This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Jeffrey, rolling uncontrollably in his bed, utters sounds that sometimes resemble words, but always exude a palpable haunting fear from this five-year-old’s dreams. His uncontrollable movements are more like spasms and his words, un-decodable, yet feel of a damned desperation.
His sister, Zoey, rushes into his room, jumps in the bed, gets under the covers and consoles him. Suddenly, Jeffrey’s eyes stretch wide open as he releases a searing scream. Jeffrey’s fear-filled eyes cause tears to fill her eyes as she caresses his black locks and pulls him close.
When their eyes meet, all she sees is desperation and deep pain. Somehow tonight is worse than anything she’s witnessed before – and she has witnessed much.
Jeffrey slowly awakens, becoming more aware of his surroundings; in other words, he realizes his sweet sister is by his side and he begins to calm down. Even that very first day - the day he was born - Zoey was able to calm down her brother. Unlike anyone else on earth, Zoey’s attentiveness to Jeffrey inexplicably seems to melt away the anger he’s displayed from his earliest moment.
Jeffrey says, “Zoey, Will you lie with me and just forget about everything?”
Zoey doesn’t understand what “forget about everything” means, but it scares her. With tears still rolling from her eyes, she asks, “Why do your dreams scare you so much?”
“You don’t want to hear about my dreams.”
“Yes, I do. Tell me about them.”
“You can’t tell Mom or Dad.”
“Jeffrey, I won’t. Tell me, please.”
“My dreams are like pictures. Some of the pictures are okay. They show lots of water and people I don’t know. But, more and more of them are photos of a man showing me skulls of dead people. Not just one or two, but many skulls. There are other pictures of him too. Then there are pictures of me. I’m only in my underwear and I can’t move. I’m in chains. I (pause)”
“What Jeffrey? You can tell me.”
“That same man . . . (pause) . . . There are pictures of him. He’s pointing a gun at me. He gets closer and closer to me and the gun is still pointed right at me.”
Zoey’s expression is unlike anything he’s ever seen from her before. She always has something to say whether you want to hear it or not. Her reaction this time is different. There are many words to say, but not a single word comes into her mind. Her face is just blank. She even forgets to wipe her tears. Yet, this unveiling of his dreams to Zoey confirms suspicions she has held for some time.
Jeffrey continues, “I told you you didn’t want to know.”
Zoey responds, “I do want to know. Let’s make a pact now that you can tell me anything and everything, Jeffrey. I know you can’t tell Mom and Dad and I won’t. You can trust me. Okay?”
“I am so glad you’re my sister, Zoey.”
“I’m glad you’re my brother.” She continues to hold him tight.
This pact is as strong as any blood oath and these siblings are tight.
Jeffrey always has been an angry child. After he was born in the hospital, the medical staff was intrigued with the little patient. He kicked his legs, wiggled his arms and screamed more than any other baby they had ever seen. They sent him home believing he had an extreme case of colic. Even then, the only thing that could calm him down was his four-year-old sister, Zoey.
In time, it became apparent to his parents, Bill and Diana Styers, that his “so-called” colic - anger and lashing out - actually, was the outward expression of Jeffrey’s personality and it was this behavior he used to get what he wanted. But from the very first day Zoey met her baby brother, she felt his crying, his anger and his difficult behavior were not within his control. She believed he was struggling with demons and she was and remains determined to be there for him whenever he needs help.
His long history of unpredictable and angry behavior has convinced his parents that only “tough love” will shape Jeffrey into the man they want him to be. For years they felt that facing his outbursts with compassion and love would result in the changes they desired. But those days are long gone. Night after night they leave their son alone when they hear his nighttime screams, firmly believing that Jeffrey must work through this anger alone.
Zoey’s awareness of Jeffrey’s tormenting dreams comforts him. From that first night on, Zoey alone consoles him when his tortured dreams reappear to shake his nighttime world. And then, whenever a new photo appears in his dreams, he tells her all about it.
Starting in preschool, Jeffrey’s angry nature keeps him in trouble. “Doesn’t play well with others” is only one of many criticisms that Jeffrey’s teachers has for this child. And, every time he “acts up,” a “proportional” punishment is levied at home. Zoey’s frustration with her parent’s handling of Jeffrey’s problems worsens, but she will not break the pact she made with Jeffrey. Meanwhile, his classmates avoid him whenever possible and hate it when the teacher’s assignment of seats bring them near him.
Even now, Jeffrey continues to discuss his dreams with Zoey, and it is when he is in third grade that they dramatically change. One night, the once still photos turn into soundless video. Zoey, thirteen years old now, hears noise from Jeffrey’s bedroom. Knowing where she should be, she runs to be with him.
When she reaches him, she sees him lying on his bed with his eyes wide open and she says, “Jeffrey.”
In a stupor, he slowly turns his head toward her. He doesn’t recognize her immediately, but then regains some semblance of awareness. Then, he says, “I am in a dark room. I can’t move because my ankles are chained to the floor. That guy I told you about sticks his hand into a hole in the floor. He pulls out (pause) he pulls out a skull and then another and another. This goes on and on and on.” He pauses as a confused look appears on his face. He continues, “He’s laughing when he shows me the heads. He’s laughing.”
Zoey doesn’t know what to say. All she can think of is to say, “It’s okay now, Jeffrey. I’m here.”
He continues, “And, then you remember those pictures of that man shooting me?”
“It’s now a video. My entire dream now is a video. No sound. (pause) The light is turned on and that man is walking toward me. He has a gun pointed at me. He walks closer and closer and, then, he shoots me.”
Tears roll down Jeffrey’s cheek. Zoey’s heart aches for him. She hugs him and says, “I’m here now, Jeffrey. It’s okay.” She pauses and continues, “He must not have been a good shot. You’re still here.”
Jeffrey says nothing. He’s obviously still absorbed in the nightmare.
Zoey says, “Did you have any good dreams last night?”
“Yes. In one, I am with a pretty girl. She looks older than us, but younger than Mom and Dad. We are sitting at a waterfront. The sky is beautiful and we are holding hands. She is so pretty, Zoey, and then we are kissing each other.”
“That’s so sweet. Do you know who she is?”
“No, I don’t. (pause) She isn’t in any of my bad dreams. Just my good ones. She is in many of my happy dreams. I think she was special to me.”
“I don’t think this is my first life, Zoey. I know that is weird, but that is what my dreams are telling me.”
“If these dreams are causing your anger, Jeffrey, do you think a doctor could help you?”
“Maybe. But I could never get Mom and Dad to call the doctor.”
“You’re right about that. I get so mad at them sometimes.”
“I know. I do too.”
“What can I do to help you?”
“I don’t know.”
Zoey is determined to find a way to help Jeffrey. He continues to have no friends at school and she knows deep down he is a good kid. She’s seen it. She sees the pain resulting from those demons and she knows that Jeffrey’s anger is the result.
In fourth grade, Jeffrey is involved in an incident playing kickball. While running the bases, his classmates block his path to second base and Jeffrey gets angry. He stops running and starts hitting his classmates. His peers, in truth, are quite scared of him and Jeffrey holds his own against three boys. A couple of teachers intervene and Jeffrey finds himself sitting in the office . . . again.
The principal contacts Diana at work and describes the incident to her. Quite upset, she contacts Bill, and runs to Starbucks to get some much-needed coffee. In the meantime, her anger builds as she reflects on her conversation with the principal, and she decides to leave work early to confront her son at home.
Susan has taken care of Zoey and Jeffrey for years, first as their nanny and now as their dedicated babysitter. Diana’s arrival home early is quite unusual - an odd happening that Susan is curious about. Despite her curiosity, she can use the time for her own purposes and leaves. Zoey and Jeffrey are playing together in his bedroom when their mother walks in and tells Zoey to leave the room. Jeffrey already told Zoey the whole story and so she knows what is about to happen. Before she leaves his bedroom, Zoey squeezes Jeffrey’s hand in support and she walks out of the room. Diana sees this and rolls her eyes. When Zoey closes the bedroom door, she lies face down on the floor and listens intensely.
Diana’s voice is stern as she says, “Jeffrey, what are we going to do with you? You are always getting into trouble - at school, at home. And today, you attacked those three boys!”
Jeffrey says, “They started it!”
Diana cuts him off saying, “That’s not what the school is saying. They’re saying you were running the bases and you attacked those three boys.”
“They were blocking me. They’re not supposed to block me while I’m running the bases.”
“Even if that’s true, you have no right to attack those boys!” She pulls down his trousers and starts spanking him. Jeffrey shrieks and that is all Zoey can take. She pops off the floor, opens the door and runs over to her brother. Diana in a raised voice that is supposed to get her daughter’s attention says, “Zoey, young lady, I told you to stay out of here!”
Defending her brother, Zoey says, “He doesn’t deserve this. Don’t you know that every kid in his class hates him and they do things to get him in trouble? That’s what happened today.”
“How do you know?”
“He told me what happened when he got home. You haven’t even listened to his side of the story. You don’t know. He is a good kid. You just can’t see it!”
“Young lady, you had better get out of this room before you get into trouble yourself.”
“Why? Because I disagree with you? Are you going to pull my pants down and spank me?”
“Get out now, young lady!”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Diana, very frustrated, works hard to try to get Zoey to leave the room, but Zoey’s unyielding strength exceeds Diana’s strength and patience. Instead, in frustration, Diana herself leaves the room, slamming the door as she leaves.
Zoey asks Jeffrey, “Are you okay?”
Jeffrey’s pulling up his pants and says, “I guess. Mom just doesn’t understand.”
“Jeffrey, I am going to do everything I can to help you with all this. It is time to find some way to help you. I promise I will not do anything without your permission. Okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, Zoey. You’re the best sister ever.” She hugs him tight and he releases a deep sigh.
Then she says, “Don’t ever forget our pact, Jeffrey.” She holds her fist up for a fist pump and Jeffrey completes his end of that bargain by gently slapping his fist against hers.
Zoey knows her brother is a good boy. There has to be some way to help Jeffrey work through these nightmares. And, her strength and determination are set - a formidable foundation that will only strengthen.
She goes to her room and logs onto the laptop she got for Christmas last year. She searches the internet for anything she can find about children claiming past lives. It takes little time for her to find Dr. Danny Simms - the leading, preeminent expert in the United States for the study of children’s claims of past lives.
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