Jeramiah was dreaming. The day was pleasant, the warm sun making the ground shimmer with a promise of summer and long lazy afternoons where there is nothing to do apart from to be, and be glad that you are part of this wonderful whole. The dream amplified his feelings of contentment until the whole scene seemed to glow; every green was a more intense shade of green than is usual in the more mundane waking reality, every blade of grass was sharper and more pronounced, and the sky was a shade of blue that was almost beyond description. Jeramiah was running through the endless field and felt no fear, only the bounteous overflowing joy of being alive. For why should he feel fear? He was alone in this landscape; there was no-one chasing him, and when he stopped and listened, he could only perceive the lark’s song as it fluttered over the field. But suddenly he did feel afraid, and as if in response to his change of mood the sky darkened swiftly. Ominous nimbus clouds gathered on the horizon, and without warning the whole sky was an oppressive inky blackness. He sensed the electricity in the air, then felt the first drops of rain coming crashing down around him.
He started running again, but this time with fear behind him, the rain driving down with increased intensity. Rivers of rainwater were already streaming past him, threatening to wash him away. He saw his home up ahead and he ran towards it, towards his sanctuary. Then he was inside, but still the rain came crashing down around him. The room was flooding, filling up with water at an alarming rate, and Jeramiah felt his legs lifted up from under him, as the water became a raging river. It swept Jeramiah along with him, carrying him from room to room. He saw now that it was also carrying his family along with it; his brothers and sisters, his parents, even his grandfather was drawn along, tumbling head over heel, unable to grasp onto anything to arrest their swift motion. Water now filled the room up to the ceiling, and he was drawn underwater, powerless to fight this relentless onslaught. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out, and he felt his lungs fill with water as he was dragged down to the bottom.
Jeramiah awoke, his young body trembling, his eyes wild and unseeing, his heart pounding as though it was going to explode out of his chest. He had never had a dream of such intensity before, and he lay still in the darkness, trying to reorientate his senses to his surroundings. The dream lay heavy on him; he could still feel the water rushing into his lungs, could still see vividly in his mind’s eye the image of his family being swept away. He continued to feel afraid, even though he realised now that it had been a dream, albeit one of remarkable intensity. Then came a thought didn’t sneak up gradually like his usual thoughts did, but rather arrived fully formed in his consciousness and grabbed his heart with an icy claw. What if it wasn’t a dream? What if it was one of those – what were they called now? – that was it – premonitions, those dreams which actually came true. You thought you were just having a nightmare, but in reality you were being given a glimpse into a dreadful future that would come into being with a terrible inevitability. He was gripped now with this idea, and the more he thought about it, the more likely it seemed that he had been given a warning, an ominous portent of doom that was to engulf himself and his family. Terrified now, he couldn’t keep still. What if happened soon? What if it happened tonight? He must warn his family at once!
He crept out of his bed and along the dark corridor till he came to where his parents were sleeping. It was too dark to see them, but he could sense that they were there, and he could hear their soft breathing. Now that he was in their presence, he was suddenly a little uncertain. Nothing could happen to them, could it? His parents could protect him from anything! But no – he felt again the menace of the dream, how vivid it was and how unlike to any other dream that he had had, so he called out to them, softly at first, then louder, till his mother stirred and asked him what the matter was. Jeramiah told her about the dream. She listened intently, but when he said he thought it would come true, she laughed a gentle laugh.
“Oh, Jeramiah,” she said fondly. “You always were the one with the imagination, so unlike your brothers and sisters. It was just a dream, my sweetheart, nothing’s going to happen to us here, you’re quite safe.”
He persisted, and then suddenly he remembered his grandfather telling him a story once, about a terrible dream of fire, and how it had come to pass in the following month, when the corn field was set ablaze.
His father stirred now. “My father was always telling wild tales, and that was one of them,” he said sleepily. “Besides, in the hot season fires really aren’t so rare, and dreaming of a fire even less so. But that doesn’t mean that one follows the other, whatever my father maintained.” He yawned. “Now, go back to bed, little one, things will seem okay again in the morning.”
His mother could sense that Jeramiah wasn’t really comforted by this, so she offered to let him sleep with her for the rest of the night. Jeramiah snuggled up close to his mother, and slowly the dream lost its edge and he was able to drift off, this time to a deep and dreamless sleep.
When he awoke the next morning he was alone, but he could hear activity in the adjourning room. By the sound of it, his siblings were awake and were tucking into breakfast. Jeramiah lay there sleepily for a while, still comforted by the night spent next to his mother. But suddenly the dream came back to him with a sharp stab of fear. His parents hadn’t believed him, but he was again certain that something was going to happen, his premonition chilling his bones, and propelling him to his feet with a sense of urgency. He had to tell someone else, someone who would take him seriously. But who could that be? He thought of his brothers and sisters next door. Even though he knew they would probably make fun of him, as they usually did, him being the youngest, he knew that he had to at least try. So he jumped to his feet and scampered to the next room, where his brothers and sisters were now having a loud and raucous debate along the lines of who could eat the most apples in one go.
They didn’t see him at first as he entered, so he sat quietly for a while listening to the rowdy conversation. When the loud banter lulled, he screwed up his courage, and spoke up.
“Hey,” he said, “there’s something really important that I have to tell you!”
This got their immediate attention and the room stilled, and all eyes were now on Jeramiah. He took a small gulp, then began to narrate his dream of the previous night. They were agog at first, and after he had finished telling them that he thought it was a premonition, and that they were all in danger, there was a deathly silence in the room. This was soon broken by loud guffawing which came from his brothers.
“Ha ha, good one, Jeramiah,” they shouted in glee, “The world’s about to end, hee hee!”
The others soon followed suite, and Jeramiah was left sitting alone, crestfallen and unhappy. His sister Nancy came over to him. She was always very supportive, and she nudged him now to try and cheer him up.
“Don’t take their reaction to heart, Jeramiah,” she said gently. “You know what idiots your brothers can be sometimes. But,” she continued, “you have to admit your story is rather hard to believe. You remember what we learnt in school last year, about floods and tsunamis?” Jeramiah nodded sadly, so she continued. “So you know they only occur where there’s lots of water, or even a sea. And there isn’t a sea for miles and miles and miles. So, it can’t possibly happen. So I think it must really have been just a dream” she concluded, somewhat lamely.
Jeramiah realized he wasn’t going to get any further convincing his family about the impending catastrophe, so he didn’t talk any more about it. But the dream worried him the whole day. He tried talking to his teachers about it in class; they listened with interest, but then just told him it was a great tale, and he should really get involved in the creative story telling class, which met every Wednesday after school.
Sad, scared and feeling very alone, Jeramiah sat curled up by himself that evening after everyone had eaten. He didn’t feel so hungry himself, so he hadn’t each much and had left early. The dream bounced around in his head, and he could feel anxiety building up inside himself. He felt the need to act, to do something to reassure himself, so he decided to walk from room to room, just to check that everything was okay. Then perhaps he would able to sleep better that night.
He heard the sound after leaving the hallway and turning into the corridor, and he stopped to listen carefully. It was faint, but it was clearly the sound of running water, and he felt a weight like a huge stone settle in the pit of his stomach. Cautiously he carried on down the corridor, the sound of the water getting louder and louder with each step he took. He heard another noise like a sharp crack, which stopped him in his tracks, unsure whether to press ahead, or turn around and flee. Without warning the sound of the water was suddenly deafening, and a huge surge of water swept around the corner and bore down upon him. He turned to run, but the wall of water was faster and he was swept off his feet and carried by the swell. Spluttering and gasping, he tried to get his head above water as he was whirled round and around, the water pulling him ever forwards. He saw water pouring into the other rooms now, and sweeping into the main hallway from other directions. He saw his family, his brothers and sisters, being carried along helplessly by the relentless tug of the current.
How could this be happening? Was he somehow dreaming again? But this time it felt too realistic, the water too cold, and he knew that it was really happening, but he didn’t understand how. Where was the water coming from? How could it suddenly burst into his home without warning and rip everything apart. He could scream for the unfairness of it all. Oh, why hadn’t anyone believed him? He had tried to warn them all, but now it was too late, and they were all going to drown. He saw his grandfather now being tumbled by the water towards him. Up ahead was some junk which wasn’t being washed away by the water. If he could get up there?
“Jeramiah!” squeaked his grandfather, “what’s happening?”
“It’s my dream!” wailed Jeramiah, struggling now to pull himself out the water and onto the tea cup. “It’s all coming true!”
He grabbed his grandfather by the tail as he floated past and held on for all he was worth, and eventually managed to pull him up out of the water. They clung together for dear life, and watched, shivering and sad, as the water streamed all around them.
The woman gave a short shriek as she walked down the cellar steps and saw the water pouring into the basement.
“Derek!” she called, “I think a pipe’s burst – it’s a flood down here!”
“Don’t panic!” he husband shouted back. “I’ll turn the water off and come and have a look. Maybe we’ll be lucky, and the water will have got rid of those mice. I think there’s a whole family down there!”
“Oh, the poor things!” exclaimed his wife. “Oh, please do hurry, Derek! It would be dreadful if they drowned.” She looked out again over the sea of water and whispered to herself wistfully “if only they had had some warning.”