30: Stairway to Heaven

30: Stairway to Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Stairway to Heaven

A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read.

~The Talmud

Disturbing images of a burning staircase invaded my restful sleep that morning, waking me abruptly. Sitting up, I reached for the book of dream predictions I kept on my nightstand.

I flipped to the word “flames.” The explanation made sense. I was to expect something hot and intense before the day was done. Well, I reasoned, it has been pretty warm lately. Continuing my search, I found “stairway” and gasped when I read the ominous words: “painful, horrible death.”

It’s just a silly book, I told myself. But before I even completed that thought, it felt like the pages were burning my fingers. I dropped the heavy paperback with a muffled yelp as a terrible premonition of doom came over me.

Seconds later, I remembered it was my friend Mira’s birthday and we’d planned a girls’ night out with three of our friends. Following dinner at her favorite restaurant, we were going to check out the Bluebird Cafe, a popular downtown Montreal nightspot.

I grabbed my phone and punched in Mira’s number. She answered with a groggy hello.

“We can’t go out tonight,” I insisted. “Something terrible is going to happen!”

“What—no happy birthday?” she teased in her usual relaxed manner. “And what in the world are you talking about?”

I quickly told her about my dream, the book’s prediction, and the awful sensation of combined heat and dread that tore through me.

Mira was a skeptic about the spiritual or paranormal, but also a loyal friend who tolerated my idiosyncrasies and superstitions with resigned humor. “We’ll just go somewhere else instead of the Bluebird,” she coaxed.

The moment she said that, I could swear I felt a hand on mine. A warm tranquility seeped through me.

“Yes,” I heard a voice say close to my ear. “Yes, somewhere else.”

“It’s settled, then,” Mira said with a laugh, and I went numb.

“I didn’t say anything,” I claimed.

“I just heard you say ‘Yes, somewhere else,’ ” she insisted. “Anyway, I’ll see you later. I have to go. Mom’s making me waffles for my birthday breakfast. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

I hung up. I knew those words didn’t come out of my mouth. I glanced at the book again. I was almost afraid to pick it up, but when I did, nothing happened. I carried it into the kitchen where my husband was already pouring coffee.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked, sliding a full cup toward me. “What’s wrong?” he probed, seeing my pale face. Spotting the dream book, he grinned. “What drama are we in store for today?” he teased.

I thumbed through the pages to show him both words and what they foretold. As he read, his expression grew serious.

“You know I don’t believe this stuff,” he began, “but better safe than sorry. Maybe you should stay home tonight, or at least change the original plan.”

“That’s what we agreed on,” I assured him. “Mira doesn’t really care where we go. She just wants to celebrate. When she suggested a different place, it felt right—well more than right,” I corrected, describing both the calmness that swept over me, and the touch and voice I heard. “Mira heard it too.”

“Promise me you’ll be careful.” He frowned.

“I will,” I assured him with a hug.

Mira showed up promptly at seven, following me to my bedroom while I finished getting ready.

“Everyone’s okay with changing the club?” I asked, putting on mascara while she sat on my bed watching me.

“Yeah, but they all think you’re nuts,” she laughed. “Now, where’s this doom and gloom book of yours?”

I pointed to the night table and she picked it up, leafing through until she found what she was looking for.

“Yep, that’s what it says, all right—hot, intense, horrible, painful death,” she concurred, returning the paperback to where she found it.

“You think I’m crazy too, don’t you?” I accused mildly as I applied lipgloss.

“Not really,” she confessed. “Normally I take stuff like this with a grain of salt, but when you repeated the words ‘somewhere else’ this morning, something about your voice got to me. It didn’t even sound like you, but I just felt—I don’t know—like it was a really good idea.”

Before I could say anything, she glanced at her watch and urged me to hurry. “The others are waiting, slowpoke. Let’s get going!”

After supper, we had to drive right by the Bluebird to reach our changed destination. As we approached, the girls started teasing me about my superstitious nature and I laughed along with them. Yet, as we neared the club, a strange silence fell over all of us. I felt that invisible hand grasp my fingers again as we passed and I shivered.

We had a great time that night—especially Mira. We all suspected she would soon discover that drinking to excess wasn’t all that great an idea. Madeline, our designated driver kept begging her to hold off being sick, especially when we were forced to take a convoluted detour to get back home.

“Must be an accident somewhere,” Jenna murmured from the back, and my mouth went dry.

Madeline dropped me off last, waiting until I got safely inside my building. I was surprised to find my husband wide awake, sitting on the couch waiting for me. He rarely stayed up past midnight.

“It’s three-thirty in the morning,” I pointed out unnecessarily as I bent over to kiss him hello. “Are you okay?” I asked worriedly when I saw his ashen face.

“Mack dropped in earlier to watch the game,” he whispered. “I mentioned your dream because it was on my mind and I was worried about you. He just called and told me there was a fire at the Bluebird tonight. No one knows what happened yet, but a lot of people died.”

He managed to catch me just as my knees buckled. As tears coursed down our cheeks, we prayed for the lives lost, giving thanks that our group of five was not among them.

That week, details of what happened were pieced together. It was reported that three young men, angry about being barred entry to the club, threw a firebomb into the staircase. The Bluebird Café was quickly engulfed in flames. Thirty-seven people died, including, I learned, one of my classmates from high school.

A month later, something compelled me to again look up those two words that saved us all from a horrible death. “Flames” remained the same. However, to my stunned amazement, the prediction for staircase said “lofty ambitions will come true” instead. When I showed the altered text to my husband, and later to Mira, both gasped in reverent disbelief.

Last year, on the fortieth anniversary of that tragic fire, a memorial was erected to the victims who perished in the flames. As I watched the ceremony on the evening news, I bowed my head and whispered yet another prayer to God, thanking Him again for the divine intervention that spared my life and the lives of my friends that horrible night.

~Marya Morin

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