I’ll never forget either of those nights.
The first night, I was lying in bed, listening to the leaves on the trees behind our house being whipped around by gusts of wind. Somewhere nearby, a storm was passing.
Between gusts, I heard footsteps on the hall rug outside my room. That was strange, because I was pretty sure mom and dad were still in their bedroom. Yet, I definitely could hear footsteps coming from the direction of the living room.
And that’s when I wondered—could someone have broken into our house!?
Oh, God, NO!
Trembling like a leaf in a hurricane, I imagined a huge, shadow-like figure holding a large, sword-like knife, ready to plunge it into my body. That’s why I screamed for the only two people who could come to my rescue. “Mom! Dad!”
Hearing my own voice seemed to spur me into action. Throwing off the covers, I made a beeline for the doorway. I didn’t even bother to look and see who might be in the hall. Instead, I turned and headed straight towards mom and dad’s bedroom.
When I got there, I found my mom sitting up in bed. The book she had been reading was lying face down on her lap.
“Honey, was that you calling?” she asked, looking at me all worried-like.
Pointing in the direction of the hallway, I stammered, “I think s-s-s-ome one broke into our house and they’re in my room!”
I didn’t know that for sure, of course, but when he heard this, dad, who had just come out of their bathroom wearing only pajama bottoms and his usual white socks, believed me enough to run out the door and down the hall to my room to check it out.
While mom and I watched from the doorway, he also checked the rest of the rooms. He didn’t find anyone.
After they both got back into bed, and I explained to them what had happened, mom looked at me kind of serious like and said, “Honey, you’re too old to be letting nightmares frighten you like that.”
“It wasn’t a nightmare!” I insisted. “I know what I heard!”
Dad was looking at me the same way mom had—like I should know better.
Frustrated and still a little frightened, I asked, “Can I sleep with you guys?”
Mom shook her head. “You’re too old. Thirteen-year-old girls don’t sleep with their parents.”
She held up a hand. “Go back to bed. Your nightmare is over.”
That’s what she thought.
Still shook up, I returned to my room and turned on my Barbie lamp. The rest of the night, I slept with it on.
The next day, during lunch at school, I told my two best friends, Emily and Jackie, about what had happened.
Emily, the brainiac of our little group, took a bite of her veggie burger, then, after chewing a bit and swallowing, explained, “It sounds as if it could have been a disenfranchised spectral entity.”
I stopped eating my bar-b-que chicken sub and asked, “A what?”
“Yeah, a what?” echoed Jackie. She had PB&J.
Emily adjusted her glasses. “It sounds as if it could have been a ghost.”
“A ghost!” I replied, skeptical. Jackie, who was sitting across from me, appeared just as skeptical.
“Even if ghosts are real,” I said to Emily, “. . . which I doubt, why would a ghost want to haunt our house? It’s brand new, just like the rest of the houses in our neighborhood.”
Emily shrugged, but after taking another bite of her burger said, “Ghosts do a lot of things that don’t make sense, but . . . there’s also a second possibility.”
“And what’s that?”
At first, she looked as if she wasn’t sure she should say it, but finally she replied, “It’s possible your visitor was someone from the future.”
After almost choking on her sandwich, Jackie turned to Emily and asked her, “Are we talking time travel here?”
Emily nodded, then went on to explain in a hurry how in several of the science fiction stories she read, characters from the future went back in time to stop someone from doing something they shouldn’t.
“Like what?” I wanted to know.
“Like …” Emily hesitated, “… like robbing a bank, for instance.”
“Why would I want to rob a bank?” Again, she shrugged, but then I started to wonder, “Do you think whoever it was might come back?” I could feel some of last night’s fear returning.
She replied, “I guess it depends on whether or not they still have a message to give you.”
“A message?” I replied, confused.
“Yeah, you know, a message, or maybe a warning, like: (her voice got real low like a man’s) if you cheat on that test, you’re going to get suspended, or, don’t eat that baloney sandwich; it’s going to make you throw up your guts.”
“Did you have to make it sound so graphic?” I said, putting down my sub. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat any more.
She didn’t say anything, but I thought, someone from the future wanting to give me a message? Hmmm, that sounded interesting! The only problem was, what kind of message would they want to give me?
During the next week, everything went on pretty much as usual; no more strange noises, which meant, no more worrying about intruders. But then, one night, I saw a TV report that said another storm was going to be passing through the area. Something told me that if my visitor (ghost or otherwise) was going to show up again, he or she would come back during a storm. Don’t ask me why; I just had a feeling.
This time, I made sure I was ready. I had both my Barbie lamp and my TV on with the sound turned down real low. I also didn’t lie on my stomach the way I usually did when I slept. Instead, I sat propped up in bed facing the doorway; I wanted to make sure that if anyone came into my room, I’d be able to see them right away.
Outside my window, the leaves were doing their swishing thing, while off in the distance, I heard a rumble of thunder.
As I sat, staring at the open doorway, another rumble of thunder sounded, this time, a little closer.
The seconds ticked by. Some more thunder, and then. . .
Oh, my God! Emily was right! My visitor was from the future!
It was ME!
Actually, it was a much older version of myself. My short brown hair was even shorter and had turned all gray, while my face had gotten really old looking.
You’re probably wondering how I knew it was me? I could tell by the small birthmark on the bottom right side of my cheek. But the thing that drew my attention the most was the large sign I was holding. It read: “Don’t Be Afraid.”
“I’m not,” I replied out loud and smiled.
She/I smiled back, at which point, I noticed she was beginning to fade. Oh, no! Was she leaving already? She had just gotten here! There was so much I wanted to ask her!
“Please don’t go!” I begged.
She shrugged and I saw her mouth the words, “I have to go. I have no choice.” Then as I watched, she became more and more transparent, until finally, with me still wishing she would stay, she faded away.
Feeling alone and abandoned, I sat there wondering was, “Don’t be afraid,” the only message she had to give me? Even more important, would I ever see her again?
I never did, but that was okay because, from the moment I received her message, I began to change. Suddenly I found myself becoming less and less afraid to face the world. Somehow, just from that one visit alone, I gained a newfound confidence. Nothing seemed to worry me anymore: no tests at school, no visits to the dentist, no more strange noises, not even the idea of an intruder breaking into our house.
I had become fearless!