i. Simon is no stranger to nightmares.
He doubts anyone is, particularly those who have been bullied. It’s no surprise that he has them on occasion. They usually consist of darkened silhouettes, usually calling him names and advancing on him in a vaguely threatening manner. Sometimes they consist of him doing something so hideously embarrassing – something as innocuous as walking around in his underwear or something as gut wrenchingly terrible as being shoved on a darkened stage alone with the entire world watching – that they make him sit straight up afterwards, clutching at his chest and staring at the time flashing on his phone to make sure it wasn’t real. And other times… other times were even worse, because they have him doing awful things. To the people who did awful things to him. Sometimes he punches them. Sometimes it’s worse. When he wakes up after those dreams, he clenches his eyes shut and pretends that the feeling in the pit of his stomach isn’t some twisted sort of thrill, but disgust. He is never able to fully convince himself.
ii. These dreams are different.
No matter how many times he dreamed of doing bad things to those who tormented him and no matter that he even tried to burn that prick’s house down, he has never considered himself to be a bad person. He never thought he had it in him. Now, he’s not so sure.
Though he finds it difficult to recall the events of that night in his mind’s eye, it appears that his subconscious retains it all. In his dreams, he can see her frightened face. Frightened of him.
No one has ever been frightened of him before. But he can hear her ragged breathing and her shrill screams as he throws her to the wall, invisible. He sees her falling to the floor after her smashes her into the door. He had no idea how much strength he had. He’d never used it. When he sees her blood on his hands in his dreams, it’s bad, and he finds himself sweaty and wrapped in his covers, fretfully grabbing at the back of his head and half expecting his hands to come away sticky with blood. And he finds the fact that he has the power inside him to actually kill someone strangely exhilarating, but that’s all wrong because he’s not a bad person. He has to believe that.
The guilt is all-consuming. He discards any ideas about loving her, because… he didn’t know her. Not really. Following someone around while invisible doesn’t exactly count, he gathers, though he felt differently just a little while ago. It was stupid, befriending her. She manipulated him.
He had to do it, though. He had to protect his friends. Sure, they weren’t exactly nice to him, but they let him hang around most of the time. They tolerate him. It’s the closest he’s ever come to belonging, and he couldn’t let anyone rip that away from him, not after he’s gotten so close. Alisha was… Alisha, she was one of those girls that wouldn’t look twice at him in the real world, and she had her own world, her own friends, but all she did to him was mutter a small, “Frrrrrreak” every once in a while. And Curtis had a good heart, even if he looked at him like he was crazy. And Nathan was…
Nathan was like everyone else. The name calling. Always with the name calling. But he wasn’t like everyone else, because there was something wild about him, something not right. And he has Kelly to keep in check, and Kelly is good, better than any of them. They aren’t necessarily friends, but at least they don’t jerk him around. At least they don’t capitalize on the information that he’s lonely.
So even if it was an accident, at least it’s justified. But if the dreams where she stares at him lifelessly are bad, the ones where she’s alive are worse. He dreams of her smiling at him, giving him a cup of coffee, laughing with (no, at, it was always at) him. He dreams of how she went about the day when she couldn’t see him. She used to tuck one leg underneath herself before turning on the telly, she used to grimace when something proved to be too hot or cold on her tongue, she used to look lonely and solemn and sad and longing. That’s what Simon dreams of most of all, because he has seen that expression reflected back at him before. Not on such a beautiful face, but the feeling there is the same.
He knows that she was only manipulating him, and that he had been used. It’s like all those comics where the scheming woman gets to the weakest link who is so surprised by kindness that he spills everything, because no one that beautiful would ever want someone like him. It was all a lie.
But even that lying smile is something he can’t stand to see.
iii. He visits her.
He feels that he has to. If he sees her cold, frozen, dead, the dreams must stop. So he goes to visit her, and pulls her torso out of the freezer, sits on the sill, and stares at her. He puts his hand to her face as if to remind himself: cold, dead, cold, dead. In the back of his mind, he can feel the corner of himself not overcome by what he had done parrot away in the background, wondering what the people at the psych ward would do to him if they saw him here, eating lunch with the corpse of a woman he thought he loved, then killed. They’d lock him up for good. He’s not crazy, he reminds himself, just a little overwhelmed. A lot overwhelmed.
Simon does not swear much, but even he can recognize that this goes beyond weird. It goes beyond fucked up. And fucked up, Simon thinks, is okay provided that the nightmares stop.
When Nathan falls to his death despite Simon’s best efforts, he is sure of one morbid fact: it will not be Sally in his dreams tonight.
He’s wrong. When he wakes up short of breath, he can’t believe that he’s not dreaming of Nathan. Though he was a twat, he was a friend, and he doesn’t even give him the dignity of allowing him into his subconscious. No, instead it’s Sally who drifts about in his dreams, skin ice cold and blue. He finds himself wishing he didn’t know all that trivia about dead bodies, because it transfers directly into his dreams, fingers snapping off and stomach expanding. It’s a horrifying image, but to him, it’s not as horrifying as seeing her smiling face.
That’s twisted, but it works, so he keeps visiting her. At some point, he’s not sure whether it’s to keep the dreams at bay or just because he wants to remind himself of what he did. He can’t just ignore it. Either way, it doesn’t matter. She’s dead.
iv. They drop her in the lake.
That’s the end of it. At least that should have been the end of it. But it’s not.
That night, Sally offers him a cornetto, which is so ridiculous that he has to laugh right in her face. He wakes up spluttering and hissing, cursing and thanking Nathan in the same gasped breath if not only for breaking up the sheer monotony of his dreams.
When lunchtime rolls around the next day, he nearly forgets that they had dumped Sally in the lake, and is caught halfway to the freezer room by Nathan.
“Hey now, where are you going, Barry?” Nathan asks, a bloody cocky grin on his face despite the fact that he had to ask for a replacement of their hideous orange costume due to his second one being covered in blood. “Your little girlfriend’s gone. You’re just going to have to have to come out into daylight with the rest of us.”
There’s a pause.
Nathan adds, “You little freak.”
But an invitation is an invitation, so Simon out with him, and with the rest of them. The dreams haven’t stopped yet, Simon reflects, but maybe by the time he can call these people true friends, they will.