Leah's young audience cheered and clapped. She laughed with them, their exuberance infectious. Contentment flowed through her as she watched their happy faces. How lucky she was to have a job that let her work with kids on a daily basis.
"Okay everyone, we're going to read one more book before snack time. This is one of my absolute favorite--"
The ground suddenly shifted beneath her as daylight turned to darkness...
Leah trembled on the edge of consciousness, trapped in the shimmer of light that marked the onset of one of her visions. She wanted to scream at the injustice of it all. The visions had been absent for two years, since the tragedy that had shaken the foundations of her world. She'd started to believe that she had finally been left in peace. Now that peace shattered into a thousand tiny shards.
The ringing in her ears reached a crescendo. Waves of panic and nausea rolled through her stomach. All traces of her normal, everyday life disappeared. In the next instant she was transported onto a quiet residential street. Leah shivered in the cold, rubbing her hands across her arms to warm herself.
The bare branches of stately elms canopied the snow-covered street, which was lined with older two- and three-story homes. The street looked familiar, almost like her own neighborhood in Winnipeg, the city on the Canadian prairies where she lived. A small boy wearing a winter parka and a bright blue knitted hat walked towards a deserted school.
Oh God, please not another child.
A car stopped at the curb. A man got out and stepped toward the boy, his hand outstretched. The boy shook his head at first and attempted to go around him, but after a few steps, he turned around. He listened with rapt attention. Finally he reached for the man's hand and together they walked to the car.
Leah tried to scream at the boy to run, but no sound would come from her closed throat. Her heart hammered in her chest as she helplessly watched the car pull away with the boy staring out the back window.
As suddenly as it appeared the scene vanished.
When Leah's sight cleared, ten pairs of anxious four-year-old eyes stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and fear. She knew only seconds had elapsed, though the vision had seemed to pass in a slow, dreamlike state. She took a deep calming breath, remembering that this was Friday and she was in the Winnipeg Public Library where she worked. Her regular Friday morning story-hour group sat in a semi-circle in front of her. Relief flooded through her when she caught sight of a well-worn copy of Peter Rabbit beside her on the floor, and she remembered they'd been about to read it. She picked up the book with trembling fingers, the familiar feel of it giving her a much-needed sense of normalcy.
"Okay everyone," she said. She forced a smile, hoping to reassure the children. "When we finish the story it's snack time."
Why now, after two years? Why couldn't these visions leave her alone? All she wanted was a normal life like everyone else.
She struggled to keep the panic at bay.
But as she finished reading the book and watched the children jump up and head toward the snack table, she knew instinctively that what passed for normal in her life had just been irrevocably altered.