“He survived. That’s amazing,” Jack breathed.
“Toby’s parents didn’t think so. To them, he was broken, just a shell, clinging to life. He was a burden.”
“But to you..?”
Beth smiled. “He could barely speak, but his mind worked, Jack. He was still as bright and sharp as ever, but was trapped in that badly broken body. He could dream, though, and that was when I learned that I could… wander… into other people’s dreams. Oh, we had some grand adventures, Jack. I started writing them down, sort of like… stories. Those, and the dreams I had of things that would happen in the future.” Her smile faded. “Another mistake.
“He had… spells. Fits. He had one when I was visiting, and his parents thought I had brought it on. They sent me home, but I left my journal there.
“Toby’s father was there, the next time I tried to stop one of the Dreams. Did you know, when you drop two stones into the water at just the right moment, some of the ripples just… disappear?”
“The two waves cancel each other out,” Jack said. “We learned about that in science class last year.”
Beth cocked her head. “Cancel… yes, that’s a good word.”
“And things turned out just how you Dreamed,” Jack finished, his voice not nearly as steady as Beth’s.
She nodded. “He wouldn’t listen, when I told him why it turned out like that. He was the first of them to call me a witch. All the Dreams I’d written down, he was there. And even when I was nowhere near when things happened… when things would go wrong that I hadn’t Dreamed of… people still looked at me.”
Jack didn’t know what to say. He wanted to tell her that people had learned a few things in a hundred years, but the more he thought about it, the more he thought that Beth was right when she insisted people didn’t change.
“It just got worse. One of the last times they brought Toby out into town, I ran into them at the general store. He had a fit, and they said that I caused it. There was so much broken stuff, Jack, I worked for months to pay it all back.” She took a deep breath. “I couldn’t see Toby after that.”
“What about… Dreaming?”
Beth shook her head. “I couldn’t get to his dreams, Jack. Or, when I did get to one, there was… nothing there. I think they were giving him something to make him sleep.” She shivered, hugged herself, even though it was a pleasant summer day.
By some unspoken signal, they both turned and started back down the trail.
“He died, didn’t he?” Jack finally asked.
Beth swallowed. Blinked. Nodded.
“And… they blamed you?”
“And you blamed yourself.”
“Almost a year, Jack. Ten months of suffering. Of pain. Of being… hated by his own parents. I tried to go to the service, at the church.” She took a deep, shuddering breath. “Oh, you should have heard the uproar then. Even Father O’Haley… He baptized me, you know. Gave me my First Communion. He was supposed to marry me.” She sniffled.
“I didn’t blame him, didn’t blame any of them, really. But I stopped going to church. And school. I went back to the church. Once. To tell the Father about the Dream I had about the storm. And the lightning. That the people who did show up were going to die, and that he needed to warn them.”
“A priest telling people not to go to church?” Jack asked. “That didn’t turn out very well, did it?”
“I didn’t go into the church, so he couldn’t throw me out.” Beth tried to smile. “My father gave me quite a beating the next week, said he’d never been so embarrassed after the Father’s sermon about false prophecies and the ill intentions of witches. He didn’t ever go to church when it rained, though,” the girl added, bitterly.