TO LOSE THE DREAM -- By Jean Graham

The pain, though he fought to bury it once more in unconsciousness, would not go away. It gripped him, possessed him. The pain _became_ him.

Willie moaned, forcing swollen eyes to open on the cramped, dirty room he had for several months called home, and tried to lift his head far enough to read the face of the rusty alarm clock that ticked only inches away on the table. Abandoning the effort, he fell back onto a pillow that was stained rust-brown with his blood. He knew his clothing would be stained and torn as well: the throbbing in his neck and shoulders told him there were angry, swollen welts there. New scars atop the old.

For a brief time, in the silence of the tiny room, he sobbed into the pillow, wishing himself dead, praying to be anywhere but where he was. Then, mentally, he began to curse himself: to reprimand his childish nature for dredging up wishes he knew could not ever have.

_You really did it this time, Willie. Really did it good. Coulda got yourself killed, you stupid imbecile. Coulda made him mad enough to finally kill you. Or worse. You never thought there could be a worse, did you? Not till you met Barnabas Collins._

_You been asleep a long time. It's close to sunset maybe. Slept all day long. You oughta get up. Only you can't._

_It hurts._

_What's that sound outside? You hear it? Rain... It's rainin'. Fresh, damp smell of it comin' in the open window. Wonder what time it is. He might he wakin' up soon, an' you better be there when he does._

_Not yet though. It ain't dark yet. You can still see sunlight, can't you? It only looks dark 'cause it's rainin'. That's all it is. The rain._

_Was cloudy and gray like that yesterday too. A slow, steady drizzle makin' beads of water on the glass of the phone booth. Shoulda known he'd figure out it was you. Who else'd know to tell 'em she was out there in that cemetery? Who else?_

_Stupid. Deserved what you got for it, too. Surprised he didn' kill you. Only he needs you, doesn' he? Got nobody else to watch over him in the daytime. Nobody but you._

_That's what they call ironic, ain't it. First time in your life anybody ever needed you for anything._

_Wonder how long before it doesn' hurt any more. Funny how you forget. Can't even remember the first time you got knocked around, can you? Musta been too small to even talk yet. Sure remember lotsa times after that, though. Most every night, when the old man came home stinkin' drunk..._

_Never figured why Ma put up with it long as she did. Most women, they'd've walked out on him years hefore that. An' it couldn' be she gave a damn 'bout you or Evie, could it? 'Cause later on she want away an' left you. With him. Guess Evie was eleven, or twelve. An' you'd've been what? Fifteen? Still small enough for him to whip you._

_Mostly you remember that look he got when you knew he was gonna let you have it. Got so's he made a habit of it whether he was drunk or not, jus' to keep you in line. An' while he was hittin' you, there was always another kind of look in his eyes -- the kind he used to get sometimes when he made Ma go in the back room with him. She always come out afterwards all cut and bruised and cryin'-like. Too many years like that, and you never figured why. Some kids, they jus' never think of those things. Not till they got to._

_When you had to was the wee after Ma finally went away. That's when he started lookin' at Evie that way, an' took her in the back room an' made her... made her do those things. She screamed so loud, like he was killin' her in there, you couldn' stand it anymore. Couldn' jus' sit and listen to her scream that way. Had to stop him. Somehow, some way, you had to make him stop._

_What'd you expect, though, walkin' into that room? You expect to see just Evie getting whipped, or jus' tryin' to get away from him like you always tried to do? You never thought what was in there was Evie with her dress all torn off, and him, wearin' nothin', on top of her..._

_She had time to put a good hard kick between his legs then, 'cause he stopped to yell at you. He went to grab that big ironstone pitcher off the bed stand and throw it at you. Leastways that's what he woulda done if Evie hadn' kicked him. Woulda thrown that pitcher at you insteada hittin' her with it. Hit her again and again while she screamed and begged him to quit and tried to crawl away._

_Nowhere she could go. An' nothin' you could do. Jus' like always._

_He beat her till she wasn' screamin' anymore, an' when you tried again to make him stop, he took the pitcher an' he hit you too. An' even though he'd left her alone there on the floor, Evie didn' try to get away._

_She didn' move no more at all._

_Never knew what he did with her. Didn' even come to till some time the next day, an' she was gone then. He told the cops at first that she went to live with her ma in Connecticut. Then he cussed at 'em when they wanted her address to check it out. Said they both just run off an' he'd be damned if he'd go chasin after either one of 'em. Guess they knew he was lyin' about Evie. Only they could never prove it._

_'Cause they never found her._

_Wasn' long after that you left. You remember the day you decided how things were gonna he? Was when he thrashed you for leavin' the barbed wire uncoiled in the barn. Said he mighta been killed if he'd stepped on it -- barbed wire can spring up an' tangle you quick so's you can't get loose an' can't move without cuttin' yourself worse._

_Funny he should put them kinda ideas in your head, huh? 'Cause he made you think about that. Made you think about it a lot._

_Didn' have to wait too long till the next time he got good and drunk. Heard him come in the house an' head straight for the back room. That's where you left the whole damn roll of barbed wire uncoiled by his bed. Right where he hit you with the pitcher. Where he killed Evie..._

_Hadn' never heard so much noise as he made, had you? Sounded jus' like a stuck bull in there. Or a hog when you butcher it. Shoulda heard him swear. He was gonna fix you good, Willie Loomis. Gonna kill you sure, jus' as soon as he got loose from there._

_Only he didn' get loose. He was too drunk even to figure how, an' there weren't no one around to hear him hollerin' but you, an' anyway, that barbed wire done its job real good. Got a strand wrapped clear around his fat, filthy neck. Made his eyes bulge and his tongue pop out. Can't doubt he died quicker that way._

_Too bad._

_Woulda liked it better if he'd taken a good long time to die. Bled to death, maybe. Real slow. That way he coulda paid a little longer for what he done to you and to Ma... and to Evie._

_It wasn' so hard, cleanin' the blood off the floor after. Gettin' him outa there first was a job. Found the wire cutters in his tool box and snipped an' coiled the barbed wire till only the piece around his neck was left, then grabbed hold of that with your gloves on and dragged him to the trap door -- the one hid under the fake parlor floorboards that led down to a secret root cellar an' his private stash of booze._

_It had real steep wooden stairs, that cellar. Made it easy to string him from their underside an' leave him there, hangin' in the company of the only thing he ever really gave a damn about. Now be could have it. He could rot with it._

_Never knew if anybody found him. Never cared. But just to make it hard, you nailed the phony floorboards down before you went._

_Nobody left then to stop you, was there? Free to go. Free to be your own man._

_So you thought._

_An' things did go pretty good for a couple years. Got into a scrape now an then. Spent a few months in jail. Not so bad, all around. Only everywhere you went, there were guys who knew just how to push you around -- because you never knew how to stop 'em. Guys who knew they could run your life for you, use you any way they wanted to, 'cause there was nothin' you were gonna do. Guys like Jason McGuire._

_Is that why you went snoopin' in the Collins family tomb that night? Did ya think those 'hidden jewels' would buy you freedom from the likes of Jason?_

_Shoulda known better._

_Oh, what you found freed you of Jason, all right. And of your soul. Maybe you got what you deserved then, too. Found somebody new to run your life for you. Keep you in line..._

_Runnin' your own life -- that's nothin' but a dream. An' you ought to've outgrown dreams like that a long time ago. When it comes back, you better lose it somewhere. Don't think about it anymore; not ever. 'Cause you can't ever have it._

_It's jus' like your old man always told you, Willie. You're no good. No good for nothin', 'cept doin' what you're told._

_So why're you jus' layin' here now, feelin' sorry for yourself? You gotta get up... get busy. Forget that it hurts. Forget that tonight, or tomorrow, he might kill you. Forget you ever wished your life could be your own._

_No more time for dreamin'._

_So get up now. You got work to do..._