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From sometime in the 70s, I think.

A man has a vivid dream where he encounters a little girl, Judy, wandering around by herself. She is chatty and cheerful and pleased that “Mister” has come to talk to her. She and her parents were on their way to a relative’s place when they were separated, and she’s been alone here ever since.

Mister, feeling concerned, is trying to come up with a way to help her when a huge disembodied voice speaks to him. The voice is warm and compassionate and (he thinks) female. But adamant: Mister is not supposed to be here. “And now you must leave and never return, you who have seen beyond the Veil.”

Mister recounts his strange dream to others. He receives an invitation – someone wants to hear his story firsthand. He goes to the appointed place, a hospital room. Waiting there are a motionless sheet-draped figure on a bed, and a man with severe facial scarring and deformity.

Having heard Mister’s account, the scarred man speaks. “Many years ago, a car crash changed my life forever. My wife was killed. I became what you see. Judy...” His hand slashes down toward the still figure on the bed.

Searches on the Web, including all the verbatim text that I recall, haven’t brought up a result. I’m hoping another reader’s memory will be jogged.

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    This rings a lot of bells for me, but not as a short story, a film or TV adaptation perhaps.... not certain. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 9:37
  • Good thought, @A Rogue Ant. Maybe I’ll peruse the lists of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes and see if anything jumps out at me.
    – user147074
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:42

1 Answer 1

16

"The Visitor" by Poul Anderson, which can be read on Archive.org in Fantasy & Science Fiction v047n04

“I don’t claim sensitivity, I can’t read minds or guess Rhine cards, nothing of that sort works for me. Still, I do often have pretty detailed and, uh, coherent dreams. Carl’s talked me into describing them on a tape recorder, first thing when I wake up, before I forget them. He’s trying to check on Dunne’s theory that dreams can foretell the future.” Now I must attempt a joke. “No such luck, so far, or I’d be rich. However, when he learned about one I had a few nights ago — ”

The scarred man shuddered. “And you happened to know me, Carl,” broke from him.

....

“Mister, Mister, Mister!” The girl came running, her arms out wide. I hunkered down to catch her. She struck me in a tumult, and joy exploded. We embraced till I lifted her on high, made to drop her, caught her again, over and over, while her laughter chimed.

Finally, breathless, I let her down. She gathered the bear under an elbow, which caused his feet to drag. Her free hand clung to mine. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “Thank you, thank you. Can you stay?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Are you all by yourself?”

“Yes. ‘Cept for Edward and — ” Her words died out. At the time I supposed she had the monsters in mind and didn’t care to speak of them.

“What’s your name, dear?”

“Judy.”

....

And she stood above Judy. I couldn’t truly see her: a blue shadow, maybe? Judy was as clear to me as she is this minute, curled in a prim nightgown, one arm under her cheek (how long the lashes and stray brown hair), the other around Edward, while on a shelf overhead, Noah’s animals kept watch.

The presence grew aware of me.

She turned and straightened, taller than heaven. Why have you looked? she asked me in boundless gentleness. Now you must go, and never come back.

No, I begged. Please.

When even I may do more than this, she sighed, you cannot stay or ever return, who looked beyond the Edge.

....

We had stopped at a cluster of machinery. “Tell him what happened,” Ferrier said without any tone whatsoever.

The scarred man looked past us. His words came steady, if a bit shrill. “We were on a trip, my wife and daughter and me. First we meant to visit my mother-in-law in Kentucky.”

“You were southbound, then.” I foreknew. “On a yellow brick road.” They still have that kind, here and there in our part of the country.

“A drunk driver hit our car,” he said. “My wife was killed. I became what you see. Judy — ” He chopped a hand toward the long white form beneath us. “That was nineteen years ago,” he ended.

Found with search terms of site:archive.org dream girl judy "mister" "science fiction"

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    I remember this story vividly, but did not recall the title nor where I read it. After reading the story via the link, it is indeed the one I recall. I suspect I read it in the anthology *Heads to the Storm", but I am not sure. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 21:09
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    My first (admittedly skimming) readthrough, I was left with the impression that the narrator had been hired to regularly visit Judy. With the second read, and it seeming to have been a chance meeting that may not happen again... significantly more bittersweet.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 21:13
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    As I read it the narrator was not paid in any way. He had an encounter in a dream, for reasons not know to him or anyone else in the story, and was forbidden to ever return, for "looking beyond the edge" which may mean just the visit, I am not clear on that. The encounter was one time, as I read it. This has the "elagic" tone which Anderson frequently has, and IMO does better than most SF authors. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 21:33
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    @FuzzyBoots, I thank you for providing not just the answer, but a useful search method. My memory, while retaining much of the flavor and wording of the original, is nowhere near as verbatim as I thought.
    – user147074
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 4:29
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    @AutumnLeaves: You got very close. :) FWIW, the quotes are useful both for phrases, and for specifying that you want an exact word rather than one that is a synonym, or similarly spelled. You can also use an asterisk between two words within quotes to indicate that you will accept having one or words between them.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 5:05

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