A Prophecy Divided

[20 minute read]

Content warnings: violence, kidnapping, and death.

January 13, 2023 

11:52 pm

Jess and Alex stood beside each other squinting into the inky blackness of the alley that stretched before them like a gauntlet, waiting for their eyes to adjust. Halfway down the alley, a single flickering light was mounted on the dilapidated brick building’s exterior. Alex glanced up at the clear night sky. At least there’s a full moon tonight. Thank God for that, he thought. The moonlight shone down, illuminating various obstacles throughout the alley: frozen puddles, dumpsters, and fire escapes.

Choppy bursts of steam plumed from their mouths as their nervous breaths collided with the brisk night air. The crisp smell of impending snow made a valiant, yet unsuccessful, effort to overcome the pungent aroma of dumpster rubbish.

Besides the occasional car horn beeping in the distance and the hissing and gurgling sounds escaping from the sewer drains, the alley was quiet in a way that made the little hairs on the back of their necks stand at attention. Overcome with nerves, Jess unholstered her cell phone from the back pocket of her jeans, holding it at her side ready to dial 911 with the speed of a gunslinger.

A critter scrambled out of one of the dumpsters causing the lid to open briefly and then slam shut. Jess jolted backward, dropping her cell phone which clattered to the pavement. She groped for the lifeline frantically in the dark. “That’s it,” she said once she located it. “I’m calling the police.”  

“Stop.” Alex hissed, jerking the phone out of her trembling hands. “You read the ransom note. Let’s just stick with the plan and give them the money.”

“But how do we know if we can trust them?” She said, searching her husband’s eyes desperately for reassurance. 

He held her gaze momentarily, his face brimming with tension. With a sigh, he crumpled slightly and said, “We don’t. But we already tried involving the police once and that’s what got us into this mess in the first place.”

January 9, 2023 

6:17 pm

Jess was standing at the stove cooking Alex’s favorite meal, Beef Stroganoff, when Chloe, who had been doing homework at the kitchen table, slid off her chair and started convulsing on the floor. Sauce splattered across the hardwood floor as Jess dropped the mixing spoon and sprang into action.

“Alex!” Jess shouted. “She’s having another seizure.” She started her stopwatch. More than five minutes and we call 911, she reminded herself.

Alex came running from his home office carrying a throw pillow.

“Turn her onto her side and put this pillow under her head,” Alex said as he shoved the dining chairs away and placed a large mixing bowl on the floor next to Chloe. “Don’t forget to take her glasses off.”

Jess and Alex kneeled alongside their daughter’s jerking body, weeping and holding hands, for the next three minutes and twenty-two seconds yet it felt like a lifetime.

Chloe regained consciousness and promptly vomited into the mixing bowl. Her frantic eyes scanned the room until they landed on her parents.

“Chloe, you’re safe honey. You just had another—” Jess started before Chloe interrupted her. 

“We have to warn them,” Chloe said grabbing Jess’ arm. Her fingernails dug into her mother’s skin.

Jess winced and exchanged glances with Alex who said, “Warn who?”

“The people with the cameras. They’re all going to die,” Chloe shrieked. “We have to do something.”

“Honey, did you have another vision?” Jess asked tentatively.

“Oh for God’s sake, Jess. Stop calling them visions,” Alex snapped. “The neurologist said this is just a side effect of the seizures.”

“And how do you explain our dog being run over by a car the day after Chloe saw it happen in her vision? Or the fire that consumed your office building just like she predicted it would? Were those just coincidences?” 

Alex tossed his hands in the air, shook his head, and then rested his forehead in his palms.

“Tell us what you saw,” Jess said to Chloe.

“An old brick building…lots of people…they all had cameras and…backpacks, some of them had backpacks. They were wandering around taking photos of the building and then…it exploded. They were dead, Mom,” Chloe sobbed. “All of them.”

A chill crept down Alex’s spine as he listened in disbelief.

“What else do you remember about the building?” Jess asked, rubbing Chloe’s back.

“There were signs on it that said ‘No Trespassing’. And there was a bell tower at the top of the building.” 

“That sounds like the old city hall building. It’s supposed to be demolished next week.” Alex said, remembering the news story he’d watched about the demolition. “That’s probably what you were seeing, the building being demolished. But don’t worry, they won’t let anyone near that thing when—”

“Wait, the calendar. I saw it at the end of my vision.” Chloe said, pointing at the family calendar hanging in the kitchen. “And the date was…tomorrow.”

“What are you doing?” Alex asked as Jess snatched her cell phone off the kitchen counter. 

“I’m calling the police.”

“They’re going to think we’re crazy.”

“I’m not going to lose sleep over someone thinking we’re crazy. But I would never forgive myself if those people die and we could have prevented it.” Jess said as she dialed the number for the city’s police department to report a bomb threat.

January 10, 2023 

The next night, Jess and Chloe were back in the kitchen, cooking dinner and doing homework like clockwork. Alex was watching the evening news in the adjacent living room.

“Jess, you might want to see this,” Alex said, increasing the volume on the TV.

“…coming to you live for a breaking news report. We’re standing in front of the old city hall building where the bomb squad has just disarmed a detonation device that was hidden inside the building. I’m joined by Police Chief Henderson and Professor Jackson, a photography professor from Central State Community College. Professor Jackson, can you tell us why your class is here today and what you experienced upon arriving at the scene?” The news reporter, dressed in a bubblegum pink trench coat, thrust the microphone at the anxious professor.

“Well, I heard that the building was scheduled to be demolished next week. My photography course this semester is focused on architecture and this building is a historical gem. I thought it would be a shame if we missed the opportunity to photograph it so I brought my class here for an impromptu field trip. But when we arrived, there was caution tape everywhere. Police were guarding the building. They wouldn’t let us enter and started questioning us…I think they thought we were involved with the bomb. I’m just so grateful for that girl—”

“Thank you, Professor Jackson.” The reporter said, cutting him off. “Speaking of ‘that girl’, Chief Henderson, can you tell us about the tip you received alerting you to the bomb threat?”

“Yes ma’am. It’s quite a story. A young lady in our community reported, or rather predicted, this bomb threat as a result of a seizure. A potentially deadly crime was prevented and we have this young lady to thank for that, she’s a hero.”

Turning back to the camera, the reporter held up a printed copy of a yearbook portrait and said, “And here she is, the hero herself. Chloe Maddigan is a freshman at Maple Hills High School this year where she—”

Chief Henderson lunged at the reporter grasping for the photo and shouted, “This is an ongoing investigation and we did not give you clearance to release her name or photograph. Turn that camera off, now.” 

The news camera was jostled causing the scene to go topsy-turvy and then end abruptly. 

Alex jumped off the couch, pointing at the white static TV screen. “What the hell? They promised us Chloe would remain anonymous.”

“That’s the media for you, digging up stories no matter the cost,” Jess said. “Someone must have leaked the info.”

“So you’re just going to shrug this off?”

“You know what, Alex? I’m glad that Chloe’s name is out there. When has she ever been recognized for anything? She’s finally getting her fifteen minutes of fame and you’re upset about it.”

“Have you forgotten what it’s like to be in high school? This is not going to attract positive attention. The last thing Chloe needs is another reason to be picked on.”

The argument was halted by a squeaking floorboard nearby. Chloe, who had been eavesdropping, ran sobbing up to her bedroom.

January 11, 2023 

When Chloe arrived at school the next day she was greeted by the word ‘Schizo’ written in permanent marker on her locker. She stared at the word, stunned by the cruelty of it. The familiar heat of humiliation rose within her, scorching her face a vibrant tint of red, as students gathered behind her, pointing and cackling. 

As she navigated the crowded hallways between classes, students gave her a wide berth — everywhere she went they gawked and gossiped. 

When she exited the lunch line in the cafeteria, a varsity football player who didn’t even know her name the day before, threw himself on the floor in front of her causing her to spill her lunch tray down the front of herself. After a few seconds of mock convulsions, he jumped up, pointed at Chloe, and shouted, “Oh my God. I just had a vision. As a senior you’re going to win the award for most likely to end up in a mental institution”. The cafeteria whooped with laughter. 

She made many desperate yet failed attempts to lay low the rest of the school day. When the school bus dropped her off that afternoon she ran through the front door and buried her weeping face into Jess’ chest.

After listening to what Chloe had endured, Jess tenderly stroked her hair the way she always did when she was upset and said, “Honey, I know this might be hard to believe but those kids are just jealous of you. I mean, you’re like a freaking superhero. Just remember that you saved people’s lives. The novelty of this will wear off soon and those kids at school will move on.”

January 12, 2023 

The following afternoon, Jess sat in her car waiting to pick Chloe up from band practice, her mind moving like molasses as she stared off into space. A notification on her phone snapped her out of the trance. A glance at the clock on her dash told her that band practice ended nearly thirty minutes ago, but there was no sign of Chloe. 

Jess ventured inside the high school where she found Mr. Halstad, the band director, alone in the music room. He was sitting at his desk, so engrossed in tinkering with a flute that he didn’t notice her presence.

“Excuse me.” She said, causing him to flinch. 

“Oh, you startled me.” He chuckled.

“Sorry about that. I’m just looking for my daughter, Chloe Maddigan,” She said, glancing around the room as if Chloe might appear out of thin air. “I’ve been waiting outside to pick her up.” 

His face shifted from confusion to concern. “She stopped by after last period. She seemed pretty upset. She said it had been a bad day and she was going to ride the bus home. I’m sorry, I assumed that you knew about her change of plans.”

Jess wilted like a deflated balloon. “She’s going through a tough time in school right now…bullying….I better head home to check on her. Thank you.” She called over her shoulder as she rushed out the door.

Jess pulled into her driveway, tires and brakes screeching, and jogged to the front door. A large manila envelope was laying on their welcome mat with nothing but the following scrawled on the front of it: To the parents of Chloe Maddigan. She picked up the envelope and entered the house.

“Chloe?” Jess said from the foyer. The house seemed still, quiet. Jess scrambled up the stairs to see if Chloe was in her bedroom, but it was empty. She ran back downstairs, shouting frantically, “Chloe! Where are you?”

Alex came bursting out of his home office. “What’s going on? I’m in the middle of a Zoom meeting.”

“Have you seen Chloe?” Jess panted.

“What do you mean? I thought you were picking her up from band practice.”

“She wasn’t there. Supposedly she rode the bus home…but she’s not here either. And I found this on our front porch.” Jess said, holding up the envelope. 

To the parents of Chloe Maddigan…what is this?” Alex said before ripping the envelope open.

The contents of the envelope fell on the floor between Jess and Alex — a typewritten letter and a polaroid photograph. 

“Oh, my God. It’s Chloe.” Jess said, falling to her knees and grabbing the photograph. 

Chloe, their little girl, was sitting on a stool in a dingy basement. Her wrists and ankles were bound with duct tape and another piece covered her mouth. Her hazel eyes were full of anguish.

Alex was staring at the letter in his trembling hands. In a state of shock, unaware of Jess’ sobs, he began reading the letter aloud.

Mr. and Mrs. Maddigan,

You really should keep closer tabs on your daughter. It’s a dangerous world that we live in, bombings, and all. Speaking of bombings, we’d be rich by now if it weren’t for your daughter. She ruined our meticulously planned bank robbery. You see, bombs are meant to explode. And that bomb we planted in the old city hall building was supposed to cause a diversion so the police wouldn’t notice that we were robbing a bank. You owe us for this missed opportunity. If you want to see your daughter again, bring $1,000,000 in cash to the back door of Valentino’s Pizzeria tomorrow at midnight. 


Jess, now in the fetal position clutching the polaroid photo screamed, “No! Not my baby. Oh God, no. What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to the bank,” Alex said matter-of-factly.

“We don’t have a million dollars, Alex.”

“We will give them every penny we have and do whatever it takes to get Chloe back. Whatever it takes.”

January 14, 2023 

As the clock on Jess’ cell phone ticked over to midnight, the back entrance door for Valentino’s Pizzeria opened on the left side of the alley, extending a ray of light into the gloom. A looming figure cloaked in black stepped into the light and stood there waiting for them.

Jess and Alex exchanged silent fearful glances that spoke volumes before they walked in unison toward the man in black, carrying their life’s savings in a duffle bag and the hope of saving their daughter’s life in their hearts.

“Follow me.” The man in black said in a gruff voice as they crossed the threshold. 

They trailed behind him as he descended into the restaurant’s dim basement. Sitting on a stool in the center of the room, like a spitting image of the polaroid photograph, was Chloe. She was slouched forward slightly, her chin resting on her chest, her face curtained by her dirty blonde hair.

“Chloe!” Jess gasped, rushing toward her daughter only to be blocked by the two armed goons that were guarding her. “It’s ok, honey. We’re going to get you out of here.”

Chloe lifted her head, revealing a fresh black eye. Her shoulders shuddered as tears trickled down her face and over the duct tape covering her mouth. 

Alex rounded on the man in black, seething over Chloe’s condition, “Why in the hell does our daughter have a black eye? How dare you people lay a hand on her. She’s just a kid.”

“Kids these days…they have no respect for their elders.” Said a female voice from the shadows on the far side of the basement behind Chloe. 

A bare lightbulb hanging from the rafters clicked on, illuminating the mystery woman who was seated at a table.

“Maybe if you taught her some manners she wouldn’t have that shiner. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. You got the money?” The woman asked, gesturing for Alex to approach with the duffle bag.

Alex flicked a glance at Jess and Chloe. Time stood still for a moment and besides the incessant dripping of a water pipe, the only sound he could hear was his own heart, pumping anger and adrenaline through his veins. He tightened his grip on the duffle bag’s nylon straps and clenched his jaw muscles, an old habit he developed when bracing for impact on the gridiron. Mustering every ounce of courage possible, he proceeded to the rear of the basement where he dropped the duffle bag onto the table. One of the guards followed him while the other held Jess at gunpoint.

“Here’s your money. Now let her go.” Alex spat.

“That’s not how this works.” The woman said, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table, revealing hands adorned with brass knuckles and raven-colored fingernails that could be weapons in their own right. Her head, shaved on the sides with a jet-black braided mohawk, lowered slightly as she stared up at Alex with smoldering eyes. “If you think I’m going to take your word for it that this sweaty gym bag of yours has a million dollars in it, you’ve got another thing coming. This might be your first rodeo but it sure as hell ain’t mine.”

After resting her brass knuckles on the table, she unzipped the duffle bag and extracted the bundles of cash one at a time. She held each batch up to the light and slowly fanned through the bills like a flipbook looking for the security thread to ensure it wasn’t counterfeit money. Alex watched her inspection, paralyzed with trepidation. Once the bag was empty and the table was covered with neatly stacked piles of cash, she silently returned the brass knuckles to her hands and shot a piercing glare at Alex.

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” She said through gritted teeth. “Or were you just hoping I’d take pity on you? I asked for one million dollars. You’re about 750K short. There’s no financing plan here. Game over. Anton?” She said without taking her eyes off Alex.

Alex heard the metallic click of a gun being cocked but it wasn’t the one pointed at his face. He turned and saw that the man standing between Jess and Chloe had switched targets and was now shoving his gun into Chloe’s temple. 

Jess screamed and threw herself at Anton. Before Alex had a chance to react, a muffled gunshot permeated the damp air. Jess lurched and collapsed onto the concrete. The unflinching Anton still had his gun trained on the side of Chloe’s head. Realizing it was Jess who was shot, Alex whirled around and spotted the culprit across the room, the man in black who had escorted them into the basement. 

“Jess!” Alex wailed, lunging forward to rush to her lifeless body. He was stopped short by the other guard’s gun jabbing him in the chest. 

“Oh, that’s a pity.” The urban Amazon warrior said from behind the table. “But maybe now you realize that we aren’t messing around.”

“What do you want? I don’t have any more money, I swear,” Alex said frantically. “But I’ll do whatever it takes…please don’t kill us.” 

“One million dollars. That’s what I wanted. And if you were truly willing to do whatever it takes you would’ve found a way to pay me in full. Now it’s time for you to face the consequences.”

Two gunshots, in quick succession, reverberated off the concrete walls.

January 9, 2023 

6:31 pm

“What are you doing?” Alex asked as Jess snatched her cell phone off the kitchen counter. 

“I’m calling the police.”

“They’re going to think we’re crazy.”

“I’m not going to lose sleep over someone thinking we’re crazy. But I would never forgive myself if those people die and we could have prevented it.” Jess said as she dialed the number for the city’s police department to report a bomb threat.

Alex stormed out of the room. Just as a dispatcher answered the call Chloe began thrashing, caught in the throes of yet another seizure. Jess dropped her phone as she rushed to Chloe’s side, yelling for Alex.

“What happened?” Alex said as he returned to the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” Jess cried. “I was on the phone and she started seizing again.” 

They heard a faint voice coming from the cell phone nearby, the dispatcher was still on the line. Jess grabbed it and hit the speakerphone button. 

“Hello? Is anyone there?” The dispatcher asked. “Is everything ok?” 

“Hello? Can you hear us?” Jess shouted into the phone. “Our daughter is having recurring seizures. Please send an ambulance.”

Jess had just given the dispatcher their home address and was about to hang up the phone when Chloe stopped convulsing and sat up, gasping for breath, eyes wide with terror. 

“Hang up the phone, Mom!” Chloe said hysterically. “Don’t call the police. Please, tell me you didn’t call the police.”

“Honey, you need to go to the hospital,” Jess said after tapping the end-call button on her phone. “An ambulance is on the way.” 

“But what about the bomb?” Chloe asked with panic-stricken eyes darting between her parents. “Did you tell them about the bomb?” 

“Well, I was going to but you started seizing again. Don’t worry, I’m going to report it as soon as we get you settled at the hospital.”

“No! You can’t tell the cops or they’re going to kill us,” Chloe sobbed. “Please, Mom, don’t tell them.”. 

“What are you talking about? What about your vision? We have to report a bomb threat to prevent—”

“No.” Chloe pleaded, interrupting her. “I had another vision. Some bad people are going to plant that bomb as a distraction so they can rob a bank. If we report it, the bomb will be disarmed but their plan to rob the bank will be ruined and they’ll kidnap me for revenge. They’ll force you to pay them a ransom that we can’t afford.” She paused. As the color drained from her face she said, “At the end of my vision they killed all three of us.”

January 10, 2023 

The next night, Chloe was napping in her hospital bed after a long twenty-four hours of various medical tests. Alex was sitting on the small couch near Chloe’s bed watching the evening news.

“Jess, you might want to see this,” Alex said, increasing the volume on the TV and nudging Jess who had fallen asleep with her head resting in his lap.

“…coming to you live for a breaking news report. We’re standing in front of what’s left of the old city hall building after a bomb exploded here this afternoon. I’m joined by Police Chief Henderson. Chief, what can you tell us about this incident?” The news reporter, dressed in a bubblegum pink trench coat, thrust the microphone at the police chief.

“This is an ongoing investigation. We received an anonymous tip early this morning from a citizen that witnessed the building being vandalized multiple times recently. Since this building was condemned and scheduled for demolition it was not safe for occupancy so we assigned an officer to patrol the building. Around 1:00 pm Officer Stamos reported that a photography class from Central State Community College arrived at the location to photograph the building. He prohibited them from entering the facility and promptly ordered them to leave the premises. The professor and students from that class are being held for questioning. According to surveillance footage, the old city hall building exploded at approximately 1:17 pm, shortly before the robbery at All Citizens Bank just three blocks away. At this time, we’re not sure if these two incidents were related. Officer Ben Stamos, who was killed in the explosion, leaves behind a wife and three children — Our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight.”

One brave soul was taken, yet dozens of innocent lives were saved. Jess and Alex watched Chloe sleeping peacefully as they had done so many times since she was a baby. Their minds wandered, pondering what the future held for their daughter’s prophetic brain.

Want to brighten my day? Leave a comment below to share your feedback on this story!

Copyright © Jamie Gregory 2023


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