Horror Fiction

“Mom, don’t take the highway home today.”

Marcy Clyde was on her way out the door for an important work meeting, juggling a thermos of coffee, her car keys and a laptop bag. She looked at her daughter pleading. “Again, Sarah?” The near daily morning reports had been plaguing the Clyde family for months now. Sarah Clyde, a thirteen year old girl who up until this point in time had always been exceptionally ordinary had been having dreams. Lots of dreams.

They started out innocently enough. First she had a dream that her father was going to pick up pizza on the way home. When he walked through the door with stacks of white boxes that night they all laughed, astonished that the little blip of a premonition had come true. They went on, mostly in the same vein for weeks. A pop quiz at school, a college friend of Marcy’s suddenly calling. But they had escalated since then.

First with a dream about a plane crash. Sarah had woken crying. Marcy had soothed her, telling her it was just a dream. Then she turned on the morning news. A skinny brunette anchor was breathlessly covering the story of a student pilot who had careened into a neighborhood six blocks away. The latest of Sarah’s sleep gleaned knowledge was about a school friend whose father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. No one laughed when those dreams turned out to be true.

The new dreams, nightmares really, made Sarah afraid to sleep. Her eyes were glassy, her skin pale as her mother stared at her for an answer. She had tried, tried her best not to let her body slip into that dark plane that spiritualists and scientists try in vain to understand. Her dreams used to be a fantastical escape from the lull of everyday life. She’d always dreamt wildly. But now that sacred restful place had been tainted. She knew what was to come, knew what the future would be before it ever happened. And lately the future was not so bright.

Her parents didn’t totally believe her. There had been some coincidences, that was all. They had bought bottles of Melatonin for her, soft pillows with essential oils sprayed on them. They even allowed her to sleep in their bed if it would help, but none of that could take away the knowledge that she would awake with if she allowed herself to fall, fall, fall.

“There’s going to be an accident. A big one.”

Sarah didn’t blink, didn’t smile. Simply stared back at her mother who did not want to believe her, but would not take the highway home that night after all. Sitting around the table, silently eating tacos that none of them had the appetite for, the family thought and looked at tired Sarah Clyde, and wondered when the dreams would finally stop.

When Sarah had gone to bed (not to sleep, not on purpose at least), Marcy confided in her husband that she had turned the radio on as she pulled into the driveway. Sitting in her sun warmed driver’s seat, she heard that there had been a pile up on 435. Several people had died. He took this in without speaking, finished loading the dishwasher, and went to watch TV.

The next day, Marcy arranged for a doctor, a shrink actually, to stop by the home later that week to have a talk with Sarah. The woman, a field hardened child psychologist, was the one who suggested they do it in the house. She wanted to see Sarah in the environment she lived in day in and day out. Maybe the dreams had something to do with, cough, a certain family dynamic. Marcy hadn’t liked the way the doctor said this.

They were a perfectly normal family after all. A nuclear family in a generation of half-siblings and step-parents. It was something she was proud of. Sure, her and her husband worked a lot, maybe even too much. But they loved their children, and until now, nothing had ever seemed the matter.

She told Sarah that a doctor would be coming on Friday. She would be there after school to talk to her about the dreams. Marcy smiled at her when she said this as she packed lunches. She didn’t make eye contact though. She didn’t want Sarah to see that she was scared.

The days leading up to that Friday came and went without incident. There were no dreams, and even Sarah seemed to relax a bit when bedtime came, cozied in her butterfly comforter reading library books to help her wind down. Marcy even wondered if she hadn’t jumped the gun in calling in a professional, but thought she better get her seen anyway. Just in case.


Friday afternoon, Sarah got off the school bus and walked into her house. She was nervous to meet with the woman, Dr. Franklin-But-You-Can-Call-Me Lisa. They had a video call the evening before, a short introduction to ensure a smooth meeting the next day.

It had gone alright. Sarah smiled and showed all her best manners, and the woman did that thing that people who think they’re good with kids do. She e-nun-ci-a-ted. She made strong, concentrated eye con-tact. She smiled a big, huge, wide smile, so that her head looked like it might just flop open at the hinge of her jaw. Yeah, it had gone alright.

Sarah went to the pantry and grabbed a granola bar. When she turned around she saw that there were snacks prepared with a note that said: Be back soon. Had to run to the store for tea! It was in her mother’s handwriting. Sarah sighed, looking at the sad little tray of fruit and crackers and cookies. She put her granola bar down on the counter. I guess we might as well get this over with, she thought.

To her family the dreams were a worry. She could tell their entry to the Clyde’s lives had caused a daily tug at her mom and dad’s brains. Just behind their work and the list of endless adult chores, a nagging thought, was Sarah. Her brother could probably care less except that it had caused her parents to be distracted and distant. For her, the new reality was a total nightmare. Initially it had been fun. She thought that maybe she was turning psychic, like something out of a movie. That changed a couple of months in when a shadowy figure started to appear.

It only showed up in dreams, the dreams. It would come faceless, draped in a long black robe and always whispering. Initially she could not understand the words. They were mumbled and strung together incoherently. She could not make them out. It wasn’t until the highway incident that she could finally hear the phrase being said over and over. Dream maker. When she awoke, she knew the dreams were more than just a premonition. Sure, they allowed her to see what was going to happen before it actually did, but that wasn’t because she could see the future. It was because she was creating it.

That was what made her stop sleeping. Being some kind of tuning fork was one thing, picking up on vibes, or whatever. Being a creator of the world, a maker of all the bad things coming to her at night, was another. If she didn’t sleep, she couldn’t make anything bad happen.

She kept all these thoughts from her parents. She was pretty sure she was going crazy and didn’t want to have to utter her thoughts out loud. Her aunt on her dad’s side had suffered from a schizophrenic break a few years earlier, in her late twenties. It had affected him badly, and ever since she started having the dreams, he had barely spoken to her.

While her mom spent time each day doing a little check-in as she liked to call it, her dad mostly busied himself with household chores and the TV when she was around. He said goodbye to her in the morning, planting a kiss on her forehead. He asked her how school was at night. They went to bed. She tried not to.

When she rounded the corner that Friday afternoon to go into the living room Dr. Franklin was sitting on a couch, a mug of something in her hand. Her father was across from her, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, hands moving as he talked to her. He was trying to get a solution, Sarah knew. A couple of sentences that would make his daughter alright. Sarah’s appearance silenced them both, and Dr. Franklin and her dad both stood up at the same time to greet her.

Sarah hugged her dad and shook the doctor’s hand. She sat across from her on the couch next to her father. They were close, but not touching. Sarah crossed her legs one way and then the other, trying to answer the doctor’s questions as best she could, when one finally pulled her out of her buzzing thoughts and into the present.

“Why do you think you’re having the dreams?” Dr. Franklin was doe eyed, innocently looking at her with a clearly intended NO JUDGEMENT look on her face. Sarah wondered if you had to practice that before getting your doctorate.

“Honestly?” She glanced at her dad before she decided she would say the truth. “I’m pretty sure I’m crazy, like my Aunt Sal.” Her dad shifted uncomfortably next to her.

Dr. Franklin wasn’t used to getting an honest answer so quickly, not on first visits that were supposed to be an easing in point. She was surprised, pleasantly so. “What would make you say that?”

“Because I think my dreams are making reality. And that’s a delusional thought.”

“How do you know what that means?” Dr. Franklin was smiling, maybe amused, maybe annoyed.


Sarah had looked her symptoms up. She knew that type of thinking was grandiose thinking. Probably part of a psychosis of some kind.

“Even you thinking that means that you aren’t crazy.” Dr. Franklin smiled wider, lips shut. Keep ‘em shut, Sarah thought. She didn’t want her head flopping open the way it threatened to do in their Zoom meeting the day before.

“There’s a shadow too.” Sarah decided that she was going to spill it all. Might as well since they’d come this far.

“A shadow?” Dr. Franklin wrote something down now. Sarah hadn’t noticed the notebook before. She never saw her grab for it.

“Yes. It’s always there now. Whispering. Most of the time I can’t hear it but-“ Sarah wasn’t finished when her father abruptly stood up and walked out of the living room and into the kitchen.

“I can’t do this,” he said. “Sorry, I’ve seen this happen once and I can’t do it again.” He was pacing the kitchen. Sarah felt a pang of fear and guilt mix together and knot in her throat and belly. Maybe she’d made a mistake.

Dr. Franklin didn’t miss a beat. “Tell me what he said to you.” Her eyes were locked in. Her words were succinct. Sarah swallowed the fear and kept going. They might lock her up by the time it was done. No one would believe her when it was all said and done.

“I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.”

The home phone was ringing, an old landline that no one but the occasional solicitor used anymore. Dr. Franklin remained undisturbed by the noise. She was hungry for the answer. She lived for moments with the crazy ones. Sarah could see it. “Tell me,” she said almost pleading, betraying her reason for getting into the profession in the first place. She wants a show.

Sarah looked directly at her. “He makes my dreams. I dream them, and he makes them-“ she paused thinking for a moment, “happen. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.”

Her father picked up the still ringing line. Dr. Franklin’s tongue flicked like a snake as she licked her lips. Her dark eyes, pretty before, now looked wicked and knowing in the reflected kitchen light. Sarah recoiled, scooting back into the couch, trying to disappear into its thick cushions. She looked towards the kitchen, gauging how far it would be to run to the front door. Dr. Franklin was smiling at her. She held a finger to her lips and winked.

Sarah could hear her father talking on the phone to someone.

“What?” His voice was panicked. Dr. Franklin’s black suit was changing, lengthening into a dark black robe. Her eyes, no longer human, were black sockets. Her hair had morphed into a flowing fabric hood that concealed her darkening face.

“Is she dead!?” His voice was anguish now, and Sarah knew the answer when he started to sob. The last thing she saw when she looked at what was Dr. Franklin was a Cheshire cat smile gleaming from the hooded dream maker in front of her.

“Dr. Franklin?” She pleaded this, hoping that Dr. Franklin would still be herself in some way, knowing that she wouldn’t.

A whisper came from the being in front of her. “Don’t tell.”

Her father was sobbing, the phone had fallen from his hands, clanging to the floor when it did. Sarah wanted to go to him, wanted to ask him what had happened to mom, but her limbs would not move. She was glued to the couch. Her legs were suddenly heavy as if sand had been poured into her body. The couch cushions began to move behind her. She was sinking into them, unable to escape. She tried to push herself but her hands were like jelly, lifeless and devoid of any strength.

When she opened her mouth to scream, the red billowy cushion enveloped her face. For a moment she was suffocating, trying to kick and resist but unable to. Suddenly, the couch behind her opened up, and she slipped out and into a void, falling like a ragdoll but unable to scream. Falling, falling, falling.


Sarah’s leg kicked out. An alarm was going off. The shapes around her, foreign when her eyes first opened, started to make sense. The Yosemite poster she had purchased last summer at the gift shop. The night stand with the white lamp that could be turned on and off by clapping. Her desk covered in homework that had not been finished from the night before. The pile of clothes in a corner by the closet. She was in her room. It had all been a dream.

“Sarah! Time to get up!”

It was her mom, shouting from downstairs. She dressed and brushed her teeth. When she came downstairs her mom was busy loading dishes, dressed and ready for work.

“It’s Friday. Remember, Dr. Franklin will be here this afternoon. I’m going to have some snacks and drinks ready for her. Maybe that iced tea that I make for guests. I’ll just have to run by the store on my way home from-”

“Mom,” Sarah cut her off. “Forget the tea. Nobody likes it anyway.”

September 29, 2021 17:41

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Helen Weng
00:30 Oct 06, 2021

Wow...this is way too underrated! ima just log in as my fwend and give you and extra like, you REALLy deserve it. Story was just ✨amazing✨


Shaina Read
15:42 Oct 06, 2021

Thank you so much for reading Helen and I'm glad you liked it!


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