Chapter Thirty Five
A slight tremor shot up through Steven's arm. Noises, most of them quiet and eerie whispers were beginning to crowd his mind. While he drove back to his home, he could feel the voices growing stronger, calling out his name and other strange, vague words. None of it made sense, except for the one thing the voices kept repeating over and over: 'enter our dreams'.
The oft repeated phrase grew louder, stronger. It pounded in his head like a tympani drum. His head rested against the window, the cool glass providing some relief from the auditory affliction. Beside him, his bags sat on the car seats, reminding him of his sorrowful, revelatory trip to Edmonton.
And to think, only a month ago his only concerns were about seeing Julia that next summer and what he would do the following year. Now? Now, he was lucky if he even got to see next year, not to mention tomorrow.
Already, he could feel himself slowly, but surely slipping into the dreams.
The short reprieve from the hallucinations had proved only to be the calm before the storm.
His grandfather, who was driving the car next to his grandmother, pulled the small, red car onto his street. Steven's eyes drifted to Cerise's house, where he was shocked to see police tape around her entire yard. A squad car was parked on her driveway, where two police were standing, talking to one another.
"Cerise?" As they slowly drove past her house, he kept his eyes locked on the police officers, who were laughing and talking away. Then at the police tape that blocked off a front yard that he distinctly remembered playing in with Cerise when they were younger. A tall, dying oak tree sat in the middle of the yard, where he and Cerise had once climbed to the top of.
He took out his phone, seeing that he didn't have a response from his good friend.
His heart pounding, he refused to believe that she'd been the victim of the stabbing his taxi driver had spoken of. Even if she was, he wouldn't accept it. There was only so much pain and grief someone could take before they were overwhelmed.
The car pulled up into their driveway, coming to a stop beside his house. Steven took his bags, stepped out of the car and thanked his grandparents for driving him home. He thought of his own car, and remembered that his uncle had offered to drive it back to his house.
"We're just going to go out for coffee," his grandfather said with a bleak, forced smile. "Do you want to come with us?"
"No," Steven pulled his bags behind him, heading towards the front door. "I just need to be alone."
"Okay." He looked like he wanted to say more, but he didn't. Getting back into his car, he drove down the driveway, watching Steven amble up the sidewalk to his front door. His bags followed in tow, dragging on the snow and ice-covered concrete.
Before stepping inside his house, he looked over his shoulder, down the street, towards his old friend's house. Another car was pulling up near the squad car, while the stars overhead came out for their nighttime shift. He saw four people step out of the car, two of them holding one another, their cries reaching all the way to where Steven stood.
The third person came out, their arms wrapped around the fourth person. He squinted, trying to discern who they were, but couldn't tell in the growing darkness. Turning away, his heart and chest numb from the overwhelming pain, he unlocked the front door, turned the knob and went inside.
Dropping his bags on the living room floor, Steven stumbled down the hall towards his room. Without bothering to turn on any lights, he made his way down the dark hall, up the stairs, and then turned down the narrow hall towards his room.
"Steven… dream with us… Steven… Steven!" The voices were shivering, quaking as they shouted at him, and swarming his mind angrily. "Steven!" This time, the shrill voice belonged to Julia.
His downcast eyes looked upwards, towards a figure standing at the end of the hall. Julia. Shuffling down the carpeted walkway, she cried out his name, her familiar voice oddly soothing and terrifying all at once.
Steven stopped midway down the hall, flicked on the light so he could get a better look at Julia. "Is it really you?" In the warm, soft light that was provided from overhead, Steven saw that it truly was her. Dressed in the gorgeous, tight black dress, she held open her arms, staring at him with intoxicatingly torquoise, gorgeous eyes.
"Of course." Smiling, she took one more step closer, before Steven had swept her up in his arms. He couldn't even begin to describe how amazing it was to hold her in his arms, to feel her loving, incredible touch.
"I thought you were dead, oh Julia, they showed me your grave! I couldn't believe it, I just couldn't! I knew you had to be alive! Even if it's only in the dreams!" He was blubbering now, while she pressed herself snugly against his shuddering form. "I just knew you're alive! I knew it. After everything that's gone wrong, everything… my father died, my best friend did as well. I just can't handle it anymore, to lose you as well, I couldn't do it!"
"I'm here Steven, its okay. I'm here."
Water began to flood the carpet they were standing on. It ran over his toes, rising up his jean-clad legs. Behind the embracing couple, a glowing ball of light shone brightly, encompassing the two in its blinding, hot radiance.
Steven let go of Julia, taking a moment to stare at her gorgeous, stunning face. "I have so much to tell you, Julia. So much has happened. But I know that I can't give you up, never. I love you, Julia. I love you so much. Even if that means giving all of this up."
He saw the water gathering around his knees, felt the warm liquid soaking his pants and skin. "What?" He then noticed the ball of light behind Julia, growing larger and larger.
Julia ignored both the light and the water, pulling closer to Steven. "What's wrong, Steven? There's nothing to be afraid of. This is simply the end, your last moments before you enter the dreams forever. Why are you shaking? Isn't this what you wanted?" Her tone was losing its seductive, comforting feel. Instead, she grabbed his arm forcefully.
Steven couldn't stop staring at the ball of light, while the voices were now screaming in his mind. The water rose higher, now up to his waist, as it flooded his entire house.
"No… you aren't Julia. This isn't right." He looked down at his arm, which was firmly in her grasp. To his horror, he noticed that it was beginning to fade away. Slowly, he could see right through it, as if he were a ghost. "No, what's happening?"
"This is what you wanted, Steven. I don't understand. I thought that reality was too painful, that you wanted me?" Julia grabbed his other arm, smiling at him with white, pearly teeth, moved in for a kiss. "I thought you loved me?"
"No," Steven pulled his head back, the voices growing louder and louder.
The water was now up to his chest, while the woman before him was not the same one he'd fallen in love with in Alberta. She was just like the hooded figure-false, imagined. The real Julia, the one he'd promised to love forever wasn't her. That Julia was still trapped in the dreams, unaware that she was really six feet under in a cemetery in Camrose.
He had to let her go.
"Let me go!" Steven yanked harder, but her grip was like iron. However, in the lit up water, he could see that her hands were now skeletal. "Ah!" He shouted, finally freeing himself from the monster that stood before him.
The decay was spreading all over her body, transforming the once beautiful girl into a putrefying, rotten corpse. Her dress now hung around her neck in tattered, frayed patches, while her skin was dissolving, leaving only bone and rot in its place.
A once elegant, attractive face had become a rotten, disfigured skull. Her eyes empty sockets, and mouth only a wasted, bony jaw.
Steven turned away, horrified at the transformation.
"What is wrong, Steven?"
Everything was wrong-how could he fool himself any longer? Markus was completely and utterly right: He needed to let go.
However, he was beginning to understand that it was too late now. The water was at his mouth, trying to claw its way down his throat. His body, which he could still see under the brightly lit waters, had all but faded away.
"Dream with us," the voices chanted, swirling in his head like a tornado. "Dream with us."
Steven closed his eyes, opened his mouth and swallowed the warm, sugary water. His heart thundered in his chest, while burning, horrible pain sliced up and down his quickly vanishing body.
This was the end.
He was now and forever would be, in the dreams.