Gregory awoke with a sharp gasp, sitting bolt upright in bed. His sheets were drenched in a cold sweat. The nightshirt he wore clung to his skin like the gossamer strings of a spider's pulp around its prey. It had been the same dream. The dream that haunted him night after night. The bright lights, the shriek of tires and brakes on pavement, a car horn sounding off, a terrified shout and sudden darkness. He'd wake up right about then, drenched in the cold sweat of fear and worried anticipation. Gregory didn't exactly know what the dream meant. He'd been having it for almost three weeks consecutively. Night after night he'd wake up at the exact same moment in the exact same dream with the same feeling of dread and shame-faced guilt. It was all confusing to him, and he didn't particularly want to figure it out.
The dream hacked at the back of Greg's mind constantly. Why did the same dream keep repeating itself? He'd never been in any car accidents that he knew of. His mother was a very safe driver regardless of the circumstance. Greg shrugged off his thoughts and stood up from the bed to get dressed. It was only 3:02AM, but it was clear that he wasn't going to be getting anymore sleep.
The house was dark and empty, as it always was. Greg flicked on the light in the kitchen as he made his way for the refrigerator. His mother was out at some friend's place or another, as usual. A note lay on the counter that had been there for three days. Greg had read it several times, but his eyes scanned over it again, as if expecting something else to be there. But it wasn't. It was just the same short note left by his mother three days ago when he was at school: GREGORY, I'M OUT AT DAVE'S BEACH HOUSE. DON'T KNOW WHEN I'LL BE BACK. THERE'S FOOD IN THE FRIDGE. IF YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED ME THE # IS: 338-2213 ~Mom~
Mom's notes were always short and to the point. She never left much information; let alone left any tag lines of endearment for her son. Now-a-days she was always gone. Never home for more than a few hours to get fresh clothes, put her dirtied ones into the laundry and put groceries in the house. Greg hardly ever saw her. He was always away at school or asleep at night. He would know when she had been at home because he'd be left with a few loads of her laundry to do, a note from her, and the fridge was full.
It didn't bother Greg anymore. He had grown numb to the feeling that he was no longer the most important thing in his mother's life. It's not exactly like he could really blame her. She was alone with a seventeen year old son. It had been eleven years since dad had died. She was tired of being homebound.
Greg halted as he was buttering a piece of toast. That was it. Dad was dead. The dream. His mother had never talked much about dad or how he died. But he had never asked either. All Greg remembered was that his dad was a great person and he had always wanted to be "just like dad" when he grew up. He set down the knife and toast and reached for the phone. He scanned through the list of speed-dial numbers posted on the side of the fridge and punched the 4 for his aunt Ginger.
It was only when Ginger answered the phone sounding half-asleep that it donned on Greg that it was 3:30 in the morning.
"H-hello? Who is this?" she sounded miserable.
"Aunt Ginny? It's Greg. I'm sorry to wake you. Can I ask you a question?"
Ginger sat up in bed with a yawn and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Of course it was her nephew. Only Greg would have the consideration to wake her up at 3:30AM and sound just as chipper as a young squirrel in springtime. "Sure hun. Something the matter, sweetheart?"
Greg heard the worry in his aunt's voice and quickly spoke up to keep her from jumping to too many conclusions. "No, Ginny. Nothing's wrong. I just need to ask you something."
Ginger sighed and lay back on the bed. "Well, you woke me up for this. Go ahead and ask then let me sleep. I don't like being up before the sun or even the newspaper deliverers. It's not natural." her tone was playful and Greg could tell there was a smile behind the words. Ginger was always such a good sport.
"How... how did my dad die, exactly?" Greg held his breath, almost expecting to be yelled at told off for waking her up at this hour just to ask how his father had been killed.
There was only a moment of silence, then a soft sigh. "...She hasn't told you, has she?"
Greg didn't know how to respond to that. "...No, Ginny. She hasn't." his voice was quiet and unsure.
Ginger sighed again and just closed her eyes. "No. I suppose she hasn't." she paused again, formulating her thoughts to be able to tell her nephew something he should have known the truth about many years ago when he was old enough to understand and not be left to guess or wonder. "He was killed in a car accident, hun. It wasn't his fault. It was icy. He was just sitting there in a turn lane. An eighteen-wheeler lost his brakes. The trailer slid on ice and he had no way to pull it under control. It jack-knifed as it hit your father's car. The trailer went to one side, the truck to the other..." she trailed off, hearing a small sound from her nephew. "Greg?"
Greg kept silent a moment as he struggled with the sudden onslaught of fact about his father's death. He took a deep breath to be able to speak again. "I-I'm okay. I... I just never knew. Thanks for your help, and I'm sorry for waking you."
Greg set the receiver down without even a goodbye to his aunt. The silent tears fell uncontrollably as he struggled to keep his emotions in check. He was a man. He wasn't supposed to cry. It had been eleven years since his father's accident had occurred. Greg had only been six at the time.
Memories of the dream crept up on him. As he sat down to breakfast, his mind was in a haze. In his mind he saw it again. Two bright lights were headed directly for him. Headlights.
Greg forced the replay from his mind. He didn't want to see it again. He didn't even want to think about it.
After breakfast and watching a bit of early-morning TV, Greg showered and dressed for school. Just as he was heading back downstairs, the doorbell rang. It was Chris. Chris always picked Greg up to go to the high school almost half-way across town.
When Greg opened the door, Chris was standing there, his '92 bright yellow Ford Explorer was pulled up in the driveway. Chris only had to look at his friend once to know something was up. Greg's face was almost ashen white and his eyes were red from crying.
As Chris joined Greg in the car and both were buckled, he pulled the vehicle into reverse. As they moved in the general direction of school, Chris glanced over at Greg for only a moment. "You look like you've seen a ghost, man."
Greg was silent. His eyes watched the traffic as it passed by his window. "I have."
The Explorer turned on to the stretch toward their high school. "Same dream?"
Greg nodded, laying his head against the cool glass of the window. It felt oddly good. "Yeah. Again. Every night."
Chris reached over and patted his friend's arm. "It'll be alright, Greg. You know, my mom's offer to find you a counselor is still open."
There was worry in Chris's voice. Greg had progressively gotten worse the more he was left alone in that big house with no other outlet but school, and once in awhile a friend taking him someplace to get him out of it. He was very worried. Depression wasn't a normal thing for Greg. Gregory was one of those very happy, active, general good guys. He could have any girl he wanted in the school if he had let them get close enough. It wasn't like him to be so down and sulky all the time.
Greg shook his head at the gentle hint. "I'll be okay, Chris. I just need to figure things out."
"You can't figure them out without someone willing to be around long enough to tell you the things you need to know." The scornful comment came out of Chris's mouth before he could think about what he was saying. "I... I'm sorry Greg. I didn't mean it. I..."
Greg cut him off. "Don't worry about it. I know what you mean. And you're right. My mom hasn't been the best mother in the world. But it's not her fault. She lost her husband, her mate. That did something to her head."
"Yeah... I guess." Suddenly Chris laid into the brakes with a shout.
Greg lurched forward in his seat and his head smacked into the window he'd been leaning in to. The dream was back. The vehicle lurched out of control as the passenger side slammed sidelong into a semi-truck. The horn of the car and truck were both blaring. The truck's stopped, but the Explorer's didn't. In a haze Greg glanced over in the direction of his friend. Chris's head was laying awkwardly on the steering wheel. Blood was oozing from a wound on the other side that couldn't be seen. The seatbelt was holding him up from collapsing completely. His jaw was set crookedly. The steering wheel had split open the side of his face.
Greg tried to move and found he couldn't. Soul-shattering pain seared in to his mind. He was stuck! Greg tried again, but his body wouldn't respond. It couldn't. His legs were caught by the side of the vehicle that had caved in. His right shoulder was broken and a piece of metal had cut in to his side deeply.
Greg looked again in the direction of Chris. His friend was unconscious, but he was breathing. It was labored and slow, but he was alive. Greg smiled in spite of the situation. Chris meant a lot to him. It was good that he was still alive.
As thoughts tugged at Greg's mind, he fell into a white haze. His father stood before him, reaching for him. Greg reached out and took his father's hand. His father smiled warmly, speaking in that deep voice Greg remembered so well. "Come with me, Gregory. Come and I will show you."
The whiteness faded away, back to the vehicle. But it wasn't Chris's Explorer. It was smaller. The radio was playing "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles. It was dad's favorite song.
His dad was sitting in the driver's seat, patting the steering wheel to the beat of the music playing. Greg was in the backseat. The left-hand turn signal of the car was blinking. They were stopped. There were two headlights in front of them. The dream. All over again in played in Greg's mind but with far more vivid detail and memory. Greg's dad spoke. "What the hell?!" He reached down for the car's gearshift, but it was too late. The semi had lost his brakes. Greg watched as the trailer swung out of control on the ice, dragging all ten tons with it. There was a shout from his father, then a sudden lurch as the car was slammed in to. Both sides of the vehicle came toward Greg. He was in the center. In a child's seat. The car had been demolished. At the front of the car, Greg's father had been crushed with the rest of the vehicle.
The vision began to fade back to the white plane with his father. Tears were streaming down Greg's cheeks. "I... I was there with you..."
Greg's father nodded solemnly, patting the back of his son's hand. "Yes you were, my son. Gregory, I love you. I am sorry I have had to haunt you. I just wanted to let you know that I do love you, and I wanted you to know the truth. Go now."
"Dad! Wait! No!..." The vision faded and Greg's eyes opened. He was in a white room. A hospital room. Something was stroking his head. He turned his eyes in the direction of the source and found his mother was sitting there.
"Hey baby. Don't move. Just stay still. Shh..." she leaned down and kissed his forehead, moving hair from his eyes.
"But... Chris..." Greg closed his eyes, the lights too bright and feeling a little dizzy.
"Chris is fine, Greg. You just rest." she was quiet for awhile until she was sure Greg was asleep again. "I'm coming home, son."
A little over a year later after Greg's accident, Greg's mother was re-married to Dave and pregnant. Greg and Chris had both made a full recovery and were better friends than ever in their graduating year.
Greg had a mom again. And now a new dad and a sibling on the way. Dave and Greg got along great. Dave was the father Greg had never gotten to enjoy. They did everything together.
Greg's life was whole again. The dream quit haunting him, and things were close to perfect. The spirit had finally gone to let his family live their lives again.