Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Into the Shadows - Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Sweet Dreams

Five years ago…

Streams of sunlight shone brightly through the car window as shadows of the passing trees flickered across Paivi Anderson’s face. Next to her sat a woman she knew well, but as she glanced around she was slightly confused. Looking over her shoulder into the back seat she was surprised to see that Michaela wasn’t in the car. Though they had been friends forever it was rare that Paivi was in the car with Michaela’s mother by herself. Mrs. Brown, an older version of her daughter and sporting the same long, dark hair, hummed along with a song on the radio. She seemed unaware of Paivi sitting next to her.

In an instant the car slammed to a violent stop and Paivi pitched forward in her seat. Glass shattered—small pieces rained down on her and she could hear the horrible sound of crunching metal. Mrs. Brown screamed as rivers of blood ran down her face, which had been sliced by the flying glass. An oily smoke filled the car, surging through the vents. Paivi’s lungs burned as she gasped for air, choking and sputtering. She looked down to see flames licking at her feet from under the dashboard. She was frozen, unable to move as the scorching heat raced up her legs. A deafening explosion shook them, rocking the car.
Paivi screamed and thrashed in pain, trying to free herself from the flaming wreckage tangled around her. She didn’t want to open her eyes, terrified of what she would see. Cool hands grasped her arms and in the distance she heard a familiar voice.

“She’s having another dream, John!” Mrs. Anderson’s voice was panicked as she wrestled with the tangled mass before her.

Paivi opened an eye and saw her room.

“Help me! No, no, no!” she screamed, fighting against the damp sheet that had woven itself around her limbs and clung to her body. Her pajamas were soaked with sweat and she could still feel the heat from the fire, despite being aware she was no longer in it.

Mrs. Anderson frantically attempted to untangle the sheet from around Paivi’s thin frame.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“No, Mom, I don’t know, it’s Mrs. Brown.” Paivi was rambling⎯unable collect her thoughts. Finally able to sit up, she gulped hungrily at the air, struggling to find her breath. Mrs. Anderson put her arms around Paivi, and smoothed her sweaty hair back from her forehead. “I saw her in my dream. There was some kind of accident. In the car. But I don’t think she’s okay. You have to do something!” she pleaded.

Mr. and Mrs. Anderson exchange concerned looks.

This wasn’t the first time their young daughter had experienced such a vivid dream. It became difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to stop Paivi from making connections as she got older. Her ‘dreams’ came true all too often. She often shared them with her parents, but she had never envisioned such a tragic event. Mostly they were trivial things, such as finding a lost bike or watching herself earn an A on an upcoming test.

Mr. and Mrs. Anderson supported Paivi’s visions and never made her feel different. Little did she know it was because they were comforted by the thought that other adults would merely look upon her as a precocious child with an over-active imagination. This would keep her secret safe from the citizens of St. Andrew, Illinois. Besides, Paivi was, in most respects, a normal little girl from a happy family and that’s all anyone really needed to know.

Mrs. Anderson spoke softly, “I don’t know if there is much we can do.”

“What do you mean Mom? Dad, you’re a policeman. Please do something! We have to call them! I have to call Michaela!” Paivi screamed hysterically. She fought against her mom’s arms with no success. Mrs. Anderson only held her tighter.

“Paivi, I am so sorry,” Mr. Anderson said. “Sometimes we see things we wish we couldn’t, but there is nothing we can do. When the time is right, your Mom and I will explain this all to you. But right now you need to trust us. You’ll need to be there for Michaela. And you have to promise us that you won’t tell anyone about your dream tonight.”

Mr. Anderson knelt down beside her and took her hand. Paivi was sobbing so hard that she could not respond. Gulps and shudders were now the only sounds she could manage.

“Okay,” she whispered.

Paivi sat up crying for a few more hours before falling asleep, exhausted, in her mother’s arms.

Mrs. Anderson called her out of school the next day.

“The library books can wait until tomorrow, I’m sure they don’t mind,” she said as she pulled a tray of Paivi’s favorite chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. “Miss Nelson said she hoped you feel better,” she offered, referring to the head librarian at the St. Andrew Public Library, where she worked.

Paivi shoved the cookies away, uninterested.

Every thing in the house reminded her of Michaela and Mrs. Brown. Commercials showing a mother and daughter running together in the park and the plot of her mom’s soap opera wouldn’t allow her to block the thoughts from her mind. She spent most of the day curled up next to her mom on the couch. She shivered as her mom stroked her long, blond hair and held her close, wondering if Michaela would get a chance to do the same with her mom again.

In the afternoon she asked her mom calmly, her green eyes shining with hope, “Mom, are you sure there anything we can do? Can’t we call someone?”

“Honey, I promise you, if there was any way to change what you saw, I would do it for you and for Mrs. Brown. But sometimes there are things we can’t change. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand this better.” She attempted a bitter half-smile, which was meant more for herself than for Paivi. Dark circles floated under her sky blue eyes. “Not that it makes it any easier. Just know that you are special and we love you very much.”

She kissed Paivi on the head.

And so they waited. Paivi’s stomach churned as she thought about having to face Michaela. She was able to dodge her phone call after school but she knew there would be no escaping her the next day.
The phone call came that evening, from Mr. Anderson himself. Mrs. Anderson answered, her voice muted. She turned back to Paivi, who sat anxiously at the kitchen table, shredding a paper napkin.

“That was your Daddy. Mrs. Brown had an accident today. She was taken to St. Andrew Medical. She is still alive, but very badly injured,” Mrs. Anderson paused, wiping away a tear as it trickled down her cheek, “they’re not sure if she’ll make it.”

This time Paivi did not cry. Mrs. Brown was alive, and for right now that was enough for her.


Despite the best efforts of her doctors and weeks in the hospital, Mrs. Brown wasn’t getting any better. She had been badly burned in the explosion and was forced to endure numerous surgeries. Paivi was unable to avoid Michaela for long, as the Andersons had kindly offered to take care of Michaela and her little sister Marissa while Mr. Brown tended to his ailing wife. At first, things were awkward. Paivi worried that Michaela would somehow figure out the truth—that she had known about the accident. She felt like it was written in red letters across her forehead.

“Paivi,” Michaela said one night as she and Paivi settled in for their fourth sleepover that week. She twisted in her sleeping bag and turned towards Paivi, trying to keep from waking Marissa who was asleep at her feet. “I’m scared. I mean, Marissa isn’t because she’s so little, but I’ve heard my dad talking on the phone. I don’t want my mom to die, Paivi.”

Paivi could see her wipe away tears in the light of the night-light. She felt her own eyes overflow; tears spilled silently down her cheeks. She reached out and grabbed Michaela’s hand.

“I don’t want her to die either,” she whispered, wishing that her words were enough to change what she knew would happen.

On a beautiful spring day, Mrs. Brown passed away. Guilt oozed out of every pore as Paivi trudged across the graveyard towards the waiting crowd dressed in black. She clasped her mom’s hand, hoping that it would be over quickly. She couldn’t bear looking at the life, now over, sitting on the dais in front of them. Michaela had taken it better than Paivi, something that she struggled to comprehend. She wondered how her friend could be so strong.

Paivi returned home after Mrs. Brown’s funeral, ran straight up the stairs to her room and threw herself down on the bed. Curled up into a ball, she rocked back and forth, holding her knees.

No more dreams, she swore to herself. I don’t want to see anything ever again.

She pulled a picture off the wall next to her bed, gazing at her best friend’s smiling face. She couldn’t imagine what would happen if Michaela ever found out that she had known what would happen to her mother. Losing her best friend was not a risk she was willing to take, if she could help it.

And so she tried. Every night before she went to sleep, she would clear her mind. If she had a dream, she would try to forget it the minute she woke up, drowning the images in everyday things and pushing them into the farthest corners of her mind. Every day she would remember less and less. She was winning the battle.

Sometimes she would be concentrating so hard on chasing the images away, with her eyes scrunched closed and her hands balled up in fists at her sides, that she wouldn’t notice the odd things that were happening around her.

It started slowly at first⎯it was hardly noticeable. Paivi was so focused on getting rid of the dreams that she didn’t notice a small horse figurine inch slightly across the top of her dresser. She didn’t see the book sliding ever so gently towards the edge of the bookshelf, where it stopped just before falling.
One day, however, as she was concentrating ever so hard on pushing a particularly happy vision from her mind, she couldn’t help but notice.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad to have visions, she thought to herself as she lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling after a particularly entertaining vision that occurred while she slept.

Sometimes her visions were good, really good. She closed her eyes, trying to remember the face of the boy she was kissing in her dream.

Paivi then thought back to Mrs. Brown’s funeral. Trees with budding leaves framed the scene in the cemetery, softening the harsh gray of the gravestones. Bright sunlight reflected off of the pearly casket as it sat over the large hole dug in the fresh earth. The scene was almost beautiful, if it wasn’t for the tragedy that lay beneath the mountain of blood-red roses that dripped red rivulets across the white lid.

Paivi felt a surge of anger push through all of her anguish. Her brain was on fire and the heat coursed through her, pulsing through her veins from her fingers to her toes. She clenched her fists and squeezed her eyes shut. She cried out in pain, unable to keep the rush of energy inside her body. It burst out through her fingertips, whipping around her. The sound of a loud crash brought her back into the room. She opened her eyes to see books flying across the room from the shelves and slamming into the wall opposite. They fell to the floor in a heap, open with pages and covers bent. Figurines of horses and unicorns as well as dolls were flying from the top of her dresser and smashing into the walls. Shards of porcelain rained down on the floor.

She stood up, looking around in amazement. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Posters had fallen to the floor and others clung to the wall in tatters. A flying hairbrush had shattered a mirror and the walls were chipped and dented from the force of the collisions. Her parents thundered up the stairs and threw open the door. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson stood in the doorway, stunned, their jaws dropped, chins almost touching their chests. They looked at each other with wide eyes and then at Paivi, bewildered by the destruction that surrounded their little girl and stunned that she stood in the middle of the chaos and was completely unscathed.

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