Janie’s eyes flew open as she sucked in a mouthful of air. She checked her surroundings in the soft glow of her nightlight. The dream was coming more and more often. The only thing that had changed since the first dream was the presence of the older wolf in the field with her. He had materialized out of the fog in the last two dreams, shielding her with his massive body, and staring down the evil in the woods. Did this mean she wasn’t alone in the frightening world she sometimes occupied? Did it mean the bad thing was getting closer?
She slipped out of bed and padded down the hall to her brother’s room. Bryce was 12, almost five years older, and so smart the school let him skip a grade. She had told him about the dream after a couple of months of trying to soothe herself, unsuccessfully, back to sleep. He had listened closely, asking questions, and helping her clarify what she saw and felt during the dream. She climbed into his big bed. He rolled over and opened his eyes. “Hey…Again? That’s three times this week”
“The big wolf was there, too.”
“Was it the same one-with the white markings?”
“Uh huh. He stood in front of me again. He knows something is there, too. Then he came over and poked me with his nose, like he wanted to play. Then I woke up.”
“Do you remember anything else that was different? The field, the weather, the light…anything at all? Was there anything in the field that wasn’t there the last time?”
“No. I thought about it right after I woke up, just like you told me, but there wasn’t anything.”
“Good job, Shorty. You can stay here. I’ll be your big brother wolf. Grrrrrrrr. I’ll keep the bad dreams away from you.”
Janie nodded, her serious brown eyes glowing in the room’s dim light. “Okay. ‘Night.” She turned on her side and curled into a little ball, nestling into her brother.
Bryce lay awake for a long time after. He was worried about Janie. Should he tell Mom? He doubted she would do anything. She insisted that Janie was a normal little girl. He knew Janie was different than most seven-year-old girls. It wasn’t just the nightmares. She knew things she shouldn’t know, like who was calling on the phone, and that Mr. Lucien’s dog was going to get hit by a red truck a week before it happened. She said things that she didn’t remember saying later. In her sleep, she sometimes spoke an Abenaki dialect she had never been taught. Bryce recognized some of the words and phrasing from visits to his Grandparent’s home when he was younger. He had been seven or eight.. Janie would have been too young to absorb the language, right? Maybe a word here or there, but she wouldn’t be fluent. They hadn’t been back to the old house since Gran died. Grandpa had moved out after and they didn’t see him now. He wished, for the thousandth time, that his Gran or his Dad were here. Dad, with his background in science, would take a scholarly approach to helping Janie, and Gran would wrap Janie in a big hug and make her feel safe.
He knew he was an inadequate substitute, but he would do his best to care for his sister. Dad would have expected nothing less from him. As he ran through the details of her dream once again, he felt a shiver of unease go through him. He had witnessed Janie’s strange ways enough to know that if she was having the same dream repeatedly, it meant something bad was going to happen. But what? And more importantly, when?