The Truth in Dreams
The fog hugged the thicket of overgrowth in the window in his mind, and he was lost. Lost again, in the garden of that evil place, subject only to the screams that Emery hoped echoed from his own throat as opposed to that of someone he cared for. Perhaps, they were simply the demons in his head.
Rather, at a second thought, the demons from the house trying to fight their way in.
He could feel one coming up upon him, it was the same feeling he got every time they would appear to him. A coldness that began at the top of his head swept its way down his spine, leaving the stocky man stunned and his mind clouded. It only happened in a matter of moments, but that was all it took to completely incapacitate him and leave his frightened form unprotected and susceptible to the evils lurking in the twisted old garden.
As he was consumed by the cold, Emery finally found its hands about him: they were long and bony, holding a womanly shape, but barely recognizable. As soon as he regained his bearings a bit, he swallowed hard while turning a fraction of an inch toward the apparition, inquiring in a voice that was choked with fright; "The lady of the house, I presume?"
Ellen Rimbauer's empty eye-sockets stared him down, causing a fear deep down inside the man's chest to squeeze at his heart. For that moment, he vividly remembered Vic standing outside the windows of the Billiard Room, pleading. Pleading for his life, pleading for the pain that was almost overwhelming. Emery knew that feeling now, and it encompassed his every thought until Ellen's dead hands began to climb up his plaid shirt and he found her horrifying touch enough to occupy his frazzled mind.
He was paralyzed with fear, unable to move, or even cry out. As the blackened, decomposing hand crept up his shirt, it left small tracks of something that appeared outwardly as dust, but was in truth long-dead human skin. Unable to breathe, unable to think, her hand finally advanced in a quick, cutting motion, taking Emery by the throat and squeezing.
Even though the pile of bones before him couldn't have weighed as much as the man's left foot, it lifted him into the air with ease using only one of it's hands, the sudden movement and lack of oxygen causing black spots to swim before his eyes. Bile rose in his throat as he finally caught a whiff of the decomposing woman: funny, none of the other horrors in the house had ever laid claim to some sort of stench, although he'd always thought...
He'd always thought they should. Bingo.
Struggling only slightly, Emery screwed shut his eyes and screamed in his head 'Not there, not there, not there!' as everything faded to black.
The shrill ringing of the phone on his bedside table was what finally pulled the last remaining Waterman from his nightmare. Jolting up in bed, he ran a hand over his face, drenched in sweat, before exhaling and fumbling for the phone. "Hello?"
"Coming?" was the only word that echoed from the receiver, and it took Emery a few moments to place the voice, which, despite the events that had taken place nearly six months ago, still sounded childish and full of wonder.
Coming? The man pondered fuzzily, until it dawned on him. Today was the day; they were saying their good-byes to Rose Red one final time before the wrecking-crews were called in. "Hi, Annie. Yes, I'm coming." Reaching past the receiver, he felt for his glasses as he fumbled with keeping the phone balanced between his shoulder and ear, and donned them after only a few moments, smiling internally to himself. Annie was the only one who had really forgiven him for his behavior inside the house, although none of them hated him for it. He'd been subject to one of the most plain, primal reaction that was awake in the human mind: fear. The younger Wheaton girl had understood, and as such, it had endeared her to him, and just hearing the sheer innocence in her voice washed away any remaining fragments of the nightmare from his shattered psyche.
But a darker tone laced her simple words as the doe-eyed girl whispered softly into the receiver: "Safe?"
"Safe," Emery echoed the word, even her tone of voice. He sure as hell hoped it was safe, but didn't want to take comfort in illusion. Telling all of that to Annie, however, didn't seem like such a good idea. So, only twisting the truth a bit, he offered weakly: "We aren't going inside."
"Safe?" Annie demanded, more firmly now, and he could almost her chance in voice, hear the pain and fear the house had caused.
It tugged at his heart, which was an almost refreshing feeling. He knew from experience that it hurt more not to have anyone else to worry about, save for yourself. It also made you selfish. The red-haired man was thinking selflessly at that moment, however. Annie was making strides in her communication with the outside world, and he didn't want to scare her back into her shell. Then again, he wanted her to trust him, and lying just was no longer acceptable at this point in time.
"I won't let anything happen to you, I promise," Emery told her quietly, voice deep with sleep but earnest. Seemingly satisfied with this, Annie gave a quick 'Bye' and a loud monotonous dial tone was the only thing that echoed within the water-stained walls of the man's sparsely furnished room. "Bye," his voice dropped off as he dropped the phone back in the cradle, resting his chin in his palms as he propped one elbow up on the creaky old bed.
He certainly wasn't lying, but couldn't help feelings of apprehension from creeping up into his throat and making it tight with fear. No, he pushed them down deep inside: there was just no time for that today. Throwing the covers from his bed, Emery swung his bare feet to the cold wooden floor of his one bedroom apartment. Today was the day to bid farewell to the house that had, he'd thought, destroyed his entire life. Had taken his mother, as well as four of his fingers, and left him with only the deep-seated terror of being alone.
The man always made things out to be earth shattering, for in retrospect, he hadn't lost much. Just an unhealthy attachment to a poor role model and the inability to pitch a baseball with his left hand. The side of his lip twitched into a small smirk: he hadn't ever really played baseball since the fifth grade, so things were pretty much looking up from there. And the only thing that had really plagued him in the six months passing, aside from the sometimes-crippling pain in his hand, had been the nightmares.
Now, Emery had never been much for nightmares, frankly had never slept much and considered it a big waste of time. But when they came, they were so life-threateningly real that it was like he was back in that house, unsure of life, of reality, and even of himself.
The man shook his head hard, brown eyes bright but determined: nightmares were nightmares, just concentrated thoughts with pictures, and they weren't going to beat him. He'd actually survived Rose Red, something that not many people could lay claim to, and absolutely nothing was going to take away the glory of that achievement. Nope: no way, no how.
Moving tiredly to his feet, Emery shuffled toward the closet, rummaging through his somewhat drab wardrobe until he found what he was looking for. Tossing the clothes off onto his bed, he sighed, instead moving toward the window where the closed curtains glowed hot with sunlight.
He flung them open, momentarily blinded by the bright rays of the sun, but also taking comfort in the stability of the fact. The sun, unlike anything else in his life (save for failure), was constant. It was an exception to the rule the man had lived by for the past twenty or so years: that things never last. People leave, things die, and those were the ways of the world. Yet, day in and day out, it was still hanging there in the sky, still shining, and still frying the snobbish under-weight beach-goers of the world.
Yeah, Emery thought with a wry twist of his lip: life was good. And that day was going to be the end of a chapter in his life, one filled with hopelessness and despair, that would leave him with a set of fresh blank pages and the exhilarating prospect of a new tomorrow.