Continued from: Earworm: Part 52 — Contagion
“You look like you’re serious,” Joel said.
“I am serious,” Hope said.
“C’mon, I don’t even want to talk about this stuff.”
“Because it’s nuts,” Joel said in a hushed growl, leaning forward and glancing around the back corner of the town library, where most high school students went on weekday evenings—a place for them to gather without parents nagging them about going out on a weeknight. “That’s why,” Joel said, leaning back in his seat.
“I know it sounds crazy,” Hope said in a voice sounding way too level for this—she actually did sound serious—“But wouldn’t it make sense?”
“Um… no, not really.”
“Look, it sounds ridiculous, but it does makes sense,” Hope said in a dire whisper, sounding like Nancy Drew unraveling some implausible plot.
“No it doesn’t,” Joel mocked her whisper.
“How else do you explain why we’re having these night terrors?”
“What the hell’s a night terror?”
“What we’re having. And how can our dreams have such similarities? And how come they all involve William Knight?”
“Mine didn’t involve William Knight. I dreamt about you, remember?”
“Yeah, the same way I dreamt about you. But in some way, William was in the dreams. In all your nightmares, you know, before you got paralyzed, or in the car crash, or in the locker room, what were you thinking about?”
“I have no idea. What? Am I supposed to remember every detail of a dream?”
“I think you do,” Hope said with the tone of a trial lawyer drilling a witness. “Think about it, what were you thinking about at the beginning of your dream last night?”
“I don’t know,” Joel said. But he did know, he distinctly remembered thinking about whacking William Knight in the face with the volleyball. “I don’t remember,” he lied. He wasn’t going to humor her and say that yeah, he was, in fact, thinking about William at the beginning of his dream. Because if he was following what she was saying, she was suggesting that little Willy Knightmare was causing matching his and her bad dreams.
“In my dreams,” Hope said, “it’s like his name is spoken in my head, and then, for a brief instant, I see him.”
What she said did trigger a flash of recognition. Wasn’t that how it happened? Don’tcha remember picturing him looking up at you with the blood running from under his fingers? No, stop it.
“And,” Hope continued, “it feels like something is filling my head and stealing my memories.”
This, too, struck a chord of recognition. He remembered the sensation of thoughts robbed from him as he looked around his bedroom, and Tom Brady threw southpaw… No, stop.
“And it feels like some animal is loose in my head,” Hope said, her voice full of conviction, yet detached somehow.
Yeah, detached from reality.
“Like I can feel him tiptoeing around up there. And the dreams, they’re so vivid, so lifelike…”
“Okay, enough, stop,” Joel said. “If you think this kid can get into our dreams—that is what you’re telling me, right, that William Knight is knowingly causing our nightmares?” It sounded even stupider when said aloud, and he could tell by the change in Hope’s expression that she thought so too.
“No. Well, yes, I don’t know about knowingly. But how else do you explain it?”
“We had nightmares. Sometimes people have them.”
“But the same type of nightmares? And when mine stop, yours start?”
“Ever hear of coincidence?” Joel said.
But when hers stopped, mine did start… will you cut it out.
And what was it William said in the locker room?
“I don’t know why you can’t see this,” Hope said, as if to herself.
Joel bit his tongue—almost saying: I don’t see it, cause I ain’t crazy.
Sweet dreams, Joel, William said.
“It’s like,” Hope’s tone took on an almost pleading edge, “in my last dream, I dreamt that you were going to burn me at the stake…”
“What?” Joel laughed.
“Wait, hear me out, that’s not the weird part.”
“It’s not?” he chuckled.
“No. In the dream, William shows up to rescue me, and it was like I had this sudden realization that he was somehow behind the dreams. How can you not see this?”
“Guess I haven’t had any sudden realizations. Look, Hope, dreams can seem very real, believe me, I know, but I’m getting uncomfortable talking about this stuff. I mean, you sound like you’ve gone crazy.”
Hope’s expression slid off her face. It was replaced with many different expressions. Starting with confusion, moving on to embarrassment, finishing with anger.
Joel said, “It just sounds stupid. You sound crazy.”
“You don’t have to keep using that word.”
“How about loony? Or whacko? Are those better?” Joel said.
Hope looked down at her homework and started scribbling math problems.
Joel shifted in his seat. “So, uh… then how exactly is William doing it?” he said, his voice saturated with skepticism.
Hope looked up at him, her expression saying: You wanted to drop this.
Joel chuckled under his breath and said, “I mean, do you think he’s like using ESP, or mind altering drugs, or… hey, maybe he’s from Mars and wants to take over the planet by using mind control.” Joel put his index fingers atop his head like antennae, and in a Martian voice said, “I am here to take over Bayview High School. Take me to your hottest babe…” Joel stopped and mocked an expression of deep thought, “You know, being from Mars would explain a lot about him.”
Hope glared at him and then went back to her math problems.
Joel then said in his best Tommy Chong impression, “Maybe he’s slipping us LSD. Cool man.” Then he continued in a snotty tone, “So tell me, how you gonna find out if it’s really him?”
Hope looked up at Joel. “I’m gonna ask him,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, okay.”
“No, really.” She looked and sounded a little too resolute for Joel’s liking.
“No, I’m not.”
“So you’re gonna walk up to this kid and ask if he’s getting into your head?”
Joel cracked an arrogant smile. “All right,” he said, lifting up his hands.
“You know what, Joel?” Hope said, looking up from her math work—Joel didn’t realize it, but Hope was using her mother’s that’s it tone—“You’ve had a couple of bad dreams, but you haven’t had the worst of it. You haven’t had the good dreams, too. You don’t know what it’s like to have dream after dream, night after night, so lifelike and believable that in real life when you open a door, you aren’t sure if something is going to leap out at you. And you don’t know what
it’s like to have your dead father returned to you and used as a weapon against you.” Her eyes filled with tears, but anger kept them from spilling, and although her voice was heavy, her words were biting, rapid, rabid. “So you know what, Joel, when you’ve had enough of these nightmares, then you can come back and tell me I’m crazy, okay? Till then, just shut up.” And as abruptly as she started her tirade, she ended it, returning to her homework.
Joel shifted in his seat. He tapped his fingers in the silence between them. Someone in the distance laughed and Joel ducked the sound as if it was a line drive at his head. He picked up his pencil and colored between the sky-blue lines of his notebook paper. “Well,” he said, trying not to sound too patronizing, “William wasn’t even in school today, maybe neither of us will have nightmares tonight.”
Continued in: Earworm: Part 54 — Best Dream Ever
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