Peripheral Visions by James Rumpel
Peripheral Visions by James Rumpel
Alan was never a close friend. He was just sort of there. Even in high school, he wasn’t a big part of my social group but he was always on the peripheral, floating on the edge. I knew he went through some tough times during those years; his father had a breakdown or something and ended up being put in an institution. I never thought to reach out to him; I figured I was being kind by letting him be a pseudo member of our group.
Fifteen years later, we both worked for the furniture manufacturer in our town. I would say “hi” to him once in a while, but rarely anything more. I saw him often enough, however, to realize that something was either physically or mentally wrong with him. Each day, he seemed to get paler and the dark blotches under his eyes grew darker. The slightest noise would cause him to flinch. Eventually, I decided to confront him about his health.
“Are you okay?” I asked one afternoon break. I had sought him out, finding him sitting by himself at the picnic table furthest from the rest.
“Oh, hi, Mike,” he replied. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine,” I said. “What’s going on with you? You look like you haven’t slept in weeks.”
He started to answer me but, instead, shrugged and looked down.
“Alan, if you aren’t feeling well you need to see a doctor or something.”
“A doctor won’t help. It’s all too weird. You won’t understand or believe me.”
Now, my interest was piqued. “Try me. Maybe it will help for you to talk about it.”
“You’ll think I’m nuts,” he replied before whispering, “Maybe I am.”
I started to walk away but decided to give it one more shot. “I promise not to judge. I know you are going through something and I just want to help.”
“Ok,” he said, motioning for me to sit down. “But you have to promise not to make fun of me.”
I nodded as I took a seat, “Of course not.”
He looked me in the eyes and hesitated. Finally, he spoke. “I can’t sleep at night. I keep hearing voices and seeing things.”
“What kind of things?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t happen every night, but when it does it’s like something’s calling to me from just out of earshot. It’s been like this since high school, but it’s worse now, much louder. It used to be just an occasional ringing in my ears. Now there’s way more to it.”
“What do the voices say?”
“That’s the thing. I can never make it out. It sounds like mumbling mostly, but I feel like they are pleading or begging.” He looked at the other tables. No one else was listening. “I know, you think I’m crazy.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied. “You said you saw things too. What do you see?”
He shuttered as he spoke. “When I close my eyes, it’s like something is standing there just out of my line of sight. You know, in my peripheral vision. I know there’s something there. I see movement and color, but I can never make out what it is. It usually only happens at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep.”
I asked if he wanted me to help him make an appointment to see a doctor or a mental health specialist.
“No. Absolutely not. I saw what they did to my father. I’m not going to be put into a home. I’ll deal with it.”
“I don’t know what else I can do to help.”
Alan smiled. “Actually, it helped just to tell someone about it. I appreciate you coming over and talking to me. Thank you.”
I talked to Alan every day for the next couple of weeks. He told me that he felt like the voices were becoming clearer and that he could occasionally catch more than just a glimpse of color out of the corner of his eye.
He opened up to me about his family history.
“Dad never told us what he was going through but, looking back, I bet the same thing happened to him that is happening to me. By the end, I don’t think he would even try to sleep at night.”
“I still think you need to see a doctor,” I suggested. “Your father didn’t get help fast enough and look at what happened to him. Maybe it’s hereditary.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s hereditary. My grandma, his mother, was . . . unique too. There are a ton of stories about her being a witch or something. I don’t remember her; she died when I was four. The only memory I have is from my fourth birthday party when she gave me a card. I remember my mom being upset about it but I don’t know why.”
I suggested that it might be a good idea to look into her story a little more. There might be a clue as to what was going on. I was pretty sure that Alan would find out that his whole family had a history of mental illness. Maybe it would help to convince him to seek help.
“It was the clearest I have ever heard one of the voices,” said Alan a few days later. “I know it said ‘help me.’ I’m sure of it.”
I didn’t know how to react. Alan seemed to think this development was a good thing. I was worried it meant that his psychosis was getting worse.
“Not only that,” he continued, “I swear that I saw a little girl. She was blurry and just barely visible. It only lasted a second, but she had yellow hair and was wearing a blue dress.”
“Alan,” I said, “I think we have to make an appointment for you to see someone.”
“Wait,” he insisted, “there’s more. I talked to my aunt about the birthday card that Grandma gave me on my fourth birthday. She said that my mom got so upset because the card didn’t have any money in it and the only word written in the thing was ‘SAVE.’ Mom thought that if Grandma wanted me to begin saving, she could of, at least, put in a dollar or a quarter or something.”
“What does that have to do with what’s going on?”
“Don’t you get it?” Alan stared at me. I noticed for the first time that he rarely blinked. “I think Grandma didn’t mean I was supposed to save money. I’m supposed to save the voices.”
I made up my mind, right then and there, to call to make an appointment for Alan.
That evening, at about ten o’clock, I was getting ready for bed when Alan pounded on my door. He burst into my living room.
“Did you see the news?” he shouted.
“No, I was watching the ballgame . . . “
“This morning a little girl wandered off into the woods at Merrick State Park. They spent the entire day searching for her.”
“They gave her description during the news. She has blond hair and is wearing a blue dress.”
I shook my head. “That doesn’t mean anything. It’s a coincidence. Maybe you subconsciously put the girl into your vision after you heard about it.”
“No,” shouted Alan, “I had my vision last night. She didn’t get lost until this morning. She or her spirit or whatever came to me begging for me to save her.”
“Okay. Let’s say I believe you. What can we do about it now?”
“We could drive over to the park and help with the search.”
Alan was so insistent that I finally gave in. We made the thirty-minute drive, getting to the park just in time to see them loading a tiny body into an ambulance. The body was covered by a blanket. The ambulance drove off without flashing lights or sirens.
Alan broke down, in tears.
Alan came over to my house one Saturday afternoon.
“The visions keep getting clearer and clearer. They’re still out of focus and off to the side, but I can make out a lot more detail.”
“Alan,” I said, “I know the little girl thing turned out to be true, but you can’t believe you are being visited by the spirits of people who are about to die. That’s cra . . . It’s unbelievable.”
“What if I told you it happened again, Thursday night.”
“What happened again?”
“I had another vision that came true.”
“What do you mean?”
Alan pulled a piece of paper from his pocket as he spoke. “Thursday night, I saw an old man. I didn’t see him very clearly, but I could understand what he said. He told me to tell Naomi that it is time and that he loves her.”
He handed me an article that he had printed out. It was the obituary of John Southland who had died on Friday afternoon. The seventy-five-year-old man had succumbed to cancer and was survived by three children, eight grandchildren and his loving wife, Naomi.”
I shook my head. “It could be another coincidence.
“Oh, come on. How many old ladies are named Naomi? It had to be him wanting me to give that message to her. I sent an anonymous card to her this morning. I didn’t know how else to do it.”
I tried to change the subject to something less unbelievable. “How are you feeling? Are you getting any sleep?”
Alan grinned. “I slept like a baby after I figured out what I could do for the old man. It helps to know what’s going on. The voices and visions aren’t as scary as they used to be.”
“That’s good but I still think it would help to see somebody,” I suggested.
Alan offered me his hand, “I’m much better. I just want to tell you how grateful I am for your help, Mike. You’re a lifesaver.”
Things went pretty well for about two weeks. Alan had a couple more visions but none where he could do anything to save the souls who came to him. One simply wanted to say that something wasn’t her fault. The other, a sickly old man, begged for more time. Through it all, I found myself becoming more and more convinced that Alan was receiving messages from people about to die.
Alan was beginning to look healthier. I couldn’t see any dark blotches under his eyes and he was more relaxed. I gave up my quest to have him see a doctor. He seemed to be handling his gift as well as could be expected. Then one Friday, Alan came and pulled me away from my work station. He was frantic.
“Mike, we have to do something. We can’t let this one go.”
“What are you talking about,” I asked.
“Last night, I was visited by dozens of spirits. They were screaming for me to save them. We have to figure it out.”
“Okay, calm down. What kind of spirits?”
Alan took a deep breath, “They were all boys, around fifteen or sixteen years old. The odd thing is, they were all wearing the same thing, red jackets with a ‘C’ or a ‘G’ on them. I tried my best to make it out but I just couldn’t get a good look.”
I was already putting my tools away and heading to tell my supervisor that I needed the rest of the day off. “What did they say? Did they give any clues as to where they are?”
“No, it was pretty much just general shouting for me to save them.”
“Too bad,” I said. “But the jackets are a good clue. Let’s get to my house and see what we can find on my computer.”
Alan looked up from his tablet. “I’ve checked all the high schools within fifty miles. There are five that have names or mascots that start with the letters: ‘C’ or ‘G’. Two of them have red as a school color.”
“That narrows it down,” I said. “I can’t find anything about any big concerts or festivals that would pull in a large gathering of students. I think we are best off looking at sports schedules. You are sure that you only saw boys in your vision?”
“Definitely. I’ll look at Cedarburg High’s schedule and you look at the Highland Griffins.”
I did a search on my laptop. The Griffins had a home basketball game and a wrestling match that evening. I was about to relay this information to Alan when he jumped up from his chair.
“Look,” he said as he handed me the tablet. “This is the Cedarburg basketball team picture. Those warm-ups are exactly what I saw last night.”
“We need to check their schedule.” In seconds, I had the information. “They are playing at Roseville tonight. The bus leaves at 4:30. Do you think it could be a bus accident?”
“I don’t know,” answered Alan. “It makes sense that they would all be wearing their warm-ups on the bus ride. They wouldn’t all be wearing the same thing otherwise, would they?”
I shrugged. “I have no idea. But if it is an accident, how do we stop it?”
“I don’t know,” said Alan. “It’s a forty-five-minute drive to Cedarburg. We should get there by 4:00. We can figure out a plan on the way.”
“Well, let’s get going.” We grabbed our jackets and headed to my car.
We pulled into the Cedarburg High School parking lot at a little after four. There was a single bus parked outside the gym entrance. It had to be the team bus. I let Alan out and drove my car a few hundred yards ahead and turned around.
I watched Alan take his position near the rear of the bus. He gave me a quick wave.
I, immediately, started honking the horn and revving the engine. I made sure that no one was in my path and put my car in gear. Smoke flew from the rear tires as I squealed into motion. The car shivered as I sped toward the bus. There was no way anyone was going to miss my display.
I headed toward the bus until I was about a hundred feet away. Then I slammed on the breaks and turned the wheel to the side. I skidded to a halt a short distance beyond the bus. Dozens of kids were screaming at me and pointing. Alan jumped in the passenger seat and I took off for a second time. This time it wasn’t for show; it was to make a quick getaway.
“Did you do it?” I asked.
“Yes,” answered Alan while he put the hunting knife away.
We drove on some backroads for about an hour, hoping that we weren’t followed. Eventually, I put the license plates back on and headed home. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a patrol car waiting at my house. I didn’t care. The delay caused by having to get a different bus or change the flat tires should have been enough to change events. The fatal accident would be avoided.
I was relieved that the knocking on my door the next morning was Alan and not the police.
“I’ve been checking news feeds all morning,” he said. “There is nothing about a bus accident or a bunch of high school kids being killed. There’s a story about a semi-truck going out of control and smashing into the side of a bridge near Cedarburg, but no one died.”
“We did it.” A huge grin filled my face.
“Yes, we did, friend.”
Alan was never a close friend, until now. Now, we were a team; partners in an ongoing quest to help unfortunate souls.
Copyright James Rumpel 2021