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The Shadow Manipulator

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Will Byers still hadn't told Mike Wheeler how he felt about him. Not last year, and definitely not this year. He was planning to, however. He figured it would be all nice and romantic, well maybe not romantic. Slightly awkward would be the better word. And he didn't have to worry. He knew that no matter what, Mike would still be his friend. And that's all he really ever wanted. His touch, his sincerity...

It had been that evening, as the Snow Ball dancers cooled off and began heading home. He was sitting on the edge of a mahogany polished bench, a cup of over sugared punch in his hand. Every now and then, he squeezed a lemon wedge into the punch to sour it up, finding that he started enjoying the sour side of things more ever since the Mind Flayer got hold of him. He worried often that the Mind Flayer would try to communicate with him more, or if he had some sort of power that was linked to the Mind Flayer that had begun to brew in his bloodstream. "Maybe it's not like that," He reassured himself, sipping on the weird mixture of sweet and sour in his plastic cup. After a few gulps, he placed the cup down a bit too fast, causing some of the cold liquid to splash onto his hand.

His eyes flipped open at the sudden feeling. He could feel his eyes darkening, but he held strong. The Mind Flayer was behind a gate made by Eleven, as he already knew. So there was no way any sort of control would be placed upon him. Not today.

Before he got too lost in his thoughts, the girl he had danced with showed up and sat next to him on the bench. Their thighs touched slightly before Will scooted away, nearly knocking his cup over. "Hey," She smiled at him. He smiled back, genuinely, as he didn't really hate the girl but felt rather weird talking to her. "Thanks for dancing with me. I didn't quite catch your name."

"Oh, uh, I'm Will. I'm sure you've heard of me."

The girl shook her head, fiddling with her purse that had been set on the other side of the chair. "No, not really." The girl had made the mouth movements to introduce herself to Will, but he didn't hear her name. He heard a muffled voice that sounded a lot like his mother's calm and reassuring voice in the back of his head.

"Look behind you." The voice crooned, a sudden chill passing over his shoulders and neck. "Look behind you."

The girl, after introducing herself, felt it was highly appropriate to start talking about her entire life story, which he only heard parts of. It seemed like she was falling to a decrescendo, and that this new voice was taking over. Was it the Mind Flayer? No, it couldn't be. That thing was stuck behind the huge gate Eleven created. Stuck like a fly in a Fly Trap. He gulped. The area around him was darkening.

"I said, look behind you." The voice repeated, a little less comforting and harsher. Will was determined to stay in this reality, determined to listen to this girl as she applied lipstick to her levres and mascara to her already done eyes. She said something about a potato farm and how she was able to chase a gopher out of her farm using potatoes. Then she said something about how the potato did something and something and the other.

“Look behind you.” The soothing voice commanded, less serene than before.

"Sounds interesting," He grinned, bouncing his head and curling his fingers around the cup.

The girl made a face. "The part about my friend getting hit by a truck and losing both their arms?"

Will shuddered, an uncomfortable grin was now fixed on his face. "Uh....."

The girl continued talking, but was interrupted by a hoard of other girls who, thanks to Will not being able to see her very well, had been walking towards the two of them for a while now. They told the girl they were ready to go and if she didn't want to be left behind, she should stop applying makeup and spraying her hair and actually come to the car. Will recognized one of the girls. The leader of the group appeared to be the person whom of which rejected Dustin.

She and the hoard of girls disappeared not to long after. “Look behind you.” The voice roared, as if it were a lioness pressed close to his ears. He could almost feel the fuzzy coat of the lioness behind him. He felt like the world was spinning around him.

“I’ll see you around, right?” The girl’s voice faded in and out.

“Look behind you!”

“Okay!” Will screamed, finally turning around, finally seeing what the hubbub was about. He wasn’t sure if he said okay with the intonation of “yes, see you then” or “what is it?!”. It didn’t matter once his eyes fallen upon the scene in front of him. His heart thumped against his chest, and his jaw became slack, as if he were giving way for a Jawbreaker to fit in the nook of his mouth. If the cup of punch was in his hand at that moment, the juice’s new home would be splattered against the floor rather in the safety of the cup.

Mike and Eleven were holding tight to each other, dancing side to side like an old couple. To anyone else, it was adorable. Two teenagers hugging tight, grasping at waists or shoulders, foreheads pressed together, lips occasionally brushing. But to Will, it was similar to an old couple. A disgusting, grimy old couple. An old couple who had been tonguing each other with gummy grins. An old couple who were known in the neighborhood as disturbances…

“I’ll never let you go,” Mike whispered, audible enough to Will in this frame of mind. “I’ll never let you go, I promise.”

“Promise,” El whispered back, choking up a little. He could smell the coconut l’eau on El’s skin, even from where he stood. And in this frame of mind, Will smelt it and reeled back in disgust. Why wasn’t it that he was dancing with Mike with coconut l’eau on his skin, seeping through his suit? He shouldn’t be upset. But he couldn’t help it! He couldn’t help it- Rage was burning through his blood stream, and suddenly, the rage cooled into something cold.

“El,” Mike breathed into her ear. Like a little puppy, El looked up at Mike with a gleam of happiness in her eyes and the corners of her mouth upturned. “Thank you.”

“Friends help.” She grinned a small shy grin. The same grin that Will knew for a fact made butterflies emerge from the cocoon that was Mike’s belly. The same grin that Will felt like he couldn’t bear to replicate.

“How does that make you feel, Will?” The voice echoed, crashing into each other at fast speeds and slowing. “How does that make you feel?”

It made him feel like he got mentally dumped. Like everything that Mike had said prior to this Snow Ball was a big, stupid lie.

“Do it , Will.” The voice chanted. Before he knew it, he visualized El’s shadow moving. Moving to his will. His pupils shook from side to side, and if he had seen his eyes in the mirror, he would notice how the soft green-blue of his eye had been swallowed whole by a wave of dark chocolate. His lips were trembling. Not with tears but with a sudden sense of power. “Do it, Will.” The voice chanted in his ears again. Maybe the reason it was so distant before was because of El’s gate formation. He remembered how he appreciated El doing that for him.


Now it was bitter disgust. Narrowing his big, soft brown eyes, he focused on Mike and El’s shadows dancing on the fading light of the wall. Without much thought, the Shadow turned against El as if it were some sort of Peter Pan trick and shoved her from Mike. It wasn’t just any sort of shove. It was a harsh shove that would knock someone flat out as if their lungs were exposed to the ground that would be their safe haven.

Not a second after, El moved backward as if she were hit by something, and crashed upon the gym floor. She breathed heavily and harshly, and for a moment, Will enjoyed the sounds of her struggling. But then, he felt everything come back to light again. There was no longer a hanging light over the two of them anymore.

“El! Oh my god, El!” Mike cried, coming to her aid. Similar to a mother bird tending to her young.

Will just stared at her for a moment before his eyes sucked back into their serene green-blues. His lower lip trembled again as he watched El get up from the floor, looking back at the low flats of her shoes as if they were the answer to why she fell to the ground. She grasped hold to Mike as soon as his arms wrapped around her body. “I’m sorry,” He muttered sincerely, even if she couldn’t hear him. His eyes looked at his hands, and felt his pounding head. There was a little bit of him that wanted that shadow to do more, but that bit of him dissipated the more he saw Mike caring for his girlfriend. Holding her hand tight to his own and just being so perfect. He remembered how close Mike had been to him when the Flayer had taken over not too long ago. His tears, how they streamed down his cheeks and all the memories. Those sincere looks were for his savior, El. He couldn’t bear to look on any further.

Without thinking, Will left the gym, leaving the cup behind him. What he wanted to say to Mike had been stunted short. All that mattered was leaving as quickly and as efficiently as possible. El wasn’t an enemy.

But in some part of his mind, she was. And as Joyce Byers drove him home, asking him questions about girls and such very candidly as they turned on this street and passed by that restaurant, that small part of his mind started clouding around him.

“You said yes….”