American Fiction Mystery


By:  Janis Van Meter

 Restless and Weary

    Feeling hazy and a bit foggy, I sat up from a restless nights sleep feeling more tired and less energy than I had before I went to bed last night. My hair and pajamas were damp with sweat that the strange dream had caused. It was so real. I could see people around me so vividly. I felt I could reach out and touch them. The colors of their clothes and their interactions were so very distinct in my memory. I had dreams similar to this one when I was a child around the age of eleven or twelve but they never had this much detail. Now I’m twenty six and I’m actually afraid to leave the warmth of my bed and the small amount of security it offered. Just like that, those dreams from my eleven year old self once again resurfaced in my memories.

   My name is Tolley Parker. It’s a family name. I’m a legal secretary with a big law firm in Dallas, Texas. I drive about fifteen miles to work every day and I follow pretty much the same routine. After I park in the parking garage that’s about three city blocks from my office, I walk to a nearby coffee shop and pick up my usual coffee with cream and two sugars. Then I walk the remaining block to my office which is located in a twenty three story building. My elevator ride is short only going to the fifth floor. I greet our receptionist, Lauren and keep walking until I reach my little office toward the back of the large suit of offices. I sit down, stash my purse in a desk drawer and sip my coffee. My boss, Attorney Patrick Moss, is out of town today and all next week. so I should have a quiet Friday.

    Checking my list of items that Patrick has left, mostly phone calls to return or appointments he would like set up for the week he returns, I organize my day. my mind is drawn back to the dream. Not quite a nightmare but very foreboding.


The First Dream

  “Tolley? Tolley? Get in here girl, you’re breakfast is ready.” I could hear the familiar voice of my mother calling me just like she did almost every morning during my childhood. Such a nice dream. I start to the kitchen but the dream shifted suddenly to different place before I could get to my mother as dreams often do. 

  Suddenly, I was standing on the sidewalk out in front of my office building with a cup of coffee in my hand. I was looking around but I was frozen in place. Something was wrong. I could sense it as I felt chills run down my spine. I strained my neck as hard as I could. I looked left and right but all I could see was the back of a delivery truck parked across the street where some big boxes were being unloaded down a ramp and onto a a cart for the business across the street.  Nothing there to be concerned about. 

  Further up the street was a woman pushing a baby stroller. She had apparently just gotten off a city bus that was pulling away from the curb. Nothing unusual there either. I looked straight ahead again. I saw a man in some kind of job related coveralls. He was carrying a boxy shaped case in one hand and his phone held against his ear in the other. He was walking and about to get to the back of the truck. Everything seemed ok. What was going on? The sense of dread was so strong now that my heart was pounding in my chest and I tried to cry out but I couldn’t speak. Some movement returned and I found myself clenching my cup so hard that I felt hot coffee splash onto my hand and wrist as I dropped it landing beside me. I felt no pain from the burn. Why?

    I looked up and across the street but everything had disappeared. I realized that I was at home and sitting up in my bed, panting, almost hyperventilating, trying to catch my breath. That’s where the dream ended.


  I managed to get through the rest of my work day. I cleaned off my desk and headed to the parking garage to get my car. As I was opening my car door to get in, I glanced up and noticed a light blue van parked directly in front of me. The driver of the van had just taken his seat behind the steering wheel. At the same moment, we looked at each other as we sat in facing parking spots. For just a few seconds we just stared at each other. I had the strangest feeling, like a déjà vu’ moment. I’m not sure which of us looked away first. Clumsy me, I dropped my keys and bent down to pick them up.  I stood up and took the drivers seat in my car. I glanced in the direction of the blue van. It was backing out.  There was royal blue and white logo on the side shaped like a crown that said Imperial IT, Plano, Texas and gave their phone number. There wasn’t anything unusual or even memorable about the logo so I’m not quite sure why I felt the need to tuck this detail away in my memory.

  Traffic on Friday afternoons is always horrendous. The freeway was backed up and it took me to over an hour to get home. Instead of going to dinner with some friends, I opted to stay home. I was exhausted after getting so little sleep last night. I took a hot shower put on some loose pajamas and rummaged through my refrigerator for something to eat for dinner.

I was in luck. I found some leftover pasta. I sniffed it and it was still good. I stuck a plate in the microwave to heat and poured myself a generous glass of wine. My meal was ready and I took it into my small living room. I decided to watch some TV while I ate. Nothing interesting on TV so I took my laptop and decided I’d scroll through some sales ads looking for a new chair that I needed so badly.

   I found a couple that looked promising and sent the information to my phone. I planned on doing a little shopping tomorrow. I settled into my old lumpy sofa to watch a movie. At some point I dozed off and the dream started again. 

I was standing back in front of my office building. I looked around quickly and realized that everything was still in place from where my dream had ended last night. Again I couldn’t move except to turn my head. I hadn’t noticed that I was wearing the same clothes as in the last dream. I had not worn slacks on Friday. A cup of coffee was still in my hand.  I made a mental note about the coffee to avoid getting burned this time. I started checking off the things that I had noticed in my dream the night before. Delivery truck unloading boxes, check, man in work coveralls across the street beside the truck, check. Wait a minute! My eyes froze on the man, he was stopped and had turned to stare at me! What’s going on? We both blinked a couple of times, I think I even tilted my head a little because I was so confused. He looked dazed as he reached up and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, he shook his head as if he was trying to wake himself up before he turned and faced the back of the truck. There’s the lady and stroller again. Check. She looked the same except now she was holding a cell phone to her ear. She was gently pushing the stroller back and forth in a rocking motion. I looked at her more closely. She looked to be about my age, maybe a little shorter and her dark hair pulled up in a ponytail. Her dress was pink with flowers. My thoughts returned to the man so I glanced back. He had stopped and was engaged in a conversation with one of the delivery guys and they were laughing at something one of them had just said. He was turned facing me and I strained to see what name was stitched on his pocket. It looked like Bob, no wait it was just two letters. His name is Bo. Below his name was the same logo that I had seen on the van in the parking garage. Imperial IT. Now I knew why I felt as if I had seen him before. I was so confused even in my dream state I was puzzled why he stared back at me in the garage and again just a few moments ago from across the street. Then, I was jarred awake and out of my dream by the ringing of my cell phone. I answered it. Honestly, I was a bit aggravated because my dream had been interrupted before I got any answers. My friend, Celeste was calling and she invited me to a pool party tomorrow afternoon. I really wasn’t feeling that sociable but I agreed to meet her there. I really wanted to go back to sleep but, I had shopping to do. I showered and dressed for the day. I do need some new furniture.  I have been living with my thrift store finds that I purchased after I had graduated from college five years ago. It was time for a change.

Third Times A Charm

   My weekend flew by as usual.  I found the perfect chair ended up buying the matching sofa.  I justified this purchase by telling myself that it was on sale. Yes, they got me.  

My new beige living room furniture was delivered in just a few hours. It was gorgeous.

The pool party was fun and I’m glad I went.  I needed to relax.  

   As I was getting ready for bed Sunday night, it dawned on me that I didn’t have that dream again Saturday night.  In fact, I don’t believe I dreamt at all.  I was hoping to get another good nights sleep tonight. I had work tomorrow.

   Monday morning I started my usual routine.  No dream again last night. I wonder if it’s stopped now.  I was relieved but still curious as to what it was all about.

    Monday evening I invited Celeste over for pizza. She wanted to see my new furniture. Of course, she loved it.  I told her about my strange dreams. She was fascinated.  She said it may be some sort of prediction.  She explained her grandmother was a psychic and often experienced things like the dreams.  Celeste said she didn’t get the psychic gene.  We laughed and I told her I was sure it wasn’t anything more that just dreams. She said, “what about Bo? You really saw him.”  I think that was just a coincidence. I’ve probably seen him before and just don’t remember.

   Celeste left. I picked up our paper pizza plates and put the wine glasses in the dishwasher.  It was almost midnight by the time I made it to bed.

   The dream started almost as soon as I closed my eyes.  Same events transpired. I was frozen, same spot.  All I could do was look around. I immediately turned my attention to Bo and the delivery guys across the street.  Bo was facing me and he seemed to be trying to say something to me but I couldn’t hear him.  I mouthed, “I can’t hear you” because I still had no voice.  This time the dream was in jerky sections.  Bo suddenly appeared by the pink dress lady. He ran like a flash into the street. I too was projected forward to middle of the street in front of my building. My back was to Bo. My hands were outstretched in front of me. The delivery guys were trying to yell something to me…..  

This Is Not A Dream

   I woke up before I could figure out what they were saying.  This time I ran to the bathroom and started throwing up violently.   My nerves were shattered and I was shaken to my core.  I sat down on the cold tile bathroom floor and placed a cold wet wash cloth over my face.  The nausea soon passed and I managed to get ready for work. I applied a little extra makeup to help with ghostly paleness.

    I dressed simply in some black slacks, a casual beige blouse today and some comfy black flats.  I intended to clean out some file drawers today and it was always dusty in the old stuff.  I stopped for my coffee and briefly considered buying a bagel but I didn’t think my stomach could handle it yet.  I walked on to my office building. I stopped outside the revolving doors. Across the street was the same delivery truck from my dreams but it was real this time.  The same two guys were unloading boxes.  One stack of boxes was off balance and it toppled into the street. An oncoming car slammed on its brakes and managed to maneuver around the boxes. The boxes were picked up quickly and re-stacked onto the cart. This had not happened in any of the dreams. Maybe this was what the dreams had been warning me about. Everything was really happening and it was taking just a matter of seconds! Bo now was approaching the back of the truck. I glanced up to see the pink dress lady pushing the stroller just like in the dreams.  Fear jolted through my body like electricity. I realized that I could move. I wasn’t frozen. Somehow this frightened me more. I turned in Bo’s direction as he turned toward me.  With my voice working, I yelled, “whats going on?”  I didn’t expect him to respond thinking I was the one that had the dreams, right?  I glanced back a the pink dress lady.  She had dropped her purse while talking on her phone and had let go of the stroller as she stooped to gather her things that had spilled from her purse.  The stroller was on a handicapped ramp at the curb and it had begun to roll from the sidewalk into the street. I turned quickly back to Bo.  “Bo, get the baby! “ I was afraid he wasn’t going to get there in time. I spotted another oncoming car and it was headed straight toward the stroller.  I leapt like a mad woman directly into the path of the car. Brakes were squealing .  I knew the driver of the car couldn’t see the stroller yet because the delivery truck was blocking his view.  With my arms pushed straight out in front of me, I screamed “Stop”. A split second after Bo had started to run. He somehow knew what I was talking about and had burst into action, trying to get to the baby stroller!”  The car was sliding and in smooth motion it began to come straight at me. The last thing I remember was the car striking me and knocking me hard to the pavement. 

   I woke up in the hospital with a cast on my right arm, a huge bandage wrapped around my head and a few cuts and bruises everywhere hurt. My head was throbbing.  I had an IV in my left arm so I tried to sit up slowly while scanning the room for a nurse.  I heard a male voice say, “don’t move. You’re pretty banged up.  I’ll go for a nurse”.  The man left the room. Things were still kind of blurry so I didn’t get a good look at him.  I lay my aching head back down on the pillow.  Soon a nurse came rushing in and started checking me over.  My vision had cleared.  I could now see behind her and there stood Bo.  She asked me some standard questions like my name, where I lived, how many fingers was she holding up, etc.  I must have passed her test because she injected something into my IV tubing that she said would help with pain and my headache.  She said that I did not seem to have a concussion and that I was lucky. My injuries could be far worse. She glanced at Bo and he asked if it was okay if he stayed with me for a while. She told him it was fine.  

    He said, “ I think we have a lot to talk about.  My name is Bowman Greer.  Bo for short.”  I said, “I’m Tolley Parker and yes we do need to talk.  Is the baby okay?  Yes, he’s fine.  I got to the stroller and pushed it on across the street safe from traffic. Then I saw you had been hit.  Girl, you jumped in front of that car. Why did you do that?  I told him, “I wasn’t sure if you could get to the baby in time and I had to stop that car. I was afraid you were going to be hit and the baby.”

   We talked for hours. He had been having the same dreams as I had. Of course, he was looking at me and everything from his perspective on the other side of the street.  Neither one of us had dreams connected to anyone else before. Bo said too had strange dreams like predictions or just dreams that left him with a sense of dread since he was a teenager. “I wonder if this could happen to us again?” I asked.  He just shrugged his shoulders “ I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

   He wrote down his phone number and said I needed to rest now but he’d be back tomorrow.  I was pleased to hear that.  As he was walking toward the door, he paused for a second then slowly asked, “what the heck kind of name is Tolley anyway?”  I laughed and told him that I’d tell him the entire story when he came back tomorrow.  

   I made a few calls. I told my boss what happened and that I was in Baylor hospital but I was ok.  I called Celeste and she agreed to call my parents.  I was suddenly exhausted and was just too sleepy to talk anymore.

The END…….(maybe)

September 28, 2021 01:44

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22:48 Oct 06, 2021

The story is riveting! However some of the mechanics of the writing are holding you back, as Keya noted. I was unsure in the second dream sequence if she fell asleep at work, for instance. A rigorous proofread by a good editor who can review your use of tenses and whatnot will really take you to the next level. You have a great writing future ahead of you!


Janis Van Meter
23:02 Oct 08, 2021

Thank you. I welcome feedback. I love writing and I realize that my imagination is not lacking but my skills are. Lol


22:10 Dec 10, 2023

Never Say That! Your writing skills are awesome than mine Mine are Above Average I guess.


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Keya J.
12:37 Oct 06, 2021

This is awesome Janis! No wonder it got on the long shortlist. Your description is vivid and the way you progressed with your story so gracefully, it was amazing. Must say, this is a brilliant plot and you pulled it off just as perfect. Though here are some sentences, I felt a little bit off. I thought you might want to take a look at them -- 1) Suddenly, I was standing on the sidewalk out in front of the of my office building with a cup of coffee in my hand [of the of my office? think there is some typo error] He was walking was abo...


Janis Van Meter
18:18 Oct 06, 2021

Thank you for your kind words. As you probably noticed, I’m a very detailed and descriptive writer. I had trouble limiting my story to the 3000 word limit. My typos were made when I was trying to cut some words out. I failed to proof properly! I’ll be more careful on future stories. I’m glad you enjoyed my story.


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