By: J.J. Cheesman
My little brother Levi, has said for as long as he could form words, that when we sleep, we go to heaven. Back when we were younger and shared the same room, he would often wake me up in the early hours of the morning and tell me all about what he saw while he was asleep. He said that he met our grandmother, whom neither of us had met because she died before we were born. He said that she wanted him to tell me that she was watching over us. Now of course, I always thought it was crap. I always thought he was obviously just too young to understand what a dream was. But as the older brother I indulged his fantasy, and always pretended to listen intently.
Then one day, when I was twelve, and Levi was ten, something peculiar happened. My mother and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, when Levi came bouncing into the room. He gave mom a great big hug, and kissed her on the cheek.
“What did I do to deserve all this affection?” My mother asked through laughter.
“I’m just sorry Mom.” Levi said flatly, expression serious.
“Sorry for what dear?”
“I’m sorry about Aunt Holly.” Levi said in a matter-of-fact manner. He then turned around, and headed out of the kitchen and into the living room without another word. Mom turned to me and said,
“Well, that was strange.” I just shrugged and said,
“That’s Levi,” And we thought nothing more of it.
That day continued as normal. Levi and I went to school, and when we came home Mom made us do our homework like always, and she started dinner. Levi and I finished our assignments and then ran off into the living room to play video games. We weren’t far into our game, before we heard the phone ring in the kitchen and subsequently, our mother answer it. I distinctly remember Levi suddenly putting down his controller, and staring down at the floor. I asked him what was the matter, but he just kept his gaze down and his mouth shut. Then the wailing painful sobs of my mother filled the house. I jumped up and ran into the kitchen, leaving Levi where he sat on the floor.
My mom is the strongest woman I have ever known. She raised two boys on her own, thanks to an absent father, and we never wanted for anything. Her strength was unmatched as far as I was concerned and until that night, I had never once seen her shed a tear. But when I entered that kitchen, I found her on her knees, sobbing uncontrollably and clutching the phone to her chest. My twelve-year-old self had no idea what to do or how to help, so I just stood there gawking like an idiot, unable to console her.
Once she composed herself, she made us boys get into the car and she took us to the neighbor’s house. I was confused, and I didn’t find out what happened until much later. Aunt Holly; my mother’s sister, had been driving home from work that night, when a semi-driver lost control of his rig. The brakes went out, and he hit Holly’s Prius, crushing it, and killing Holly instantly.
Levi never spoke about his dreams again after that night. Even so, Mom treated him a little differently from then on. She wasn’t mean to him or anything, I don’t think she thought he was to blame. She just treated him with a kind of, apprehension. I must admit, I was a little weary of Levi myself for a while. But like I said, we never heard hide nor hair of the stories about visiting heaven ever again. If he did have any more dreams, Levi kept them to himself.
Well, time marched on, days turned into weeks, and so forth. I moved out of the house when I was eighteen, and started living on campus at the college I attend now. It was strange being away from Levi and my mom. Although I was constantly busy with school work, I always made time to call home and check in on them. Before I knew it, spring break was right around the corner, and I called the week before to let them know I was going to visit. It was Levi who answered.
“Hey bud, how’s it going?” I said.
“Alright, I guess.” Levi’s voice sounded distant and solemn.
“Are you okay?” I asked him.
“Yeah, just not sleeping well man.”
“Oh yeah? What’s wrong?” Levi sighed heavily.
“I don’t know really; I’ve just been having strange ass dreams.” When he said that, I envisioned Mom kneeling down in our kitchen and crying, and I shuddered. I wanted to ask him about it, but I was just too afraid of what he might say.
“Have you mentioned anything about it to Mom?”
“No, she’s working third shift now, so when she’s home she is usually asleep.” He paused for a moment and then added.
“Besides…” but then his voice trailed off.
“I know…” I said, and we were on the phone in silence for about a minute, then finally I said,
“Listen, spring break is next week, and I’m going to come down there.”
“Well, Mom will be ecstatic to have the good son in the house.” He said dully. I laughed it off. “When I get there we’re going fishing in the morning, and then every morning until I have to leave, got it?” I said, defiantly. There was a pause from the other end, and then Levi said,
“I’d love that.”
When Monday came, I began my long journey home. I ended up leaving late though, because some friends of mine on campus wanted to hang out and have beers before we all left. I may have had one too many, and had to sober up before I left for home that day, so I didn’t make it there until a little after midnight. I got out of my car and walked up the porch steps, and begin to fumble with my key chain, searching for a key I hadn’t used in months. That’s when I heard a peculiar noise. It was a loud cracking sound, that called to my mind the sound of splintering wood. It seemed to have come from the back yard, so I stopped what I was doing, and walked around the side of the house and made my way with some trepidation, to the back.
In the yard was a large oak tree that stood roughly twenty feet tall, with several sprawling and far-reaching branches. On one of the strong-looking branches, near the very top of the oak, was Levi. He stood perfectly still in the bright moonlight, wearing his pajamas, and staring straight out across the yard.
“Jesus Christ! Levi, come down from there! You’ll fall!” I yelled. Levi’s expression was calm and stoic. He muttered something that I couldn’t understand. Then, without warning, he dove head first from the branch he was standing on. I screamed, and I could only watch on helplessly as my little brother’s head smacked into the ground, his neck snapping under the weight of his own body, which in turn crumpled to the ground. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, and too fast at the same time. I was in a daze of disbelief, and slowly, aimlessly, I walked over to the still and unmoving body. Oh god, his neck was twisted so oddly, and there was a bone jutting out oddly from within the skin, threatening to poke out of his flesh. I would have become sick, but I was too far out of my mind. My mouth was slack and frozen in the expression I had when I screamed.
Sadness over took me then, and tears began to form and fall freely from my eyes as I knelt down beside my brother’s form. I couldn’t accept it; it was too surreal. After a long while of doing nothing, my frozen state of shock began to ebb, and I searched in my pocket for my phone to call 911.
Then, the most terrifying thing that I’ve ever witnessed happened in those next few moments. As I was pulling out my phone from my pocket, there was movement on the ground next to me.
Levi somehow, impossibly, began to hoist himself on his knees, and then slowly rise to his feet. His head swayed on his broken neck, the bone and flesh that made it up acted as if it were jelly. Then, there was that splintering sound from before, and I watched in terror as his head and neck began to jerk violently back and forth, until his head righted itself and once again stood normally on his shoulders, as if nothing ever happened. Levi’s head then turned to look at me, dead on. His eyes were awful to look at, there was no reflection of light within them, there wasn’t anything at all. He opened his mouth to speak, and what he said to me will be burned into my mind until the day I am six feet underground. Then, he turned his gaze back to his house and began walking until he reached the porch, which he ascended before going inside.
It took a long time for me to pick myself up off of the grass, and when I did, I didn’t follow Levi. Hell no.
I walked to my car, got in, and drove it to the first twenty-four-hour diner I could find. For hours I just sat and drank coffee, thinking about what I should do, until it occurred to me to get my laptop from my car, and record these events here.
I’ve been thinking over Levi’s words to me, and what they mean for us. When I do, my blood runs cold and I begin shaking uncontrollably. I can still see his cold, dead eyes when he told me in not just his voice, but many.
“Heaven has fallen, and so too, shall we.”