The flip clock on my dresser illuminated my room with a deep red glow. Soft click: 5:50.
It’s coming. And I couldn’t stop it. I’d never been able to stop anything I’d seen. I thought about going into my parent’s room, crawling in bed with my mom, but I was almost a teenager, and mom wouldn’t believe me anyway.
I lay in my bed and replayed the dream that wasn’t a dream. It was like the others. Super-real. No time lapses or disconnected sequences like with regular dreams. Everything happens in real time.
This time I saw the freeway overpass fall on the white truck. I saw the ceiling cave in on those patients at the hospital. The earthquake was coming. I’d just seen it in my nightmare.
I stood on my bed and stared out the window. Still dark, and silent. There were no lights on in any of the single-story ranch style houses that lined my street.
It was just a dream, I tried to convince myself.
“Just because you dream it doesn’t make it real,” my dad had told me when I shared one of my visions with him. But the vision I described to him that day came true that night, and proved my father wrong. We never spoke of it again. And I never confided in my father after that.
I stood on my bed remembering that time and others, and replayed the nightmare again.
It wasn’t just a dream. The earthquake was coming.
The numbers on the clock flipped to 6:00. The sky glowed ultra-blue with the coming dawn, silhouetting the tall Liquid Amber trees that lined both sides of the street. I heard it from far off, like a freight train moving through the desert valley. The sound got louder and louder, like the train was coming straight at the house and it became almost deafening before the ground started to shake.
And I screamed.
I stood on my bed screaming while my world shook, the dream playing in my head- seeing the overpass falling, the hospital collapsing, glass shattering, people running, screaming, bleeding. At some point my father grabbed me, pulled me to him and stood with me in the doorjamb, covered my head with his big body and held me tight.
When the shaking stopped there was creaking, and crackling, and then water rushing. My mother and sister were with us under the threshold of my room. My father released me to my mom, ran down the hall to the kitchen, lost his footing on the flooded floor, slipped and broke his ankle. I hadn’t foreseen that.
On that cold February morning in 1971, the San Fernando earthquake claimed two men when part of an overpass collapsed on their white pick-up truck at the 5/210 interchange. Forty-four people were killed at Sylmar Veterans Hospital when two buildings collapsed. In total 65 died in the quake.
I saw it happen before it happened. This wasn’t the first time. I knew it wouldn’t be the last. The dreams were rare. The visions mostly came without warning during the day- I would experience a reality shift in a flash. My awareness of where I was became distant, background to another. Though I never lost the present completely, the visions unveiled a sequential scene, tactile, visceral, a complete and instant emergence into a future reality.
I hated them. I wanted them to go away. The few times I told someone what I’d experienced before the event went down, no one ever believed me, until after. And I was never able to stop the event from occurring. Not once. They were fundamentally frightening, and useless. There was no point in seeing the future out of time if I couldn’t change anything.
Though I’ve not had a vision since my early 20’s, I think about them often. I emerge myself in philosophical questions such as whether events are pre-determined and can not be altered even with prior knowledge, or if we can change the future, that it’s a floating point, shifting with the current of events. Eventually I shrug my shoulders, left only with a whimsical slice from Shakespeare. Paraphrasing: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than can be dreamt of in my philosophy.’