{Written for Alameda Shorts: August 2018: Theme: Wave}

Look for the woman with the wavy hair.

Mary Ann frowned. It was late October, 1945. Every woman had wavy hair.

But the voice was insistent. It emanated from the terrifying dreams – nightmares really – that had driven her to this place, to this doctor, at this hour, without her husband’s permission and scandalously alone.

Look OUT for the woman with the wavy hair.

Mary Ann shifted in her seat. Look for her? Look out for her? She was so confused. She was hoping Dr. Jacobsen could shed some light on this alarming turn of events. First an onslaught of vivid nightmares, and now the voice of a young man inside her head!

Dr. Jacobsen was a Doctor of Medicine and psychology who had become fascinated by rumors of German advances in the science of psychic phenomena, including extra-sensory perception, dreams, and premonitions. The US military was interested in his research, and Dr. Jacobsen had invited Mary Ann personally to be part of an exclusive new study, after just one consultation.

There came a light rap on his office door, and upon his invitation, a young woman with bright red hair, pert freckled nose, and slightly swollen midline entered gracefully and took her seat in a discreet corner of the room – pencil poised.

Mary Ann placed a hand protectively on her own abdomen and tried not to stare. The woman had wavy hair – all of it loose and red and hanging to her shoulders! And most decidedly with child. The child? This was no coincidence. The dear Lord, in his wisdom, had put these two women, strangers, in a room together. Suddenly, Mary Ann knew exactly what had to be done, but no idea how to do it.

She felt the deep burning flush of fear and excitement creep up from the base of her neck and spread across her face. If the doctor and his assistant – introduced just now as one Mrs. Rosemary Smith – if they noticed the change in her demeanor, they hid it well behind matching expressions – politely interested and patiently waiting for her to begin.

“For the record,” said Dr. Jacobsen, “would you please describe your dreams one more time. Leave no details to the imagination.”

And so, for the second time in as many days, Mary Ann shared her nightmares with Dr. Jacobsen. She spoke directly to the woman in the corner; for it was imperative that Rosemary Smith understand why there could be no choice when the time came; she MUST obey for the sake of the greater good.

The first dream had been an interesting series of impressions: The American flag waving in the background, the head and shoulders of a man in suit and tie smiling placidly in front of it. A long red tie that grew longer as her mind’s eye searched for its end, and a field of men’s dress slacks, standing on their own like scarecrows, catching fire in quick succession.

The next dream featured the flag and the man’s face again, but this time the fields were the amber waves of grain from the song – miles and miles of amber waves of grain, as far as the eye could see, suddenly bursting into a flame that raged across the flat interior of the country in the dead of the night, while the people slept. And the man’s face was that of a gloating idiot child.

The third week, Mary Ann dreamed of giant waves, tsunamis she’d heard them called, floods and raging wildfires, the flag, and the same man-child’s face. Smug. Like a cat who has eaten the canary and couldn’t care less.

By the fourth and fifth week, she realized her odd dreams were premonitions, and here Dr. Jacobsen interrupted to agree. Something deep within her soul was tapping out an SOS for mankind. Military parades goose-stepped across her sleeping psyche, strange uniforms, Asian and Soviet, she thought, and American. Swarms of angry people – men and women both – clashing and crashing in waves against walls of what must be police or National Guard in riot gear – and everywhere in every nightmare, fire, flames, raging infernos of anger and assault. And the child face, through it all, amused.

But the premonitions in week six had shaken her to the core. Mushroom clouds. Craters. The stars and stripes replaced by a blood red flag snapping in a pyroclastic wind, and a country in drought, plague, and ruins. And the face – no longer familiar. Most definitely a foreigner, stern and proud, completely terrifying, patting the child on the head like a dog.

Dr. Jacobsen asked a few follow-up questions, and Rosemary Smith avoided eye contact.

Look out for the woman with the wavy hair.

Mary Ann grew impatient with the doctor; she had to get the other woman alone. Clearly, that girl was carrying something evil in her womb. Clearly, God had been using Mary Ann, a very pious and persuasive woman, to plead mankind’s case; to convince Rosemary Smith to abort her child, for the sake of the greater good.

Mary Ann asked to be shown the ladies room, and Rosemary volunteered to escort her, as she’d known she would.

At the landing between the first and second floors, Mary Ann brought up the end of the war – as everyone did these days – and how blessed they were to be able to raise their children in a new age of peace and promise, and how it was every man, woman, and child’s responsibility to never let another war happen ever again, which is why her dreams were so disturbing, and was this Mrs. Smith’s first child she was carrying?

To put Rosemary at ease, Mary Ann patted her own belly and lowered her voice, “This is my fourth. You are the only person I’ve told. My husband doesn’t even know.”

Rosemary opened her mouth to speak, but Mary Ann rushed over her.

“I’m telling you because I want you to know women go on to have many children even after a loss, or an … an incomplete pregnancy.” Mary Ann blushed at the indecency of her words, but time was of the essence. “I myself miscarried but went on to bear a third and expect a fourth.”

Rosemary’s eyes widened.

“Mrs. Smith. Rosemary,” Mary Ann placed a hand on her arm and slipped into a motherly voice. “My dreams are for you. About you. And the baby you are carrying. For the sake of every child alive today and every child to come, you cannot have that baby. He will set the world on fire! Surely you see, you cannot have him.”

Rosemary paled and took a step back. Mary Ann tightened her grip. They were at the top of a steep set of stairs leading to the foyer and out into the night. Mary Ann could not let Rosemary and her baby leave this house. She grabbed the young woman’s other arm.

“Rosemary, you are young. So young! You have time to have a dozen children. But do not have this one. He is an abomination.”

Rosemary choked and sputtered. “You think my baby is the dictator in your nightmares? Are you crazy?”

“Why else would God have brought us together like this? Stop shaking. Think clearly. Be realistic. If you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler before he was born, would you not? This is your chance to save the world. Take it! For the sake of all that is good and holy in our future, kill that thing before he kills millions!”

Rosemary’s face changed. “Would you kill your unborn child if you knew he was evil and destined to make war and burn this country down to the ground? If you had knowledge beforehand, would you do what you’re asking of me?”

“Of course I would! But I have three other children,” Mary Ann said, “and they are happy and pleasant and well-adjusted. We already know I do not bear bad children.”

Rosemary turned her forearms gently in Mary Ann’s grip to grasp her elbows. Mary Ann felt the conversation shift into Rosemary’s hands. “Mary Ann, have you ever had premonitions before? Did you have any psychic or paranormal experiences before this pregnancy? Think back to conception. Is that when the dreams started?”

Mary Ann blinked. Yes. No. Never any premonitions before, not even a bad dream. Yes, the dreams started about the time of conception. Nothing like this had ever happened with the other pregnancies, even the one she lost.

And then Rosemary Smith said something that cost her – in the next moment – the life of her rather normal baby. She said, “Mary Ann, you are carrying the next war-monger in your womb. Come with me back to the good doctor. He will take care of things and no one will be the wiser. As you say, you can go on to have a dozen more children.”

Mary Ann yanked herself away with one step back, rocked forward and shoved Rosemary violently down the stairs.

She thought about burning the house down with Rosemary and the doctor locked inside, but then she had a better idea.

On the way out, she bent over Rosemary’s bleeding body, grabbed her face to shake her awake, and said. “One word about this and I will see to it that you and your abortion doctor go to prison for a very long time. You were wrong, and this is what you get. I raise the best children.”