's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Advance Warning

Submitted by Dave Lerner

Liam figured the recurring nightmare was the result of a guilty conscience or something. Not that he really thought he had anything to be guilty about. But the timing was too damn coincidental. ran a story about a survivor from a workplace shooting massacre. The dumb sap had just stood there, letting the shooter kill people at random. He'd lived only through sheer luck. Sheer undeserved luck.

Liam posted a comment saying what the sap should have done. He should have tackled the gunman, like in any action movie. He should have punched the guy as hard as he could. If he had some balls, maybe he could have saved some lives.

That night and every night since for the last three weeks Liam had the same nightmare. He was in his Econ 101 class and Ms Bennett, the teacher, had just passed out a quiz. Now Liam knew he was dreaming, he would think, not this damn dream again, but he was unable to deviate from the script. Liam had heard somewhere that you can't read words in a dream. Something about the left side of the brain and right side of the brain. But that couldn't be true. At least not for him. Not for this dream. He could read the quiz just fine.

He would answer the questions: multiple choice, true false, and a mini-essay. In the waking world he'd remembered the questions and looked up the answers. He knew he was making numerous mistakes in the dream, but he couldn't alter his actions. He'd write down the same exact thing each time.

After he'd finished the quiz he'd head to the cafeteria for lunch. He'd grab a tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, his favorite comfort food, and sit.

Over at the next table sat a weirdo, alone and muttering to himself.

Right on schedule the weirdo would pull out a large pistol. Liam didn't recognize it when he'd first seen it. In the waking world he'd looked it up. A CZ 97B, 45 caliber. Ten rounds, and the weirdo had several magazines of reloads.

The weirdo would shoot the woman sitting next to Liam. The blood would splatter on Liam, and he would freeze. He would always freeze. Then, as the weirdo shot more people, Liam, along with everyone else, would hit the ground. There he would cower for an unknown length of time, until a police sniper would put the weirdo down.

Then he'd wake up, thinking something like, that's not right! That's not what I'd do!

Night after night. It wasn't interfering with his life; he was well-rested the next day. But it was annoying. He wondered several times if maybe the dream was prophetic. A warning from the future. He always dismissed the thought. I wouldn't act like that.


Liam sat in his Econ 101 class as Ms Bennett passed out the quiz. Stunned, he looked around. Ms Bennett and all the students were dressed as they always were in his dream. He was dressed as he was in his dream. He hadn't thought anything about it when he'd gotten dressed that morning; he only had so many shirts and pants and had worn this combination before.

But he hadn't remembered going to bed. In fact, he remembered his morning routine. He remembered driving in to school.

He picked up his pencil, wrote his name, looked at the first question. It was exactly as he'd dreamed it, as well.

Multiple choice. The reverse of Gresham's Law is:

He'd always answered b. Baxter's Law. But he remembered the teacher discussing this in class, remembered that she had mentioned the reverse of Gresham's Law, remembered specifically because he'd read it on this quiz. Thiers' Law. Sure enough, Thiers' Law was d.

He answered d. He answered d. He did not have to answer b. He was able to answer d. He could change his actions. He knew his future, and he could change it. He almost shouted in joy.

This was no dream. The dream had shown him a possible future. But this was waking reality now, and he was free to make his own choices.

He went through the quiz quickly, knowing he'd ace it. He'd basically memorized it, after all.

Time for lunch.

Time for action.

He could attack the weirdo before the guy even had a chance to pull out his gun. He could talk to the guy, maybe talk him out of massacring innocent people, talk him into getting the help he so obviously needed. He could pull out his phone, call Campus Security. Or better yet, the police. He could... he could... he could...

Liam ran out to the parking lot, jumped into his car, and drove away quickly, not for anywhere in particular, just getting the hell away.