Continued from: Earworm: Part 65 — The Gargoyles
They were streaks of gray lightning. Two holding her arms on either side of her. Another behind her, holding her head with splayed, clawed hands, forcing her to watch as the final creature stalked toward her. The final gargoyle’s face closing in as if for a passionate kiss. Hope closed her eyes, awaiting the jaws to sever her flesh and grind her bones.
Oh, God, please help me.
But then there came an explosive crash.
Hope opened her eyes, finding that the gargoyle before her was now a shattered pile of stone pieces. A man stood over the broken gargoyle. Hope shook her head, trying to make sense of what was before her. But as her mind grasped for an explanation, the gargoyles at her sides released her and pounced at her rescuer.
The man caught one gargoyle like a ballet dancer receiving a leaping ballerina, and he tossed it over his head, shattering it into granite chunks at his feet. The other gargoyle vaulted onto the man’s back, wrapping its arms around his throat, its wings waving frantically as the man tried bucking it off. The man lowered his shoulder and the creature toppled over his head. The creature slamming onto the floor, splitting into sections—its legs running in circles, arms clawing at the floor, its wings flapping in fluttering confusion, its yelping, decapitated head rolling across the flagstone.
When the man turned to face Hope, she saw the strong, handsome features of her father. Not the eyeless corpse of William’s nightmares, but the vibrant, loving man from her memories. “Wake up, Hope,” her father called to her. “It’s a dream. Wake up.”
The final gargoyle released Hope, and she fell to the floor. “Daddy?” Hope said in a soft, detached voice. She then looked at William. William looking as if being confronted with someone he thought he’d long since murdered, and Hope realized, probably at the same moment William did, that her father was not an image William had called into the dream.
“No, you can’t be here,” William said.
“Hope,” her father said, “you’re stronger than he is, wake up.”
“Shut up,” William said like a child in the throes of a tantrum. “You’re nothing but a… fucking figment. Get out of my castle.”
“Hope’s castle,” Hope’s father said. And the castle’s stone walls returned to the gold of their former etched patterns. The flagstone floor bleaching to a smooth marble field. And beside William, the final stone gargoyle shrank into a gold cherub.
“No,” William said, his eyes shut tight, his hands balled into fists. “The castle is mine.”
A hand rose from the marble floor—like a King Kong sized hand of Michelangelo’s David—capturing Hope’s father in its grasp.
“Daddy,” Hope cried.
“Hope. Wake up,” her father said, struggling in the hand’s grip.
“It’s all mine,” William shouted as the toddler-sized cherub grew to a seven foot giant. Its body thickened with rippling, gold muscles. Feathered wings reaching from its back in a ten-foot span.
William closed his eyes, as if fighting off dizziness, and Hope noticed a ripple distort the castle’s walls. William opened his eyes again. His eyes filled with a cocktail of hurt, confusion, panic. “Hope, why are you doing this?”
“Let me go, William.”
“Why did you pretend to like me?”
“William, you can’t make me stay.”
“But I’m the only person that can give you what you want. I’m the only one that can give you your father. Do you really want to lose him again?”
“He’s been dead for six years, William. He never really came back.”
“Then who’s that?” William shouted, pointing at her father.
“That’s a cruel joke from a sick mind. Like you said, he’s a figment.”
The winged creature approached Hope’s father. William saying, “You know, I can have your father killed for you over and over again, every night for the rest of your life.” The creature lunged at Hope’s father.
“No,” Hope screamed, stepping forward. She felt the moon jewel bounce against her breast. The same moon William asked Hope to believe in and bestowed upon her, the same object that carried into each new dream. She yanked it from her neck, snapping the thread of stars. “William,” she cried, holding the moon over her head, “You take your moon and stars and you can shove them.” She riffled the moon at William.
With a flash of light and report of shattering glass, the moon disappeared at William’s feet, leaving a tiny hole about the size of a golf ball in the marble floor. The marble around the hole began to twist, drawn like water down a drain. The gold walls creaking and groaning, stretching, reaching in a slow, orbiting swirl, their gold edges running onto the floor. The hand imprisoning Hope’s father became smoke. The winged creature burst into gold dust and disappeared like sun-drenched mist.
“No,” William cried, scampering toward Hope, but Hope’s father pulled him back. Their feet constricting into the tiny hole. William screeching as his ankles and shins collapsed into the chasm.
Hope’s father called, “Hope, wake up,” as he and William continued sinking into the hole. William writhing and screaming, his eyes filling with terror, his neck twisting and collapsing into the hole. Hope’s father disappeared into the floor. William made a final, futile attempt at escape, letting out a scream of anguish. The scream cut short as the floor swallowed him forever.
The floor was now mostly etched gold and the mural ran onto the walls in stretching warped streaks. Hope slid toward the hole as it finished off the last of the marble and pulled the rest of the castle hungrily toward it. She shut her eyes. William was exorcised from her mind—the animal in her head expelled—yet the hole still drew her toward it. She strained her body, her heart feeling as if being yanked through her chest. She anticipated the horror of being crushed and sucked into everlasting darkness, and she screamed with one final tug at her soul, leaping, screeching, from her bed.
The bedroom’s door crashed open, light from the hall spilling in through the doorway and revealing Hope like a lone figure in a stage’s spotlight, hair in frenzied tangles, eyes ringed blue, mouth hanging with quivering lips.
“Hope,” her mother screamed—in a tone far exceeding that’s it—and she rushed to her daughter’s side, taking Hope’s face in her hands. “For God’s sake,” she screamed, “What is wrong with you?”
Hope didn’t answer as her exhausted, ringed eyes searched her mother’s face.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 67 — Epilogue
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