Continued from: Earworm: Part 66 — Figment
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
—William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Excerpt from the Mystic Crier:
Mystic Island Teen Found in Mysterious Coma
A Mystic Island teenager was found in a coma by his mother early Wednesday morning. William Knight, 16, was discovered around dawn with his eyes open and unresponsive, said Mystic Island emergency care providers. The cause of the coma is still unknown. Doctors at Mystic Mercy Hospital say there is no apparent cause for the boy’s condition. William’s mother, Greta Knight, reported that there is a history of sleeping disorders in William’s family, but doctors cannot determine a connection between any disorder and the coma at this time.
William Knight recently began attending Mystic Island High School, where it is said he was a good student and well liked…
The newspaper clipping rested neatly in a shoebox, along with old letters, pictures, and other clippings. The shoebox placed beside an old, dysfunctional music box in the back of Greta Knight’s closet.
Hope now visited a shrink weekly, but as he sat waiting for her to “open up,” she sat in silence, inventorying his office. She was almost finished with her time at the sleep lab, but the doctors there didn’t find anything unusual with her sleep patterns. No matter, the nightmares seemed to have stopped anyway. The last one being the night she roused her parents with deathly screeches—her final battle with William—and her parents, after finding her looking like the lone survivor of a holocaust, rushed her to the hospital.
When they arrived at the Emergency Room, they found Joel Fitch’s mother already in the waiting area. The doctors thought Joel had some kind of seizure during the night. He somehow bit through his lip and bruised his ribs while sleeping. What Hope and Joel’s parents didn’t realize, as they talked together in low tones, was that another Mystic Island High School student’s mother sat in the waiting room’s far corner.
Greta Knight, wringing her hands, watched the early morning news shows on one of the television screens scattered about the room. She murmured something to herself in a running commentary, speculating on what had happened to William, suspecting that his body was now just an empty, staring shell, and that his soul now wandered, restlessly searching for a host dream.
Since that final dream with William, Hope focused all her energy on preparing for college—no longer concerned with the petty tide pool that is the high school social structure. She also focused on her relationships with her family, realizing how important they were. She broke up with Joel, but they were still close friends. They never spoke of what happened that night, both of them working to rebuild the walls of their minds, both of them trying to reform the division of reality and fantasy. At times, Hope still found herself jumping at shadows and tricks of the eye, and she saw Joel doing the same, but all in all—physical and emotional scars aside—they came out unharmed. She knew she’d be fine. After all, she owned the moon and the stars. But still, sometimes she wondered what became of William Knight, and whose dreams he’d visit.
William wound into Stanley’s twisted thoughts, capturing his adopted father’s mind. In the dream, Stanley stood in his cell, looking down at his hospital bed with his back to William.
“Hello, William,” Stanley said, not bothering to turn and look at him.
William inventoried the cell, searching for what fright to bring to life, feeling satisfied with Stanley’s pathetic attempts to avoid him. “Well, Stan,” William said, “seems we’ll be spending a lot more time together.”
“Oh, I know,” Stanley said.
The smile left William’s lips. He felt a frightened, struggling presence in this dream world. But that frightened, struggling presence wasn’t Stanley.
Stanley stepped back from the bed and turned to face William. Stanley’s face drawn in a content grin. William looked down to see a man—with badly bleached, orangey hair and a black goatee—strapped to the thin, worn mattress of the bed. The man’s white, orderly uniform crawled with an assortment of creeping critters—from centipedes to scorpions—they scurried across the man’s face, in and out of his ears and across his staring, darting eyes. Those staring eyes fell onto William, and in a crying whisper, the man begged, “Please, help me.”
Stanley’s grin widened. “Guess what I’ve learned to do?”
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