When I was four years old, my mother told me my fate. She said, “Mandy, you’re going to see things no one should ever see, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.” I was scared, of course. What four year old wouldn’t be scared when they’re told of such things? The visions didn’t happen until I was six, but I knew what it would be like before then.
My mother and grandmother had told me what to expect. They told me what it would be like. You see, I come from a family who can see into the future. We know when things are about to happen. But, it’s not as awesome as you think it is. I can’t tell you tomorrow’s lottery numbers or who’s going to win the next World Series. My ability tells me who’s going to die.
I told you my abilities weren’t that great. In fact, it’s a heavy burden to carry. The ability is passed down to the females in my family. What makes our ability such a burden is the inability to do anything about it. And, like my mother warned me, I can’t stop the visions. I tried. It is our responsibility to ensure these fates are carried out. We must be sure that those who have been marked to die do die. We do not interfere. My grandmother warned me that terrible things would happen if we interfere. It is not our jobs to change fate.
My grandmother’s sister killed herself in China because she couldn’t handle the visions. My grandmother rarely talks about her sister, but she always tells me how much I remind her of her sister. The resemblance was more than just our personality. My grandmother’s sister and I look alike. I saw an old picture of my grandmother when she was a little girl in China. My grandmother’s hair was done in two neat, long braids. Next to her was her sister, hair cut short with thick bangs that covered her eyebrows. There was a look of sadness in their eyes, a sign of them carrying their burden for too long.
My mother suffers from the visions as well, but I can see her make an effort to act like it doesn’t bother her. I think she has seen the guilt my grandmother has for not saving her sister and then passing the curse to her only daughter. My mother said the moment my grandmother realized she had given birth to a girl, she refused to have any more children, afraid she might have more girls who will have the curse.
That’s what my grandmother called it. A curse. I just call it visions. They usually come to me at night, when I’m asleep. But, they can happen during the daytime as well. One time, I was in the middle of my biology class when a vision came to me. I saw a woman talking on her cellphone while she was driving. She was distracted and didn’t see the child that ran out into the middle of the street to get his soccer ball. The woman turn the wheel hard to avoid the child. Unfortunately, she didn’t turn fast enough and the child was hit with the rear of the car. I cried out, to warn to child, but it was just a vision. I actually ended up crying out in class, which made everyone turn to look at me and laugh. The teacher sent me out of the classroom for disrupting the class. I ended up having lunch detention later that day.
There really is nothing for me to do. Most of these visions are of people I have never met before. Even if I could save them, I wouldn’t know where to look for them. They could be on the other side of the country in California or here in New York City. And, the visions don’t give us a timeline either. It could happen tomorrow or next month. These are things we don’t know. But, we do know that these people eventually have to die. My mother told me the only way to see this is to tell ourselves everyone eventually dies. We just have the unfortunate ability to know death was going to happen sooner than later for many people.
I have seen more deaths than any fifteen year old should see in my short life. Since the age of ten, I have seen 14,623 deaths. I’ve kept a record. That’s an average of 2624.6 deaths per year, or about 8 deaths per day. I’m really good at math as well. Not every death was awful as the one I saw in biology class. Some were peaceful and quiet. One time I had a dream that I was visiting someone in a hospital room. An elderly woman was in bed. She told me about all of her life’s accomplishments.
“And, my children,” she said at the very end of a long list of things she had accomplished. “Of all the things I’m proud of, I’m proud of my children.”
I was only twelve at the time. I was starting to get antsy and wanted to go outside and play. That’s all I kept thinking about. As this poor woman laid in bed, alone, telling me about her children and grandchildren, all I wanted to do was to leave. If my mother or grandmother knew, they would have been ashamed of me. It was only because I was raised to respect my elders did I stay in that room with her. I stayed and listened until she was finished. Then, she drifted to sleep. It was only when her grip in my hand loosen did I realize she was gone.
It wasn’t a violent death. It wasn’t an unexpected death. The woman had accepted her fate. She was ready to move on to whatever happened next. I don’t know what happens to people when they die. Perhaps their spirit goes on to another world. Or maybe they just end. I don’t know, but I like to think there is a heaven or something like that. It makes it better to know that all the people I watch die go to some place nice.
I must have hit the off button instead of the snooze button on my alarm clock because now I’m running late. My grandmother had put out a bowl of water rice for me to eat for breakfast.
“Eat, eat, eat,” she says, pulling a chair out for me. My grandmother doesn’t speak a lot of English, but “eat” happens to one of the few words she does know.
“I’m running late, grandma,” I said as I grab a granola bar from the top cabinet. My grandmother means well, but she doesn’t understand that I’m running late for school. I don’t have time to sit down and eat.
“There’s always time to eat,” she said in Chinese as she put out a bowl of pickled radishes. “How do you expect to do well in school if you don’t eat breakfast. They’re always saying how breakfast is the most important meal of the day in the paper.”
“And, I won’t be able to do well in school if I’m late and miss my class, grandma,” I answered back.
“Ta Ta,” she said waving a finger at Mandy. “Don’t talk back to your grandmother.”
If my mother was here, she would reprimand me for the way I talked to my grandmother. I was raised to respect my elders. And, since my grandmother was the oldest, I needed to show her my utmost respect.
“I’m sorry grandmother,” I said coming back to the kitchen table. I sat back down and quickly ate the water rice. The porridge burned my mouth, but I needed to eat this so I can go to school without disrespecting my grandmother.
Within fifteen minutes, I left the house with a burnt tongue and practically ran to school.
I had already missed homeroom. Luckily, we’re in between periods, and I could go to biology without the teachers knowing how late I really am. I go to the back of the classroom to take my usual seat. Class was kind of boring. I’m not a big fan of science. Actually, I’m not a big fan of Mr. Copper, the biology teacher. He received his doctorate degree a century ago and used to be a professor at some ivy league university. After twenty-five years of teaching at the university, Mr. Copper decided he wanted to teach high school students.
The pictures of the cells looked like jelly beans on the black board. Mr. Copper droned on about miosis. I was only half listening. I wrote the words on the blackboard in my notebook to give myself something to do. It was the only thing I could do to fall asleep.
I didn’t have a good night. They’re really nightmares. My friends don’t know this about me, but I dream about death last night. I kept waking up in the middle of the night after each one of my dreams. My dreams aren’t like everyone else’s dreams.
When I was four years old, my mother told me my fate. She told me that one day I will see things that no one should ever see, and there is nothing I can do about it. My whole family have this ability to see the future. Well, just the females in my family. The women in my family passes the ability to their daughters. And, their daughters passes it to their daughter. My mother and her mother, my grandmother, also have the same ability as me. Not only do we see the future, but we can see when and how someone dies.
Mr. Copper was drawing more diagrams of the cells. I made an attempt at drawing the same cells on the boards, but it looked nothing like what Mr. Copper drew. I was never an artist. I gave up trying to draw the images and stopped paying attention. I could feel my heavy eyelids close, and I drifted to sleep.
When I was conscious again, I found myself in a car. The music was loud. I could hardly hear myself think. I don’t recognize the car. I looked to my left at the driver, and I don’t recognize the teenager behind the wheel. He was wearing a University of Arizona hoodie and jeans. His blonde hair was slicked back with some gel, and he had a little bit of stubble on his face.
“Where are we,” I ask him. “Who are you?”
He doesn’t answer. Then, I realize he can’t hear me. He doesn’t even know I’m here with him because I’m really not. This is a dream.
The teenager is singing loudly to the music on the radio. I look over at his dashboard and he seems to be driving the speed limit.
I reach behind me to put on a seatbelt. If I’m dreaming about this guy, it could only mean one thing. This guy is going to die.
The DJ came on the radio and the teenager started hitting the buttons to change the station. He went through a few stations until he found one with music playing on it. His eyes weren’t on the road. This was it, I thought to myself. I have seen this scenerio play out too many times before. Teenagers not paying attention to the road while driving or being distracted by everything else in the car.
I’m only fifteen. I don’t have my driver’s license yet, but I know that when I start driving, I’m going to turn off the radio and put my cellphone away in the glove department. If you seen how many people died because people weren’t paying attention or because of certain distractions, you would do the same thing.
However, I’m no longer in the car. Instead, I’m standing in the middle of someone’s yard. There’s a group of kids, no older than 10 years old, playing across the street. It looks like they’re playing a game of soccer in the front yard. I wonder why I’m no longer in the car with the teenager with the University of Arizona hoodie. I look around me, maybe I’ll see the teenager’s car. But, then I realize I don’t know what the exterior of the car looks like.
One of the kids kicked the ball into the middle of the street. They argue who should get the ball. The smallest one finally volunteered to get the ball. He had moppy ginger hair, freckles all over his face, and big front teeth.
He ran into the middle of the street without looking out for any cars. Then, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I look to my left to see a car turning the corner. I couldn’t see inside the car, but I knew who was driving it. I try to walk out to the street, but my legs wouldn’t move.
“Get out of the street,” I yelled at the kid. But, of course, he didn’t hear me. He couldn’t hear me.
I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. I had to watch. The teenager was answering his cellphone. He didn’t notice the kid in the middle of the road. I saw the teenager turn the steering wheel hard to the left to avoid the kid. The front of the car missed the kid by an inch. But, the car swerved and the kid was hit with the back end of the car. I saw the young kid fly backward, the ball tightly clutched in his hands. The sound of his head hitting the the curb was disgusting.
I looked behind me just in time to see the car slam into a sign, which fell down and pierced through the roof of the car. I knew the teenager inside the car was dead as well. It didn’t matter how many times I’ve seen these kind of scenes, they still make me sick. My grandmother told me that’s how I know I still have my humanity. I haven’t lost my soul just yet.
I hear a scream, but when I turn around to see who it is, I’m back in my biology classroom. I open my eyes to see everyone staring at me with amusement and bewilderment. I look up to see Mr. Copper giving me the death stare. I realized I must have screamed in class.
“Miss Chu, I’m sorry if you find miosis scary,” he said sternly. I could hear some of my classmates lightly chuckling. They didn’t want Mr. Copper’s wrath to turn on them. “But, there is no need to disrupt my class in that manner. Please take your things and go down to the office.”
My face is beet red as I put my notebook and textbook back in my bag. I walk out of the classroom with my head down as Mr. Copper calls down to the office to let them know about the incident.
I sat in the office, rubbing my hands together as I waited for my mother to come to the school. Apparently, this isn’t the first incident of me falling asleep in class. The principal, Mr. Morris, was worried that I was not getting enough sleep at home, and he needed to talk to my mother about my sleeping habits at home. It was embarrassing enough that I was caught falling asleep in class and then screaming like an idiot in front of everyone in class. Now, Mr. Morris wanted to bring my mother here to talk about it.
I thought I could get away with my mother not knowing about my visions happening during the day. She had warned me against daydreaming and falling asleep in class. At home, I could wake up screaming and no one would think anything else of it. They all know what I was dreaming about. And, at home, at least I could be comforted instead of embarrassed.
My mother came into the office, dressed in her sharp business suit, with a stern look on her face. I could hear another lecture coming on. But, we’re in public. She was going to save the lecture for when we get home. I gave her an apologetic look, but she didn’t respond. She continued to look stern as she took a seat next to me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I turned to her, trying to explain the situation. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep. It’s just that Mr. Copper is really boring. And, it was the first class of the day.”
“I heard you were late to school, too,” my mother said, looking straight ahead.
“Who told you that,” I asked. The school couldn’t have caught my truancy.
“Your grandmother,” my mother said flatly.
Of course. I should have known better.
I opened my mouth to come up with another lame excuse, but Mr. Morris came out of his office to call us in.
“Mrs. Chu,” Mr. Morris said, walking towards my mother with his hand outstretched. “I’m sorry for calling you in like this, but I’m afraid we really need to address this issue. Please come into my office.”
My mother had on a polite face when she met with Mr. Morris. We followed the balding man into the office and took a seat. There was a file on his desk, and I wondered what information was in it. Did it have all the times I fell asleep in class and woke up screaming? Were my grades in there, too? I didn’t have to worry about my grades. I was an honor roll student. I did my best to do all my homework and studied for all my tests. My mother would yell at me if I did keep up with my grades.
“Mrs. Chu, I’m going to cut to the chase. Your daughter, Mandy, has been sleeping in class these past few weeks. I have in this files occassions she has been caught. Today in biology would be her fifth offense in a month. Now Mandy is a good student. Her grades are up and the teacher have no other problems with her. So, I just want to know is there something going on at home that we need to know about?”
I look sheepishly at the ground, my hands in my lap.
“Mr. Morris, I was not aware that Mandy has been sleeping in class,” my mother started. “I’m so sorry. I will make sure she goes to bed earlier. She has been staying up late to complete some of her homework. But, I didn’t realize it was effecting her day here at school. I will be more mindful of when she goes to bed and I will make sure she finishes her homework in a timely fashion.”
Mr. Morris nodded understandingly. “I thought it might be something like that,” Mr. Morris said. “Well, like I said, she’s a good student. The teacher don’t really have any other behavior problems with Mandy. But, she does keep falling asleep in class. And, when she wakes up, she screams and interrupts the class.