I woke in a cold sweat, my chest heavy as if someone were sitting on it. I reached for the phone, but not to call 911. I needed to get in touch with Doctor Heady – he’s my shrink. No kidding.

I’ve been seeing Doc Head (as I call him) for about three years now. I have dreams, very vivid dreams. They are prescient in nature, and often very disturbing. The one I just had left me shaken. I fumbled for my cell phone. The lighted numbers looked bleary in my half-awake state, but I could dial his number by touch, I’d called it so often. I glanced at the clock – 2:05am. My pulse rate was already dropping as the panic subsided. As the panic subsided the dream quickly began to fade. His phone rang. Once. Twice. On the third ring his voice mail picked up.

“Hello. This is Doctor Monroe Heady. You have reached me after hours. If this is a true medical emergency please hang up and call 911 immediately. If this is important, but not a true medical emergency please call the service at…” I clapped my phone shut. I should have known better.

He used to take calls after hours. He’s a shrink. Some of the folks he sees have suicidal tendencies. But after treating me for just over a year he switched to a service. He couldn’t take my constant night calls. I felt bad about that, the thought that someone might actually go over the edge and would not be able to get ahold of Doc Head because of me. So far no one had. At least I did not have that hanging over me as well.

Doc Head says I suffer from a severe case of survivor guilt, probably brought on by the collision. I don’t buy it. I feel bad that Randy died, but he was driving, not me. He’s the one who tried to beat the train.

It took six months for Doc to dig the collision out of me. He said the fact that I had buried it so deeply indicates just how much it disturbed me. Bull. I had not buried it. I simply dismissed it as irrelevant. I’ve never felt guilty about that wreck. Hell, I begged Randy to stop.

He says I am not prescient, that I have disturbing dreams about accidents because I was in one, and that when one of the dreams “seems” to play out on the news I latch onto it as an event I had predicted. It’s called selection bias, where you remember the hits and forget the misses.

But I don’t have misses.

But I have plenty of guilt. I see these things coming, then when I wake up they immediately start to fade. I’m left with a nagging sense of doom. Then when they do show up on TV I curse myself for not having remembered enough of the details to warn the people.

He had me start a dream diary. He told me that if I wrote down my dreams as soon as I woke up then I’d remember them better, and then I’d have an objective record of what I got right and what I got wrong. Said that in no time I’d see that I was no better than random chance.

He was right. And wrong.

I do remember them better if I write them down right away, though details are often still fuzzy. However, he was dead wrong about selection bias. Every single one of them comes to pass. That stumped the old fart.

But I still can’t do anything about them. I’ve tried warning people, but they think I’m nuts. Some even call the cops. I have three restraining orders on my kitchen table – those were recurring nightmares. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.

We’re doing hypnosis now. It seems to help. He is often able to drag out details I failed to capture in my diary. Plus he’s got me wired for a trigger phrase that helps turn down the panic and let’s me get back to sleep. It’s, “Go back to sleep.” No kidding. Can’t say Doc Head doesn’t have a sense of humor.

I flipped open my phone and pressed the Voice Memo button.

“Had another one. This one was about Doc Head.” I sat for a moment in silence. I had waited too long. The dream had faded to naught but a sense of dread. “I think he died.”

I flipped the phone shut and laid back down. “Go back to sleep,” I said, and immediately drifted off again.

I woke again at 4:17. I groped for my phone. This time I did not bother to call, I just pressed the Voice Memo and started talking.

“Doc Head, this is really important. You need to cancel your newspaper subscription or something. You get hit by a car out on your lawn when you’re stooping to pick it up. I’m not sure of the date, I couldn’t make that out, but it was so vivid. I think it will be soon. Your tulips are blooming. The idiot never even applied the brakes. Probably a drunk, like when the Fredricks girl got hit. I think it was a red Lexus…” I paused. I drive a red Lexus. I pressed the button again to stop recording. What the… My stomach did flip-flops.

No sense going back to sleep. I stumbled into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. Then I went out to pick up the paper.

I flipped through the pages as I ate my toast and jam. Doc Head would not be taking any calls until 9:30, which was way too late if this was the fateful day. I considered driving over to his house to warn him, but restrained myself. No way I was putting a red Lexus anywhere near Doc Heady’s house. I just wasn’t going to take the chance.

Then I saw his picture on page 2B. “Local Psychiatrist Hits It Big,” read the headline. “Saw it coming,” read the sub-head. He stood there smiling as the state lottery officials handed him a huge cardboard check made out for $270,000,000 and 00 cents!!! Exclamations included. The beginning of the second paragraph leapt out at me.

“When asked how he picked his numbers, Doctor Heady replied, ‘They sort of came to me in a dream.’”

I reached for my keys.

© 2012 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

  15 Responses to “Selection Bias”

  1. Ooooooh, that was perfect!

  2. Nice one. Bet he doesn’t see the Lexus coming.

  3. Doc Heady is in for it now! Good one – I enjoyed this.

  4. Thanks for the article post. Really Cool.

  5. Oh that was really good Jon, it caught me right from beginning to end. ^_^

  6. Nice to see you back with a flash, and such a great one it is!

  7. Jon, haven’t read any flash for quite some time, and I just loved this one!

  8. Hah! Niiice one. Painted that picture vividly.

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