Earworm: Part 41 — Seeds of Doubt

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 40 — Hostage

“So, you ever gonna tell me what’s the matter?” Joel’s voice, coming across the phone lines, sounded distant and foreign. Hope lay on her bed. She ran her fingers through her hair and tucked her feet under her pillows. The wind rocked the oak’s boughs outside. She glanced at the lime-green teddy bear propped, upside down, against her headboard. Its plastic, black eyes stared at her. Her heart skipped as images of Joel—insane eyes, evil grin—clung to her mind like wet dough to fingers. She took a deep breath, then let it run out in an audible sigh. She didn’t want to involve Joel in any of this. She didn’t want to plant seeds of doubt in his head. She didn’t want him to question why she dreamt he was Jack the Ripper.

“I told you, it’s nothing.”

“But it’s not nothing. You… not… look good.”

“Nice grammar.”

“You know what I mean. Is this really because of dreams?”

“They’re just dreams,” Hope said, unsure of whom she was assuring.

“But why won’t you tell me about them? You told me about the other dreams.”

“I don’t know.” Her gaze wandered around the room. Her eyes fell on her poster. Her heart did a hard thud. “I just don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you still dreaming about William, or are they still about your dad…?” What part of not wanting to talk about it wasn’t he getting? What did he want to hear? Why did he keep pestering her? “Are they about that castle? Or are they about…”

“They’re about you, okay?” Hope snapped into the phone.

Silence. The static on the phone lines sounded like jet engines.

“Me?” Joel said.

“Look, I told you I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Yeah, but… what was the dream about?” Joel said, hurt evident in his voice.

“Joel…”

“I mean, did I like try to hurt you, or…”

“Look, Joel…”

“C’mon, you gotta tell me now.”

Hope sighed. She glanced at the staring teddy bear. “I dreamt you…”

“Yeah?”

“I dreamt you killed my father.” She closed her eyes.

“What?” Joel’s voice squeaked. “You dreamt I killed your father?”

“Well… yeah.”

“How did I kill him?”

“You slashed his throat with a knife.” The image flashed across the backs of her eyelids. She opened her eyes and watched her ceiling.

“I slashed his throat?”

“And in another one…” Hope stated like someone beginning a long list.

“Whoa, wait, you had more than one?”

“There’s a few,” Hope stated coldly.

“A few? Like what else?”

“Well there was one where you chased me around the school with a knife…” She felt detached. All of it flowing from her in a sudden torrent. “And then I dreamt you danced on my father’s grave and peed on his headstone…” These last words were out before she realized she said them, not considering how badly they’d cut until Joel reacted.

“I did what?”

“Hey, you asked,” she said in her cold cadence. “Oh, and then my father popped out of the ground and grabbed you by the throat and”—she offered an uncomfortable giggle in spite of herself—“your eyes kept bulging until they popped like balloons and… oh, wait, that was a different dream.”

“You really dreamt I peed on your father’s grave?” Joel said, as if to himself.

“That doesn’t even count all the dreams about you and Tara,” Hope added as an afterthought.

“I can’t believe you dreamt I peed on your father’s grave. Wait, what’s this about me and Tara?”

“Nothing. I just dreamt the two of you were together in bed, laughing at me.”        “Why are you dreaming all this? Why would you dream I’d hurt you?”

“I don’t know,” Hope said, her voice becoming guarded again. She glanced around her room.

“So, let’s see,” Joel said, “you have these really great dreams about this William Knight kid, and you dream I’m whizzin on your dad’s headstone?”         Hope closed her eyes again. “Do I really like scare you or something?” Joel said.

“No, you don’t scare me. I mean, how am I supposed to explain my dreams?”

“This is the weirdest thing…”

“Look, Mr. Grey said…”

“Mr. Grey? You told Mr. Grey you’re dreaming I’m trying to kill you?”

“He asked about the dreams and… you’re the one that brought them up to him, remember?”

“Yeah, but…”

“He said they’re just dreams. They’re nothing, they don’t matter.”

“They do matter. They’re affecting you. I mean, you look sick or something.”

“I’m just tired.” She allowed the exhaustion to wash over her. There was silence. Her mind drifted toward sleep.

“Look,” Joel said, “I’m sorry about… I have no idea what about, but obviously I should be sorry about something, seeing as I’m scaring you. Do you want to break up?”

“No,” Hope groaned, snapping back from her drifting trip toward slumber.

“Is there something I’m doing to, like, hurt you? Or, I mean, is there something you’re not telling me?”

“No.”

“Then why are you having nightmares about me?”

“I don’t know.” Hope closed her eyes. There was another long silence. Hope felt herself drifting again. “Look,” she said, “I feel like we’re going in circles here, and I’m real tired, I just want to go to bed, okay?”

“Fine,” Joel said. There was hesitation in his voice. “Well… goodnight then.”

“Goodnight,” Hope said, turning off her phone. She curled into a fetal position, and she began to cry, letting the tears run her onto the fingers of sleep.

Meanwhile, across town, William lay in his bed, his fingers laced behind his head, his eyes staring up into the dark. His thoughts kept returning to Hope turning on him today in math class and sneering, “What’re you lookin at?” The look in her eyes was that of contempt toward William. But why toward William? It was Joel haunting her nightmares. Maybe the nightmares were too much? Were the dreams too harsh? No. It was Joel who was harsh. It was Joel wielding the knife and chasing after her. William sighed and glanced over at his Spidey clock. It read just after midnight. His eyes narrowed, inspecting the outline of Spidey in the red glow of the numbers. And then it hit him as if Spidey had shot the idea out of his webbing and hit William in the face with it. A hero. That’s what Hope needed. She needed a hero. She needed more than just to see Joel as a villain. It was time for William to be the hero. It was time for William to save Hope from Joel.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 42 — Hero

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