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Fantasy Teens & Young Adult

"Sibyl! It's well past time for you to be out of bed!" Mama calls outside my bedroom.

"Coming, Mama," I reply as I finish the last line in my dream journal about the dream I woke up from minutes ago. Whenever I remember a dream upon waking, I write it down. When I was younger, my dreams were silly and fantastical, but lately they've been extremely realistic.

Like last night's. A dignified-looking man in a top hat. Cobbled streets that looked familiar. A runaway buggy. Children playing, dogs barking, people screaming....

"Sibyl, please! There's far too much work to be done for you to be lazing about in there!" Mama shrills.

"Yes, Mama." I scrape my hair into a bonnet without bothering to brush it and tie an apron on over my dress as I leave the sanctuary of my bedroom.

Mama is in the sitting room, hands flying as she sews on someone else's shirt. I don't think I've ever seen her still. She's always mending something, helping someone, making food, rushing off to some place or other. She's most annoyed that I haven't inherited that particular quality from her.

"Thank goodness," she sighs upon seeing me. "Adelaide--the older Mrs. Cunningham from church--has taken ill. I need you to run this basket over to her house. I think she'd appreciate a nice warm blanket and some fresh bread." She gestures to the basket on the coffee table, which I dutifully pick up.

"Yes, Mama," I agree, deciding it's probably better not to mention that a warm blanket might not be the best gift in the middle of a sweltering July.

"And then on your way home, pick up some fresh eggs and a pound of sugar. The Ladies of the Cross are feeding the poor tomorrow night, and I'm to bake a nice cake for them to have a good dessert for once in their lives."

"How much money should I take, Mama?"

"Just take my little coin purse, there. It should have more than enough. Bring it back with some coin still in it, or you'll wish you had."

"Yes, Mama." There's no arguing with her when she's frantic like this. I tarry only long enough to slip into my shoes and pick up a second, smaller basket for the items she means for me to purchase, and then I'm on my way.

Outside the house is far more peaceful than inside. Birds chirp in the trees that line the cobbled street. Despite Mama's wakeful hurry, it's still rather early. People are just now finishing their morning chores, opening their shops, heading off to work. Though I take time to appreciate the well-crafted, gabled houses and large windows along my route, I always keep an eye and ear out for carts and carriages and bicycles. People in this town seem to think that traveling in something with wheels gives them the right to run down anyone or anything that gets in their way. I count it as a blessing that Mama's sent me out today before many errant drivers have cluttered the streets.

The older Mrs. Cunningham from church lives two streets over from us, in a large house with a grand porch and intricate woodwork on all the roof-edges and window frames. I like coming here, not only to admire the house but because Marina lives here. We often conspire to sit together in church; as the older Mrs. Cunningham's granddaughter, Marina always knows everything that's going on with everyone in town.

To my surprise, none other than Marina answers my knock at the Cunningham's door. I've never known her to be an early riser.

"Good morning, Sibyl. Your ma chased you out of the house again?" she greets me, still rubbing sleep from her eyes.

"Aye, on account of your grandmother's illness. She's sent this," I answer, offering the larger of my baskets.

"A woolen blanket? In this heat?"

"You know as well as I do there's no arguing with her. There's fresh bread, too, she said."

"Well that, at least, will be appreciated. Please carry our gratitude to your mother. Will you come in for a bit? I've just heard some very exciting news--"

"I would love to, but Mama's also expecting me to go to the market for her, and I don't know much time I have before--"

"Ah, yes, I'm sure it has everything to do with your ma and nothing at all to do with Jonathan Pembrook," she teases me, referencing a boy our age who often runs one of the farm stalls at the market for his family.

"Call it some of each and let me go. Strong chance Mama will send me back sometime today, if your grandmother's sickness doesn't improve soon."

"Like as not. See you!"

And with that, I'm on my way again, navigating alleys and cowpaths between the prosperous street the Cunninghams live on and the town marketplace, which is near the docks, some distance from Marina's home and mine. The houses and shops on the way are sort of tumbled together, separated by paved-over cow paths that twist and turn without reason. Someone who didn't grow up here could easily get lost, but I've made this journey too many times for that, even as given to daydreams and distractions as Mama says I am.

I enter the marketplace near the general store and get the pound of sugar as quick as I can. Mr. Foster, who runs the store, is less than agreeable on the best of days and seems to be in a particularly foul temper today. He grumbles under his breath as I leave with the sugar, but I pay him no mind and stop to tuck stray hair back into my bonnet, using the shop window of his next door neighbor as a looking-glass.

"Why, Sibyl! What a pleasant surprise!" Jonathan greets me as I round a corner onto the farm stand street and come into his view.

"Always good to see you, too, Jonathan. How's business today?"

"Bit more brisk than usual, on account of a nobleman from Lancaster." He gestures across the cobbled street to a tall, snooty-looking man in a top hat and silk coat. "Seems plenty of people have come out in the hopes of getting to meet him, but he's been frightfully unpleasant to everyone who has, from what I've heard."

"D'you have any idea why?" The nobleman looks familiar, somehow, but I can't quite place it.

"Like as not he thinks he's too good to waste his time and manners on the likes of us common folk. You looking to buy--"

His voice is lost in the clattering of hooves on cobblestones and the neighing of horses over children's shrieks and barking dogs. I look up to see the man in the top hat crossing the street as a buggy rounds the corner, horses in a wild panic and driver trying fruitlessly to control them.

"Look out!" I call, but it's too late; one horse hits the nobleman head-on, and he falls to the ground. People around the marketplace gasp and shout as hooves and buggy wheels crush the man against the cobbled street.

Exactly like my dream. The realization is sudden and immediate, and I reach for something to steady myself as the blood drains from my face.

"Sibyl. Are you all right?" Jonathan asks, sounding far away. "Here, come sit down." He takes my arm and pulls me to a chair behind his farm table.

"See to him, not me," I stammer, pointing towards the street where the nobleman was run down.

"Already plenty of people seeing to him," Jonathan observes after glancing over his shoulder. "But I've never known you to be the type to get faint after seeing a street accident."

He's right. It happens somewhat frequently in this town. I've seen it before, the worst being a little girl who was trampled to death.

"What's made this time different? Did you have designs on catching a noble husband or something?" he presses, half-teasing.

"No. Just that...I dreamed this would happen. I saw exactly what we just witnessed, last night, in my sleep."

"Probably just a coincidence." He forces a laugh, but he looks and sounds as unsettled as I feel by what I've disclosed. "Do you dream of calamities often?"

"No. I've been having vivid, realistic ones lately, but that's all they've been. Dreams." Until today.

"I don't think you've much to worry about, unless your dreams coming true starts to be a regular thing. But best not be telling anyone else."

"Right. I had probably best be getting home. Do you have any eggs for sale?"

Across the street, I hear someone shouting for a doctor, and another shout that it's no use, the man's stone dead.

I dreamed that, too. But I won't say it aloud. Only now I've remembered that my grandmother was accused of witchcraft, long ago, because of incidents very much like this.

She passed away last year.

My dreams became vivid and realistic not long after.

"Fresh laid this morning," Jonathan tells me, bringing me back to the present. "How many do you need?"

July 20, 2021 16:49

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