Continued from: Earworm: Part 15 — Awesome
The voice trumpeted in her dreaming mind. Hope envisioned the boy from school.
I’m William Knight
His black hair, dark eyes…
The sensation of rushing water filled her brain like a pitcher filling a glass, and Hope stood in the same grass field in which she had stood in a dream the night prior. But this time, it was night, the green grass glowing blue in the light of a full moon. Above her, stars shown in brilliant clarity. A breeze brushed the hair from her face. As with the dream the night prior, this dream seemed ultra-life-like—seconds and minutes ticking off in real time. There was a tangible, physical reality to the moon, the stars, the grass on which she stood. A voice spoke from behind her. “Hey.” And Hope turned to find William standing behind her. He seemed to burst from the background as if part of a bas-relief.
“William,” Hope said. She took a step toward him and stopped, glancing at the surroundings and observing her attire—the Dutch Horse Pub T-shirt and the boxers she went to bed in. “Where am I?”
“In a field. In the moonlight,” William said.
“I can see that,” she said, grinning. “Am I dreaming?”
“Why are you in my dream again?”
“Just the guy of your dreams, I guess,” William said. His statement met with Hope’s blank stare, and he added, “I have something for you. Wanna see something?”
There was that phrase again, the one that preceded Bobby Bailey’s magic fly, and again, Hope was apprehensive. But after her dream of flying the night before, Hope did want to see what William had for her, and she found herself saying, “Okay.”
William stepped toward her. “Close your eyes,” he said.
Hope recognized another phrase from her past. The one that preceded her first kiss.
“Please,” William said.
“Okay,” she said, and she closed her eyes, but when William took hold of her shoulders, she tensed, thinking, Oh God, he’s going to kiss me. She opened her eyes.
“No-no-no-no,” William said in a voice soothing and hypnotic. “Please, just keep your eyes closed.”
Hope closed her eyes again, William’s hands returning to her shoulders, causing her to tense again, but she relaxed when he turned her to face away from him.
“Now…” William said in that same, hypnotic voice, whispering into her ear, “think about the one place you’ve always wanted to see. I don’t care if it’s Saturn’s rings or Disney World, no matter how far away, what’s the one place you never thought you’d be able to set foot on, the one place you never dreamed you’d set your eyes on?”
As soon as the thought entered Hope’s mind, a new sensation gripped her, as if once again someone opened the top of her skull, only this time, instead of water pouring in, fleeting thoughts escaped like pigeons from a roost.
“Open your eyes,” William whispered over her shoulder.
Hope opened her eyes. She now stood in endless snow, her bare feet sunken into soft, powdery flakes. But where the frozen crystals should have bit at her unprotected feet, she felt no discomfort at all, she felt a soft, cushioned, feathery sensation, neither warm nor cold. The night air was pleasant. The full moon washed the rolling landscape in a pale glow, and it gleamed off ice crystals, breaking into faint prisms. It was beautiful, but Hope said, “This isn’t the place I was thinking about.”
“Yes it is,” William stated in a neutral tone, a tone not meant as argumentative, just his stating a fact.
“No, really, it’s not,” Hope said. “I was thinking about…”
Before Hope could finish her statement, William turned her around to face behind them. William finished the statement for her. “That?” he said.
There it was, as real as the snow and the moon and the night, as real as the boy leaning over her shoulder whispering promises into her ear. It erupted from the snow with white ramparts and sprawling walls, columns and turrets topped with blue spires. It was the castle from her poster, and Hope held her hand before her face, forgetting to clasp it over her mouth. “I don’t believe it,” she whispered.
“Yes you do,” William said. But she didn’t hear him, or even notice when he took her hand and pulled her to follow him. “C’mon,” he said.
William led Hope to the castle, and they climbed the steps to the structure’s massive doors—doors leading into Hope’s most cherished, childhood memories.
“Ready?” William said. He placed one hand on the wooden doors and the other on the small of Hope’s back. Hope looked at him, apprehension sneaking into her eyes as a chill ran up her spine.
Like a finger across a keyboard.
Did she really want to enter her castle? Or should she allow it to stay shut away in the part of her heart where hope and faith and dreams reside? Hope stared at William. William held her gaze, and in a reassuring voice, he said, “Trust me.”
Hope drew a deep breath and nodded, closing her eyes. The massive doors opened, and the insides of Hope’s eyelids flared with a bright glow, prompting her to open them. She saw an expanse of gold walls and marble floors. Intricate etchings climbing the walls like ivy, stretching up and inward along the ceiling to a large circular dome. Four gold cherubim surrounded the dome’s frame like the points of a compass. A mural filled the dome, reminding Hope of the Sistine Chapel, but the images within this mural changed and moved, merging and twisting into different scenes of mythical landscapes. William led Hope in through the castle’s hall, and as they passed beneath the mural, the four cherubim’s heads turned to follow their progress. The cherubim giggled, and so did Hope. Her attention then shifted to two sweeping staircases that flanked the hall, leading to deeper parts of the castle. At the far end of the structure, Hope and William came to three, wide steps rising to a landing. William led her up the steps to two stained glass doors. He turned to her. “You’ll love this,” he said, taking hold of the handles and pulling open the doors.
The doorway led onto a balcony that cut into the dark. The glare of the bright hall masked the exterior of night, revealing, only dimly, the balcony’s edge. “C’mon,” William said, ushering Hope through the doorway. The doors swung shut behind them, snuffing the castle’s gold light.
William led Hope to a stone parapet. When Hope peered over its edge, seeing the sheer precipice over which the balcony hung, a sense of vertigo overcame her. The castle’s back wall was a steep decent to a black sea far below them, the full moon’s white fire winking in the waves.
William looked at Hope as if trying to absorb as much of her as possible. Hope turned and looked at him in much the same manner. What was it that made him seem so real—even more real than the other overtly life-like qualities of the dream?
William flinched first, looking away from Hope as if staring at the sun too long. There was a moment of silence as William looked off to the moon hanging like an ornament above the shimmering sea. “You know, I saw you before I was even in your math class,” he said.
“Yeah?” Hope said.
“Yeah. They messed up my schedule, so I didn’t start in your math class until yesterday, but I saw you in the office the day before. The first time I saw you, I knew I wanted to know you.”
“Then why didn’t you talk to me?”
“I’m not really good at meeting people… out there.” He nodded his head in an indiscernible direction. He smiled and looked at the moon again. “You know, when I was a little kid, I thought the moon was real close, like just beyond the treetops. I figured it was part of the sky, part of the Earth. I figured it rose on the edge of the ocean and set somewhere past the horizon, going someplace to sleep. Know what I mean?”
William said, “I thought the moon followed me. I mean…” He looked defensive for a moment, “I was just a little kid when I thought this. If I rode in a car, the moon followed me fast, streaking across treetops. If I walked, it crawled along with me. And if I stopped, it stopped. That moon was mine. It followed me and only me.” His tone changed from happy nostalgia, to one tinged with disappointment. “And then I found out it was just a stupid rock thousands of miles away going around in circles. But…” again, his tone rose hopeful, “sometimes I’d try to believe what I used to. Even when I was older, I’d sit outside, convincing myself that the moon was that same magical orb above the treetops.” With a sudden sweep of his arm, William seemed to erase the stars and moon from the sky.
Hope stepped back, eyes wide.
William held his fist between them, the lines between his fingers glowing orange as if covering a flashlight, his eyes struggling to hide the same gleaming intensity.
“What is that?” Hope said.
William rotated his fist, his clasped fingers facing up, light trickling from where his fingertips met the heel of his palm. He grinned, and when he opened his hand, his face lit up like a jack o’ lantern. A glowing, white sphere, about the size of a golf ball, floated an inch above his palm. Craters dotted the sphere, as they had the moon that had until a moment ago hung in the night sky. William tipped his hand, and a glittering string attached to the orb slid from his palm. Hope squinted, inspecting what looked like a strand of diamonds, but then she realized that it was a thread of countless stars. William plucked up the strand with his fingers, the moon hanging from it like a bizarre constellation, and he slipped the necklace over Hope’s head, allowing it to drop from his hands and hang around her neck. The jewel was the weight of a golf ball, maybe a little heavier, glowing from within, radiating its own warmth and energy. And at that moment, as Hope lifted the jewel from her breast to study it, she actually believed in William’s moon. She looked at him. Both he and his tiny moon jewel beaming.
“See?” he said, “I can give you the stars and the moon.”
But then a sound cut the air. Grating, screeching, annoying and horrible.
William stared at Hope, disappointment evident in his eyes. “It’s time to go,” he said.
“It just is.” William looked down at his feet.
The sound grew louder as a woman’s voice called into the dream. “Hope.”
“I’ll see you later,” William said, his voice an echo, the opaqueness of his body draining, the black sea blending with the night sky, the castle drifting away, the balcony falling from beneath her. She gripped her moon jewel.
“But I don’t want to go,” Hope said.
The voice called again—“Hope”—but Hope was alone in darkness, her jewel gone from her grasp. She must have dropped it. Panicked, she searched for it. She had to find it. But she was in a blank void. She thrashed, fettered to the darkness, buried alive. Her heart ached, her head spun, light danced on the backs of her eyelids, the screeching sound becoming louder.
Hope sat up. Piece by piece, she deciphered her location. She was in a bed. A lime-green teddy bear was tangled in the strewn sheets. Sunlight peeked through window blinds. There was a computer, pictures of family and friends, there was a poster of a castle. Her alarm clock screeched.
“Hope?” her mother said, peeking her head through the bedroom door.
Hope shut off the alarm clock and fell back onto her bed, fatigue reaching through her body like the tendrils of an overeager weed.
Her mother stepped into the room and sat on the edge of her bed. “You awake?”
“Yeah. I’m awake.”
“You should get up now, Honey. Isn’t there a football game today?”
Hope opened her eyes. The game. It was another autumn Saturday, and Hope had to cheer on the Mystic Island Wolves with pom-poms and rhythmic gibberish. She sat up in her bed. “Yeah, I’m up,” she said, dragging herself from the bed to get ready for the day.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 17 — The Girl Next Door