“Fate’s Design” by Christie Munson

   Casey Pierce walks through the cereal aisle in a grocery store. Selecting a box of Raisin Bran, she turns and notices a child sitting in the front seat of a shopping cart. He’s licking a red lollipop that is almost the size of his face, while tugging on his mother’s sleeve to try and get her attention. His mother is busy talking on her phone, completely ignoring her son’s pleas to buy him an overly sugary cereal with a goofy cartoon on the box. Casey starts to move toward the front of the store, but is almost run over by a man. He’s middle-aged, with round spectacles resting on the tip of his nose.

   He apologizes, “Excuse me, miss, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

   She smiles at him, “It’s fine, I’m sorry!”

   Heading toward the checkout, Casey goes through her list. Let’s see, cereal, milk, peanut butter, jelly, bread. That should do for now. Living on my own isn’t so bad! I’m doing pretty well for myself. Although I do miss Mom’s homemade lasagna. Casey’s thoughts are interrupted when a loud bang sounds behind her. The sound came from the door slamming against the wall after someone had thrown it open. Startled, she turns to see a very tall man wearing a ski mask. “THIS IS A ROBBERY!” He raises his right hand to reveal a gun, and fires a shot into the ceiling. He seems surprised by the knock-back, but wanting to gain control, he quickly advances toward Casey. So taken aback, she hesitates a moment too long. Just as she drops her basket and turns around to run, the robber grabs her by the collar. He pulls her close to him in a chokehold, with the barrel of the gun pressed against her temple. The metal of the gun felt warm after having just been fired. Tears form in Casey’s eyes as he drags her closer to the cashier, who has a wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights expression. His shaking hands were raised, giving the impression of antlers and furthering the idea of him being a deer ready for slaughter. Casey felt the robber’s nervousness through his unsteady hold on the gun. He kept flexing and retracting his trigger finger. When the robber speaks again, his voice isn’t as confident as when he first bursted into the store, “G-give me all the m-money you have or I swear, I’ll shoot!” The cashier slowly lowers his arms to open the register. “Don’t even think of tryin’ anything funn-” the rest of the robber’s sentence is cut off as he accidentally pulls the trigger. Screams are heard all throughout the store, and Casey’s body drops to the floor.

   Casey bolts upright in bed with a loud exhale of breath. “Holy shit!” she says aloud as she feels around her head for blood or bullet punctures. She sighs once reality kicks in and reminds her that she’s in her room, in bed. It was only a dream. A very scary, very realistic dream. She throws off her covers and plants her bare feet on the cold, wooden floor. She gets up and walks the ten paces across her small apartment to get to the bathroom. Trying to shake off her nerves, she splashes water onto her face and lets the faucet run. She scolds herself, Get a hold of yourself, Casey. Next, you’ll have yourself afraid of closet monsters and goblins under the bed. Leaning against the sink and glancing at the mirror, she smirks at how silly she’s being. She turns off the faucet and heads back to bed. It takes her a while to get back to sleep, and when she does it’s restless.

   The next morning, Casey wakes up feeling groggy. She yawns and lazily stretches her arms. Her eyes widen when she remembers her nightmare. She tries to push it out of her head as she gets ready for the day. In the kitchen, which is really just a stove, sink, and fridge with the smallest counter imaginable all stuffed into a corner, Casey prepares breakfast. She begins to pour some Raisin Bran into a bowl, but comes up short when not much more than crumbs tumble from the box. Oh, great, she thinks as she opens the fridge, and look, no milk, either. She forgot that she actually had planned to go grocery shopping today. Anxiety creeps up on her; she’s still haunted by the dream. In a strange way, it almost felt like a premonition. You know what? No. You can’t get out of doing things just because of a stupid dream. You’re an adult, so act like one. The self-degrading pep talk is enough to persuade Casey to walk downtown to the store.

   She ends up at her usual place, Roger’s Market, although the second ‘r’ in the sign has long since fallen off. Now it advertises “Roge ‘s Market.” As Casey goes through the aisles she practically laughs at herself. I can’t believe I almost let that dream stop me from buying food to sustain myself, as if I even had a choice. She drops a jar of peanut butter into her basket. Casey Pierce: Certified Badass. She’s able to go shopping like a normal human being. She rounds the corner and stops dead in her tracks. Further down the aisle—the cereal aisle—she sees a mother and child. She watches the scene unfold: kid sitting in a cart, huge red lollipop, mother yapping on the phone. No way, this isn’t happening. Casey rushes down the aisle and smacks into someone. “Excuse me, miss, I wasn’t watching where I was going,” the bespectacled man from the dream makes an appearance. Casey is only able to give him a nervous smile and spit out something that sounds a little like “Sorry.” I have to get out of here before I have a panic attack! She almost heads for the exit, but thinks better of it. Instead, she quickly goes toward the back of the store.

   Shortly after, she hears the “BANG!” of the door. Her blood runs cold. Wide-eyed, Casey mouths the words along with the robber, as if it were a script she memorized, “This is a robbery!” Oh, no. Oh, shit shit shit. Uh-uh, nope. I’m dreaming again, right? She peeks around the corner of the aisle. The tall man in the ski mask advances to the cashier. He doesn’t have a hostage within reach this time. He points the gun directly at the cashier. He delivers his next line, ・gG-give me all the m-money you have or I swear, I’ll shoot your s-sorry ass!・h Colorful language this time, but he still looks trigger happy with his finger spasms. Lowering his hands to the register, the cashier must have twitched in just the wrong way in order to make the gunman feel threatened. BAM! The gun is fired. Casey puts her hand to her mouth to stifle a cry and quickly hides back behind the aisle just as she witnesses the blood spraying from the cashier’s head and his body falling to the floor.

   From the storefront, Casey can hear the killer lamenting to himself, “Oh, God. Oh, shit.” He continues to mumble as he races to the exit and turns right down the street. The store’s patrons start to convene. The mother clutches her crying child as she phones the police. The bespectacled man yells for someone named Laura. Casey’s head is spinning, I have to leave. I can’t be here. She stumbles out of the store and onto the sidewalk. Making sure to go the opposite way of the killer, she takes a left. Dazed, she fishes her phone from her pocket and calls her mom. C’mon, pick up! After the fourth ring, she does.

   “Hey, Hon-“

   “MOM! Mom, I had a dream and it came true! But it wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. And I died, but this time someone else died. It actually happened. He’s dead. It’s all my fault, it was supposed to me! Ishouldbedeadrightnow. WHAT DO I DO?”

   Casey’s mom tries to calm her down so she can figure out what was making her daughter so frantic. But Casey won’t listen; she can’t listen. Her mind is a beehive. Thoughts, concerns, worries, doubts. They’re all buzzing around, forming one loud hum that keeps growing. She quickly takes a turn down the next street. A man on a bicycle almost collides into her, “Watch where you’re going!” he shouts. Casey doesn’t hear him. She’s vaguely aware of her mother’s growing concern as she turns street corners in a desperate attempt to find her way home.

   “Honey, I think you need to take a deep breath. I’m sure everything will be fine, you just need to give yourself time to stop and think.”

   Her mother’s words do not register. Casey starts to run. She notices the green traffic light, but does not consider the consequences. I have to get out of here, her mind insists. In her blind sprint, she crosses the street, just in time to hear a blaring horn and the screeching of brakes.

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