Kate came slowly out of a deep sleep; and then she remembered last night! Her eyes snapped open and she jerked awake with a panicked gasp; frantically she swiveled her gaze in every direction. No movement. She let her breath out slowly, and then lifted her head, and looked around.
She was in a simple, rustic bedroom with wood paneled walls. There was a battered dresser at the foot of the bed, next to the door leading to the stairs. An end table, holding a lamp and her car keys, was pushed into a corner. The windows on either side of the room were covered with sheer curtains made opaque by the sunlight which lit the room. Nothing moved, nothing was alive.
Slowly, Kate sat up, breathing deeply until her heart eased its pounding. As far as she could tell, she was alone. She was safe. She leaned back against the headboard, and relived the terrifying events of last night.
This was all Robbie’s fault.
Kate was one of several graduates of the local state college who met at the local pub to drink beer and commiserate about the bad job market. Robbie, the only one of them who actually had a job, worked as a janitor at that same college where they had all once been students. He had been telling them for weeks about the new campus lab that was studying psychic abilities. Kate, affectionately nicknamed “The Oracle” by her friends, was able to predict the future with uncanny accuracy, and she was the first person Robbie alerted when the scientists began advertising for psychics to take part in the studies and be paid for their time. Kate hated the idea, but her bank account was empty and her rent was due, so she had signed up for the program.
Kate got to the lab late yesterday afternoon and met Professor John Radcliff, Ph. D, the slender, middle aged man who ran the lab, and his graduate student, Billy. After Radcliff explained what he hoped to accomplish and Kate filled out release forms, she sat down with Billy, who asked questions from a clipboard about personal statistics, family history, and her “special” ability.
“I’ve always been able to think about a situation and then close my eyes and see how it ends,” she explained. “I can remember doing it all the time as a kid. I stopped talking about it when I got older, except with my close friends.” Kate laughed, and shook her head. “You can’t imagine how freaky people get when they find out that you can tell the future. My neighbor gave me a list of events she wanted me to check out, and my grandmother thought I was possessed by the devil!”
“Do you create the ending you want?” Billie asked.
“No,” Kate answered. “It’s not like that at all. I close my eyes and just see black, and then I watch as it all plays out, like those old fashioned black and white news reels. Usually there’s no sound, although sometimes I feel emotions, like sadness or excitement. But I don’t make it happen, I just watch as it plays out on its own.”
Billy looked up at Kate then. “And this only happens when you’re awake? Do you ever have precognitive dreams?”
Kate sat back and nodded. “A few times, but the dreams were mostly when I was a kid, before I could control the visions.”
“And the dreams came true?”
Kate frowned. “Most of ‘em. There’s one dream I still have every once in a while that hasn’t happened. I always see a stream in a gully, from high up, as if I’d climbed up a big tree. I’ve never seen that stream except in my dream.”
Billy leaned forward. “And you’ve never tried to use a vision to find out where it is?”
“No,” she responded. “Never.”
“Because the dream is not fun. I don’t see anything scary, but I’m panicked; I know I’m in trouble.”
After a few more questions, Professor Radcliff hooked her up to his machines and powered up his computers. Kate was asked to perform a simple visualization, and agreed to predict the weather for the following day. As soon as her vision began, Radcliff exclaimed with surprise as his instruments reacted. Again and again they ran tests, and with each test, Radcliff and Billy became more excited.
Just as Kate was ready to ask for a break, a young woman opened the lab door and called in, “Professor Radcliff, the weather stations are all predicting dangerous thunderstorms. We’re shutting down for the night!” The woman didn’t wait for a response, and the door closed behind her.
“One more, and then we’ll call it a night,” Radcliff said. It was just as that last vision was winding down that lightning struck the building and grounded itself through the instruments attached by electrodes to Kate’s head.
The electrical surge knocked Kate out, threw her to the floor and tipped the table and the machines on top of her. When she came around, Kate opened her eyes to a scene of horror. The entire lab was destroyed, with bookcases tipped over and tables upended; broken instruments and shattered glass were everywhere. Professor Radcliff’s legs stuck out from beneath a pile of books and the bookcase that had held them, and Billy was lying on his back, blood trickling out of his ears. There was a thing sitting by his head! Kate squeezed here eyes shut, and then opened them again, but the thing was still there. It looked like a hairless monkey with claws, and it was transparent. As she watched with horror, the thing leaned down, opened a mouth filled with sharp, dagger-like teeth, and seemed to bite down on Billy’s head. There was no wound and no blood, but Billy started jerking like he was having a seizure. The thing sat up and chewed, and Billy went still; then it leaned down and took another bite as Billy jerked spastically again.
Kate panicked; she screamed as she shoved the table off of her and scrambled onto her feet. To her horror, the thing turned toward her, drool hanging in thin ropes from the corners of its mouth, and two more of the things popped their heads up from behind the pile of books covering Professor Radcliff. When all three creatures came at her at once, Kate took off for the lab door, swung out into the hallway and pulled the door closed behind her. Gasping for breath, she ran to the end of the hallway and after looking back just long enough to see the lab door swinging open, she headed for the stairs.
Bursting out of the building and into the pouring rain, Kate didn’t stop until she got to her car; she got her key into the ignition and shot out of the parking lot, tires screeching and sliding on the wet pavement. It wasn’t until she had put several miles between herself and the campus that Kate pulled over and put the car in park. She had no idea how long she sat there, trembling with shock, before her instincts brought her back to her senses. Kate kept seeing the interested light that came into those three creatures’ eyes when they realized that she could see them. They were hunting her; as crazy as it sounded, she knew that they were after her. She felt like they were watching her now, and the hair stood up on the back of her neck. She needed to move now, to get out of the area, but where could she go?
She decided to head for Uncle Stan’s hunting cabin in Vermont. Kate had never been there and it was a five hour drive, but she knew the address and where a key was hidden; soon her GPS was giving her instructions. It was after 3 am by the time Kate found the house. After locking the door behind her, she made her way to the attic floor and found one bedroom, where she had collapsed, exhausted.
Kate shook her head, bringing herself back to the present. She slid her legs over the side of the bed, stood up, and stepped to one of the windows. It looked out toward the front of the house; below her was her car and a large expanse of lawn that ended at the road. There were dense woods on the other side of the road, with no other houses in sight.
Suddenly, Kate stiffened. Was that movement, out by the road? Oh God, it was. They’d followed her. She could see a couple of them running on all fours along the driveway, approaching the house. Panicked, Kate moved around the bed to the other window. What she saw stunned her.
The back of the house was up against a gully, at the bottom was a stream. Her stomach dropped as she recognized the scene from her dream, and suddenly Kate realized why she had never been able to see her own future past this view. Understanding sunk in as she heard the things scratching at the front door.