Martha woke in a stupor. She was overwhelmingly tired though she had slept eight solid hours without a trip to the bathroom. She sat up and covered her face blocking the sunlight pouring into the room. She always left her blinds open. It was her alarm clock. Whenever the sun rose, the light covered her like sparkling jewels, fully spreading over her. She hated alarm clocks and broke many, throwing them across the room. She loved waking naturally. Preparing her clothes and lunch the night before provided her plenty of time to get ready and arrive in time for work in the morning.
She deliberated her tiredness until it tired her more to think about it. Swinging her legs to the floor, she began undressing pulling her nightgown over her head, when a dried blood stain swung into her face from the bottom hem. She had no idea where the blood came from. Startled, she checked her body for any sign of cuts, but everything appeared fine.
The blood stain was dark and wide, about five inches. She could come up with no explanation for it and threw the nightgown into the hamper knowing it would require further examination later that day.
Warm water splashed her body yielding not a trace of red or blemish nor any crustiness to reveal a source.
She entered the kitchen too nervous to eat and packed her breakfast bagel, warming it first. After spreading butter and jelly in the middle, she wrapped it in foil and thrust it into her thermal-lined lunch bag.
Arriving at work in a rush, her workmates noticed how flushed she appeared seeming out of sorts. The questions began but she sloughed them off, walking away for a cup of coffee from the kitchenette. The sink was full of dirty cups. She noticed a new pack of disposable cups on the counter. She thought the least her co-workers could do was wash and retrieve their cups from yesterday. Upset from the morning’s eventful arrival of dried blood, she pounced on everyone with a lecture and a firm warning to clean the sink or no more donuts on her dime. To their astounded faces, her best friend and co-worker Anna dashed forward to her rescue, patting her on the back.
“What’s up, Martha? Something happen?”
Martha remained silent with a sullen face. Anna said, “Let’s go into the conference room.” Anna pulled her firmly by the arm, not waiting for a negative answer.
“Okay, what gives. Did you get enough sleep last night?”
“Yes, I slept very well, eight hours even, without one pee call waking me. And I was overly tired for no good reason when I woke.”
“So far, so good. Keep going.”
“I was pulling my nightgown off and when the hem reached my face before disrobing completely, there was a large dried blood stain on it. No cuts or anything that might cause it either. Where could it have come from?”
“Sounds suspiciously spooky.”
“I know. I hope you have more than that to calm me down though, because I am a wreck about it.”
“Maybe it’s a stain from a previous cut and was there when you put it on, but you didn’t notice.”
“No. I washed the nightgown a couple days ago. The blood would have washed out.”
“Anybody borrow your nightgown before that who might have stained it without your noticing?”
Martha’s face drooped. “No, and that’s stretching it a bit.”
Anna looked confused “I don’t know, Martha. It’s strange. Maybe you missed a cut, or a scab fell off. I find scabs and cuts on me sometimes and can’t remember what happened.”
Martha’s face wrinkled. “Maybe, but it was a lot of blood not to notice and there were no signs of cuts or scabs.”
“We need an expert then. I’m going to take you to a palm reader I go to occasionally after work. Okay?”
“I don’t believe in that stuff, but I’m at a loss, so I’ll go. Thanks.”
The clock at work read 4:30 pm. Martha gathered her belongings and left. She followed Anna to the palm reader’s address. Martha entered warily with Anna pushing her from behind. They were greeted by a dark-haired woman with scraggly grey streaks throughout her hair by the name of Lavinia. Lavinia motioned for them to be seated at her round table, which was covered in a multicolored, paisley patterned kerchief draped over the top of a dark tablecloth. There were hand charts on the walls showing what different lines on the hands stood for and a deck of Tarot cards in the center of the table set between two lighted white candles.
“Come in my children. Don’t be shy.” Martha and Anna took a seat.
“Martha, please turn your palms up. Mmm, I see nothing unusual but wait. Right here at the bottom are your travel lines which are unusually long and connect to your fate line. I have only seen this once before.”
Martha leaned in closer. “Can you tell me what it means?”
“Close your eyes and picture the nightgown with blood.” Lavinia holds her hands covering the lines in question. She continuously speaks softly to her and tells her to concentrate and focus on her voice.
Martha complies and becoming trance like within a few moments, the very first thing she sees is herself running in a fog drenched forest which hides her from view. She walks unseen, each breath muffled by the soft crunching of her steps from layers of brush underneath. The trees and mists disguise her, her feet pressed to the earth, quick but silent, placing them carefully. She continues for a long time and disappears in the smoky forest. The quiet envelopes her.
Just when she finally feels safe in the mists surrounding her, she hears footsteps trailing behind as broken branches underfoot reveal their presence. They’re close, but closer is the sound of rushing waters. She begins to run fast, leaving her steps no longer quiet nor her breath. As she nears the waterfall, she becomes aware that the only exit is to jump. Grabbing a broken log, she jumps down the falls until the log and her crash into the rushing waters, the log hugged to her chest. She spins to the water’s rhythm, spewing gulps of water, coming up for air as she dips and rolls to the current’s rise and fall. Her only thought is, there’s only me now, safe and alone.
Martha jerks awake as Lavinia feels Martha’s grip on her hands loosen. “Martha, what were you doing?”
“I was running from someone in a forest and I jumped down a waterfall to be safe.”
“What were you wearing?”
“The same nightgown I wore last night.”
“Martha, you have traveled in your sleep. It could be a foretelling. This explains the long travel lines attached to your fate line. Something likely from the future, and this journeying will prepare you for it. The blood on the nightgown is evidence that you were there and came from actions during your travel. When you visit me again, bring the nightgown, and do not wash it. We will continue then. Go home, do not worry, and rest. You have done well, and your story is most interesting, to say the least.”
Martha agreed to return and Anna too who seemed more in shock than Martha and pressed her for details hoping to release more of the story. But then as Martha eases out of the parking spot where she was located, a flashback interrupts her thoughts. She sees herself kneeling beside a bleeding fallen deer. A masked person lies next to the deer with a bleeding head. She walks over to the body and uncovers the masked face. She sees herself.
Martha returns to the former parking spot and slams the gear shift into park. She runs back into the palm reader’s house. Lavinia is still seated at the table where they had sat like she was waiting for her.
Martha shouts out, “I saw a bleeding deer, a person in a mask with a head wound. I unmasked the person lying down and it was me!”
Lavinia took a long time before answering. Martha sat down beside her wanting to be close to her. Holding her hands again, Lavinia spoke, “Your nightgown must have touched blood when you were kneeling by the deer. The person chasing you could have shot the deer, grazing your head. Can you see who was following you?”
“I was running from my ex-husband. I don’t understand. How would he find me? I was very careful when I moved and made sure any information about me would be kept private. But if I was injured, how was I able to jump down the waterfall?”
“Remember, Martha, the time you’re seeing is in the future. Close your eyes and listen to my voice.”
Martha began to moan, then shrieks, “Get away from me. You killed the deer, but you won’t kill me. I will never be a victim again.” She runs and hides before the next shot leaves the barrel. She waits until he’s close, while picking up a large rock by her foot keeping her arm behind her. Once he passes, she surprises him from behind and swings her arm hitting him in the temple. He drops the gun and staggers slowly backwards towards the deer and falls.
Lavinia shakes Martha to wakefulness. “You know what happened, don’t you?”
“Yes, I killed him.”
“Not yet,” says Lavinia. Only in your dream walk.”
“What about the waterfall? If I killed him, why would I have had to jump?”
“I believe the waterfall was only a symbol of your safety.”
“And the person in the mask?”
“You were wounded by him, but you returned the wound. The mask describes how you have been disguising your fears. Go home and rest, child. The day you saw has not come.”
Martha stood to leave with only one thought in her head walking to the car, there’s only me now, safe and alone.