It was not a normal dream, she knew that much.

Dreams melted away with the waking; remembering them was like trying to catch smoke, and what little you could recall was inconsistent.

This was different. It was as clear as if it had actually happened. It held together, moment by moment, as real and as logical as her memory of last night’s supper.

She got out of bed, the floor cold beneath her feet, lit a candle and went to pour water into a bowl to wash her face. A dream would be slipping away by now. This became only too real.

There was a knock at the door. Three sharp raps. Just as she remembered it. The water spilt from the jug, just as she remembered, three wet splashes on the tile floor.

She stiffened and froze for a moment. A thousand options ran through her mind in an instant. She could hide under the bed. She could leap from the window. She could scream, she could cry, she could rail against the injustice of being drawn inexorably towards the fate she had seen.

She did none of those things. She wasn’t sure whether that was because she hadn’t done them in her dream or because she had finally found the dignity her mother had always appealed for her to display. It didn’t matter.

She opened the door. Her cousin stood there, just as she remembered, smart and smiling in his black velvet jacket.

Chosen because it would hide the bloodstains, she thought. If the candle were a little closer she would probably be able to see it. Her mother’s blood. Her father’s.

She knew what would happen next. He would smile and charm her, sidle into her room so she couldn’t see the knife behind his back – yes, just like that – and then raise his arm, just so, to strike while she wasn’t looking.

But she didn’t need to look. She knew what he was doing before he did, and she was ready. She sidestepped and turned at the last moment, catching his arm and striking him in the throat with the side of her hand.

She hadn’t dreamt this.

Perhaps she wouldn’t die tonight.

© Kari Fay