thing, the shadow runs out the door and I lay there on the couch with my life pouring out of my heart, and my eyes peacefully shut. However, in the figures haste he passed a mirror in the living room and the light from the open front door illuminated his face revealing the assailant as James Wolf – my ex boyfriend.
Suddenly a whole barrage of images rush into my mind, James pushing the ladder from underneath my father (it was James’ house he was at); James waiting beside Wades car as he attacked him (James went to the same school as we did); Drew telling his basketball buddies about asking me out and James overhearing. Then James later cutting the braking pipe in Drew’s car (James worked as Drew’s mechanic). It all started making sense to me. James was always the jealous type even when we were going out. He would bitch and moan if I so much as glanced at another guy. He could also be quite possessive. A phrase he said over and over to me while we were going out came rushing back to me, “If I can’t have you then no one will”. I just never knew he would go to such lengths or he that he would be so literal. Heh. He always was the psycho type.
I left the road accident and then ran home. I got dressed in these clothes I’m wearing now as they were a Halloween gift from Wade and Drew on year, as they thought it would be funny if I went trick or treating as a slutty Little Red Riding Hood and it was one of the few possessions I had from Drew. I called James and left a message saying finish it and giving directions to these woods because out of everywhere in the world, I would rather die here.
You probably think me mad in doing so and what was the point. But you see, I realize now, these visions, what I see, I can’t intervene with them, I can’t stop what I see. I learnt that with Wade and I learned that a bit with Drew. James would have got me at some point even if I hadn’t phoned him. The police wouldn’t have been able to jail him. His lawyer father would have the case thrown out on a technicality and on the bases of no substantial evidence. Then James would be out on the streets again and he would be even angrier.
I think it’s what I deserve as I always hated my father for running away because of my ability. I hated him for it and wished he died. I also hated my mother as she herself had the gift and wouldn’t even help me with it at all bar saying just to trust them. I guess that’s reason why I was given horrible visions that I couldn’t stop.
All I want is to be with Wade and Drew. That’s all I want now. All I want.
Cassandra walks off stage and into the forest. The crows caw loudly and a girl screams in the distance. The caws die immediately when the scream does and a large flock of crows fly out of the forest. The moonlight dims and the light goes out completely.
© Copyright 2016 Topher Sparrow. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Religion and Spirituality
Poem / Romance
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