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FUTURE PERFECT


Cammie knew things. She knew things that others didn't know and she knew them before they happened. Cammie had what some would call “a gift” and others might label “a curse”. She was able to relate all sorts of events prior to when they happened, and that astounded some people and frightened others. She was first aware of it in sixth grade.


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Camilla, will you read the second paragraph on page 137 please?” Cammie hated being called by her full name, but Mrs. Harrigan never called anyone by the shortened form that they preferred. Cammie sat up straight and dutifly started to read. It was social studies class and they were learning about the Declaration of Independence. Cammie's paragraph had to do with Ben Franklin and his contributions. She couldn't help but wonder if Mrs. Harrigan would insist on calling him Benjamin if he were in her class. She finished her paragraph and looked up from her book. 


“What were you reading, Camilla?” asked Mrs. Harrigan. The whole class was in giggle mode as Cammie tried to determine what was going on. 


“The second paragraph. Wasn't that what I was supposed to read?” 


“Indeed it was. But all you did was tell us some gibberish about someone named Jennifer getting kidnapped from the park.” Her tone softened. “Are you feeling alright dear? It almost seemed as though you didn't hear me when you were speaking.” Cammie was confused and embarrassed. Why didn't she remember talking about something other than Social Studies? She was a good student. She always paid close attention.


“I'm sorry Mrs. Harrigan. I thought I read the paragraph.”


“Why don't you go to see the nurse and rest there awhile.” Cammie blushed as the class snickered among themselves. Maybe Mrs. Harrigan was correct. Maybe getting out of the classroom right now was for the best.


The nurse had her rest on one of the cots for about ten minutes and then asked her how she felt. She felt fine but she wasn't ready to return to class yet. Cammie was mortified that she had said things in class that she didn't remember saying. Since there was only one more class period in the day, the nurse allowed her to stay until school dismissal.


She hadn't planned on discussing the incident with her parents, but Mrs. Harrigan had called them so the topic was approached during dessert that evening.


“I'm worried about you Cammie. You told a whole story when you thought you were reading aloud from your textbook.” Her mother looked genuinely concerned. “I'll call and make an appointment tomorrow morning.


An appointment? What could the doctor do? She wasn't sick. And then it hit her. Her mother was taking her to a shrink! Adding another humiliation to her already embarrassing day. Why was she making such a big deal out of something so trivial. Cammie almost choked on her mouthful of cherry pie. She just wanted to forget the whole occurrence.


“Mom, I'm okay really. I probably was just day dreaming.” She tried not to sound too concerned and to minimize the incident as much as possible. But if she were to be honest with herself, she was getting an odd feeling about the whole thing. Bits and pieces of a strange nature kept popping into her head since the occurrence in Mrs. Harrigan's class. Disturbing thoughts that made her very uncomfortable. 


She asked to be excused from the table and went to her room to try to concentrate on her homework. But the thoughts were popping into her head more frequently now and an awful story was starting to form in her mind. Cammie tried to will it all to go away, but to no avail. Bit by bit a depressive narrative was beginning to take shape. 


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Jennifer Randell, four years old, loved the park. Her mother would sit and visit with the other mothers while the she and the rest of the children took advantage of the playground. It was a beautiful park with a safety fence around the equipment section and a good view of the area from the benches. The day started out like any other. Nancy Randell arrived at about ten o'clock with Jennifer in tow. Some of the other mothers were already there and Nancy headed for them while she told her daughter to play nicely and let go of her hand. Jennifer ran for the sandbox where a few of her friends were already busily playing. 


In the bushes at the perimeter of the area stood a tall figure. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, common attire for the park. He watched as Jennifer went over to the sandbox, her pig tails bouncing as she ran. He watched her connect easily with the group of children already playing there and immediately join in their game.  Yes, he thought to himself, this is the one. 


After about ten minutes, while the mothers were busy talking, he walked over to the group of children in the sandbox. He stooped down to their level and smiled. 


“Looks like fun.” he said looking directly at Jennifer. “I'll bet my little girl would love to play with you. Would that be okay?” he questioned, and all the children nodded yes. “She's very shy. Right now she's hiding in those bushes.” He reached out and took Jennifer's hand. “If you come with me to get her, she'll want to play with you.” Jennifer looked over at the bushes and tried vainly to see someone hiding there. He still held her hand. “Let's go get her” he smiled. She really wants to play. Jennifer hesitated a minute but she really wanted to see this new girl.


“Okay, let's go get her.” she said smiling at the stranger and they walked off together looking for all the world like a father taking his daughter home. 


When Nancy called to her daughter just a few minutes later, no one answered. When questioned the other children told her the story of the man who had a daughter hiding in the bushes. Nancy quickly called the police and then went into the bushes looking for some sign of her daughter. But she wasn't there.


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This was the story that was now permanently installed in Cammie's brain. She kept it to herself for a few days. Then she looked up the name Randell and found that they lived two blocks away. What's more they did have a daughter named Jennifer who went to preschool three days a week at Cammie's school. Now she was convinced that what she saw in her mind was not something that had happened but rather something that was going to happen. She knew she had to do something about it, but what could she do? She decided to confide in Mrs. Harrigan after school one afternoon. When she told her how the thought had crystalized into a clear story, her teacher just sat and looked at her. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and then just when Cammie was ready to ask her what was wrong, she finally opened her eyes and spoke.


“So you think the little Randell girl was kidnapped?”


“No,” Cammie protested “It hasn't happened yet, but it will. I know it.”


“Cammie we can't know what will happen in the future. You must have had a very real dream and now you think the dream will come true.” Mrs. Harrigan sighed. Cammie could tell she was concerned but didn't for one second take her seriously. Cammie began to cry and ran out of the room. By the time she got home her teacher had called her parents. She should have known this would be the inevitable result of confiding in Mrs. Harrigan. She ran to the kitchen where her mother was chopping vegetables and her father was trying to fix the garbage disposal.


“I know you don't believe me. But Jennifer Randell is going to be kidnapped at the park some morning. She's in pre-school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so it must be going to happen on a Tuesday or Thursday. Don't you see, we have to do something. We can't let her get taken by some strange man!” She was emotional now and tears were running down her face. “Please believe me and help me to stop it from happening. Please!” she sobbed. 


“We can't just tell Mrs. Randell that her daughter is going to be kidnapped.” Dad was trying to comfort her now and held her in a large embrace. 


“Mom?” Cammie turned to her mother for some validation, but the only response she got was Mom shaking her head in despair, unable to hold back the tears.


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The next day they took Cammie to Dr. Little, a child psychiatrist. He listened attentively while Cammie related her story. This gave her the confidence to continue until the end, when she said that Jennifer's mother had to be warned. Dr. Little was silent for a few seconds and then asked her if she had ever had such an experience before. Cammie told him “no” and momentarily she had a glimmer of hope that the doctor was believing her story. 


“Cammie, I know you believe what you are saying is true. But nobody can predict the future. People will not believe you if you tell them what you told me today. They will tease you, and heckle you and make your life miserable. Do you really want that to happen to you?”


Cammie thought about this for a moment. Of course she didn't want that but she also didn't want to see an innocent child kidnapped and maybe worse. When she told him this he shook his head and told her he would see her again in a week. He gave her parents a doctor's excuse for a week's absences from school and told them to keep an eye on her and not let her talk to anyone but them as he didn't want this story to spread and alarm the Randells. 


***********************


On Thursday of the week Cammie wasn't in school Nancy Randell took her daughter to the park to play. While there four year old Jennifer went missing.


Yes, Cammie knows things. And now people believe her.









June 15, 2021 15:11

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