Rated: ASR · Short Story · Supernatural · #1633034
A troubled man has a surprising experience with a phantom
The Just Phantom
J. E. McCarty
Dennis Wilber woke up to the annoying buzz of his alarm clock. He felt tired because he had not slept well again. For some reason, the man from the parking lot popped into his mind.
“That thief isn’t worth losing sleep over,” he thought. “If he would just get a job, he wouldn’t need to steal from shopping carts. No one crosses me and gets away with it. I just wish I knew why our upcoming day in court is troubling me.”
He noticed that his jaw was sore, even more than yesterday. He looked in the mirror and saw it was also a little red and it puzzled him. After shaving, he applied a soothing cream to his reddened skin.
He ate a quick breakfast, gulped down some coffee, and grabbed his brief case as he went out to the bus stop.
On the bus, he found himself wondering why everyone seemed so rude. “I’ve never been rude to these people. Why is everyone acting like they own this bus?” Then, about the time he was getting comfortable, a dream he had last night bursts into his mind.
A man was running with a woman’s purse, with a woman screaming behind him. He suddenly stopped in the street, looking frightened. A police cruiser swerved to avoid hitting him and ran off the road.
He then understood why he didn’t sleep well again. This dream seemed clearer than the one about the thugs almost robbing the old man, the night before. He shrugged it off. His stop was two blocks away.
He walked into the office. Maggie said, “Good morning, Dennis.”
“Good morning, gang,” he replied flatly.
Maggie said to her coworker, Ralph, “Dennis doesn’t sound too good today. He didn’t seem very good yesterday, either. I hope he isn’t sick.”
Dennis headed straight for the coffee maker. Over his extra cup of coffee, he had another flashback from the last night’s dream.
The woman chasing the man with her purse reached the intersection. She suddenly stopped, looking frightened. Then, she noticed the police officer get out of the patrol car and started to look around. She saw the man running with her purse, and shouted, “That man has my purse!”
The police officer turned and chased the man. About two blocks down the road, he caught him and brought him back to the car.
Dennis poured another cup of coffee.
By lunchtime, he felt better, even though his jaw was still a bit sore. The fact that everybody’s lunch orders arrived on time improved everyone’s mood. While in the middle of his roast beef sandwich, his coworker, Ralph, noticed a story in the newspaper that he found strange, and started reading it aloud.
“Here is a bizarre article. It’s titled, ‘A purse snatcher, and a Phantom.’
“‘About 4:00 AM this morning, a police officer arrested a man, Phillip Richardson, for purse snatching.
“‘Both the victim, Ann Henderson, and the suspect reported seeing a glowing figure suspended in the air above the street, just prior to when the officer made the arrest.
“‘The officer apprehended the suspect after he apparently tripped, while fleeing from the scene. The suspect was reported stating, “Is that Phantom following me?” when the officer cuffed him….’
“The article goes on. But, I think this is my first time hearing of a phantom aiding the police.”
Dennis suddenly found himself experiencing another dream flashback.
From higher above the street, he could see the police officer giving the woman her pink purse back to her.
“Dennis, have you ever heard of anything like that?” asked Ralph.
Snapping back, he said, “What? Sorry, my mind drifted for a moment. What were you asking?”
“Have you ever heard of a phantom aiding the police?”
He paused to think for a moment and answered, “No, I don’t think so. However, the story does sound a lot like a dream I had. In it, a woman chased a man with her purse into an intersection. Something frightened them when they reached the intersection. A police car nearly ran him over. Then, the officer caught the thief.”
Ralph looked puzzled, and said, “Interesting, this story does say, later, that the officer nearly ran him over, because he was standing in the middle of the street.”
“That is interesting. But, it must have taken some courage for a guy to run off with a woman’s pink purse.”
Looking surprised, Ralph replied, “Have you read this story, or seen it on TV?”
“No, your reading it was my first time hearing the story.”
“Well, the story doesn’t say what color her purse is, but look at this.”
Ralph held up the newspaper. There was a color picture next to the article, showing the woman from the police car’s dash cam. She was holding a pink purse. Dennis was surprised, and knew he had seen her before. He said, “That’s quite a coincidence.”
Doubtingly, Ralph responded, “What’re the odds? It seems more likely that you went to sleep with the TV on, and overheard an early morning news report.”
Feeling a little confused, he replied, “I don’t remember the TV being on this morning. But, I was feeling tired when I got up. That sounds like the most likely explanation.”
* * * * *
The next morning, Dennis woke up feeling more rested than yesterday. However, the first thing he noticed was that his jaw was sore again; and he remembered having another one of those dreams that night.
A man was driving late at night. He was suddenly startled, swerved, and crashed into the side of a house. He got out of the car to check the damage to his car and the building. Then, looking through a hole in the wall, the man discovered two young children with their ankles chained to the bedposts.
Shocked by the image in his dream, he remembered Ralph suggesting that he may have left his TV on. He got out of bed and checked to see if his TV was on; it wasn’t on. He looked in the mirror and noticed his jaw looked redder than yesterday.
He made up an ice bag for his jaw, and turned on the TV to see what was on the morning news. Less than ten minutes had passed, when a story caught his attention.
“Another report of ‘The Phantom’ surfaced early this morning, when a man was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and false imprisonment of two seven-year-old brothers.
“A man discovered the crime after he veered off the road and hit the side of the house, where the two brothers were being held by the suspect that lived there, and made a two-foot hole in the wall. The two boys had their ankles chained to their bedposts. The names of the suspect, and the children, are not available.
“The driver of the car that collided with the house claimed that he was startled by a glowing figure in the air over the street. The driver, William Madison, stated, ‘After I had time to think about it, it sounds like that phantom reported yesterday in that purse snatching story. It looked like some kind of glowing being hovering in the air, just looking at me. I nearly pissed my pants.’ There is no report of any DUI charges against Mr. Madison.
“This being such an emotional and unusual story, we will be keeping you informed of this kidnapping case, and any more reports of a hovering phantom, as they come in.”
Dennis noticed that, in his dreams and both news stories, there was some sort of accident that somehow resolved an undesirable situation.
Then, he suddenly remembered something else. He was about five years old. He was leaving his father’s funeral with his mother. His father had died after a car hit him. Just as they were getting into their car, a bum stole his mother’s purse. A cold feeling flowed through him.
* * * * *
The others on the bus that morning didn’t seem as rude as they did yesterday, but then, he wasn’t paying much attention. A few minutes after he settled in, he experienced another flashback from the dream that night. It was even clearer than the earlier ones.
From above, he could see the police cuffing the man from the house and putting him into a police car. He also saw the two young brothers put into another car, both had swollen and bleeding ankles.
When he arrived at the office, he exchanged the usual greetings with his coworkers. Ralph commented to Maggie, “It looks like Dennis slept better last night. But, he still seems to have something on his mind. And, I think the right side of his face is a little puffy.”
With the help of a little more coffee, the morning went fairly smoothly.
During lunch, Ralph found the new story in the newspaper about the kidnapping case and “The Phantom.” After he read it, his coworkers were shocked. Looking at Dennis, Ralph commented, “You don’t seem surprised.”
“I saw the story on TV this morning. Those kids didn’t look good.”
Ralph raised his eyebrows, and said, “I’m surprised that they would show pictures of those boys on TV.”
Dennis realized he slipped again. “That’s a good point.”
Ralph didn’t seem satisfied with that response. But, he brushed it off and asked, “Another thing, if you don’t mind me asking, your jaw looks like you took a punch. Were you in a fight with someone?”
Not having an explanation for his jaw, he said, “Not that I recall. I must have slept on it wrong, or something.”
After lunch, Dennis web searched “premonitions” and located a local expert on the subject. He found her office after work.
* * * * *
Mrs. Henderson was one of the local psychics that had done extensive research on premonitions. Dennis managed to see her on short notice. Her well-organized office looked like she had a full time cleaning crew. Being careful not to mess up anything, he sat down and told her what he had been experiencing with his dreams and the news stories over the last few days.
Mrs. Henderson asked, “Mr. Wilber, have you had any dreams that were like a recent news story, but there was no report of a phantom in the story?”
He thought for a moment and answered, “No, I don’t recall any. But, I did have one dream like the others, about an old man that was almost mugged, that was not followed by a news story.”
“When did you begin waking up with a sore jaw?”
“On the morning after the first of these dreams.”
She stared at Dennis for a moment, and then stated, “I suspect that there may be a connection between your dreams and this phantom.”
A little alarmed, he asked, “Are you saying that it might me coming for me?”
“No, I see no reason to believe that this phantom is coming for anyone. I have another question. Has anything else been bothering you, lately?”
He stopped to think again and replied, “Well, there is something that pops up in my mind more than it seems to be worth, lately. A few days ago, just before these dreams started, a man in the parking lot of a supermarket tried to steel food from my cart. Security was near by. I had him arrested. We appear in court soon.”
She raised her eyebrows, and said, “I suspect that this may also be connected to these dreams you have been having.” She took a business card out of a file box, and offered it to Dennis. “These dreams you are having may not be premonitions. I feel you need to talk to a paranormal expert. This is the one that I recommend.”
“Why do you feel I need to see this ‘paranormal’ expert? I don’t even know what a paranormal expert is.”
“A paranormal expert investigates the phenomenon that conventional science does not explain. Phantoms are in the field of the paranormal. At this time, I feel he is the most helpful person you can talk to.”
After a brief laugh, he replied, “I’ll think about it, Mrs. Henderson.”
* * * * *
That night, he woke up with his heart pounding; and felt like he had just been in a fight. He had had another one of those dreams. It was the clearest one yet. When he looked in the mirror, he looked like he had been in a fight. He started to go to the TV to watch the morning news, until he realized that it was 3:30 AM. After icing his face for about twenty minutes, he tried to go back to sleep, but had little success. About 5:00 AM, he started a pot of coffee. Then, at 6:00 AM, he turned on his TV.
He was thinking about starting another pot of coffee, when a story caught his attention about 6:20.
“There was a report of ‘The Phantom’ being seen again about 3:30 this morning. The man, who reported seeing ‘The Phantom,’ startled by the sitting, accidentally backed his car into a tree next to his house, and uprooted the tree.
“While inspecting the damage, the man, Fredric Spencer, found an old box under the roots of the tree. When he managed to get the box open, he found it filled with gold coins.
“A police officer was dispatched to the scene because his neighbor had heard a scream. The scream turned out to be from Mr. Spencer, when he opened the box.
“This discovery turned out to be a miraculous good fortune for Mr. Spencer. He was bankrupt, and was about to lose his house….”
He thought back to his dream.
He saw a frightened man back his car into a tree, he got out of his car, looked at the back of the car and then at the tree. He picked up a dirty old box and pried it open with a miner’s pick from the trunk of his car, which had popped open when he hit the tree. The man let out a loud scream.
In the news story, there was a picture of a middle-aged man holding the box of coins. A miner’s pick was leaning against a rear fender of the car and the trunk was open.
“Oh my God,” he thought. He started the second pot of coffee, found the card for the paranormal expert given to him by the psychic, and called in sick to work.
* * * * *
Dennis greeted Dr. Stevens at his office door when he arrived later that morning. The Doctor asked, “Can I help you, sir?”
“I hope so, Doctor. My name is Dennis Wilber. I saw a psychic, Mrs. Henderson, and she recommended that I talk to you.”
“People usually make an appointment first, Mr. Wilber.”
“I have something to tell you about ‘The Phantom’ in the news, that I think you will be interested in.”
He looked at Dennis critically, and said, “I hope you are not going to tell me the Phantom beat you up.”
Almost laughing, he answered, “No, I’m not sure how to explain my face, but I’ll try.”
“I hope you are not wasting my time.”
Inside the doctor’s office, his desk has so many books on it that you almost couldn’t find his desktop computer. They sat in a pair of high backed office chairs. Dr. Stevens then said, “Okay, Mr. Wilber, what do you have to tell me about “‘The Phantom,’ and your face?”
When Dennis was finished telling him the story of his last few days, the doctor sat there staring at him, and asked, “What have you read about the paranormal?”
“Before yesterday, I had never heard the word before.”
“Would it be okay if I did some tests?”
“If you think it’ll either stop them or explain why I’m having these dreams.”
The doctor photographed his aura, checked for telepathic abilities, and took Dennis’ skin resistance readings, as he read a list of words and showed him some pictures.
When the tests were finished, over an hour later, the doctor looked intrigued, and asked, “Mr. Wilber, do you have any family history of similar occurrences?”
“Well, there were people on both sides of the family that others had trouble understanding, some of them were fortune tellers.”
“Has there been anything else that has been troubling you lately?”
With a sigh, Dennis answered, “Yes, for some reason, I often think about a man, I filed charges against a few days ago. He tried to steel food out of my cart in a supermarket parking lot.”
“Was that before or after you started having these dreams?”
“Funny, the psychic also wondered if I was troubled by anything else. It was just before the dreams started.”
Dr. Stevens looked concerned, and asked, “Do you often have issues with people in need?”
Now, a little restless, he answered, “I have always had trouble with beggars. Why don’t they get a job?”
“Do you know where this issue is coming from?”
Dennis looked annoyed when he answered, “I’m not sure; but I had a bad experience with a bum when I was five.”
The doctor put his hand on his chin as he said, “I see. Sir, I see a similarity between the man you are filing charges against, the people in your dreams and news stories; they are all in need in some way. I have also noticed that the outcomes of the dreams, and news stories, have always somehow addressed their needs.”
“I noticed some of that, too. However, how can they have anything to do with each other?”
“I’m sure that you’ve noticed that the events in one’s life sometimes don’t turn out anywhere near what were planned. This is mostly because the mind and the soul do not always agree. And, the soul is a lot more powerful than most people know.”
Critically, Dennis asked, “Are you telling me that the mind and the soul are not the same?”
“Yes, I am. In psychology, they refer to the conscious mind to mean what most people call the mind. Psychology also refers to the sub-conscious and the super-conscious. Much of that is in the realm of the soul, and is the most powerful part of our experience. But, most people are not aware of it.”
Dennis looked very doubtful and asked, “Are you saying that my soul has something to do with this phantom?”
“I’m saying that your soul may be this phantom. My tests show that you may have this ability; some call it Astral Projection.”
Dennis looked shocked and said, “Now, I think I’ve heard everything, Doctor.”
“This is a new idea for most people. However, as I said earlier, the soul is more powerful than you know. Astral Projection is like the soul moonlighting. It is taking a journey by itself. If this happens when you are very upset about something, other people may see it looking like a ghost.”
He looked at Dr. Stevens, as if he was crazy and walked out of his office.
* * * * *
The next morning, he was up early. He felt tired, but couldn’t remember having any dreams that night. The swelling on his face had gone down, but he noticed his teeth hurt. He checked the morning news on the TV and the radio; there were no reports of “The Phantom.” “Hopefully, it is all over,” he thought.
After breakfast, he checked his calendar. He noticed that tomorrow is his court date for him and the thief in the parking lot. He experienced strong mixed feelings about it, and wonders why.
While on the bus to work, he saw a woman give money to a beggar on the street. He suddenly remembered a dream he had last night. Very little was happening in this dream.
He saw the man he will be taking to court, with his wife and four-year-old child. He saw them through a window sitting at their dinning room table, quietly eating bread and beans with water late at night. He just watched them for a while and the scene faded.
Stronger feelings went through his mind. Again, he remembered his experience with the bum when he was five. “Is this how I truly feel?” he thought. Hitting him like a board, he suddenly realized what he needed to do.
When he arrived at work, his coworkers looked at him oddly, and asked how he was feeling. “I’m feeling better,” he cheerfully responded.
Once in his office, he called the courthouse and asked to drop the charges against the man from the parking lot. The clerk told him he needed to go to the courthouse and drop the charges in person.
He did his best to keep his mind on his work. At lunchtime, he looked up the man’s address before going to the courthouse a few blocks away.
He took a brisk walk to the courthouse, dropped the charges, stopped at a supermarket and sent a large box of food to the man’s home.
After lunch, Ralph commented, “You’re looking much better. Maybe we all should take a walk before lunch.”
With a smile, Dennis responded, “That might not be a bad idea.”
That might, he had the best night’s sleep he has had in months. There were no reports of “The Phantom” for a long time.