Chapter 1: The End is Just the Beginning
The river was flowing like normal with the occasional splash on the rocks. The wind was blowing on his face and he could smell the water. He always enjoyed the scent of water, whether it be rain or sitting next to a river or lake. He sat there contemplating his life and the new direction he was taking it. His life up until this point was a life spent doing what he thought people expected of him. Like the river he had a course set out for him. The new course was decided by the slow erosion of the ground surrounding this river. It started with a trickle and when enough time passed it turned into a flood.
Anthony spent the last couple of hours trying to figure out why all of this has happened. His life was good and he now thinks of himself as ignorant because of what he knows now. He thought he might also being going crazy because of the lack of sleep. His time at this river was coming to close and he wasn’t sure if he would ever look at it again. If you would have asked him three days ago if he would ever want to leave this quiet, peaceful place he would have told you no. However, things have changed now and he knows what he must do.
The river was the one thing that kept him here this long. Knowing he had a place to go to collect his thoughts and be alone was very appealing. In truth, he had never known peace like this before in his life. He found this place by happy chance when he first came here to his current home, St. Andrew’s Seminary. He chose to come here for many reasons; the most prevalent of these was his desire to grow closer to God. He quickly learned that Faith wasn’t just something you learn about but in its nature was a gift.
He was happy here for the most part. He enjoyed the development of his spiritual life more than he ever thought he would. The daily routine, the strict adherence to the rules and feeling like he belonged for the first time in his life was exactly what he wanted. However, not everything about his time here was peaceful. He started having troubles sleeping about a month after he arrived. The dreams would follow and at first he could deal with them but as time dragged on they got to be pretty intense. The dreams were also burned into his memories making it impossible for him to forget them. He learned to deal with them and despite the lack of sleep he managed to make a good life for himself.
It was the events of the past three days that caused this abrupt change of course. As he sat there by the river he was trying to understand why this was happening to him with no luck thus far. The only thing he could decide on is that he must leave or he would go completely insane. The newfound knowledge coursing through his head pulsed with fervor as he tried to understand it. The more he tried to understand it, the farther from an answer he would get.
He thought back to the morning of the day before his life turned upside down. He was sleeping in his dorm room and although he was unaware of it the time to get up fast approaching. He was dreaming peacefully that night, a dream as unremarkable as any he had before he came to the Seminary. The dream suddenly changed from the monotonous blur most dreams were to him standing on cliff looking down on a massive army. This was no modern day army with soldiers who carried machine guns but an army of sword wielding armor clad Knights. He felt his arms moving, motioning for the Knights to advance. He could tell they were eagerly waiting for their marching orders.
As if his soul was being wrenched by the worst feeling possible he felt the presence of someone behind him. He turned around to see a figure clad in black armor who was just standing there staring at him. He did know this enemy’s name but at the same time he felt that knew him quite well. He could feel emotions brewing inside him but he did know why he had these emotions. He felt uncontrollable rage inside of him as if he hated the man standing before him. Later, he couldn’t decide what scared him more, the fact that he had an enemy or the fact that he actually felt like he could hate someone.
His arms moved again drawing his sword from its scabbard. The sword was his favorite thing to dream about. It was five feet long with a blue grip on the hilt and on the balance was an engraving that resembled a fish. Stepping forward, he swung right to left with is sword, a massive swing. The enemy flung himself forward ducking under Anthony’s swing driving his shoulder right into Anthony’s midsection. Anthony felt himself falling backwards and for a second wondered why he had not hit the ground yet. Then he realized they were falling from the cliff. He saw the ground at the bottom of the cliff get bigger and bigger. He felt like screaming but could hear nothing escape his lips.
He hit the floor of his dorm room with his arms held around his head. He was screaming near the top of his lungs as he realized he was now awake. His voice slowly trailed off as he looked around the room. He could see light peaking around the curtains over the window. He looked at his alarm clock on his desk and upon seeing the big digital numbers he realized it almost time to get up. He scrambled to his feet, flicked the switch on the alarm and walked over to his sink in his room. He turned the water on and waited for it to turn cold. He bent over to drink without a cup. He drank like he was dying of thirst and hadn’t had any water in days.
The knock on his door made him jump and he bumped his head on the towel bar above the sink. “Anthony, are you ok in there?” He recognized the voice as Father Koenig. He turned and opened the door.
“Yeah, sorry Father, I fell outta bed while I was still asleep. It gave me a bit of a shock.”
“A bit? You were screaming like you were either in a lot of pain or were almost scared to death of something.”
The thought of being scared to death was closer to the truth but he quickly said, “I had a bad dream, and in it I fell off a cliff.” He left out certain details he would rather avoid being questioned about.
“So you’re ok then?” Father Koenig asked with a look of relief on his face.
“Yes, Father, I am fine.” He was in reality anything but fine. He just chose to deal with it as always did, on his own.
“As long as you are not hurt, I will see you down at breakfast.”
“Thanks Father.” Anthony tried to close his door but before he could he noticed a couple of his fellow Seminarians in the hallway staring at him. He quickly shut the door.
Father Koenig turned down the hall and disappeared around the corner. Anthony never told anyone about the dreams or the effect they were having on him. The last three years went by fast and he never wanted to jeopardize the little slice of heaven he found here. He grabbed his towel and walked down to the shower room, the dream burning in his head. Every detail from the smells in the air to the feeling of falling was very clear. He took his time in the shower that morning, as he did most mornings after a dream such as these. As it always seemed to go he soon found himself down at the cafeteria eating breakfast. He never had enough time in the morning.
He chewed on his cheerios, his favorite cereal, eagerly. At school he could concentrate on other things than what happened in his sleep. The Seminary didn’t hold high school classes on campus. They sent those students to a local private school for their basic education. He crawled into the back seat of the van where he was typically left alone. Looking back he wished he paid more attention to what happened next. He looked out the window to see Father Dunn talking to someone. It looked like an argument was taking place. “You are pretty sick Wally, please take the day off. I will drive the students today.”
Wally coughed into his fist then said, “Nonsense Father. I am fine; it’s just my normal hack.”
Father Dunn did not seem convinced so he said, “You look horrible. No one will think less of you for taking a sick day you know.”
Wally shook his head before speaking again, “Father, I haven’t taken a sick day since sixth grade. I don’t intend to break the streak now.”
Anthony waited for the other students to arrive by listening to music on his walkman. He could hear the others students making conversation as they got into the van. He turned up the volume of his walkman and chose to ignore them. He then saw Wally, the driver, get into the van.
Wally was more than just their driver. He was also the groundskeeper at the Seminary. He knew how to fix most mechanical problems and was smarter than anyone gave him credit for. He was a former military man who served with the Seminary’s Rector, Father Dunn, who helped him get the job he has now. He was also a two pack a day smoker and would often cough so hard that you would expect to see his lungs spilling out of his mouth. Anthony barely noticed the van pulling out of the garage or the fact that it was raining that day.
Anthony’s closest friend at the Seminary is Jonathan Greenwood. Well as close as Anthony would get to someone because Anthony was a loner. Jonathan was usually seated right in front of Anthony as no one else wanted to sit in the back. Jonathan reached back and tapped Anthony on his shoulder. Anthony pulled down his headphones and said, “Yeah, what’s up man?”
“Did you manage to get your part of the Latin presentation done last night?”
“Oh yeah, I got it. I think I have had my fill of conjugating verbs for a while man. I am so glad we are almost done with this year.” Anthony said with a chuckle.
Summer vacation was coming fast and even though he often said he was eager to go home, he wasn’t. He thought of the Seminary as his home and dreaded leaving. Leaving would mean going back to his old life. Leaving meant going back to having no schedule to follow and no rules to adhere to. He wasn’t particularly close to any of his family either. He had always wished he could just stay here forever.
“Yeah I hear ya there man.” Jonathan replied then chuckled. He then said, “You got any big plans for the summer? My family is going to Lake Superior for the 4th of July. My dad says there is going to be a huge family reunion. My uncle is going to be blowing off a lot of fireworks.”
Anthony did enjoy having a friend but Jonathan comes from a family a little higher in society then him. They had money and didn’t mind showing that fact off to anyone who would look. Jonathan never did it intentionally nor he try to rub it in Anthony’s face. It’s the only the way knows how to be because humility hasn’t sunk into him yet. Anthony learned to take this sort of thing with a huge grain of salt.
Anthony waved his hand as he said, “Nah, no plans man. I am just going to enjoy the time off from school.”
Jonathan nodded as he said, “Maybe I could talk to my parents to let you come with us.”
Anthony hid his sudden elation at that thought. He didn’t want charity even from a friend but the thought of going anywhere and doing anything outside his hometown was appealing.
“No thanks man. I think I would rather spend time with my family.” He lied. Jonathan nodded and faced forward.
The rest of the drive was uneventful as was the whole day at school. He got back to the Seminary just in time for supper which was a good one. Tater tot hot dish. He dove into it hungrily because it was one of his favorite meals. After supper he did his weekly chore one last time before leaving. Vacuuming the dormitories hallway was not the toughest job but was probably the most boring. The dorm was approximately 400 feet long and the hallway was 7 feet wide. It took only about twenty minutes for him to get it done. The sound of the vacuum cleaner was enough for him to drown out his thoughts after awhile. It was this time of the day when the dreams enter his mind again.
The last thing to do before bedtime was to go down for night prayer. He was grateful that he had something to look forward to doing in the evening. He wanted to run as far as he could away from this dreams and having something to distract him from them was something he was grateful for. The day had taken its course and he survived it once again without having to dwell on the dreams that haunt his nights.
He didn’t know this would be last time there for it so it didn’t make any difference to him if he led the prayer or not. He enjoyed leading others in prayer; it was one of the things he liked the most about attending the prayers of the hours. He followed along concentrating on his special intention for the poor. The lack of sleep was catching up to him and he was dozing off in the middle of the prayers. Jonathan who was sitting next to him nudged him with his elbow. He shook his head and mumbled an apology. He left the prayer chapel quickly and went straight to bed, though he wasn’t eager to sleep.
He awoke the next morning refreshed and ready to face the day. No dream came to him that night, something of which he was really grateful for. He showered, ate breakfast and was in the van before he knew it. His thoughts this morning were of what he had to do today. It was his last full day at the Seminary and he felt those familiar feelings of dread creep into his mind. He would return home tomorrow for summer break. He had two finals to take today and those didn’t bother him as much as the thought of leaving did.
They arrived at school that morning and he wasn’t quick to exit the van. He was hoping that if he moved just a bit slower than time would do the same. He stood in front of the van looking at the entrance to the school. He admired the architecture for a moment before willing himself to move forward. His feet moved almost without him wanting them to and he was at his locker grabbing his Literature book. He was barely inside the classroom when the final bell rang out. He sat down at his desk then got out his book and pencil. The teacher asked them all to pass their books to the front as they would not need them after today.
He wanted so badly to live in the moment so that it would it would just all slip away from him. His attempts at doing so were unsuccessful and the next thing he knew he was on the bus back to the Seminary. He kept his mind occupied again by thinking of what he had to look forward to that night. The end of the year Mass was tonight and he was going to be an altar server. He did enjoy serving and usually prefered to be the cross bearer as the Cross lead the processional and recessional. In his mind when he carried the Cross he was leading his men into battle and to victory under this sign on Faith. This too came to pass and he found himself once again alone in his room praying that he would be dreaming that night.
He fell to sleep really easily because he tried his best to avoid sleeping. He found himself in yet another dream yet was puzzled because it was much different than others he had. It wasn’t about Knights or war. He was actually in the van in his usual spot in the backseat listening to music as he always does. As clearly as if he were awake he saw Wally coughing into his fist like he does so often. He watched the scene unfold in front of him. He saw Wally’s body go limp and his only thought was that he had hoped this was a joke. The van accelerated and Anthony screamed but did not know what he was screaming. The next thing he knew the van made impact with another vehicle and he was flying through the air. Everything went black around him and he did not wake up for some time.
He opened his eyes and noticed the time was 3:33 am. He was awake two and half hours before he was supposed to be but didn’t want to go back to sleep. He noticed his sheets were soaked from his sweat and didn’t smell all that great either. Once again his mouth was parched and so he drank furiously. To his great surprise he wasn’t thinking about the dream itself but rather about how different it was. It was different because it took place in the here and now instead of some future battle field. The idea of leading Knights into battle was silly for obvious reasons but getting into a life ending car accident was very real.
He decided to start packing up his dorm room because his mom would be there after school to get him. He always left the packing until the last day because of how much he didn’t want to face leaving. He had time to wash his sheets and he left nothing unpacked when it was time to go down for breakfast. He was incredibly nervous that morning and jumped easily at any distraction to his concentration. His behavior did not go unnoticed.
“Anthony, are you ok?” Jonathan asked before taking a bite of cereal.
Anthony jumped muttering, “I’m fine.”
Jonathan had a skeptical look on his face that Anthony noticed so he added. “I am just not looking forward to packing up my room tonight.” Anthony’s lie was not very convincing to Jonathan who decided it was best to just let it go. He knew from past experience that Anthony did not like it when people asked him too many questions. Anthony looked away refusing to make eye contact. Jonathan finished his cereal and went to the van.
Anthony took longer than everyone else to eat his breakfast that day. He waited until the last possible minute to put his tray away and head towards the van. He walked towards it very slowly and noticed he was sweating. He wiped his forehead with his long sleeve. He stood at the door to the van and hesitated before he climbed into it. He sat down in the backseat and he fumbled for the seat belt. Jonathan looked back at him and saw him struggling with the seat belt. He reached back and pulled on the belt. It reeled back into the seat thus allowing Anthony to pull it out all the way.
“Thanks.” Anthony blurted out.
“No problem man.” Jonathan looked down then with a bit of apprehension asked, “Are you ok? You seem really jumpy today.”
“I’m alright. Just tired.” Anthony replied and exhaled deeply.
Jonathan thought there might be more to it than just that but let it go. Anthony watched as Wally climbed into the van. Everything seemed normal like it would every other day. Wally started coughing almost immediately upon entering the van causing Anthony to tense. Wally started the van and pulled out of the garage. The trip was as uneventful as any that Anthony had been in his three years there. Suddenly, Wally started to cough heavily. Anthony could not help but think he was the only person who know what was about to happen making him feel alone.
Anthony got the creepiest feeling of déjà vu that he ever had felt in his life. He saw Wally go limp and looked out the front windshield to see the same car he saw in his dream. “EVERYONE WATCHOUT!” he screamed as he heard the sound of crunching metal and windows shattering. The next few minutes came in flashes and still images as if he were in some sort of fever dream. He finally retained his senses to see the other Seminarians standing around him and they were staring at an ambulance. He lifted his head ignoring the pain the movement brought to see Wally being pushed inside by the paramedics.
The pain overwhelmed him shortly as his head pounded. His eyes went blurry from the pain and he shut them in an attempt to focus them. When he opened his eyes again he saw Jonathan standing near him and asked, “What happened?”
Jonathan looked down and spoke, “Wally’s gone.” Jonathan bowed his head to pray. Anthony had no time for prayer he just sat there wishing he could be anywhere else. He fell back to the ground and just laid there. The pain continued to pound in his head as reality sunk in and he knew the dream he had last night had come true. Fear crept into his mind as he refused to believe it at first. Underneath his own heavy thoughts he heard the ambulance pull away.
Anthony got back to the Seminary and immediately went out to his spot on the river. He sat there thinking about many things. He made up his mind on what he wanted to do next but didn’t want to leave his spot. This is where he would go to be alone. He loved being near the water as if it called to him. The sound of the flowing river helped to ease his pain too as he let himself relax a bit. He had been out there for a few hours before anyone thought to look for him.
He knew he could not continue being at the Seminary because if he did the dreams would probably continue or get worse. If they were to come true again it might be enough to push him over the edge. That is a place he does not want to go. He believed firmly that the dreams are connected to his Faith and its growth over the past few years. He doesn’t want to abandon his Faith but he is too scared to keep going down this path. In his mind the ability to see the future is a power he does not want and would more than likely only complicate his life even more.
Jonathan approached slowly because he didn’t want to disturb Anthony but as it is he was told to retrieve Anthony by Father Dunn, the rector of the Seminary. “Hey, ummm, Anthony. Father Dunn wants us all inside before our parents get here.” Anthony stood up and faced his friend. He slowly drew in a deep breath before speaking. He looked Jonathan in the eyes.
“I want to thank you for being my friend. I know it isn’t easy when I am not the most outgoing guy.” He paused to collect his thoughts before continuing. “I have been thinking about what happened this morning and I have come to a decision.”
Jonathan raised his eyebrows as he asked, “And that is?
“I am leaving the Seminary and I am not sure if I am ever coming back.”
Jonathan’s eye went wide, “Why? I didn’t think you were that close to Wally.”
“It’s not because of that. “ Anthony swallowed hard and he could feel his throat tighten.
“Then what is it?” Jonathan said as he crossed his arms.
“You remember asking me this morning if I was ok?”
“Yeah, you finally ready to talk about that?”
“Well….I know how this is going to sound and at this moment I don’t really care. I have to tell someone before it drives me completely crazy. Last night I dreamed….” He paused looked towards the river then looked back. “I dreamed that the accident was going to happen, exactly how it did. Except…..” He trailed off again.
“Go on, it’s ok man.”
“In my dream I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. I think I was supposed to die in that accident and it’s freaking me out.” Anthony could not keep the eye contact, afraid of being told he was crazy.
Sensing what was going through Anthony head, Jonathan responded, “You’re not crazy man. Relax. If you’re leaving I need to tell you something. Of all of the guys here I honestly thought you were the one who go all the way and become a priest. You have a certain quality about you that few of the others have. You excel in matters of Faith more than anyone I have ever met and it’s for that reason that I know you’re not crazy.”
Anthony felt reassured of himself at that moment about his decision to leave because this wasn’t just a matter of Faith; it was a matter of vocation. He was changing course, not changing who he was. The pain in his head eased off some more as his head cleared up. He managed a smile for his friend and wondered to himself if this was the last time he was ever going talk to him. He hoped that it wasn’t.