Continued from: Earworm: Part 35 — A Little Advice from a Friend
They’d strapped him down again. The full moon shone into his room, and the shadow of the window’s metallic mesh screen stretched across the floor. “Please,” Stanley Knight screamed. “I don’t want to sleep.” He didn’t want to sleep because sleep brought dreams, and his dreams were nightmares, always nightmares. He pleaded with the cops, pleaded with the lawyers, pleaded with the judge, the jury, the doctors, and now the attendants—the attendants insisting on strapping him down as defenseless as a fly in a web, pumping him full of Zyprexa, thinking that helped. But drugs only made it more difficult to wake, and Stanley begged them not to give him the shots, but no, they still did. And that punk, Fred, he loved to plunge that little needle, and he loved to trap him in these straps. But Stanley supposed it didn’t matter whether he was strapped down or not. He was defenseless no matter what. He could be fortified in a bunker under a mountain like NORAD, and he’d still be defenseless. He still had to sleep. He had to dream. Why did those cops stop him? He could have ended it, William leaning back over the kitchen table, not daring to look up at the hammer about to open his head like a melon.
Stanley shifted in his bed, the straps constricting around him, the mesh of the window very slowly, very patiently, crawling across the floor. The boy was a monster, yet it was Stanley Knight locked in the cage, strapped to the bed and labeled a lunatic. Touch us again, and I’ll get you, the boy first threatened. Stanley was dreaming—dreaming of that sickly, little shit—and in the dream, he felt the boy’s horrific eyes upon him, eyes with a seeming demon’s dreaming. He should have known it right from the start, from the moment he first saw that kid’s eyes. William was the devil sent unto Stanley and his wife. And Stanley was left to wonder what he did to deserve it. Stanley Knight was just a hardworking English teacher, and his wife, Greta, she worked part time as a receptionist for a dentist, yet, somehow—somehow—they were deemed worthy to raise the Anti-Christ. Yeah, Greta’s dyke cousin gets diced up by her husband—just the classic, small-town murder suicide deal, one might think. But there was more. Oh, there was much, much more. The poor bastard, Glenn was his name, ranted about witchcraft and satanic visitations right up to when he slit his own throat. And the sorry son of a bitch thought it was his wife? Yeah, right. Little did he know, it was the kid, that satanic toddler of his. And how does Stanley know it was the kid? Because the kid’s been haunting Stanley too.
The kid accused—did you hear that?—accused him, Stanley Knight—Mr. Knight to those that actually offered a little respect—accused him of—now let’s get this right—being a “rough, drunk bully.” Stanley was the one bullying, huh? It was Stanley, right? Maybe if the little bastard took the time from his finger pointing to step back and view—view—the situation, he would have seen that, no, Stanley was not the bully. No, a bully is someone that picks into someone’s brain, finds their dreams and shakes them apart in the teeth and jaws of a rabid dog. That is a bully. You see, Stanley could see clearly now, now that the windows of perception were cleared of grime and dirt, and he saw life as nothing but a crooked Black Jack dealer turning up cards: flip—nagging wife—flip—worthless son—not even his own son, mind you—You wanna double down on that, sir? Well screw you. It wasn’t even his real son. He was a damn inconvenience just dropped off on his doorstep. And, hey, Stanley made the effort to be good to the boy. Wanna play catch, Willy? No. Wanna go to a Sox game? This is boring, he’d say. This is boring. Do you know how many kids would love to be at a Sox game right now? Why don’t you take one of them? Hey, Stanley tried. He tried. But no, he was the bully, right? He wasn’t bullying, he was merely teaching them, that’s what he did, he was a teacher after all, it was in his nature. How else do the stupid learn? A dog only knows not to crap in the house after you shove its face in it a few times, right? But, no, it was Stanley that was a bully. So when Stanley tried to teach his wife and adopted son the right way to act, little Willy found it right as rain to persecute good ole Stanley—his adopted father for God’s sake.
And that first dream? Oh, it was simple enough: I’ll get you, little Willy threatened. And of course, Stanley thought it was a dream. Just a harmless dream. And why think any different, right? But can you imagine that it wasn’t just a dream? And William went from persecution, to threats. And how could Stanley explain that a kid—his useless, adopted son—was threatening him in a dream? To Stanley, the kid was no kid. He was the Raven on a bust of Pallas. Haunting. And… Well, why am I telling you all this? Stanley’s dying to tell it all to you, so I’ll let him. He has plenty of time, after all. In fact, that’s all he’s got:
I would caution you. Caution you all. That kid is a monster that can control the worst of your fears, unleashing them while you sleep, robbing you of your one salvation: rest. So then, you awake in terror, screaming, and when you have to face your day, and just try facing that nagging wife and the students not listening, and how can you stand it all with no sleep? Do you get it yet? But what could I do? How could I even suspect such a thing? Family legend, I guess, for one. I could’ve paid more attention to what happened to his parents, that could have been a clue there. Because the boy fucked up his parents, and the little bastard already invaded my own dream and threatened me. I thought it was crazy too. But I had proof. And my eyes were opened. Got me? I’m onto it now, boy, onto it now. When you strip down the walls of perception, you find truth.
I mean, at the time, I didn’t actually believe the kid could get into my dreams. I mean, I’m not crazy. I just thought it was my subconscious casting nightly spells, and there was a time I felt sorry for the resentment I felt toward little Willy because of my dreams. There were times I felt pangs of guilt because I just couldn’t stand the sight of him. And at the time, I didn’t believe that my dreams were his fault, until the day I got home from Sweet Melissa’s—that’s the bar I liked to go to, that sanctuary of mine, that couple of hours of solitude before returning to a nagging wife, complaining wife, annoying wife. I mean, what do you want from me? What do you expect? Would you allow flies to buzz around your dinner? No. You swat them away. So when I came home to a giant, bloated, lazy fly, I swatted. You see, I was just brushing her aside so that I could nuke my dinner—“Which, incidentally, has been sitting in the fridge for exactly two hours and thirty-six minutes.” Does that woman ever shut up? No. She doesn’t. So I popped open a beer, and at the same time, her whiny, blathering voice popped something open in me, and I got so mad… I threw my beer—perfectly good beer, mind you—and it explodes into a mess of foam and golden liquid. And I really wanted that beer too. And so she yells. Imagine that, she yells at me. I’m the one that lost the beer. And I get madder and madder, and I holler and I push her away. Now, listen, it looked a lot harsher than it was, because that cow can’t control her own inertia and she goes stumbling off into the counter. And then William stands there, just standing and staring at me. Staring with his accusing eyes. “I told you not to touch us again,” he said.
I was awestruck. Can you believe that? He never said those words to me before. Catch my drift? Those words were said to me in a dream. So then answer me this, Sherlock-shit, how did he know about something that happened in a dream, huh? Mind you now, at this point, I’m still thinking Willy has to be an innocent bystander—some hapless, subconscious thought that wandered into my sleep. I mean, honestly, how could he know what went on in my head? Is this making sense to you yet? So when he says those words to me, more things go pop inside me—Pop. Pop. Pop—like someone having a party in my brain with the world’s largest sheet of bubble wrap. I was enraged, and I grabbed his arm and squeezed and pushed him aside. Well, he looks up at me—holding his oh-so-fragile little arm—with this look of… not hurt, not scared, but… wrathful—and it chilled my blood. He had this knowing look in his eyes, and somewhere deep within me—that instinctive part of the human mind untouched by evolution—told me a bad moon was a-rising.
Listen. I slept, perchance to dream, and oh, what dreams did come. In my slumber, the dreams were horrific. The boy called to me. How? I felt him knocking on that doorway to my mind—a tap-tap-tapping-rap-rap-rapping—and upon hearing his name, my mind envisioned the little shit. And there you have it. Don’t you understand? That was his doorway in. I let him in. And no one, nothing could deny him access. Your mind gives him—just happily hands over—your subconscious. And the little thief loots and robs your greatest desires, your most horrid horrors, and he puts you right in the middle of them all. Not only can he present you with these images, dreams, fears, memories, but he can control them, animate them, use them as weapons against you.
Think I’m lying? Okay, well, I hate spiders, despise them really—you could call it a phobia, I suppose—so what does little Willy do in my first nightmare? You guessed it. Picture this—I had to—I’m outside in my yard, and if it just wasn’t so lifelike. I mean, after awhile, reality and dreams blend seamlessly, becoming indiscernible—I mean, how do I know that the shadows right there from the metal mesh of the window, how do I know it’s not gonna turn into a spider right now? Oh God, I could be dreaming right now. And I don’t know—never know—what could be awaiting me, it could be anything. Every detail is so exact in this room. But how do I know there’s even a full moon tonight? Do you even get it? He could be after me right now. When I get the chance, I mark things on walls or the floor, and I watch the patterns, because sometimes he slips up, and I can catch his mistakes. But he rarely makes mistakes. I mean, he’s so precise, right down to the smallest detail, making you believe that what you see may actually be reality. Like, for instance, a calm summer day in my yard, exact, right down to the smallest detail—don’t you understand?—right down to feeling the light spray from the hose blown by the breeze, and the sun’s heat on my neck, and it’s these details that put you at ease, that make you forget you’re even dreaming. And that’s when he attacks.
So there I am—just picture me there—watering my hedges, or so I think. But man, if it didn’t seem so real, nothing out of the ordinary, until this fat, ugly spider—about the size of a quarter—scurries up a branch and into view. And so I do what anyone would do, I take the hose and dowse the thing, try to knock it off the branch. But it holds fast, and it won’t budge. And that’s when William says, “Hey, Stan, I think it’s time you pick on someone your own size.” I turn and see him standing in the yard, and he says, “Look,” nodding toward the hedge. I turn to see the spider staring back at me—and it starts to grow. I mean, really starts growing fast. It grows bigger and bigger and bigger. The thing went from the size of a quarter to the size of a dog to bigger than me, and it was pushing the size of an elephant in no time flat. And I saw two enormous fangs and the cluster of baseball-size eyes—all those eyes as hateful as William’s own eyes—all focusing down on me. My heart froze. And William calls, “Better run, Stan, that thing looks pissed.” And so I ran. Running into my house, slamming shut the French doors, you know, one of those kinds of doors with all the panes of glass. And through those glass panes, I watched the spider advance the porch like I was watching it through its own multi-eyes. It climbed and crawled on its hairy, wiry legs, feeling and gripping, carrying its vile body toward me. I knew that I had to be dreaming then. I mean, I had to’ve been, right? And I ran for the stairs and up them, all the time calling to myself, Wake up. Wake up.
I ran into my bedroom and shut the door. For Christ’s sake, wake up. “Not gonna do you any good, Stan,” William said from behind me. I turned to face him, and I heard the French doors crash open and the kitchen table and chairs flung about as the thing moved its way through the house toward the stairs. “William, please, please help me.” “No,” he said. He actually said, No. “This is what you get,” he said, and I heard that giant spider coming up the stairs, squeezing its enormous body through the narrow stairway, the coarseness of its body scratching on the walls like sandpaper. “I won’t be cruel anymore,” I said. “Please, William.” That sandpaper sound grew louder, it was right outside my door. “William, please.” The bedroom door shuddered and then crashed open, launching me back onto the bed and over the other side. I lifted myself up, peering over the top of the mattress. I saw those giant fangs and the cluster of black eyes in the doorway. “Promise. Promise you’ll never touch us again,” William said as the spider squeezed its huge body through the door. “Oh God. Yes. I promise. I promise I will never lay another hand on either of you.” That sandpaper noise was so loud as the thing came into the room. I saw its hungry mouth and those fangs salivating thick, oozing, steaming liquid, something to digest me before it took me apart, limb from limb… “I promise.” And I awoke screaming like a little girl.
I kept that promise. I didn’t drink again for two months. Just the thought of alcohol conjured the memory of that… that thing. Talk about aversion therapy. And at the time, I thought that dream was just the worst case of “undercooked potato” of all time. But now I know better. And during those two months, I thought I detected smugness in William’s eyes, as if he was behind it somehow, as if he was always waving a finger at me: Now you remember your promise, Stanley. But how can your mind take such a leap? To actually believe that someone could do such things? Still, I held my temper in check. Until this one day. Okay, hey, I just had a bad day, you know? Just a bad day. A Murphy Law kinda day. Listen to this: car won’t start, so I have’ta drive Greta to work, having to listen to her yammering on and on, blah-blah-blah, and of course that makes me late for work, and the students were horrible, and the teachers were worse. And so I had enough, and I had a drink, and I had another, and another, and another. And so I slipped up, okay? I got drunk, and I got home, and I got mad. So, well… I hit—well, not really hit—just kind’a swatted at Greta. Granted, it was a little harder than I meant, but… well, you know. You see, the whole ordeal could’ve been avoided, because all I really wanted was a beer, you know? And she’s in my way, rummaging in the fridge for something to shove in her fat face, and I ask her nicely to “please get that giant rump of yours outa my way.” And she says, “Maybe you’ve had enough, Stan. I mean, after all, you’ve been doing so good…” So I hip-checked her outa the way. “Doing well, it’s doing well.” I hate when people say something’s doing good, get it straight. So when she stands up to bitch at me with hands on her hips, whoops, I brush her aside, you know, a little authoritative redirection, that’s all. But you know what it’s like after a few drinks, right? Getting used to a drunk body is like getting used to a new car’s brakes. And, okay, maybe I didn’t mean to brush her aside with quite so much authority.
Well, William, man, I don’t even know where he comes from, he just starts hollering, just completely forgetting his place, “Don’t you touch her. Don’t you touch her.” And so I brush him aside too—again, maybe with a little more authority than was needed—spinning him around, and I give him this boot in the ass. It was really quite comical. Nothing too hard, just enough to remind him whose house he was in, whose food he ate, whose light was in the light bulbs. But, man, you should’ve seen him stumbling forward like some numbskull in a Three Stooges bit. And so, yeah, I slipped up. But did William forgive and forget? No-sir-re-o, I don’t think so. And next thing I know, the dreams are coming every night. Like this one night, I have a little crush on this waitress at my bar—cute little thing, really, about thirty, maybe even younger, small, tight body, face like an angel, you know the type, right? Anyway, in this dream, I’m with her, you know, fooling around, kissing and heating up the place. She’s kissing my neck, unbuttoning my shirt, soft, warm lips on my skin, and she looks up at me, but those cute, green eyes aren’t there. She has no eyeballs at all. There’s just the blank, staring whites. She opens her mouth in this kind of crazed smile-like-snarl, and encased in her lips are two razor fangs. She keeps caressing me, and I try to fight her away, but she keeps coming for me. And then Greta shakes me awake, saying I must have been having a bad dream. Gee, ya think? What gave her that idea?
So what? you might be thinking. How do I know Willy-ma-boy caused this dream? Well, the next day, I get home, and he asks, “How was Nicky last night?” And that’s the waitress’s name. Her name is Nicole. And how could William know that? Huh? No one knew I had a thing for that chick. Believe that? He knew her name. And how did he know? Because he picked it right out of my head. Well, let me tell you, I could see pretty clear at that moment, and I threw him into the kitchen wall. “How do you know? What are you doing to me?” I shout. And then Greta screams. And I yell. Greta slaps. And I swat. And all the while, William watches. Because that’s what he does, he watches. “I got you now, Stanley,” William says. And I stand him up and shake him, “You stop,” I shout. “No,” he shouts back. And that’s when I punched him in the stomach. I did hit him pretty hard. And he doubles over, gasping for breath. “Whatever you’re doing,” I said, “you better stop.” But of course, I was in no position to make the threats.
Next thing I know, Greta throws me out, had the cops come and do it, restraining order and all. But do you think outa sight, outa mind was good enough for ole Willy-boy? No way. He came at me, relentless, night after night, after horrible night. I had nightmare after horrific nightmare—creatures chasing me, I mean, creatures I thought to be long extinct in my memories as a kid, you know, Night of the Living Dead shit. There’s monsters and people trying to kill me. And in one dream—I don’t like flying, okay?—well here I am in a nice cushy jumbo jet, and—Bang—turbulence, the bottom drops out, and I feel that sinking feeling like I’m on a roller coaster. The plane rights itself with a strained whine from the engines, but before my stomach and heart recover, the lights are flickering, people screaming, and I look out the window—the horizon’s vertical, plane shaking, stewardess shouting instructions, and the metal around us disintegrates, debris going everywhere. I feel a jolt, hear a crash, and oh God. I’m screaming. This is really it. I’m really dying. And I sit bolt upright in the bed of my motel room. I sit in silence. The phone rings, and I jump, crying out. I answer it, only to hear, “Flying the not-so-friendly skies, huh, Stan?” It’s William. And he’s laughing at me. “Leave me alone,” I scream. And he listens to me rant, all the while, still laughing.
The next day was Saturday and I went straight to the bar to talk with Charlie—he’s the bartender there at Sweet Melissa’s. I tell him about William trying to kill me in my mind, how the boy can control my dreams down to every last detail. I tell him about the spider and the monsters and the plane, and I tell him about Nicole, and… he looks at me like I’m nuts. He actually suggests that I lay off the booze. Well, I’ll tell ya, I had a few choice words for my so-called friend, Charlie. And that bastard goes and testifies against me later. Can you imagine? Anyway, I stormed out of the bar and drove straight to my house, you know, the house that I saved for, that I bought with a lifetime of sweat—my blood pumping through the pipes in the walls. I charge the house, but Greta slams the door in my face. Well, that didn’t go over quite so well with me, so I go to the back, breaking through one of the back doors’ glass panes, and I actually have the little prick dead to right, but the slippery little shit cuts me. Well, now it’s time for business. I go to the garage, fish out my trusty battering ram—Mr. Sledgehammer—and I bring forth Thor’s thunder. Each swing at the door is a swing to freedom. You think you can hide, William? And when I break through and see the fear in his eyes, I feel such relief. Now he was going to stop the nightmares, wasn’t he? How does it feel now, Willy, huh? How does it feel for you to be faced with a nightmare? I stood over him, hammer raised, about to crush into his evil brain, right between those cold, dead eyes, expecting my dreams to spill from his broken skull. But I’m grabbed and wrestled to the ground. And now I’m sentenced here, holding onto reality by watching scratches and stains on the wall, sentenced to a lifetime of nightmares, a fly against William’s spider-like mind.
The attacks on my mind have subsided, but oh how he still loves to pitch me some of the most terrifying images imaginable. He likes to remind me who has won, and who has lost. For someone who never knew his place, he sure likes to remind me of mine. And no one will believe me, and I don’t think you’re any different. For all I know, this bed I’m strapped to could turn into a creature threatening to gobble me up. There no longer is any reality, and the moon I lie under, I don’t know if it’s real, or the moon of William Knight’s world.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 37 — Meet the Parent
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