A/N: Written for a writing competition I recently won. Prompt: "And just like that, the dream was over, and I had to wake up."
WARNING: This story contains cancer, and death.
Sometimes I see things. Not anything like ghosts or spirits, or that sort of thing. But things that will happen.
At first, when I started getting the dreams, I chalked it up to anxiety. Life was stressful, my head was likely to come up with the worst case scenarios, especially when I was sleeping. Right? Of course it was anxiety.
But then the things I dreamed started happening. They were little things at first, like failing a test, banging into someone at lunch and getting food spilled all over me, getting rejected by that girl I liked. So I started to listen. My dreams were more than dreams, but what could I do about them? I saw what would be. There was no changing that.
The day so far had been pretty normal. Breakfast was the usual rushed affair, school was… well… school, and all my friends were fine. Homework took forever, and then it was dinner. As usual, my mom couldn't join us. Anything she ate came back up. That'd been happening for a week now. And the nurses that came to take care of her were trying to give her nutrients through a PICC line. But still, she was thin, her hair that had just started growing back was white fuzz, not anything like the blonde curls that she'd once had. Her face was wan and pale, cheekbones becoming rigid underneath what had once been glowing, healthy skin.
I barely touched my food, and then I stood outside my parents' bedroom door, finding it hard to breathe.
Should I go in? Should I see her?
She was still my mom, just not… who she had been.
I kept trying to tell myself that that was okay. The world could fall apart and she would still be my mom. Yet, I knew what I would see if I went in there. The bed now reserved just for her pushed against the far wall by the window, and bags of nutrients and fluid hanging on hooks with tubes that traveled down to her skin where they ended in syringes that were kept in her with tape. I knew I'd see bandages over her too-thin abdomen. I knew I'd see the pain and exhaustion in her eyes.
And I'd smell her unwashed body, the ointments placed over her stitches.
This was my mom. And she was hurting so badly.
I had to go in.
I entered the room, and she gave me a smile that wasn't entirely forced, and she gently held out an arm to me. My dad was kneeling by the bed, rubbing her shoulder comfortingly. I went over, holding back the tears in my eyes, yet I still suffered from that familiar ache in my throat.
I leaned against her as softly as I could, not wanting to hurt her. But god, she was too thin. Her bones were showing through her limbs, and I knew if her shirt was lifted up more, we would see her ribs.
"How's my Pumpkin Patch?" she asked.
(And yes, she did call me that. My mom was a fan of strange pet names.)
I lied, smiling warmly as I said, "I'm good, Mom."
She nodded slowly, but then lowered her arm, her head drifting to the side.
"That's good," she murmured.
And then she was asleep.
Sleeping was about all my mom did now. Her body had been ravaged, and nothing seemed to be helping. It needed energy to keep going, so sleep was needed in excess.
"We should let her rest," my dad whispered.
I nodded, still holding back tears. I couldn't open my mouth now, lest a sob came out.
My dad put an arm around me, and we left the room, quietly closing the door so all that sounded was a soft click.
Suddenly, I couldn't hold back my tears, and my arms were around my dad's waist, my head buried into his sturdy, comforting chest. I sobbed into his shirt, and he held me tight. I felt his own tears patter onto my head.
We stayed like that for a while, just holding each other, crying. Crying because we loved her. Crying because of her pain. Crying because of the future that we feared.
Eventually, we went and made popcorn, and watched a movie in the living room.
My chest hurt. Everything seemed to be pressing down on me.
Something was wrong.
But something was always wrong with the way my mom was. Anxiety constantly hounded me, leaving me sleepless, wound up, and unable to focus. So I ignored it. I just ate popcorn, and watched as Princess Buttercup was saved from the eels.
Later, I couldn't get to sleep. I was upstairs, my room above my mom's. I knew my dad would be sleeping on a cot he'd put in the room he shared with her, and he would know if something happened. Wouldn't he?
That didn't give me much assurance, so I lay on my bed, fighting with myself desperately.
Go to sleep. Go — to — sleep.
It was no use.
Time ticked by, dragging slowly like the pour of syrup.
It was one o'clock when I heard thumping footsteps on the stairs. They were rushed, frantic. I sat up immediately, and was unable to breathe as my dad opened my door and turned on the light.
He didn't say anything. His tear-streaked, reddened face said it all, the way his entire body seemed to sag, as if it was dragged down by grief.
"Daddy!" I cried, and then I was in his arms, sobbing. He sobbed with me.
"She's… gone," he eventually said. And then he screamed. It terrified me. I had never seen my dad cry like this before. I had never seen him in so much pain, never heard anything so awful as the grief in his frantic voice.
I felt like screaming too, and did so into his shirt.
"I… I-I want to… to see her!" I said.
"No, sweetie." He sobbed again, but then forced out, voice thick with agony, "She's not there anymore."
Anger burned in my blood, and I tried getting out of his arms, even banged my fists against his chest. I broke free, and rushed down the stairs, with him going after me, nearly tripping in my haste.
There was nothing he could do as I got to my mom's bedroom door. My dad had left it open, and I stood in the doorway, staring.
My mom's chest didn't rise and fall. Her eyes were closed, but there was no peace on her face. Just pain, exhaustion.
My face fell, everything hurting too much, and I whimpered, "Mommy!"
I rushed to her, and I held her, having the stupid thought that maybe she'd wake up since she knew I was there. I wanted her to wake up.
My dad held me, and I held my mom.
This was hell.
And just like that, the dream was over, and I had to wake up.
I lay in bed, shaking.
My mom was still alive, still downstairs; breathing, and living, and existing. And my dad was with her. The day hadn't even begun yet.
Yet I knew.
The heavy feeling surrounding me, and penetrating me wouldn't leave, and I was sick from it.
My mom was going to die. And I'd already seen it.
My dreams were never wrong.
A/N: I know I have a few short stories on here, but I am also working on what will hopefully be a novel. Don't know when I'll get around to actually writing a chapter though (I've been doing history, plotting world-building, that kind of thing). But thanks to whoever reads my short stories. (And yes, I know the one about the potato has a lot of typos, I wrote it while drunk, and my friends thought it'd be funny if I left the typos when I posted.)