Haplessly Ever After

What Dreams May Come

"Maggie!" Willie ran down the slope towards Widows’ Hill, snow crunching underfoot. "Come back!"

But Maggie would not stop. Racing ahead until she reached the precipice, the young woman stood there, her cloak billowing wildly in the winter wind.

He caught up, but Barnabas got there first, locked with Maggie in a concupiscent embrace. Willie leaped, fists swinging, but the monster effortlessly flung him to the ground. Maggie pulled away, looked dispassionately at the two men, and, without comment, threw herself from the cliff.

"NOOO!" Willie yelled, scrambling to the earth's edge. "Don't leave me alone!"

"She knew too much to live," Barnabas explained, pulling the boy to his feet. As Willie began to sob, his master struck him sharply on the shoulder with his wolf head cane. "Shut up, and stop being so emotional. You have no rights. You get nothing. Now, return to the Old House and go back to work. That's where you belong."

Willie was still weeping as he stood in the candlelit bathroom, but his tears were made of blood which cascaded down his cheeks in fragmented red rivers. Horrified, he stared at himself in the mirror as his reflection faded to nothing and only the blood remained, suspended in thin air.

But he hadn't disappeared, because when he turned around, Sam Evans was there, aiming his shotgun. He fired at point blank range, and the young man heard the mirror shatter as his brains splattered the wall.

Willie woke up clutching his pillow, backed up to where the mattress met the wall. He hoped to hell he had not screamed just then. It was just another dream. He often had disturbing dreams, almost every night, that's what Maggie said. He made so much noise in his sleep that the landlord twice slipped notes under their door, telling the young couple to quiet down their kinky sexcapades.

Willie lay on the mattress in their otherwise empty apartment, watching Maggie hook her bra, illuminated by the blue nightlight. She was getting pretty fat, he thought, but that was okay, it happens to ladies after they're married. Besides, he liked where she was growing larger.

"Where ya goin'?"

"Home." She pulled on a pair of stretch pants. "I have to get some rest."

"I'm sorry; don't go. I'll be quiet."

"It's not just the hollering." Maggie pulled an oversized sweatshirt over her head. "You can't stay still for five minutes. Just now you almost hit me in the face again. What will people say if I show up for work with a black eye?"

"They'll think I beat you up, and your pop will shoot me. My bloody brains will go splat on the wall."

"Lovely." She sat on the mattress and brushed back the hair away from his eyes. "Honey, I'm sorry, but if I leave now, I can still catch a few hours sleep." The young man pulled her into his arms and held tight; now she wouldn't be able to go. "Willie, this is not normal; you've got to get help, please go to a doctor."

"And say what?" He looked bewildered.

"What do you think? That you have horrible nightmares all the time. You cry and yell and thrash around, and wake up screaming. Then you lie there trembling with glassy eyes while I apologize to the neighbors who've been banging on the walls."

"…I don't really cry."

"Get me a tape recorder and I'll prove it. Why are you so terrified? Is it something from the mysterious past you won't tell me about, or is it Mr. Barnabas Collins?" The last part of her question revealed a hint of sarcasm.

"I don't remember," he lied. "Why would I be af-fraid of Barnabas?"

She pulled away and stared at him. "Oh, maybe because he's a vampire who sucked out your soul, beat you and forced you to work like a slave in that freezing, filthy hellhole. Then he kidnapped me and tried to kill both of us. Stop me when any of this starts to sound familiar."

"Did I tell you that?" He laughed apologetically.

"Yes, you did, because two months of my life were erased from memory, thanks to that devious doctor who protects him as much as you do!"

Willie buried his face in his hands. "Why are you yellin' at me?"

"I'm not yell—!" she regained her composure. "Look, I don't want to upset you. I get that you've blocked a lot of this from your mind, but I haven't; I'm reminded every time I see those scars on your back."

"I'm sorry; I'll keep my shirt on."

"That's not the—never mind." Maggie kissed her husband. "Please go see Dr. Woodard today."

"It's fine, I already talked to Dr. Hoffman, and she gave me some pills. Three dif'rent kinds."

"That woman should have her license revoked." His young wife shook her head. "I hope you're not mixing them up with the ones she gave you before."

Shit, I hope not, too. "I was real careful and wrote on the labels."

Maggie stood up and put on her coat. "I'll see you at breakfast. Will you pick up bagels and cream cheese on the way?"

"Nope, 'cause you're gettin' fat." He smiled impishly.

"That's funny, Loomis. Keep it up and you'll be the one with a black eye."

"I love you."

"I love you too. See you at home." Maggie closed the door quietly behind her as she left, so she wouldn't disturb the neighbors.

Home. That's what she called her pop's cottage where she grew up, and that was understandable. Their dinky studio apartment wasn't much of a home. There was a mattress, an alarm clock and a thrift store lamp on the floor. What passed for the kitchen took up part of one wall, next to the postage stamp bathroom, where you had to step over the toilet to get to the shower.

But Willie called it the Party Palace. It had a sizzling radiator, electricity, hot running water, refrigerator and a gas stove. The roof didn't leak and the windows weren't cracked. It cost a bit more than the newlyweds could afford, but was necessary if they were to have any privacy.

Sam wanted his little girl at home as much as possible, but Willie didn't feel welcome there. He was uncomfortable in Maggie's bedroom and the idea of Mr. Evans listening from next door was enough to deflate anyone's enthusiasm. Likewise, and for a myriad of reasons, Maggie refused to go into the Old House, where her husband's old quarters were still available.

Willie turned on the bedside lamp and reached over to the three prescription bottles on the floor. There were pills to make him sleep, pills to help him stay awake, and an antidepressant to fight the demons. In order to keep them straight, he had drawn an up arrow, a down arrow and a smiley face on the labels. He was about to pop a sleeping pill when the telephone rang.

It couldn't be Maggie. She had just left, and no one else would call him, let alone in the middle of the night—except Dr. Hoffman. It seemed like a good idea when she had talked Barnabas into installing phone service in the Old House, but then shit like this happened.

"Whadda ya want, Julia? It's 2 o'clock in the mornin'."

"I apologize for disturbing you, but you know the timing of these things is crucial. I need you to drive me to Maine Coast Memorial for a pickup."

"No," he whined. "I'm sleepin'."

"Take an amphetamine; do you remember which ones they are?"

Willie sighed. "The orange ones with the up arrow."

"Good boy. I'll expect you in 15 minutes." She hung up.

The young man reached over to the pile of his clothes on the floor and began to get dressed. It was lucky Maggie wasn't there, because she would have had a hissy fit at the way Julia and Barnabas expected her husband to be at their beck and call 24/7. And then she would demand to know why they were driving to hospitals all over the state in the dead of night, meeting creepy characters at back doors, and exchanging large amounts of cash for ice coolers containing—well, Willie didn't know exactly. He didn't want to know. Maybe stolen blood for Barnabas but, more than likely, it was equipment for another one of the good doctor's crazy ass experiments.

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