David reached over and turned off the lamp in his bedroom. He placed his head on his pillow and waited.
Then he had this sudden moment of sort-of panic. What if the dreams stopped? What if Eddie changed his mind and stopped bringing them together? No more dream games...just back to regular dreams.
David knew he'd be disappointed. He liked the dreams. Yes, the whole nightmare coming true thing scared him. He didn't want Billy dying repeatedly. But he had hopes this wouldn't happen. Or maybe he just avoided imagining it would happen.
Now that he knew it wasn't all in his imagination, that he wasn't entering the realm of the insane, he felt kind of--
But now David lay on his bed, his pillow puffed up. He was ready for departure.
And nothing happened.
For a moment, he actually started questioning the reality of the dreams again. Maybe the whole phone conversation with Rachel had been imagined. Maybe he was not just slightly delusional, but super delusional.
Just before he was about to enter deeper into that nasty direction, he fell asleep.
He entered the dream world.
Well, there wasn't pitch black darkness. He could still see enough to avoid knocking into things. Though there didn't seem to be anything to knock into.
A blank darkness.
"Hello?" David called out.
He felt like there should be an echo. But there was no echo.
"Daphne?" Although wasn't being alone better? He might as well call for Satan.
Nothing. No answer.
Then before he could think about what was happening to him, a gust of strong wind came and knocked him off his feet. It made him float high up into the air.
It was a cold wind.
"I need a jacket," David called out. "Hello? Eddie?" Although Eddie did make him get attacked by that venemous spider. Would he even be interested in providing outer clothing wear to make David more comfortable?
It started to rain.
This was not a good dream.
Then the birds came. Or they had always been there, and David finally noticed them. They flew above him, tears dripping from their eyes. It seemed like the rain was actually their tears.
How creative. Although now David understood Eddie got the credit for that.
David spoke up to the birds. Who knows? Maybe they could understand him. Weirder things had happened. "What's wrong?"
No answer. It turns out they were not talking birds. Or maybe they were giving him the silent treatment.
Then David began to fall...very fast.
It was fast enough to make him remind himself he could not die in the dream.
He told himself he would be fine.
He'd just fall into the water below and swim.
But as he got closer, David saw it wasn't water. It was blood. He knew-not just from the sight, but the smell. An awful smell.
He splashed down deep into the blood. He swallowed some of it. He gagged.
David soon felt like he was dying, and had trouble believing he couldn't die in these dreams.
Maybe this wasn't even one of those dreams. Maybe it was a regular dream and David was dying in real life. He might be drowning from some lung infection he never knew he had. And this is how his imagination interpreted his death. Hey, if women can give birth without knowing they were ever pregnant, why can't he not know about a lung infection? Things like that were possible.
Just when he really had doubts about survival, the scene changed. David found himself in the middle of a desert.
It was hot.
And he was thirsty.
He was nauseated too. He still had the taste of blood in his mouth.
Seconds later, David learned, although one couldn't die in the
dreams, they could throw up.
Rachel walked through a long hallway filled with shiny sparkly things. Diamonds? Rhinestones? Crystals? Rachel didn't quite know. But it was quite beautiful. She enjoyed the scenery. She would enjoy it more if David were with her.
Then she stopped enjoying it.
She completely stopped enjoying it, because the walls started to talk.
They didn't say nice things.
"You're getting fat."
"You eat too much."
"Your French Toast is really not that good."
"Your food blog is embarrassing. Do you actually think you can write?"
"David will never love someone like you."
Was Eddie providing this so-called entertainment? Was he that cruel? Or did it come from her own subconscious. Both seemed plausible. Eddie did act somewhat friendly at times, but so did most campy movie monsters. A little joke here and there. Some friendly chit-chat. Then they cut you into little pieces with a steak knife.
She herself was capable of such self-criticisms.
Or maybe it was her mom. Maybe she snuck into the dream somehow.
No, her mom's criticisms were more subtle.
The crystal walls kept shouting.
"Ugly, ugly, ugly!"
"No social life!"
"You didn't go to the prom!"
Rachel had enough. "I didn't want to go to prom! So there!"
Ah. The voices hadn't expected that. She felt proud of herself for fighting back.
Then blood started dripping from the rhinestones.
This happened as volume of the voices got higher and higher.
Rachel became slightly unnerved and decided to flee the scene. But when she tried to run, her legs froze. Now she found herself downright terrified.
She started to cry.
"Crybaby!" the voice said. "Afraid of your own shadow."
"Shut up!" Rachel knew she sounded like a child.
"Rachel!" A new voice. David's voice.
She wondered if he had heard all the other stuff. After he ran to her and pulled her out of the hallway, she asked if he had heard any voices.
They walked. Silently. Rachel noticed David seemed as shook up as she felt. Had he experienced something bad too?
"Are you okay?" David said quietly after awhile.
"I think so," she said. "Thanks for helping me."
David smiled at her, but it was not his happiest smile. There was something sad in it. "No worries."
They walked some more.
And then came upon an answering machine.
It looked old.
Rachel realized she hadn't seen an answering machine in a long time. They just had an answering service on their phone. And they rarely even listened to it. They would just looked at the caller ID and called back any numbers and/or names that looked familiar.
Oh yeah, and it's not like a lot of people called their house anyway.
The red light blinked.
David bent down and pressed it. He looked at Rachel and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, well, it seems like the thing to do.
A woman's voice came on. "Hello. This is the Tirlson Residence. No one is available to answer the phone right now. Please leave your name and number and we'll get back to you as soon as possible."
Rachel looked at David. He looked at the floor. Something bad. Very bad. Rachel knew that right away.
A little boy's voice soon came from the machine. "David! Please! Answer the phone! I need you!"
Rachel looked at David. He looked tormented. She wanted to reach out to him. Hold him. This was not a time to be shy.
She reached out and put her hand on his arm. He quickly stepped back away from her. She felt completely rejected and knew that was an incredibly selfish thing to be feeling at this moment.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
He looked up at her, about to cry. "No. No. I'm sorry. It's not about you." She took a step backwards from him, not knowing exactly why. "Rachel," he whispered. Just her name. Nothing else.
"I'm sorry." She said, because she didn't know what else to say.
"It was my fault he died." David said.
Rachel didn't say anything...not because of her chronic shyness, but because she had watched enough movies and knew this was the scene where one actor has a monologue and the other actor keeps their mouth shut.
"My dad-our dad-was an alcoholic. Had three DUI's already. We had an agreement that if our dad picked Billy up from somewhere and he had any reason to think Dad was drunk, he'd call me and I'd pick him up. Or our mom would. Either one."
He stopped. Rachel waited.
"So, he went to a birthday party. My dad had been doing pretty okay at the time. Had been sober for nine weeks. I guess we all felt secure. Or at least I did. Anyway, the deal was my mom would take him to the party and my dad would pick him up. I remember. It was a big deal because it was the first party Billy had went to that my parents were not staying the entire time. Usually, my mom or dad would actually stay at the party. But this time, Billy would be alone. I think my mom was a little bit nervous about that."
He stopped again.
Rachel waited again.
"Instead of going to pick Billy up, my dad went to a bar and got totally wasted. Why? We'll never know. Since he's dead." David looked thoughtful for a second. "Then again, Eddie is dead and we can talk to him."
"Never mind that." David said. He sighed.
He didn't continue.
They were both quiet.
"I've never told anyone the whole story."
Rachel guessed she should feel honored. But for some reason she really didn't.
"Not even Cassandra."
"Oh," Rachel thought this might be the first time he had ever mentioned that name to her.
"Well to make a long horrible story short. Or a little shorter at least. I heard the message, was busy, didn't take it serious, and then my brother died. I broke our promise.
And within seconds, David went from his detached let-me-tell-you-a-little-sad-story mode to tear mode. He cried. Rachel watched. She felt completely helpless.
After awhile she said, "I'm sorry."
He looked up at her, tears falling. "You're so sweet. Do you know that?" He laughed. He was incredibly handsome when laughing and crying at the same time. She learned that from The Long Hall. "Of course you don't know that. You and your horrible self-esteem. We have to work on that. You know?"
"So, how do you feel about me now?" he asked. "Miss Number One Fan?"
"I still like you," she said, realizing quickly this was not the thing to say. "I don't think it was your fault though."
David smiled sadly. "Well, I won't tell you what I was busy doing when he called."
Something bad? Rachel had to admit she was very curious, but she wasn't sure she wanted to know. Well, if he wanted to tell her, she wouldn't stop him.
"Let's just say it took me a long time to be able to do it again."
Rachel must have looked very confused because he laughed at her.
"Not a big thing," he said. "Something all healthy teenagers do. Adults too."
Rachel had a feeling she knew what it was. But maybe she was wrong. Who knows. He could be talking about brushing his teeth. Or taking a shower. Maybe picking his nose?
"I think it's embarrassing enough for most of us. But when your brother dies because you were too busy doing it, that really messes you up." David looked at Rachel. She had a hard time facing him. She felt she might actually laugh. More out of embarrassment than amusement. And she was eighteen years old. She shouldn't get upset about masturbation. Or...um nose picking.
"Okay. I know it's not exactly my fault for my brother dying. I've been through all the self-analysis. I know it was a situation of a minor lapse in judgment turning into a huge tragedy. But I still feel guilty."
"I understand," Rachel said. And she did.
"Isn't this great," David said. "Now you know something about David Tirlson that no one else knows."
"Well thanks," Rachel said.
"Do you still like me?" Rachel knew he was joking, but there was also something serious in his tone. Pleading. Never in her life, did she imagine getting a question like this from him.
"I still like you," she said.
"Good." And suddenly he looked very happy. "Hey and you know what?"
"Maybe we'll win. Maybe we can bring Billy back."
Rachel wondered if he'd come back as a child, the same age he died? Six? Or the age he’d be if he never died? Or as an adult like they saw in the little movie clip.”
"Maybe," Rachel said. But she feared the look in his eyes. There was too much hope. Hope was good. Rachel knew that. But she didn't want him to have too much false hope. "Do you believe in an afterlife?" she asked. "I mean do you believe Billy is someplace now?"
"Like a happy peaceful place?" David said.
"Well, do you believe dreams can be real?"
Rachel laughed. "It's easy to believe in U.F.O's when you're flying in one."
"Billy's in a peaceful place," David said. "And we should keep him there. Is that what you're saying?"
"You're right. I guess." David said. "But no. I want him back. I really do."
Rachel looked down where the answering machine had been. It was gone.
She hadn't seen it disappear and she wondered if David had seen.
He whispered. "I miss him."
Then Rachel found herself back in bed.