DREAMS HAD ONCE been a bane of existence for Noel Grady, signifying portents of the future with puzzling symbols and vivid tableaus. Over time, the disturbing flashes had grown less frequent, becoming fleeting bits of déjà vu which rarely followed her waking hours.
She was in her seventy-fifth year when the dreams returned. They came slowly at first, brief glimpses of odd images that disappeared almost as soon as they appeared. Then they became more frequent, consistent in content, and hauntingly familiar.
The girl in Noel's new dream was young, probably in her mid-to-late teens. She was tall and slender with short, wheat-colored hair. Her face was somewhat blurred in the dream, apart from startling blue eyes that seemed to rotate like orbs, no matter which direction she turned her head. She was walking along a forest path, which was surrounded by pine trees. It was shaded and difficult to see, but Noel could make out the girl's quick and purposeful stride. She was being followed by several wild animals – a squirrel, four ducks, a pair of raccoons and a ginger-colored Maine coon cat – all of whom were at her heels.
In the dream, a strong wind suddenly whipped into a frenzy, forcing the girl to increase her speed. The sky grew darker, making the vision in Noel's mind even more difficult to discern. The wind swirled over the girl and her animal companions, a misty, wreath-like fog snaking around their collective bodies.
Then, suddenly, all of them came to a clearing. It was nighttime, the surrounding area an ink-black space but for a crescent moon shining brightly in the sky. Noel thought the display in itself seemed to be pure science fiction, yet there it was in her dream. A huge, silver-yellow quarter moon in the middle.
The young girl stood in the clearing, now devoid of high winds, staring at the crescent moon. The wildlife following her on the path now formed around her in a circle, also staring up at the sky.
Noel's view switched to the young girl's face, similar in sensation to seeing a video or camera close-up. She stared back into the phantom lens, her facial features now clear and defined. Noel was momentarily startled, seeing in the face a stunning likeness to her son-in-law, Kirk Lester, with her daughter Kate's blue eyes. It was her granddaughter, Emma. Even though Noel had never met her, she knew the face from photographs sent to her by Emma's adoptive parents.
And then the girl spoke three simple words: "It is time."
She turned her head away to stare up at the crescent moon again, this time pointing a finger into the sky. The dream began to slowly fade in Noel's mind, like a program on television gradually fading to black.
Noel exhaled loudly, her eyes opening in the semi-darkness of her bedroom. The dream had not left her frightened as visions from her past had done before, but rather she felt a peaceful calm, as if knowing the dream would somehow, somewhere – and soon – come to fruition.
With a slight smile, Noel closed her eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.