Earworm: Part 52 — Contagion

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 51 — Ring Around the Rosy

By Monday, Hope had regained the spring in her step as day by day the memories of the nightmares wore off like the fading stench of a skunk’s spray. The memories were still there, but diluted, replaced with an understanding that soon they would pass entirely. She still felt worn, violated somehow, but she could at least now begin her day without feeling as if about to break into tears or jumping after seeing some phantom from the corner of her eye. After all, she slept through the third night in a row without the torment of corpses, Joel, or her father. Maybe she wouldn’t need to be wired in a lab after all. Hope walked into homeroom, spotting Joel sitting in his usual seat. Hope went to him with her new optimism. “Hey,” she said, “Guess what… what’s the matter with you?”

“I think your nightmares are contagious,” Joel said.

“What do you mean?” Hope said, sitting in her seat and turning to face him.

“I had the scariest dream of my life last night. Which is pretty bad, seeing as I had the scariest dreams possible the two nights before that.”

“About what?”

“Well, Friday I dreamt I got paralyzed in a football game. Which didn’t help my playing on Saturday. And then Saturday night I dreamt Guard and I were in a car crash. And last night…” Joel stared at his hands folded on the desk. “I dreamt you were a monster that killed people.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. And the worst thing was, when I woke up, it was like I woke into another dream. It was just as if I was in my room, for real.” He looked at Hope, then returned his gaze to his hands, saying, “and then you sprang from out of nowhere and attacked me.” Hope listened to Joel’s story as she looked out the back window at an autumn pewter sky. Then Joel said, “It felt like someone was stealing thoughts right outa my head.”

“What?” Hope returned her attention to Joel.

“Yeah,” Joel said to his folded hands. “It was the weirdest sensation.”

“Was William Knight in your dream?”

It’s you behind the nightmares.

“No,” Joel said. “But, hey, that kid’s name’s been stuck in my head all weekend. I probably have you to thank for that.”

“What?”

“I keep thinking about that kid and his bloody nose, having flashes of him staring up at me, holding his face, wondering why he hates me so much.”

“Are you serious, or are you teasing me?”

“No. I’m dead serious.”

“Isn’t that weird?”

“Which part?”

“How similar our dreams are,” Hope said, looking out at the cloud washed sky.

“It’s called the power of suggestion.” Joel said, stealing a quick look at her and saying, “So what kind of wonderful nightmares did you have last night?”

Hope watched as spurts of rain splashed across the windows. “Haven’t had any for the past three nights,” she said.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 53 — Resolution

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