Continued from: Earworm: Part 59 — The Rope
It was one in the morning and Hope’s eyelids drooped. “And that’s the thing about the Iron Bike, it fits conveniently and unnoticed in the corner of any room…” a woman on Hope’s television was saying in an overemphasized voice. Hope was falling asleep, there was no way around it. She closed her eyes, thinking how nice it would be to wake into a black and white world—Oh, Aunty Em, I had the strangest dream, and you were there, and you were there… Maybe everything that happened lately was merely a figment of her imagination. After all, look how realistic her dreams have been, blending one into the other to the point of she not knowing what is what or which is which. And what about Joel waking from one dream into another? Maybe Hope never woke from her last dream at all. Maybe she never woke from the initial dream of meeting William in her math class. Maybe the past few weeks were one, giant mega-dream. Maybe Joel never asked her out. Maybe there is no William Knight. Maybe her father never died and the past six years were just one long nightmare. Maybe she’d wake to her father calling, Wake up, My Hope. But as much as she wanted to hold onto that notion, the past nightmares clawed at her mind, feelings of foreboding evil left behind in her memories like sticky fingerprints. And now she feared returning to her defenseless, dreaming mind, because reality was one of two things: either she was crazy, or William Knight was attacking her dreams.
Hope’s eyes remained closed for periods long enough to distort her thoughts into dream-like flashes. She jerked. “And look, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds in three weeks. And the Iron Bike has given me the stamina to compete in day-to-day life. And you, too, can wun-wunna-wun-wan-wun…” the voice blended into a buzz. Hope’s leg kicked. She snapped awake. On the television, a woman tanned and oiled pedaled the Iron Bike to better fitness. Hope stared at the flickering images, her eyes closing one last time.
“Now, thanks to the Iron Bike, I can climb stairs without being winded…”—Flash—“Oh, Lucy, I’m home…”—Flash—“In other news…”—Flash—“For just $19.95…”—Flash—Flash—Flash—William tossed the clicker aside. He sat in the dark, the glow of the television screen transforming him into a gray, ghostly distortion that, along with the hateful sneer on his face, made him look like a Lon Chaney character in a silent movie. He looked up and watched, through prisms of tears, the shadows flicker and dance on the ceiling.
Why did Hope do this to him? Why did she create this heap of sadness shrouded in a pale, silver glow of misery? She seemed happy with the things he gave her. It was joy—no, it was elation—when he returned her father to her. She marveled at the castle. She giggled like a child while flying. I even gave her the moon. “What more does she want?” he said, slumped on the couch, looking like, and feeling like, something scraped off the bottom of a shoe, something squashed and discarded. What did Joel have that William couldn’t give her? And what’s more, look what William could give her that Joel could not.
William watched the shadows flickering across the ceiling, but what he saw was Hope and Joel together. Joel all over her with that predatory look of the hunter in his eyes. His weak mind at the whim of hormones raging faster than electrons. Every word and action driving him toward one simple goal: Conquest. And Hope thought everything Joel offered, all he said, was real. What a crock of shit. William knew better, he could see right through Joel. And to love Hope was not the verb Joel strived for. William envisioned Joel leering at Hope. Oh my, what big eyes you have, she would say as she looked into his glare as if hypnotized. All the better to look at other girls with, he’d say. What big ears you have, Hope would say, her lips parting from her teeth in an innocent grin. All the better to hear the “yes” in your “no,” Joel would say with a growl as soft as a kitten’s purr and with the warning of a snake’s hiss. And if any other wolves should enter his territory, he’d stare them back, bare his teeth, say things like, What’re you looking at, and smash them in the face with volleyballs. After all, Joel was clearly alpha. What a big mouth you have, Hope would say. All the better to tell you my lies with, he’d smile, baring those gleaming white teeth of his. Oh my, what big teeth you have, she’d giggle with surprise. All the better to feast on your flesh with, and all the other girls’ flesh I will feast on when I’m through with you.
William wanted to yell. He wanted to run from the pain. He wanted to hit and thrash out with the feelings that writhed and squirmed and grew within him. He wanted to explode. He wanted his aching heart to launch from his chest and fly across the room with gooey shrapnel of projectile flesh, hitting the wall and falling to the floor, free of his spinning mind. He never felt pain like this before. It felt like a red-hot spike skewering his gut. “Why does it hurt so much?” He wished he could go back in time. He wished he could go back and spot where his plan unraveled. He wished he could remedy his follies. He needed to see her. He needed to talk to her. He needed to work this all out with her. He couldn’t wait any longer. He needed to fix this. Hope needed to choose him.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 61 — The Trap
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