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When the dreams first started, I thought I was destined for the madhouse. When they started coming true, I thought I was already there.
I stared at the toothbrush in my hand as though challenging it. Carefully, I gripped the sink and moved the brush toward my mouth, already wincing in anticipated pain. The taste of mint surged across my tongue and teeth, and I brushed slowly, meticulously. The hand holding the sink trembled slightly, and I forced myself to concentrate.
After two and a half minutes of careful cleaning, I leant forward and spat triumphant foam into the sink, then pumped one hand into the air, grinning as I did so. I frowned at the mirror when I spotted the sliver of green at the back of my teeth.
“Bastard,” I snapped. This is what did it. Surely.
Nevertheless, I slipped the toothbrush between my lips again and cautiously scrubbed at the trapped vegetable. Heart pounding in my chest, I leant over the sink and –
Three sharp knocks on the door made me leap forward in surprise, and the toothbrush still sticking out of my mouth collided with the mirror, jabbing into my gums. I swore loud enough to summon my knocking mother into the bathroom to deliver an anti-swearing sermon.
“What have I told you about using that word?” She asked angrily as I wiped blood from my mouth and probed the new sore.
“It happened again,” I said by explanation, and hooked a finger under my lips to show her. She moved forward to examine it. “Every night this week, Mum.”
I didn’t tell her I knew it was going to happen. That last night I’d had the excruciatingly boring dream about brushing my teeth again. And every night I felt the toothbrush slam into my gums, and every evening I relived it again.
“You’re going to the dentist. No, don’t make that noise at me. Wipe your face.” She commanded, and I clamped my lips shut, rubbing my mouth on my bath towel. She knew I hated the dentist. “You’re obviously brushing your teeth wrong. I’ll make an appointment for you tomorrow.”
It was a logical explanation, probably one I would’ve suggested myself if one of my friends had come to me with the same problem. But the dreams didn’t stop at my teeth or the injuries accumulated by cleaning the little enamel bastards. The dreams predicted everything from what Mum would serve for dinner, to what grade I’d get on an assignment that I hadn’t even been given yet.
I shuffled in my pink cow pyjamas to my bedroom. My diary was hidden beneath my mattress, and I had to fish amongst discarded gum packets, lost socks, and bobby pins to find it. I pulled it free, leaning back on my heels and flipping the cover open. Inside, I’d written all the instances of the dreams coming true.
29th of April – It had started raining despite the forecast being for sunshine. I’d brought an umbrella to school at the beginning of the day.
5th of May – I knew what book we’d be reading in English before Mr Burgess handed it to us.
14th of May – I’d accidentally started preparing butter chicken for dinner before Mum bought the sauce home for a surprise. She considered it a lucky coincidence – by now, I knew better than to hope it was.
23rd of May – I’d switched off the headlights in my car on purpose – having been forewarned by dreams of a flat battery – and come back to one anyway. Here was my first scribbled sidenote about the dreams being set in place, and unavoidable. It had a question mark. How naive.
I grabbed a sparkly pink pen from my desk and scrawled 26th – 28th May – toothbrush, toothbrush, toothbrush. Setting the diary down on my messy bed, I propped myself up on my elbows and re-read the entries. A frown creased my forehead. The dreams were getting closer together. And stronger, too. I closed the little book with a snap and shoved it back amongst the grave of thousands of hair accessories. With a half-glance at the sleeping laptop on my desk, I ground my teeth, and swore under my breath as it aggravated the new wound on my gum.
In a burst of pain-fuelled frustration, I hoisted myself up, slammed the laptop lid down and switched the light off. As I climbed into bed to roll up into an angry burrito, I considered the half-finished History assignment I’d just given up on.
“Who cares?” I muttered, twisting to tighten the blankets. “I get a C anyway.”
I slept fitfully, my mind torn between predicting the future and trying to insert normal dream themes into my subconscious. As a result, I’d experienced a weird fusion of reality and fantasy, and now I was quite concerned that my English teacher was going to fly in on a vacuum and make us split into pairs to grade essays. To be honest, I wasn’t sure which part I was more worried about.
Mr Burgess walked in, half-eating a sandwich and reading something on his phone. It wasn’t an unusual sight – he taught at least a third of the classes in my little high school and practically ran the place. Yet despite this, he still managed to be one of my favourite people in the world by being completely chill and laidback. He was a good teacher, someone you’d listen to even if you weren’t interested.
Distracted as he was, he didn’t notice that he was dangerously close to The Jar, which took prime position on his desk, full of jellybeans that were handed out when we did well or when we needed an energy boost. Too late, half the class realised this and stood, shouting, in an effort to protect the only thing worth living for – sugar.
Mr Burgess jumped half a foot in the air, dropping the phone. His elbow knocked The Jar and we waited with baited breath as it rocked forward, tilting dangerously over the edge of his desk. No one moved as time came to a still, and then despair sank in as the heavy glass lost its battle to gravity and fell slowly, like the dreams of all who watched its path. The Jar shattered, sending colourful waves of beans across the faded and stained gray carpet.
“Damn.” Mr Burgess said simply, and then tried to tuck the sandwich into his pocket as he lifted his phone to his mouth. “Sorry, everyone.”
“I’ll get those for you, Mr B,” I said loudly from the back, and those who got my meaning tittered, including the teacher who rolled his eyes.
“If you think I’m letting you eat anything off this fifty year old carpet, Rose Evermore, you’re going to have to bribe me.”
I smirked. “You’re in luck – it just so happens that I’ve come into some jellybeans.”
He just shook his head and opened a cabinet. My joking manner evaporated and icy dread filled me when he took out the little hand vacuum.
“I think this will be a lot more effective at cleaning up the beans than you, Rose.”
I clenched my jaw, swore internally at the pain, then made an effort to smile. “You’ve never seen me eat floor candy before, have you?”
Amused at our banter and the pocket sandwich, the class was in a good mood, and we mucked around more than anything, our essays lying forgotten on the desks. I went about the rest of the school day like any other, but I kept forgetting to ignore the predictions; I caught a drink bottle just before it fell from a desk, I stepped around the droppings of an overly-excited pigeon, I caught a wayward hacky sack someone threw at me from behind. Every time my surroundings took on that shade of familiarity, my stomach clenched in dismay, even as my body reacted without thinking.
What the hell was going on?
The bell rang as the sun began to sink behind the hills that encircled the town, and I sighed in relief. I’d been feeling unwell for the last hour or so, the result of being caught between dreams and reality, dread and fear. I made my way to the school car park, leaning against my little white car. The cool metal soothed my warm skin, and for a moment I felt better, but then someone spoke behind me and I jumped, slamming my knee into the door.
Three o’clock leg injury; right on schedule.
“Ouch, that looked like it hurt,” Molly Barnes peered at me, her brow furrowed in sympathy. “You alright?”
“Yep,” I said tightly, smiling through the pain. “Sorry, what did you say?”
“Oh right… I said Emily, Neal, Grace and I are going to the library to get that essay done for Walkins. Did you want to come along? I’m shouting pizza.”
Oh man, pizza. I considered it, but then my stomach flipped over and I felt sweat break out on my forehead as I swallowed down nausea.
“Thanks, Molly, but I think I’ll pass. Not feeling so great.”
She looked taken aback, but recovered quickly. “No problem, hope you feel better soon.”
She started to walk away, and I fiddled with my car keys, then called after her. “Molly!” She turned, curious. I took a moment to sort my words out. “Thanks for the invite. I really appreciate it. Any other night…”
She smiled, a big genuine smile. “Sure. I do hope you feel better soon, Rose. See you tomorrow?”
I nodded and she walked off, a bounce in her step that hadn’t been there before. Satisfied that I’d smoothed over our conversation, I got into my car and started the short drive home. On the way, I thought about Molly Barnes, and her group of friends. It suddenly occurred to me that I’d known them all since primary school – I’d always been on the outskirts of their group but never a part of it. I didn’t mind too much; I was too flighty to really have a close, dedicated circle of friends. And this way, we never fought, never got into the silly dramas that seemed to absorb half of my year level.
Invites to pizza study sessions could roll on in anytime, but in terms of commitment, that’s all I could do.
“Open wide,” Dr Collins instructed, as though I was holding out on him. I stretched until the sides of my mouth ached. “Better.” He grumbled.
I rolled my eyes beneath the glasses that the assistant had given me. I’d known Dr Collins since I was little – had been coming to him since I’d started growing teeth – and he was always the same prickly arsehole. At least when I was younger I got a free lollypop afterwards.
“Is this the spot you keep injuring?” he asked, and poked at the bruised gum. I bit back a curse but winced, and he took that as a sign to poke again for good measure. “How do you brush your teeth?”
What kind of question was that? I closed my mouth and started explaining, but he was already rummaging in a drawer for something. My heart lifted in the hopes of a lollypop, but they were dashed against cavity-free rocks when he turned back with a shiny red toothbrush that looked like a torture device.
“You’re going to use this from now on,” he said, and explained how to. I crinkled my nose, and lifted the glasses onto the top of my head so he could see how displeased I was. He rolled his eyes and shoved the toothbrush at me. “You’re sixteen, Rose. Time to start growing up.”
“’Time to start growing up,’” I repeated on the car ride home. “What does he mean by that?”
My mother shrugged, her fingers tapping out a beat on the steering wheel. “You do get a bit silly, Rose. Perhaps it’s time you started thinking about your future?”
“Ugh.” Adults and their ‘your future’ talks. “Mum, look at me. Do you really think anything I plan now will have any bearing on what I actually end up doing later in life?”
Stopped at an intersection, she took my invitation literally and appraised me from head to toe. I was wearing my scuffed black Converse, jeans instead of my school pants, and a leather jacket over my navy-blue school shirt. My long brown hair had been swept into a ponytail without being brushed and I didn’t wear a lick of makeup. She sighed, turning her gaze back to the road.
“I worry about you, Rose Evermore.”
Watching a bright yellow Gemini drive past, right on cue according to last night’s dream, I couldn’t help but match her sigh, suddenly glum. “Yeah, me too,” I mumbled under my breath.