Need a thriller? Dream Wide Awake is free today, Sunday, November 15th, & Monday, November 16th on Amazon.
Two real life events inspired this novel. The first occurred when I was sleeping in the attic of my grandparents house on Parade Blvd in Erie, Pennsylvania. Except for a few changes, chapter three in Dream Wide Awake mirrors that incident. I was three years old at the time and NEVER again slept with a hand dangling over the side of a bed.
The second was a premonition I had two months before 9/11 of a building collapsing in a large city in the Northeastern United States. (You can listen to interviews about that premonition on AfterBuzz Books or on Beyond Reality Radio.)
Although this novel is fiction, many years ago the government did have a program similar to the novel’s program, Project Dream, called Stargate. A few readers have asked if I thought my novel is another one of my premonitions. As far as I know, the Project Dream in Dream Wide Awake is only a figment of my imagination.
Every author has a favorite book they’ve written. Ask me which one mine is and, hands down, I’ll tell you Dream Wide Awake.
Hope you enjoy the free read. BOOKMARK the FOREWORD to keep track of the characters. Then see if you can figure out who the perpetrator is!
Do my premonitions scare you? How would you like to be me? You can get away from me. I can’t.
When I was three years old, I had a paranormal experience with a black devil. (This is the basis for Chapter Three in my novel, Dream Wide Awake.) When I was thirteen, I thought bad spirits were going to infuse their ectoplasm into me and take over my body. For years I couldn’t walk into a funeral home without shaking because I felt like the person in the casket was, somehow, still in the room.
And when I turned thirty? I said, “Well, if mental illness hasn’t surfaced in me by now, it never will.”
These are some of the events in my life that led to my belief in the paranormal, which inadvertently led to my Novel, Dream Wide Awake. (Read an excerptand/or purchase on Amazon.) But truthfully, I’m an extremely logical person. So, from a young age, I thought something was terribly wrong with my brain. I could feel spirits, ghosts, energy, whatever you’d like to call the phenomenon, but because I could not see anything with my eyes, logically, I concluded I had a wild imagination.
Learning the secret
I learned the secret early on: don’t talk about the wild imagination.
When I was thirteen years old, I scared the daylight out of my cousin, Jane, while we babysat. I walked into a house and felt like something or some spirit would overtake my soul. I told my cousin I was afraid I was going to turn into someone else. (I know you remember this, Jane. Believe me, I was frightened, too.)
Shortly thereafter, my mother told me I had to stop talking about “this thing,” or I was going to end up in a mental ward. So, I did. I stopped talking about it for thirty years.
Ignoring the movies
There is no way to make this sound sane. I had to force myself to ignore the movies in my head: A bank teller’s grandmother standing behind her waving her arms. Ignore. My friend’s mother hovering over her at the hospital church mass. Look away. The spirit floating above the gravestone. Leave. The military guy lingering behind a mother who innocently came to my front door to sign her child up for soccer. Don’t tell her.
I remember when that soccer mom left, I leaned my back against the door, slid to the floor, and cried, saying, “I’m crazy.”
But I wasn’t crazy.
The premonition that changed my thinking
I’m not sure why I had the 9/11 premonition. I was never able to see the vision clearly enough to gather what exactly would happen. And even if I had, what would I have done? The only thing I know is if I hadn’t had the vision of being inside one of those World Trade Center buildings when they began to fall, I might still to this day think I was crazy.
The vision began two months before the tragedy. The first time I recorded anything, I wrote notes in the July 11th box of my desk calendar.
In the first half of this “movie in my head,” I floated toward a city. I realized, months later, I was seeing this from a plane’s view. I was in Northeastern America floating above pine trees and approaching water. I thought I was near a Great Lake in upper-state New York. I mistakenly wrote Huron for Lake Ontario, because I am geographically challenged.
I also wrote tall building and sm city for small city. Later I crossed out small and wrote med for medium. Later still, I put a question mark after med, because with each vision, I came closer to the city and saw its size. I wrote 27 F for the 27th floor, but I remember thinking, no, 72nd floor. (I never wrote that down.)
In the second half of this vision, I was at my desk, working, and the building began to move. The first time I had the vision, I thought an earthquake rocked City Hall. The room swayed. I glanced down and saw huge gray floor boulders buckling beneath me. The entire building was collapsing.
That was it. I had this vision three days in a row, and then weekly once or twice for the next two months. I was always at my desk at work, and it was always morning. I wrote before noon, 10:14, and 10:16, but never wrote any more times because I always experienced this vision between 10 and 10:30.
Keeping the calendar
At the end of July, I told myself I would keep the calendar one more month. I was sure a building would collapse.
At the end of August, I attended a training in Washington DC in a building about one mile from the pentagon. The class was in the basement and the entire time I thought, “I hope this isn’t the building that’s going to collapse, because if it is, I’m dead.”
On September 1, I couldn’t throw the calendar away. I said if a building didn’t collapse by September, 30th, I’d toss it then. (That calendar is pictured in the cover of this article.)
On the morning of 9/11, a co-worker mentioned two planes had hit the World Trade Center. Our director moved his television into our office reception area, so people could watch throughout the morning.
Around 10 am, a coworker walked by my cubicle, announcing one of the buildings had collapsed. I asked if people had still been inside and he said yes. I was mortified. I returned to my desk, thinking about those people. Then I realized—I was sitting in the exact place where I’d had those premonitions.
I went out to the reception area where people had gathered to watch, and said, “I know you guys are going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve had this premonition of a building collapsing for two months. What time did this happen?” Someone said it began at 8:30 and I said that made me feel a bit better, because I always had the vision of the building falling between 10 and 10:30. That’s when our secretary, Sharon, said the building collapsed at 10.
I was so upset, I rushed to the ladies’ room and splashed water on my face. By the time I returned, the second building had collapsed.
Sharon asked if I was all right, and I said she must think I was crazy. Then I remembered my notes. Frantically, I pushed my work aside and exposed the desk calendar, still flaunting July. I showed her and she said nothing.
“I know. My notes don’t really do justice to what I saw,” I said.
“Oh, I believe you,” she replied. “Look where you kept your notes.”
All of the notes I took were inside the box marked 11.
I’ve had other movies in my head—crazy movies. But I’ll leave those for another day.
For now, I’ll just say that since 9/11, I pay attention to the things I see. I don’t believe in coincidences and so I’m sure that 2001 vision served some purpose. I’m not completely sure what that was. The vision didn’t seem to help anyone—except maybe me.
I no longer believe I’m crazy
Cyndie Zahner is the author of Dream Wide Awake, a paranormal novel that is totally fiction, but has been inspired by her own experiences. This is the first in a series of blogs about her inspiration behind the novel. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, LinkedIn and purchase her books on Amazon.
Dream Wide Awake was inspired many years ago on a night I met fright. I was sleeping in the attic of my grandparent’s home—just like LeeLee in chapter three.
In a pitch-black hour, I awoke when someone grabbed my hand. My arm was wedged between the head board and mattress of my bed. I felt someone’s fingers slip into mine and when I opened my eyes, he didn’t let go.
I say “he” because I was sure I clasped hands with a devil. I didn’t see him, but could feel him with every inch of my three-year-old being. I screamed and my mother came and lifted me into her arms, pulling me from his grip. She said I was dreaming, but I knew better.
Fast forward fifty years. This single incident, still so alive in my memory, inspired Dream Wide Awake. The story is fiction, but the setting in chapter three is my grandparent’s attic. My own grandmother was bedridden as in the novel, my mother did have to help nurse her, and my parents, brother, and I moved into a makeshift apartment in her attic.
How impacting was that single incident of feeling someone’s grip in the night? Well, one, I have never once slept with a hand dangling over the side of the bed since, and two, it inspired a novel.
Dream Wide Awake is a paranormal thriller about a family of seers. And at the risk of having some people think I’m crazy and others ask what their future holds, I’ll admit I have had an occasional premonition. My most substantial one being a vague forewarning of 9/11.
For two months before the twin towers fell, I had visions that I was approaching a northeastern American city, near water, from a plane’s eye view. The image came (and there is no sane way to describe this) as a movie in my head. First, I was in the sky moving, and next, I was in a building and the gray floor boulders were buckling beneath me. The building was collapsing.
I kept notes of this vision on my big July desk calendar. Wouldn’t throw it out at the end of July or August because I was sure a building was going to fall. On September 11th when the first building collapsed, I dug my calendar out from under a myriad of paperwork, and there were my notes. All contained in the big box of the 11th of the month. I nearly passed out.
Hence my belief: premonitions can be real. Do I believe in psychics and mediums, too? Yes, to varying degrees.
As a freelance writer I once interviewed a true medium, Anne Gehman. Gehman participated alongside four other mediums in a University of Arizona professor’s afterlife experiments. (The Afterlife Experiments, Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of life After Death, by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. with William. L. Simon.) She said clairvoyance was like playing the piano. Some people sat down and played naturally. Others, no matter how long they trained on the keys, would never make great pianists. But some who practiced long and hard? Did became proficient.
This made me wonder. Could children be trained to be psychic?
In Dream Wide Awake, three boys have been abducted in a small town. Mikala Daly, a six-year-old girl from a normal American family, is having visions of those boys, but her parents must hide her sixth-sense abilities because of a governmental program called Project Dream.
The backstory is that after 9/11, the CIA initiated an innovative national security test program. Twenty-five children were removed from reformatory facilities across the country and placed in Project Dream. The program’s purpose was to augment the adult remote-viewing program. Scientists believed children might be more easily trained and more successful in identifying threats to the American people and government through remote viewing.
When the project produces stunning results, they “recruit” seventy-five more children. Good kids without juvenile records. Children selected had two main characteristics: a sixth sense and physical superiority.
Mikala Daly’s aunt Rachel was one of the original Project Dream kids, and now no one in Mikala’s family will divulge Mikala’s gifts for fear the government will take her away to Project Dream, too. Unbelievable? (Let me remind you of the immigration debacle.)
She was quiet, still, her expression soft. Lip relaxed against lip. Then her eyes opened.
“He can see me.”
At first, because of her casualness, he thought he’d surely heard her wrong. “Who can see you?”
“The bad man.”
His calmness faded to confusion. He tightened his eyebrows. Premonitions, they called these episodes. His wife experienced them, now his daughter. But they were never interactive.
“What do you mean he can see you?”
“He said my name. He has a guide.”
“You know, Daddy, someone who shows him movies. He knows who I am.”
“No, Mikala, the bad man does not know who you are.”
“Yes, he does, Daddy.” For the first time, he heard panic in her voice. “That’s the reason he is at Danny’s house.”
A creak in the floor behind him grabbed his attention, and he turned his head. Lisa darted from the bedroom, ripped Mikala from his arms, and handed him something in her place.
“I told you not to allow this. I said you were playing with fire.”
“Lisa, she’s wrong. He can’t see her.”
“Yes, he can, Daddy.”
“No, he can’t, Mikala.” He lowered his voice to sound stern.
“Yes—yes he can. He’s with Danny right now. Run Daddy. Get Danny!”
“Go.” Lisa screamed so loud one of the boys in the next room woke crying.
Jack looked down at his lap—at the ratty sneakers Lisa had placed there. For the moment it took him to put them on, he wondered if he should run or drive the block and a half to his sister’s house. He decided, descended the stairs, and bounded out the front door bare-chested, leaving Lisa behind switching on lights and talking into the scanner. She would call for a cruiser to go to Janice’s house, to her own house. But Mikala was wrong about Danny. She had to be. He was going to be in a heap of trouble with the chief later.
He ran down the driveway and disappeared into the black night within seconds. His legs turned over like an Olympic sprinter’s, his breath labored, and sweat beaded on his upper lip. He rounded Third Street and nearly slipped in the wet grass on Nevada Drive but caught himself. He saw her house in the distance. Janice, four months separated from her husband, was alone there with her son. Alone like the others. Three single mothers of three abducted little boys.
His mind raced. The police would be at his house in two minutes. At Janice’s in three. They protected each other’s families.
When he was four houses away, he began screaming his sister’s name. Trying to scare anyone off. Make the bad man drop the child? Leave without the child? He didn’t know why he screamed. By the time his feet hit her driveway her light had turned on. The front bedroom window opened.
“Jack?” Janice’s voice slithered through the screen.
He passed her window and ran toward the back of the house, toward Danny’s room. He could see broken glass on the ground shimmering with the reflection of a street light. Dear God, no, he thought. It couldn’t be. These abductions could not have hit his family.
“Danny,” he yelled.
When he reached his nephew’s window, the whites of Danny’s two little eyes glowed in the dark room. He was there. Standing. Looking out the bare, open window back at him. Waiting.
“Hi, Uncle Jack,” Danny said, his little face peeking over the window ledge, his stuffed bear, Tony, nudged under his chin.
Jack leaned hands on house and huffed, trying to catch his breath. Trying to decipher Danny was okay. Alive. Mikala was wrong.
“Thank God, thank God,” he uttered out loud. When he caught his breath, he gazed up at his nephew.
That’s when horror seized him. Above Danny’s little face, secured on the broken glass, a scribbling on Christian stationary paralyzed him. It was the abductor’s fourth message, but the first to make Jack’s blood circulate like an electrical current. The words he read flowed over his lips in a whisper, expelled with terrifying breath.
“One mulligan for Mikala.”
“First day of the rest of your life…. You ready?!”
These words travelled 2440 miles through the air and landed on my phone at 6:35 am this morning. “OMG I love you but what are you doing up?” I respond. “I’m working dude! Gotta get these images right!” comes back on the screen.
It’s 3:35 am in LA and my daughter, Jessie, (a new mother by the way) is still working on pictures for me. She’s relentless. Never stops. And I’m so lucky to have her in my life.
Publishing these two novels has been a roller coaster ride. I’m up. Down. And all around. Putting your work out there is scary. And piecing everything together into a full-length novel? Terrifying. But I have Jessie and her brother and sister and father and you. I have you guys. You are the tracks beneath this roller coaster ride that has turned me sideways, upside down, and nearly ejected me from my seat.
My books are not perfect. But is anything in life?
I’ve been in love with words for decades. I read, write, rearrange, and loop them in and out of each other all day long. But I never really get the order perfect. There’s always a better way to say something.
Just this one time, though, I wish I could find the perfect words. For Jessie. And Jeff and Zak and Jilly. And for those of you who mean so much to me: Carol and Carolyn and Mary and Marie. For my unbelievably strong running friends Robin, Heather, Jan, LeAnn, and who did I miss? (Laura!!!) For new friends Jean and Christine, old friends Jody and Val, my great friends Teresa, Karen, and Linda, my sorta-aunt Penny, my Rose friends, reviewers, editors. AND to the large community of Facebook friends too wonderful yet too numerous to mention. (And I’m sure I missed someone important because I’m exhausted.)
I’ve been a bear these past weeks and you’ve all put up with me, because, well, because you know I’m not perfect. So, thank you. Thank you from my soul. I’m blessed to have you in my life.
My books are out. I’m still alive. I’m finally an author.
What are those words? Oh, yeah, right. “Do not go gently into the night.”