Chapter 1: Chapter 0: The Disappearance of Georgie Denbrough
City of Derry
7 YEARS OLD
LAST SEEN OCTOBER 30 1988
DESCRIPTION: Date of Birth: September 18th, 1981. Male. 7 Yrs.
Height: 49 Inches. Weight: 47 lbs. Blonde Hair, Brown Eyes. Wearing Yellow Raincoat, Distressed Blue Pants, Yellow Galoshes.
Persons Having Any Information
Requested to Call
800---131-0728 (207) 174-6913
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GEORGIE DENBROUGH
30TH OCTOBER 1988, DERRY, MAINE.
It had been an uncharastically warm October in Maine in the year 1988. The riverbanks remained within their bays, seeming to be content to flush under the bridge and through the heart of Derry. No need to push itself over the embankments, or to spill onto the streets and flooding the weeds that cracked through parts of the pavement on Main Street. There had been a lack of torrential downpour, to the relief to the city workers and disdain of the countless children who donned their galoshes and stomped in muddy puddles until even their fat faces, pink with glee were painted with skids of mud.
It had to rain eventually, of course. And today - the day that Georgie Denbrough would go missing - the skies emptied. They emptied as if they were pre-emptively mourning the younger Denbrough boy. Children flooded into the streets as the river almost followed suit, laughing through splashes and mud-balls being thrown across the peaceful suburb, blissfully unaware of the tragedy which would drain the colour from their faces and force them into itchy black formal clothes not a few days later. The sky parted, rain pounding against the ground with enough force to trample the perfectly manicured daisies on the front lawn of the Denbrough household.
Georgie, who had not long turned seven years old, sat on his older brother’s window sill, watching the droplets of water racing down the window. The far left droplet was a clear winner as far as Georgie was concerned. It was small, didn’t carry the same weight as the others, but it zipped past stagnant pellets with a purpose.It darted down, nearly - oh no, the - safe! A lone leaf, stuck with wind to the pane, couldn’t snag the droplet from its victory. The droplet carried on undeterred - it was so close! Almost at the finish line! Just a hair away from winning the gold - hitting the lip of the bottom of the window and beating all the rest. Georgie had picked the right droplet to root for, he could feel it in his gut! His early victory was soon ripped from him when a droplet - big and fat and intimidatingly heavy had snuck up behind his tiny one, seeming to catch on the wind a little, before surging southward and swallowing Georgie’s droplet whole. Like it had never been there at all.
“Aw, man,” Georgie pouted, an unusual wave of grief washing over him - he had really wanted his droplet to win.
“Are you gonna suh-suh-sit there in your underwear all duh-day? I’m almost done with your cuh-costume,” Bill said.
Georgie, his toes barely being able to touch the ground, lowered himself down from the sill onto the wood of his brother’s bedroom floor. The floor was cold - his parents had forgotten to turn the heating on again. Georgie hardly felt the chill though, waiting patiently in Bill’s room with nothing but his briefs and a multi-coloured striped top. The top had been a hand-me-down from Bill, drowning his tiny frame and the sleeves were bunched up at the elbows to stop them from falling over his hands.
Bill, however, felt the cold everywhere. Every intake of breath felt like he was inhaling shards of glass, settling in his lungs and causing him to devolve into another coughing fit - his poor dressing gown getting the brunt of it as Bill lifted the lapel to hack into it. The sudden sputtering made Georgie stall right as he was about to clamber up beside his brother on the twin bed, “You’re still sick?” Bill nodded weakly in response.
Georgie’s face dropped, Bill can’t still be sick - Bill had pinky promised him that he would take him trick-or-treating tomorrow night. Georgie told him as much, getting onto the bed beside him with a look of disgust as Bill coughed milky-grey goop into a tissue just to scrunch it back up and put it in the pocket of his robe.
“I puh-puh-promised, didn’t I? And -”
“You never break a promise.” Georgie finished, Bill nodded in approval.
“Now how about you try on your cuh-cuh-costume? It’s guh-gotta look good if you wuh-wuh-want to get lots of cuh-candy,” Bill’s voice was sticky from phlegm and rasped from the constant coughing, yet it still held the same air of confidence it always had. Bill Denbrough, despite his stutter and even now, despite his chest infection, had an unquestionable strength to him, an unspoken type of leadership that he had been born with. Sure, at the tender age of thirteen he was a fairly timid boy, would not speak much out of turn, always said his pleases and his thank-you’s. Bill Denbrough had great manners, an untapped well of empathy and a righteous moral compass. Some would say he was born to be the ideal big brother to Georgie. Some would say he had no other choice than to look after Georgie better that he had been. No matter what different ways people painted his role - the world will soon come to a sorrowful agreement that Bill Denbrough is a shell of a child, splintered with grief over the disappearance of his baby brother.
But for now, Bill Denbrough was in his pyjamas listening to the rain battering their roof and his bedroom windows, painting over a pair of brand new overalls from JC Penney with deep red. Blood splattered up the hems of the legs with a huge splash of the stuff across the pocket of the chest. He had told Georgie to go into the garage to fetch sandpaper at one point so he could wear little distressed holes at the knee and the chest, breaking up the pristine even tone of the overalls. His own fingers were rubbed raw, the paint which had dotted his clothes and hands was hardly much difference in colour than his fingertips - but the soft “oh, wow” from Georgie had made the burning in his fingers worth it.
Georgie took the costume from Bill when he presented it, slipping on the overalls as carefully as he could - “th-the paint is not fuh-fully dry yet” - he had to ask Bill to help him with the clasps on the shoulders, his hands too small to be able to move with enough dexterity to be able to clasp the fastener closed. The overalls were a little big on him - they hadn’t found any in Georgie’s size with the budget Bill had pulled from his piggy bank - Bill just said it added to the look they were going for, Georgie didn’t know what that meant but he trusted Bill’s judgement. With that, he ran over to the wall beside Bill’s bed, where Bill’s CHILD’S PLAY poster was carefully taped to the wallpaper.
“Do I look like him!?”
Bill feigned a jump and a shout of fear, “Wow G-G-Georgie, you scared me! I th-th-thought Chucky came out of the puh-puh-poster, but you’re wuh-way scarier.”
Georgie puffed his chest at that. Take that, Chucky, you stupid doll.
Of course, Georgie wasn’t actually scary much at all. Even with his bloodied overalls, Georgie had an almost cherub-like appearance, with soft blonde hair, deep brown eyes and a pleasant smile. Georgie had the ability to light up a room just by walking into it, with a bright smile and his unbridled childhood innocence - Georgie was unspokenly, the favourite. Bill could never bring it within himself to resent him for it either, of course he was the favourite - he was Bill’s favourite too.
Georgie paced in front of Bill’s mirror, pulling poses and gripping the handle of his imaginary knife - quick, clumsy stabs at his reflection. Bill laughed - which dissolved into another coughing fit - at him, “Guh-Georgie, you’re ki-kinda ruining the scare fuh-factor there.”
Georgie ignored him and paddled back to his bed, hopping on and sitting beside Bill with his legs stretched straight out to prevent the paint smudging or staining Bill’s bed sheets. A fruitless endeavor of course, since the cotton was already speckled with red - not that Bill minded.
Georgie let his head fall onto his brother’s shoulder - leaning against him. They sat like that more often than not, there was something comforting about resting up flush against his big brother - maybe it’s because Bill is grounding, comforting in a way like coming home after playing in the rain, to get changed into a pair of his favourite pyjamas. Maybe it’s because Bill is his best friend in the whole wide world - helping him with his schoolwork, showing him cool new comics, letting his little brother sit in with him when his friends are over, playing toy soldiers with him. Or maybe because Bill doesn’t push him away and tell him he’s too big to be cuddling up against him like his parents always said.
Georgie loved his brother - Billy was the best person in the entire world, as far as Georgie was concerned. Georgie fought for Bill’s approving nods and his hugs - especially the ones where Bill lifts him and spins him around. Bill was something else, something so unlike their parents, something so inviting and loving, something that Georgie could fall into safely, something that Georgie - even at just seven years old - could recognise as being the telltale traits of a wonderfully purely good person, even if he didn’t quite have the vocabulary to express it in such a way yet.
So he pulled the map of Derry’s residential streets that Bill had stolen out of their Dad’s office from the end of the bed and laid it along Bill’s lap, rearranging some of his paint brushes out of the way in the process. He sat up beside his brother and stared up at him expectantly.
Bill huffed out a laugh, smoothing the map over his legs. He wiped snot from his nose with his tissue and stuffed it back into his pocket, “You want to guh-go over the route?” Georgie nodded, Bill didn’t see it but he felt the movement on his shoulder, “You know it’s nuh-nuh-not all that duh-different from last year.” Georgie just let out a grunt at this, wanting Bill to get on with it. “Hah, okay. So - we’ll go duh-down to the cuh-corner of Ashburn and Buh-Burnswick, we can hit a cuh-couple of guh-good houses down Buh-Burnswick Avenue, then we’ll guh-go down Park Way instead of Redburn - tuh-towards Stan’s house-”
“Is Stan coming?” Georgie’s face was fit with glee - Stan was really cool, Georgie had thought. Putting ‘Stan’ with ‘cool’ seemed almost like a joke - because Bill’s friend Stanley Uris was possibly the farthest thing from cool as a young boy could be. If Georgie had a more expanse vocabulary, he would say he was a little pragmatic. But Stan was good with Georgie - Stan taught Georgie how to add numbers super fast - and even to do this really difficult thing called multiplication that Georgie doesn’t even need until he’s a big kid. Stan also taught him the rhyme about magpies when he and Bill were walking him home from school one warm Spring afternoon -
One for sorrow
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral
Four for a birth.
Five for Heaven,
Six for Hell,
Seven for the Devil,
His own true self.
It had scared him a little at first - “So if I see seven magpies all at once the Devil’s gonna come get me?”
“Ha - no, Georgie. It’s just a rhyme, like a song. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just fun to say it when you count them, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess it is!”
Stan said it was just for fun, just a little song so of course, Georgie believed him. Stan would never lie to him, even if he thought it would be really funny like that time when Bill told him that his birthday candles were special edible ones. They weren’t and they’d tasted horrible.
“I’d really like it if Stan came, Billy.” Georgie added, sinking into Bill a little more.
“Well, what if I duh-do you one buh-better?”
“What do you mean?”
“What if Eddie cuh-came too?” Georgie lifted his head off of Bill’s shoulder, opening his mouth to speak but Bill cut him off - speaking louder than Georgie, but with gentleness in his voice - even if his voice was raspy and sore, “And Ben! And Beverly!”
Georgie let out a stream of excited noises, jumping up and down on the bed, quickly moving his energy into wrapping his brother in a tight hug, “Really? You swear?!”
Bill let out a winded sort of sound when Georige all but barrelled into his incredibly sore chest, “Yeah, Stuh-Stan had actually suggested it, since it’s the luh-last time we’re guh-going to be able to guh-go trick or treating duh-dressed up buh-because we’re getting too old. We should all guh-go together and of cuh-course we need our scary Chucky doll.”
“You have to promise!”
Bill moved Georgie off of him to hold up his pinky, which Georgie immediately wrapped his own around, with all the gravity of a judge committing a man to death, “I puh-promise that on Halloween,I will take you trick-or-treating.”
Bill, who if he were to have the gift of knowledge regarding the terrible events which would transpire with his brother, would not have made this broken promise. Instead, Bill would be sat, hardly even a day from now, stale tears flooding from his eyes, face red and blotchy, cursing at himself for breaking it.
But for now, they bounced their fingers to seal the promise’s fate - notarizing it. Georgie relaxed himself back into the side of Bill and Bill continued, following the routes with his finger, “Ben only luh-lives in the street buh-beside Stan, and Beverly said she’ll muh-meet us there. So we’ll go from th-there duh-down the river into Main Street - puh-past the Aladdin, then we take the alley buh-beside the Butcher’s to buh-bring us to the end of Neibolt Street -”
“Do we have to go to Neibolt Street?” Georgie hated that street ever since Eddie had shown up at their doorstep shaking about a weird homeless guy. Eddie said the strange man had offered him something, but Bill had covered his ears before he could hear anything else.
Bill looked over the map again for a moment, “Yeah. Look -” He pointed at a road behind Derry Library - “This is the only other ruh-road that leads to Eddie’s but the Buh-Bower’s gang hang out thu-there.”
“Are they the guys that broke Eddie’s nose that time?” That time was two years prior, when Eddie and Bill had been playing in their fort in the patch of forest that breaks Derry from the Quarry. Henry Bowers had been looking for ‘some fat kid’ - which had turned out to be Ben - who had a big angry H carved into the fat of his stomach when they had ran into him not fifteen minutes later.
Bill nodded, “Yuh-yeah, they’re assholes.”
There was a moment of silence after that, as Georgie sucked on his tongue and weighed the ups-and-downs of his own comfort versus other’s - for a seven year old, it’s a pretty difficult decision. The concept of empathy and self-sacrifice more or less foreign to such a young boy. Bill was silent as he recounted the time Henry Bowers had held his head inside a water tank until his lungs were choked with water. He had been coughing up water for a week. He was thankful that Georgie had not been made aware of that experience - Georgie had seen enough of the bad people of the world when Bill had come home with his white shirt covered in the blood from Eddie’s nose and his fists shaking.
“It’s okay,” Georgie decided, “We can go down Neibolt Street - I don’t want Eddie to get hurt again - but you have to give me all the fun-sized Snickers you get!”
Bill hummed in thought for a moment, making long drawn out thinking noises, “I guh-guess that’s a fuh-fair deal.” He paused to shake Georgie’s hand - who was staring him down with a very serious face for a seven year old. It was funny and Bill had to bite back a smile, “Okay, so th-then once we guh-go through Neibolt street, we juh-just have to cross the bridge then we’re only two buh-blocks away from the rich fuh-folks.”
“Then we’ll get loads of candy! Do you think we’ll get more than we did last year?”
“Duh-definately. With a costume as guh-good as that, they’ll buh-be throwing cuh-candy corn at you. You’re guh-gonna make us all luh-look bad with all the candy you’ll have in your buh-buh-buh-bucket.”
“Can we walk the route? I wanna count all the houses I’m gonna get candy from.” Georgie took Halloween very seriously. Every October 30th - Georgie would walk Bill down their route, tallying every house they planned to go to, writing the houses that had Halloween decorations, since they usually gave out better candy. It was a comical sight for the neighbours - the littlest Denbrough marching through Derry, notebook and pencil in hand, writing and scribbling onto the notebook looking not unlike a tiny Health Inspector, scribbling onto his clipboard. Bill was usually several paces behind, not seeming to be overly invested in the entire ritual - looking more like someone who had to take their energetic puppy for an evening walk to calm him down for bedtime. It was a ritual that Bill indulged, if not to simply have a reason to leave the house. The bag of candy split between the boys from Malcolm’s Candy Emporium was also an essential part of the stakeout. Half bon-bons and half an assortment of fruity-flavoured jelly candy. Bill didn’t particularly care for either.
Sadly, the yearly routine would be disrupted, not by the horror hiding behind boarded up windows, not yet. No, the first disruption of little Georgie’s Halloween was as such, “Suh-sorry, Georgie. I’m ruh-really sick.”
Georgie lifted himself off of Bill to examine him, tiny judgemental eyes taking in all of his sickly brother’s poor complexion, “You’re being dramatic.”
“Dramatic? Duh-didn’t you see th-the phleagm that I coughed up th-there? It wuh-was grey and ruh-really sticky and gross - I can show you if you wuh-want.”
Bill’s short laugh barely had a chance to escape his mouth before it fell into another fit of coughing. He coughed into the lapel of his dressing gown, feeling sticky bits of phlegm start to land on his tongue. The coughing made his shoulders shake and seemed to form deep inside his core, shaking him forward with every wet-sounding cough. It was enough to make Georgie pull a face and hop off of the bed.
As soon as Bill was able to somewhat contain the fit, he reached for his glass of water - long lukewarm and already half-drank by now - and took small sips, trying to soothe his freshly-ripped throat. The water seemed to somewhat smooth over the sandpaper, however it did little to help the sticky, gross stuff that was spluttered up from his chest to his mouth. Bill took out his tissue and spat the phlegm into it.
Georgie looked at Bill with a mix of disgust and pity, “Y’know, I can go and count the houses on my own.”
Bill shook his head, eyes screwed shut as he coughed heavily into the tissue.
“I can Billy! I’ve walked through all the roads at least a million times, I won’t get lost.”
Bill raised his eyebrow at him, stuffing the tissue back into his pocket, despite the fact there was a fresh box of Kleenex on his bedside table, “A muh-million, huh?”
“Uh-huh! At least!”
Bill shook his head, face apologetic. “Sorry Georgie, you can’t guh-go puh-puh-puh-past the end of our street on your own, it’s too duh-dangerous -”
“Dangerous? What’s dangerous, Bill?” Georgie crossed his arms, he wasn’t a baby anymore, he could walk around town on his own - he walks the whole way home from school on his own!
“Cuh-cars, you could suh-slip and fall, buh-bad people, wuh-werewolves -”
“I won’t walk on the road, I’ll wear my good galoshes and I’ll stay where people can see me and not talk to strangers - and werewolves aren’t real, Billy! I told you that!”
“Guh-Georgie, I don’t think you sh-should-”
“Mom will let me - I can just go and ask her.”
He’s got Bill there. As perfect as the Denbrough family is, in theory, with a lovely little house in the middle of a street lined with perfectly identical lovely little houses, with a manicured garden and two young, well-mannered handsome boys - it’s little more than that. Their parents are good people, they take their kids on fishing trips and vacations and attend all the school meetings and of course, it goes without saying that they keep their boys fed and watered. The brunt of the issue was that the lovely little house in the middle of Colby Avenue with two well-mannered sons was that the two well-mannered sons seemed to be the only residents of this lovely little house at times.
Bill let out a defeated sigh, a sigh of all types of defeat, bested by not only his brother, but fate too, “You won’t guh-get lost?”
“You won’t tuh-talk to strangers?”
“And you’ll be careful?”
Georgie nodded his head, bouncing up and down on his heels, excited to be able to prove to Bill that he could do it by himself. He could walk around Derry on his own, he wasn’t a little kid anymore.
Bill didn’t look fully convinced, but he nodded Georgie away, “Wuh-well, I’m nuh-not exactly fit to physically hold you buh-back, just come home when th-th streetlights cuh-come on.” and like that - Georgie was away with a shout down the hall - “ Thanks, Billy!” - barely remembering to close Bill’s bedroom door behind him. But he did, and a couple figurines on Bill’s dresser rattled with the slam.
This left Bill to clear his bed. He coughed into the sleeve of his dressing gown weakly as he gathered up his paintbrushes. Not caring much about the flecks of red that were staining his sheets, he could worry about them when he was feeling a little better.
Bill felt his body groan in protest as he lifted himself off of his bed, as if he was a senior citizen struggling with arthritis. He was feeling better than he had been, the drugs clearly working wonders beneath his skin but Bill was still sick - it was as evident as the dark circles under his eyes. His body shook with violent coughing fits, his vocal cords were ripped from them too. His skin was a milky-grey sort of colour, constantly prickled with dampness. Even his thoughts were slow and sluggish, finding himself take an extra couple moments to read the analog alarm clock perched on his bedside table, his eyes struggling to make sense of the words in his comic books.
Yet, the thought of waking around Derry tomorrow evening with his little brother excitedly pulling one of Bill’s friends in his tow only made him bubble with excitement. The only way that Bill would miss out Halloween is if he were to drop dead.
When little Georgie waved goodbye to his brother from atop the trampled bed of daisies on their front lawn - neither of them could have known it would be for the last time. Georgie - whose cheeks were pink with excitement - waved so hard that the movements of his hand moved into a fleshy type of blur to Bill. Bill, who always rested himself against the window sill whenever Georgie would leave to go play with his friends until he could no longer see the energetic fit of yellow could hardly have known that he wouldn’t have to sit there again. In the months following he did so anyway, of course. Bill would sit, his desk chair pulled out and propped awkwardly in front of the window, hours watching the miserable streets - hoping to see a bright yellow coat scampering home, as if he had just lost track of time for several months.
Of course, he did see the return of the yellow raincoat. It had been presented to him by the cop at his front door like a former pet turned roadkill, with a face of half-guilt and half-’I’d rather be anywhere else but here’. We found it floating out by the sewer pipe, down the East side of the Barrens is what they said. His name is stitched on the label, if you want to look - but Billy didn’t need to look. He had known well enough. He had zipped the raincoat up enough times to know. He had picked it up off the floor when Georgie left his outerwear in a whirlwind of energy. He had washed the dried mud off it in a basin of warm water on the kitchen sink. He had seen that raincoat march off of their front lawn enough times to know.
The back of that damned raincoat running off of their lawn and down to the end of the row of houses, out of the safety of Bill’s eyesight over Colby Avenue would haunt many of Bill’s nightmares for the foreseeable future - until he drinks energy drink after energy drink to pull his eyelids open enough to stop the dirty, wet raincoat bleeding behind his eyes, and when that doesn’t work he sneaks into his Mother’s room and takes her sleeping pills, allowing himself one every other night to knock him into a sleep too deep for dreams.
But for now, blissfully unaware that Georgie running out the door with his raincoat on and galoshes to power him through with Neibolt Street as one of his destinations, having twisted Bill’s arm enough to do so on his own - had effectively hammered the last of the nails into the tiny coffin of George Elmer Denbrough. Bill Denbrough went back to his bed.
Outside of the perfect little house where Bill was settling back into bed, Georgie followed the routes with no issue, stopping at particularly big puddles to jump in them, not minding that his new galoshes were getting caked with mud - Bill would help him clean them when he got home. The rain was making little plasticy pelting noises as it battered his raincoat. He managed to keep a tally of all the houses they would knock on without the paper getting too wet. It was hard, and he had to twist his torso over the notepad, but it was doable. It went on like any other year, Georgie walking down streets that he knew like the back of his hand. The only difference was that Billy was wrapped up at home, in the safety of his blanket.
Absolutely nothing was amiss.
Georgie took the turn onto Main Street.
Main Street, as its given name, was the most centrepoint of Derry. Stores lined either side of the long stretch of road, all sorts of ones. Pretty much anything you could need was situated somewhere on Main Street. Wide sidewalks with benches and lamposts and little decorative flower pots. Perfectly manicured trees that served nothing if not to break up the concrete. Halloween themed banners and flags and posters strung up on every surface - black and orange and purple and green - Georgie didn’t really like any of those colours, his favourite was yellow. There wasn’t a single lick of litter on all of Main Street - there never was. In fact, Main Street was a perfect presentation of a plucky, community-led town; tidy, colourful, filled with shoppers and dogwalkers and children running through the rain being chased by frantic mothers.
Georgie felt himself come to a halt outside the storefront of Johnson’s Toy Palace - a small enough store with an olive green door and a deep rich red sign with its name in pretty gold-speckled cursive. Normally, the display window would present toy trucks, or massive stuffed animals that were nearly the height of Georgie himself, usually a multi-coloured collaboration from multiple types of toys and games that never failed to attract the eyes of Derry’s younger populace. But today, surrounded by bright artificial plastic toys and games, sat a doll. An expensive looking one, too - with smooth, porcelain skin and features so clearly hand-painted with care. It was a boy, his hair slicked back and professional, wearing a pair of formal shorts and a little white shirt and a red bow tie. Georgie couldn’t help but stare at it for a bit, feeling unnerved by the incredibly life-like glass eyes that were staring back at him. They were dark, a cold type of brown - not like chocolate, or like any warm earthy shades, and definitely not sparkling with life and curiosity like Georgie’s - but cold like dried mud caked to the side of a truck that hasn’t left the driveway in months, cold like the rings left on white china from half-drank coffee.
Georgie startled back, the noises and life of the Derry Streets suddenly flushing back into his ears - as if the world had been desaturated as he met eyes with the doll. He grappled for the weight of his notebook in his pocket, feeling a little grounded at the shape of Bill’s notebook weighing against his thigh. He quickly turned and walked away, feeling a little green and wishing that Billy was with him.
No! - He was brave enough to do this himself! It was just a trick of his eyes, surely. There was no way that a doll can just blink on its own - was there?
Georgie took a glance backwards at the store, too far along the street now to be able to see the doll through the window. His eyes were drawn to it, like a rat drawn to rotting food - unable to take his eyes off of the mostly unassuming storefront. He didn’t pause his pace, in fact, he increased the speed in which he moved away from the store the longer he looked at it.
Right until he barrelled into something. Georgie bounced back with a small oof - and met eyes with the person he had just walked into. It was a man - it would have been rude to describe him as underwhelmingly bland to look at - but it would be true. There was little other descriptions about the man Georgie could have gave - starkengly average, with nothing about his face or body that would make him identifiable in a crowd of white middle-aged men. In fact, all adults looked much like that, Georgie had thought. Bland, fake and perfectly manicured. The man didn’t appear upset, in fact, he apologised and gave Georgie a stiff smile and went on his way, not really seeming to register Georgie’s wary face.
“Duh-don’t talk to st-strangers, Georgie.”
So Georgie didn’t - not ever. And especially not to any adults he meets - they all have this vacant look in their eyes - as if there is a film between their brain and their eyes, watching everything that happens before they even get a chance to. That is what it is to be an adult in Derry after all. Slightly-off, weird, creepy - Georgie thought all of those things. Georgie wonders with a slight quiver to his lip of when he and Bill will start to watch the sun rise and fall and rise and fall again into the horizons with blank stares and a stiffness in their face. Will they be old-old? With wrinkles and liver spots and greying hair? Or will they still be young? With meat still on their bones and freckles still speckling their cheeks. Georgie wonders when him and his brother will lose the ability to have fun and laugh and play, what’s the exact time and date of their souls snagging on their childhood as they age and it falls past them, if you please?
Georgie, who despite his good grades and diligence, had an awful habit of getting lost in his thoughts. This is only proven when not minutes after colliding with the man whose face Georgie hadn’t even been able to remember in the first place, Georgie had walked half way down the alleyway between the Butcher Shop and the Print Store, staring straight ahead with his eyes open, but still not registering the parked up bicycle until he had caught the handlebars on his ribs. He yelped in surprise and overbalanced too hard, not far from falling flat on his butt when a pair of hands steadied him.
Georgie was pulled out of his thoughts sharply, as if the boy in front of him had yanked them out of his ears. The boy, who Georgie will come to recall as Mike Hanlon - was by all means a stranger - but Georgie didn’t feel any instinctive danger when Mike patted his shoulders and fixed his hood, which had fell down the back of his head in the jostling. “Are you alright? That looked painful.” His voice was low and gentle, like they were speaking in a quiet room rather than outdoors off the Main Street with rain thundering down. It was so soft that it should have been muffled - but it wasn’t - Georgie heard every word as clear as a bell. It was low, and it was quiet, but it seemingly sought out Georgie’s ears - like he spoke exclusively to be heard by him. Maybe he did, maybe the universe had made it so.
Georgie nodded, already trying to move under Mike’s gentle hold - Mike let him, but faulted him with his words, “Woah-woah-woah, where are you going? Aren’t you with your parents or someone?”
Georgie felt his wariness faze out of him with the genuine concern that washed over him. He felt safe with Mike, Bill’s words fading from his head. He felt safe, despite being told to feel otherwise by his friends at school - ‘ My Mom says those blacks that own the farm up on Bluehill are the ones that kidnapped Ed Corcoran.’ Georgie had told Bill what his friends had said about the black family up on Bluehill and Bill had been really mad. Especially when Georgie had asked him what the names they called the family meant. That’s a ruh-ruh-really bad word. Muh-maybe one of the worst wuh-words ever. Don’t eh-ever say it - and he didn’t.
“I’m going onto Neibolt Street. I’m counting all the houses I’m gonna trick-or-treat at tomorrow.” Georgie said, knowing he shouldn’t tell a stranger where he was going. But he felt safe, as safe as he felt when Eddie and Stan walk him home from school when Bill’s at his speech therapy in Bangor, or when Bill takes him out of the house when his parents start to talk loudly from the bedroom and they go to the playground and Beverly pushes him on the swingset.
Mike makes a pleasant noise in his throat, “Sounds fun, are you going trick-or-treating with your friends?”
Georgie recalls the things his friends had said about the boy in front of him, suddenly filled with disgust at them, “Uh-huh! I’m going with my big brother. He’s my bestest friend, and his friends are my friends, too!” Geogie says, before a thought shoots into his head that makes him grin, “Hey! Maybe you know them, they’re in High School, Bill is my brother and his best friends are Eddie, Stanley, Ben and Beverly. Beverly is really pretty, I think everyone knows her - she’s got red hair and sometimes she wears it in pigtails and it looks really nice, like a cowgirl!”
Mike hummed in thought, “Well your brother and his friends sound like really great people, but I don’t go to Derry High School - so I’ll have to take your word on it.” Georgie nods, agreeing. His brother and his friends
great people - this Mike Hanlon guy really sure does know what he’s talking about. “And your brother - he knows you’re out here on your own?”
“Yep! He says I’m really grown up that I can go by myself.” He didn’t say that, but he felt the need, as most children naturally do, to impress the older kids.
“Well, alright - I’m sure he’s told you to be back home before it gets dark, huh?”
“Yep! When it starts to get dark and the streetlights come on I have to run home!”
“He sure knows his stuff, huh?”
Georgie nodded and the conversation came to a natural and comfortable close, a strange feeling of familiarity bubbling between the two boys. Georgie felt as though he had met Mike before, the way he spoke and the calming and grounding personality he seems to naturally exude had been so achingly familiar that Geogie could have sworn it - only Georgie would certainly remember meeting on of the only black people in Derry - it was a detail that he couldn’t bring himself to assume he would forget or disregard.
He gave a pleasant
and a wave and left the alleyway, finding himself not too far from Neibolt Street with the overwhelming feeling in him that Mike was somehow incredibly important.
The walk to Neibolt was as uneventful as Georgie had hoped. He walked through the empty streets, tallying in his little notebook. The clouds seemed darker on this part of Derry, twisting into dark, heavy clouds the further he walked. The rain continued to pelt the ground - an entire season’s worth of rain seemingly being emptied onto Georgie’s yellow hood. It didn’t faze him in the slightest as his face was twisted in concentration, little tongue peeking out as he continued to tally the houses on Southern Neibolt.
Then, on a little patch of green between number nineteen and number twenty-one, a flutter of movement caught Georgie’s eyes, taking him by surprise at the sudden burst of movement against the otherwise stagnant street.
“Oh, wow,” Georgie said, marvelled at the flock of birds that had soared down from the sky, and settled on the ground as a group - like a type of avian choreography, pecking at the ground in unison. Georgie had never seen such an act of uniformity in a group of birds before - he wishes Stan was here to see it - he would have his socks knocked right off! Georgie pocketed his notebook slowly, careful not to move suddenly as not to scare them off.
Georgie raised his hand, pointing at each bird while he counted.
“One...two... three...four…” Four for… a birth, if he was right. But there’s more than four, so he kept counting, “Five, six...seven,” Seven for… oh gosh.
Georgie huffed and walked past them, none of them seeming to even recognise that they were in the presence of someone. He walked down past number twenty-three, then twenty-five, then - a strange shifting noise sounded out through the heavy streets. Georgie spun around, scared. The birds had all flew off silently, it seems, aside from that, nothing seemed noticeably different. His raincoat seems a little pale, sickly in colour, though. The dark, swirling stormclounds seemed to swallow Georgie to The House as he marched forward. His stomach twisting and his eyes glued to the ground.
Not afraid. Not afraid. Not afraid.
The thoughts burned like acid in his brain, lining his gut heavy with a strange feeling, the feeling - which Georgie is too young to have a proper word to associate it with - is guilt. Guilt from a lie. Georgie had told many lies today, it seems. Not only to Bill, but to himself. The biggest one, of course, was that he would come home when the streetlights came on. Because the streetlights came on and off and on and off and on and off again many times. Not once did Georgie come home.
Georgie starts and spins towards the noise. The sound rang out so loudly and suddenly that it felt like his head was snapped into looking at the target of the noise. And there it was.
29 Neibolt Street.
A home - no… never a home - a building, one that seems to ooze darkness. The House itself, dark and grey from battered paint and rotted wood and an almost unearthly type of desaturation. In fact, the grass from the sidewalk seemed to grow from green to yellow to grey in proximity to the building, like simply being near it is enough to rot the life out of nature and if the abundance of dying plants and long-dead bushes which resembled tumbleweed weren’t enough. Georgie doesn’t want to think of what other types of rot reside in the building.
The rot which sunk its teeth into the window panes of the exterior and moulded away at the panelling was enough to make Georgie’s stomach churn. There was something evil there, evil enough to make his breakfast curdle and his legs shake, evil enough to root him to where he was stood as the monster of a house seemed to stretch and grow into the ink-black storm clouds, ready to chew Georgie up and spit him out like a lump of chewing tobacco.
POP! on his left.
POP! on his right.
Two echoing loud pops burst one by one in either of Georgie’s ear. He turns his head instinctively towards each one. By the time he turns his head to the direction it was originally facing his feet were no longer planted on the cement of the road. Rather, bright galoshes on rotting wood.
He was on the front porch of The House, only inches away from the front door. A little figurine of yellow, trembling like a leaf at the mouth of the beast. There was little to be done at this point. Now, with Georgie’s little yellow galoshes planted firmly on the front porch of Twenty-Nine Neibolt Street, he has no chance. Nobody dared go near the home, the sudden atmosphere of dread slicking out of the boarded up windows of the house like ooze, slinking across the dying grass and staining the streets with the pre-emptive morbidity of the fear-stricken child currently standing - and without his knowledge of it, on his deathbed.
Georgie spun around, a squeal dying on his lips as though it was vacuumed out of him when he saw that he was not alone. A man. A man was standing on the final step of the porchway, effectively trapping Georgie on the porch.
Georgie knew straight away that he should get as far away from this man as he could, a physical and tangible feeling of dread leaving him stone cold even his frantic shaking. This man, tall and winding, like a caricature of a person drawn by someone who has never seen one before, had a face unlike any one Georgie had ever seen. Unlike anyone that anyone had ever seen. Long, and gaunt and grey enough to be that of a corpse. His pupils were quivering in his eyes, bouncing back and forth off the iris’ like a heavy vibration. Thrumming with …. Something. Shaking with containing something so unearthly horrific that Georgie’s cheeks ran wet with fear.
“ You’re early for Halloween,” The man’s voice was stilted and uneven in tone, as if it was purposely manicured to leave the recipient of his words on edge, “ Your costume is dripping.”
Georgie looked down at his pants, and sure enough, the red splatters of paint that Bill had so painstakingly painted had started to run, the sharp and defined splatters of the stuff appearing blurry, even behind Georgie’s own blurry tears. “Say, let’s go inside - I’ll fix you right up,” The man moved forward, arms reaching out towards Georgie like two big scorpion claws, ready to close down on his arms.
Georgie saw an opening, and he took it. He propelled his little body forward as fast as he could, swerving around the man with as much stability as his shaking figure could muster.
The man didn’t even follow Georgie with his terrible eyes. Georgie sped past him, jumped down the steps and had been so close - only a hair away from being free, from sprinting through all the puddles of Derry, past the Butcher’s and the Print Store and past the Uris’ and onto Colby Avenue. Sprinting past all the vacant and uncaring adults staring through the sobbing child, sprinting past the happy, fat-faced children, and up the stairs and into his big brother’s arms to sob and cry and heave his near-death experience into his chest.
That’s what he thinks, at least. In reality, this man - this horror - had never let Georgie escape. Georgie’s fate was etched into the walls of Neibolt, unquestioned and unavoidable. A simple fact of the Universe. The sun rises in the East, the tides move in and out of the sand, the moon waxes and wanes and crescents, and Georgie Denbrough’s fate is sealed at The House on Neibolt Street.
Long, sickly grey fingers twist into the hood of Georgie’s raincoat.
Georgie cries out and grapples at the fasteners, all but ripping the coat off of him, twisting and turning his arms so quickly it tugs painfully at his shoulders. He stumbles as he slips out of it and half runs-half crawls towards the street for several paces, the dead grass, despite the rain, crunching like bones under his feet.
He didn’t get far before he stills.
He stills mid-run, just on the edge of the lawn and the street.
A stinging, high-pitched sound clamps his muscles and twists his guts. A sound, which by description, seems like nothing much. Like the high pitched squeal of a cheap dog whistle, just barely audible to the point where your ears strain and get flush with effort to hear it, sending thumps of pain into the side of your head like a storm of an oncoming migraine. In reality, to little Georgie Denbrough, it was a siren’s song. An audible Black Spot, the sound more filled with death and decay and all things that could possibly be more atrocious and ungodly than that.
And it would be the last thing that would grace Georgie Denbrough’s ears on this thunderous and fateful day.
The last sound gracing the seven-year-old’s ears being something that even he, somewhere deep, deep in his core - recognised as the true sound of evil. The sound that could bring the entire planet to a standstill if it so wished.
It was only seconds later, as a flit of yellow blurred past his vision and into the streets, did the final sight young Georgie would see fill his view. The man, his mouth so beyond human, so twisted and insidious, opening wide.
It split into his cheeks and his flesh cratered open, the muscles tearing apart like slicing a knife through soft butter. His skin bled with sick, grey-ish blood and it ran down into his mouth and drooled from it like it would from a starving dog.
Georgie let out a weak yell, not a cry for help. Georgie knew there was no helping him now, he knew that well enough. A cry of sorrow, a broken apology so soft and wet-sounding that it was drowned out both by the thundering pelts of the rain and the siren, which only got louder with the gaping mouth expanding further into the cheeks of the man, whose face was split open like a venus fly trap, gaping maw drooling onto Georgie’s brand new galoshes. A faint, acidic glow began to split its way through the maw, Georgie helpless but to stare into it. A glow which was less welcoming than a hole in the head. A glow which encompasses every single act of Hell in its wake.
“Billy…” And with that cry on his mouth, Georgie came face to face with the last sight of this terrible, terrible day burned into his retinas.
Georgie Denbrough’s final glimpse of this world, was - is - ironically, the most nefarious part of it.
THE DISCOVERY IN NEIBOLT
Mid-February, Derry, Maine, 1989.
The turn of the year came and went, like the repetitious cycle of a washing machine filled with bath towels, heavy with soapy water - turning and twisting over themselves, slapping heavily to the bottom of the drum and back around, a never-ending cycle up around and around and around.
Georgie Denbrough, of course - was never found. Not without trying, though. There had been search parties at first, bands of concerned parents stalking the streets on the Eve of Halloween. Nightly the party grew smaller, until by day seven, it was just Bill and his parents, walking down through Derry with flashlights and hoarse voices. Until it was just Bill, dragging his feet down the same handful of streets every night. Stanley had once seen him walking past his house some time near midnight when he was fetching a glass of water, Bill’s flashlight like a cane that he was using to perch up his heavy feet. Stanley had ran out the front door in his bare feet after him, asking him what the hell he was doing out on his own at this time of night - on a school night nonetheless - ‘Luh-looking for Juh-Juh-Juh-Juh-Juh-’
Since that night in late November, Bill’s friends had joined in on the search for Georgie. It was never stated - they would never dare utter the words out loud, even to themselves - that it was a fruitless search. Georgie, along with all the other kids who have gone missing over the past year in Derry Town, would never be seen again. His missing posters would soon be layered over with another kid, another kid who’ll be eventually forgotten except for mutterings between clouded adults - “That Denbrough boy is waiting outside the Elementary gates again, who’s he waiting on? I think he has a brother or something…”
This unspoken loyalty to their friend, this unspoken agreement between the four - between Eddie Kaspbrak, Ben Hanscom, Beverly Marsh and Stan Uris, that their friend, that Big Bill - was struggling, that none of them know enough of grief and loss to do anything but follow him down the inky streets of Derry, flashlights splitting open the streets as they look around at the same roads they had looked around for months already.
Stan hadn’t had it in his heart to object, to tell Bill that this wasn’t healthy, that he needs to accept that his brother is gone. But who was Stan Uris to squash the last remaining ounce of hope of Bill’s - the tiny ounce of hope that pulls him out of bed and into his sneakers and through the rise and fall of the short glimpse of the sun. Stan hadn’t lost anyone before, not like Bill has - so he would hardly know the first thing about dealing with it. Bill’s just trying his best, and Stan alongside - all their friends - will support him through that. He was sure they would do the same for him.
He would follow Bill to the ends of the Earth, he thinks. He would follow any of his friends to the ends of the Earth. They’re bonded something special - or so Ben had said. Beverly reckons that they’re so close because running through the halls trying to avoid the Bowers gang will bond people like that. Stan thinks it’s somewhat true - considering how quickly they were to welcome Ben into their group after that day in the Quarry. Bill, Eddie and Stan had known each other from Kindergarten - Stan being ostracized for crying when his coloured pencils were organised in the wrong order in his pencil case. Eddie throwing tantrums and growing green at the sticky, booger-ridden hands of his peers. And Bill - whose stutter at the time was so prevalent that a single sentence took minutes to punch out from his mouth. They had bonded at the little picnic table on the playground - all of them a little red-faced and teary-eyed - they had been drawn towards each other like magnets - not really being sure why or how they knew, but they knew . Beverly came next, in middle school, when the girls in her year would throw names at her feet that they were too young to know, when the boys would come asking her if the rumours were true (they weren’t). Then, last but not least - well, not truly last, either, as they will come to discover - Ben, when he stumbled into Eddie and Bill with the Bowers Gang hot on his tail. A group of losers - pushed together by exclusion.
It was a little easier dealing with the bullies when he had friends like them, but Stan - despite being the same age as everyone else - had been held back a year due to a sudden and rather violent burst of illness sometime in mid-Elementary school. So he doesn’t have Bill and Eddie to walk with him down the halls, or Beverly to wait outside his class to walk to gym together, or Ben to sit with during lunch period underneath the great big willow tree. He was vulnerable and an easy target.
But all of that seemed irrelevant now, as he cycles down Derry Main Street, all his friends cycling beside him. A row of five.
Not for long.
The thought punctured confidently through his own - so foreign and so weighted. It wasn’t his own - it was someone else’s - even if it doesn’t make any sense. There was no room for arguing with himself, it was so decisive and so final that Stan - a reasonably sensible and firm voice of reason most of the time - accepted the pious reverence with no qualms. He didn’t think about it again - not for a while, not yet, anyway. There will be a time when he does, when the five of them falls from his mouth like an incomplete sentence - but that’s then. This is now.
What’s happening now, is Bill gliding smoothly off of the street and onto the sidewalk, dismounting with the type of strong gracefulness that only Bill could pull off. Stan and everyone else followed suit, stilling their bikes but not dismounting them. Bill was addressing them, “I wuh-wuh-want to fuh-follow Juh-Juh-Juh-Juh-,” the words turn over in his throat like a car engine, he sucks his lip into his mouth, a nervous habit he had picked up over the years, and continues, “the ruh-route that he tuh-took when he wuh-went muh-missing.”
Under the cold evening winter haze, everyone exchanged glances between each other, bursting with conversation that they all understood so easily between each other, “We’ve done this so many times…” Eddie’s eyes said to Ben’s, “Yeah, we have - is he losing it?” Beverly’s twist of her eyebrows said, “Guys… we gotta say something, this is getting out of hand - how long are we going to let this go on for?” Ben’s eyes said, almost ashamed, “Well I’m not saying anything,” Stan started, with everyone else exchanging glances with each other with the same thought smattered on their faces. The entire interaction lasted maybe a moment - two at a stretch. None of them found it strange that they could hold conversations with their eyes - Bill, Eddie and Stan had been doing it since barely a month after meeting, and Beverly and Ben had quickly fell into it, too - but it was strange, even just a little.
“Bu-but …. we haven’t buh-buh-been down Nuh-Neibolt street yuh-yet-” A pointed, unaccusing glance at Eddie.
“No -,” Eddie interrupted, face taut with nerves, “We’re not going there, Bill. I told you. I’m not going back on that fucking street after what… after what happened.” Bill’s face fell a little, and he seemed to shrink a little into himself at Eddie’s statement but he continued anyways, hands flexing on the handlebars of his bike - Silver.
“Buh-but he could buh-be there, he cuh-could have guh-gotten lost, he nuh-nuh-nuh-never went down that street before… that-that guh-guy could have kuh-kidnapped him - the guh-guy that offered you-”
“I know what he fucking offered me, Bill!” Eddie cut him off again, which was unlike him - usually Eddie never butted heads with Bill, compliant in doing whatever Bill would drag him off to do, but not this time. Not Neibolt. “I want to find Georgie, Bill - I do. Just as much as any of us do - and I’ll do whatever it takes to help you look for him. I sneak out behind Mom’s back, I cycle until I get cramps in my legs, I ride out past midnight in the dead of winter and risk getting influenza and being brought to the ER again -” Bill looked a little sheepish at that, since Eddie, had in fact, spent days laid up in hospital after one of their searches, “But I will not go down Neibolt, not again. I’m sorry, Bill.”
Bill spared glances at the rest of them, locking eyes with Stan - who felt a strange sort of magnetic feeling in his gut, “You’ll still come, right?” - “Of course, Big Bill, how could I not?” - the silent exchange seemed to build Bill up a little, affirming his place in the world for a little bit.
“Eddie could keep watch? Stand at the corner of Neibolt and Berkston and shout for us if anyone’s coming?” Beverly said.
“No.” Stan glanced around to see who had said it - only to be met with a crowd of eyes staring back at him, the words hadn’t made movement past his lips - he hadn’t spoken them, he doesn’t think. Only he did, he had said it with a powerful force swelling it out of his lungs that oozed from his head like molten gelatine. The following sentence had barely had a moment to register in his brain before it was being pushed past his lips without hesitation, without any real understanding of the weight behind it, “It has to be all of us. All seven of us.”
“Stan… there’s only five of us?” Beverly said, her voice laced with concern. Stan had a strange look on his face, like he was staring off into something no one else could see.
“Not for long,” Stan said, the same strange feeling flushing through him, not necessarily comforting but truthful all the same. His face darkened somewhat, like a shadow was passing over it.
“Are you alright?" Beverly said.
“Yes…" He turned the words over in his head, "We have to go in, not just for Bill."
Everyone exchanged glances for a moment, Stan, for once, being on the outside of the conversation… unable to decipher exactly what Eddie's shifty eye movements and Bill nibbling at his lip meant in the grand scheme of the context of which they lie in.
"We're sixteen now, right? How long are we gonna be scared of going down Neibolt street? Sure, number twenty-nine is creepy; it's rotting and it looks like it's straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. And sure, some creepy homeless guy tried to proposition Eddie, but how is that any scarier than what we see every single day? Is a creepy house any scarier than Henry Bowers carving his name into Ben's stomach?" He gestured at each of his friends as he continued, "Or all the shit they say to you, Bev? Or… God… how could it possibly be worse than Henry holding Bill's head underwater until he's near waterlogged blue?"
All of them struggled to meet his eyes, choosing to pick at their nails or in Eddie's case, fiddle with thought at the zip of his fanny pack, making sure it - along with his pills and his aspirator - is firm by his hip.
Stan didn't waver, "It's just an empty, run-down house. That's all it is." Of course, it wasn't simply an empty run-down house. It wasn't empty at all, not really. They brushed the bad, looming feeling of dread that washed over them when they walked past it as nothing more than the overactive imagination of their slowly waning childhood, they had no reason to believe that that particular feeling of dread was the evil of IT - the evil that had webbed its way through the cosmos and through the stars long before the creation of man.
"But what if …" Eddie took a riddled gasp through his aspirator, "what if the homeless guy is there again?"
"Then we luh-luh-leave. We try again. We come buh-back tomorrow." Just like that, Bill's word was law.
Bill mounted Silver like a general leading his troops to battle and rode off, legs pumping with ease, the breeze seemingly parted for him, which it probably did, they’d all reckon. If anyone could push the wind to move and part for him like Moses at the Red Sea, it was Bill. Stan followed him, naturally falling behind him in formation without noticing, an unspoken but seemingly important arrangement of themselves. Bill was at the front, leading them on with an outburst of 'Hi-yo, Silver away!' - which he never seemed to stutter on. Stan was behind him to his left, with Eddie on Bill's right. There was an empty space between him and Eddie, as well as between Beverly and Ben, who were cycling about five feet behind Stan and Eddie. The space, which until this moment, had never really felt like a space at all… but something had changed. Stan felt it. Something had shifted and the space between him and Eddie seemed like a glaring span of emptiness, like a piece of a puzzle yet to be filled. Stan couldn't help but glance at the space… feeling a strange type of sadness for it, a type of mourning for someone he had not yet had the pleasure of meeting.
They rode down Main Street, pedaling in unison, their formation tight. No one ever slowed or sped past another - as if a grid held them in place. Bill, whose legs pushed down on the pedal with a type of ease that can only bloom with the power of practiced muscles, with heavy calves and taught legs - Bill could cycle near as easy as walking. Stan, however, could not. He wavered and wobbled a little on his bike whenever the wind cut through him at certain angles. He was not as well versed in cycling as Bill - Bill’s bike was less of a means of transport and more of an extension of himself… Stan not so much. It didn’t come naturally to him like it did Eddie, who despite being cautious, managed to be the most proficient - even more so than Bill. In fact, it was barely a week ago when Stan’s front wheel had twisted over an awkwardly placed rock, sending him flying over the handlebars like a gag from a Chaplin movie. Eddie had spent twenty-five minutes disinfecting the cuts and scrapes on his hands and knees. Stan still had the medical-grade band-aid on his knee. Those things stuck like they were welded on.
Stan wobbled a little on a gust of wind that seemingly split through them as they turned onto Neibolt. Stan had felt it. The creeping feeling of something wrong… something morbid. He looked at the others, at their expressions. They all had felt it, consciously or not. Their confident strides of the wheels of their bikes slowed into trepidation. Even Stan - who had been so sure of himself that there was nothing to be afraid of. He was swallowing his words now.
They could only see the very tip-top of the arching roof from the end of the street, being blocked by its neighbouring houses. It was enough, it seems. Enough for doubt to seep into their guts. Eddie - whose face resembled a recently bleached sheet - took a heavy gasp of his aspirator, the gasping noise echoing in Stan’s head. Had he been wrong? This place gave him all types of creeps, he couldn’t see more than its hat and yet he was swallowing his tongue. There was still a strange … magnetism about the house. Like when you see a cloud of smoke from a fire and want to find the source, eagerly pedaling towards it to watch the elements turn a building to cinders. As is the human nature of morbid curiosity.
Their slow cycling came to a standstill, sitting on their seats - rather uncomfortably, Stan might add. Each of them just waiting for someone else to speak up, a voice of encouragement or - if they could be so lucky - a suggestion to turn around, go to the candy store instead, and go home.
They weren’t that lucky because not a moment after Stan had begun thinking of what candy he could buy with the change rattling in his coat pocket, Beverly started talking, “Don’t tell me you’re all chickening out?”
Beverly let out a huff of frustration, “Bill - even you?” Bill looked a little wide-eyed at being caught out, “And Stan - what about your big speech about facing our fears? You were right… we’re too old to be scared of a stupid ol’ house. Once we go in we’ll be laughing at ourselves for being baby enough to be scared at all,” Her gaze caught Stan’s, eyes as wide as his own, but sure. Braver, “You can’t be bailing out now, Stan. Not after that speech… are you a man or are you a mouse ?”
Stan twisted the rubber of his handlebars, “I think I might be a mouse.” Despite what he said, he kicked up a pedal and slowly edged forward, which encouraged Bill to push forward too.
“Aw fuck… I guess I’m a mouse too,” Eddie said. He soon matched Stan’s pace, “we’re all fuckin’ mice.”
“Speak for yourself,” Beverly said, ushering Ben to follow them, not that she needed to - he was ready to follow Beverly at the drop of a hat - before it hit the ground, even.
“What are you then, Beverly, a muh-muh-man?” Bill said.
Beverly let out a laugh, “Definitely not. I’m a woman… that means I’m a lot braver and a lot smarter.”
“My dad says that women are more sensitive… that they are the fairer sex,” Stan said, not believing a word his father had said - not after meeting Beverly, anyway.
“I think your dad’s full of shit, Stanley,” Beverly said, with playfulness in her voice.
Stan agreed with a ‘yeah, probably’ and the group broke out into a chorus of giggles. Bill laughed softly, a gentle almost feminine type of giggling that even Eddie - who hated the word - had described as cute on more than one occasion . Beverly’s laugh was quiet, usually she tried to swallow it in her throat, so used to keeping herself as small and as quiet as possible that even something as natural as laughing was a spectacle, but once you got Beverly going, she didn’t stop until she was red-faced with wet running down her cheeks. The first and last time that had happened was after Bill had walked face-first into a lampost. Both Beverly and Stan seemed to find the smash of blood painted over the ‘ Missing Cat - Answers to Angel’ deliriously funny. Ben, much like Bill, had a soft sort of chuckle, usually only lasting a couple of bursts of breaths. Eddie, however - his laughter could be heard from the other side of a room, loud, brash, and almost manic-like cackling of a witch on opium. Stan, who rarely found much funny, had an odd enough sense of humour, so when he laughed, he was usually laughing alone - a clear laugh like that of fresh-cut silver would ring out amongst confused stares.
As nice as it would be to read of this disjointed, yet somehow almost harmonious chorus of laughter for just a little longer, it didn’t last. Even with the slow crawl of their bicycles, it felt like mere moments until the laughter was being drained from their lungs. There it was. Twenty-nine Neibolt Street. In all its greying and rotting glory.
The house seemed to warp the air around it, sucking all the goodness and health out of the sky and leaving it with a twisted mockery of a halo that circled it - a halo of dark and stormy clouds that Stan could swear had never shifted… but he can’t be sure. He always forgot just how ghastly and unsettling the house truly was until he had the displeasure of visiting it again. They all forget. Every time they think of Neibolt, they remember that it’s unsettling. They remember that it causes unpleasant feelings to ripple through them, but the feeling is all they truly recall.
The five of them were paused on their bikes, balanced with one leg on the concrete and the other at the pedal, ready to push off and fly away at a moments notice. They looked like ants to the house. Little insects leading themselves into a flytrap - and all too aware of it. The house seemed to bow and break into looming over them, swallowing the sun and sending dark, hefty shadows down over them. Stan could hear… wood snapping. He could hear the sound of creaking, like the sound of an old house settling but much louder. More deliberate. He swears he can hear something else, too…
Crying? A quiet, echoing chorus of cries and sobs. The sound of helplessness. The sound of damnation. The sound of the human spirit rotting from the inside out. The sound of-
Eddie’s aspirator jumped Stan out of his trance … or whatever that was. Stan wondered how Eddie hadn’t punched all the gas out of it yet, and he asked as much.
“ I have a spare in my fanny pack.” Of course he did.
Bill let Silver fall to the ground, her bell making a soft ding as it hit the sickly coloured grass, “Yuh-yellow slicker, yellow galoshes and duh-denim overalls,” And that was as much of a pep talk that Bill seemed willing to give, striding up to the house. Stan felt air whoosh out of his lungs when Bill planted his feet on the first step of the porch and turned around to face them, his eyes flicking over them with a very uncharacteristic type of wariness.
“Bill… you don’t think he’s really in there… do you?” Eddie had began to say, but thankfully Ben sent a soft kick to the back of his calf before he was able to let the rest of the sentence fall haphazardly from his mouth. The look on Bill’s face and the way he bit his lip told Stan that he’d pieced the sentence together anyway.
“We’ll look, Bill. We’ll all look,” Ben said, “Isn’t that right, Eddie?” He gave Eddie a nudge with his shoulder, sending Eddie’s heads into a dance of nods and ‘uh-huh’ s.
Bill accepted that, and turned to the house. Standing so willingly, so tall and so bravely where only months before his younger brother had been quivering. Shaking and scared. Instead of a Denbrough being crowded onto the godforsaken porch by a genuine reckoning of horror - Bill was bracketed by his friends. A safety net, to catch him and support him and help him bounce back if he were to fall. They all shadowed him as he moved closer to the door, inching along with him. Stan briefly glanced at his friends and wondered if they even realised they were moving - all staring at Bill with looks of steeled determination and unwavering support. If they were underlined with fear and dusted with pity then Stanley chose to ignore it.
A pregnant pause.
Bill raised his hand. Slowly, achingly slow. Stan’s hands embered into clenched fists. The air stilled when Bill’s hand made uneasy contact with the doorknob. A heavy, round looking thing, the brass cloudy and mottled with age - it seemed too decorative, too lucrative to be garnishing the splintering molded wood of the door. The air stilled. Noticeably and suddenly. Like the wind that had been gently rustling the trees had been switched off at the socket by a cosmic force. The air was deathly still.
And then Bill twisted the doorknob and opened the door.
The breeze came back suddenly and much colder than before. It whooshed out of the house like a starved dog, trapped with its deceased owner, door creaked open by cops with flashlights after the next-door neighbours complained of a foul smell. Foul smell indeed, Stan thought. With the breeze, came a wretched stench.
Busted sewer pipe, Eddie thought, with an audible gag.
Something decomposing, Beverly thought.
Rotted wood, filled with maggots, Ben thought.
IT, the turtle knew.
The brush of cold air seemed cold to everyone except Stan. To Stan, it was something else. Something a lot … more than wind. Something had been released… something that only the seven of them could truly comprehend. In due course.
Seven. Why seven?
Stan stopped thinking about it. He knew the answer would reveal itself when it was ready. So for now, he followed closely behind Bill as he edged into the doorway.
Cobwebs hung heavy from the ceiling and across the walls. Bill broke them apart with his hand as he led the group into the house. None of them spoke, in a collective type of fear. Their gut instincts had told them this place was bad - haunted, even. And yet, they had battled against those instincts and allowed themselves to step fully into the house-
The door slammed shut behind them.
They all swivelled to it, taking heaving breaths of fear. Beverly - who had been last through the door had been the first to break the silence, “I didn’t do that. I left it open.”
Stan gave Eddie’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze through his hyperventilating. On closer inspection, it was less hyperventilating than it was Eddie shooting rapid fires of ‘fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck’. Stan lowered his hand then.
“It’s juh-juh-just the wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-” Bill wet his lips and tried again, “the wuh-wind.”
None of them really believed Bill and if Bill’s gnawing of his lip was anything to go by, he didn’t quite believe himself, either. It steeled them nonetheless and none of them jumped whenever someone stood on a thunderous floorboard. They marched on, with Bill leading them with eyes darting around for the chance of a sliver of yellow, with Eddie’s aspirator making a rattling sound in his trembling hands, with Beverly and Ben barely an inch away from grappling onto each other and finally with Stan, who was in between Bill and Eddie, with his little pocket-sized bird book in his back pocket. Somehow this little thing gave him worlds of comfort.
Once they made it through the entranceway, they had enough room to stand in a circle, with Bill stepping forward, not necessarily enough to be in the center but enough for everyone to fall to attention. Stan’s back was pressed up against the banister of the stairs. Somehow he couldn’t quite shake that thought from his head.
“We should sp-puh-puh-lit up,” Bill took in their worried faces, “juh-juh-just into two groups, we’ll nuh-not be alone.”
“I’m with Bill,” Eddie said, stepping a little closer to the boy in question. If you were safe with anyone, it would be with Bill, nothing could hurt him. When you were with Bill you were untouchable - or so Eddie thought anyway.
“Okay. Muh-me, Eddie, and Stanley will check this duh-duh-duh-door,” Bill pointed to a door to his back, to the left of the staircase, “and Beverly and Ben cuh-cuh-can luh-look in there,” He pointed to the door opposite the other, Beverly and Ben took a wayward glance at it.
“That works for me,” Beverly said.
“Is it a good idea for us to split up like that?” Eddie asked, nervously looking back and forth between Beverly and Ben and the door behind them. He wasn’t nervous for himself or Stan; they were with Bill. Stan wished he held Eddie’s blind faith.
“It’s only across the hall, what’s the wuh-wuh-wuh-worst that can happen?” Bill said, moving back into line with Eddie - who had edged so close to Bill that he had accidentally shouldered him as he stepped back. Stan didn’t want to think about the worst that could happen - he didn’t have the creativity to imagine what bad things could happen behind the doors of this house.
Stan took in the peeling wallpaper, spotting black and growing little spores in the corners of the hallway. They’re inside Neibolt. The thought rushed through Stan. He could hardly believe it. He’s here - in his winter coat and his white runners - both of which are already caked in dust and whatever else is floating through the thick, dirty air. Stan made sure to breathe through his nose from then on.
“Okay, let’s go. Lead the way, Bill,” Eddie said, holding his hand out to Stan. Stan wasn’t sure why, but he took it. Eddie’s hand was smaller than Stan’s. Smaller than Bev’s, probably. His grip made up for it though, Stan was sure that if something were to try and drag him out by the hood of his coat that Eddie’s hand would hold him firmly in place. Stan tried not to think about it much. Eddie’s other hand reached behind Bill and shook slightly as it made hold on one of the excess straps of Bill’s backpack, from where Bill had adjusted it to fight tight against his back so it wouldn’t bounce and knock his balance when he was riding Silver.
With Ben and Beverly mirroring their actions behind them, both groups splintered and made way into their rooms.
The kitchenette was nothing short of disgusting to Stan. With warped floorboards and dark, grimey stains on the counters, strange scatterings of goo on the ground and shriveled up old leaves from the fall. And the dust. Can’t forget the dust.
Eddie took a shot of his aspirator and dropped his hand out of Stan’s. It took him a little longer to drop his hand from Bill’s backpack, and he only did so as Bill hiked over the remnants of a broken chair. Stan stared after Bill as he looked around the room, seemingly not at all discontented by the brown muck that made a gross squishing noise as he stepped through it.
Eddie, with his aspirator between his teeth and his face heavy with determination, clambered (with a lot less grace) over the chair and followed Bill, stepping over the brown goo, but batting down cobwebs and opening the grimey cupboard doors all the same.
Stan looked with them for a bit, actively avoiding touching anything if he could help it. Eddie and Bill may have been all too eager to get their hands dirty but Stan was not. He kicked around the debris that was scattered along the floor - probably remnants of furniture with his boots, scanning for any wash of yellow. His search was interrupted by a heavy thunk from over his head, dust falling from the ceiling from the weight of it. He looked up and spluttered as the dust inhaled into his lungs.
“You alright over there?” Eddie asked.
“You nuh-nuh-need a new luh-lung? Pretty sure Eddie has spuh-spare in his fanny pack,” Bill said, earning himself a swift Chuck to his shin.
Stan blinked the dust from his eyes and stared in disbelief at the ceiling, then back to Bill and Eddie who had already gotten back to what they were sifting through, “Didn’t you guys hear that?”
“Huh-hear what?” Bill asked, suddenly giving Stan his full attention.
Something twisted uncomfortably in his stomach at that, he could see the brightness in Bill’s eyes and the hope that was swimming in them. He didn’t miss Eddie’s pointed stare, ‘don’t get his hopes up.’
“Nothing,” Stan said, glancing back up to the ceiling, then back to Bill, who had deflated a little, “I think it was just Beverly and Ben in the other room. It spooked me, is all.”
Bill gave a little “Ah, alright,” And went back to pulling open cupboards, his attention pulled away from Stan and back between looking through the dirty shelves. Eddie was chatting to him about something or other that Stan couldn’t quite make out. Stan could, however, make out the voice that rattled through his head.
Over here, Stanley.
The voice had come both from within him, and from somewhere else. A strange pulling sensation gripped him and he knew that he had no other real option but to listen to it, he knew that himself from somewhere deep inside himself.
Stan’s body turned to follow the voice, he had to - of course. There was no force strong enough in the universe to pull Stan away from following it. As the universe instructed, he followed it, turning his back on Bill and Eddie - who hadn’t noticed Stan leaving them to continue exploring the ruins of the kitchenette as a duo. Stan followed it out into the hallway, framed with ratty cobwebs and bits of what Stanley hoped was glass crunching under his runners. He didn’t like the thoughts of what else it could be that he was walking over. He could hear Beverly talking from the room on the opposite doorway that Stan, Eddie and Bill had been in… but she was muffled.
Not in the normal ‘muffled through drywall’ type of way - more similar to Stan like being underwater. He can hear her. He can hear the slapping sound of water splashing. He can feel the water in his hair. It always pulled his curls straight and made his hair look much longer than what it was. The water is a little cold, it brackets his lungs when he first jumps in.
He is in the quarry.
Neibolt Street? What was that? Stan could barely remember… an old church? A store, perhaps. The memory just far enough out of reach for him to give up. Why should he worry about some random building when he is having so much fun. The sun was kissing his skin, tanning his shoulders through the thick droplets of quarry water that dripped steadily from his hair.
Summer days were meant for this, Stan thought. Good God, I could float here forever… the warm sun, the warmer water. Hell - if I could drop out of Middle School and spend the rest of my life here, I would. Maybe we could find a clearing to play ball? Or maybe Eddie and I will come down in the early morning and sit on the grass watching the sunrise through the trees... maybe we’ll see a violet-green swallow… or maybe even a tree swallow! Eddie will like their pretty blue backs, I bet.
Stanley’s daydreams were interrupted by a watery, feminine shout. It was only watery because Stan’s ears were half-in half-out of the water, but it caught him in a moment of shock all the same, “My key… I can't find my key!” Followed by the noise of splashing, as if Beverly Marsh were patting down the surface of the water like she would her jeans, “The clasp must have unlatched… I need the key, I’ll be in deep shit if we don’t find it.”
Stanley righted himself and tread the water. Beverly’s face was brimming with fear. Not quite a child who was frightened of the big, bad monster hiding under the bed when the lights go out. Not quite an adult who was frightened of much less imaginative things. But real. Beverly’s face was stuck in a trench between the two, both childlike and young, cheeks still round with puppy fat, face smattered with freckles and free of blemishes… but shadowed with a very adult, very real fear. Stan wasn’t quite sure what any of it meant. He gazed at the treeline as Ben began to swim towards her, sentences of what he would say to this beautiful girl already tunneling through his thoughts.
It’s so warm today. Had it been this warm all day? Stan can’t recall.
“Maybe it got caught on your blouse when you were taking it off?” Ben’s voice equally sweet as it was sickeningly so when he spoke to Beverly.
“You and Ben sh-sh-sh-should check the cliff, in cuh-case Ben’s right - then it should be up with your clothes, ruh-right? Eddie can check the sh-shallow wuh-water, me and Stan can luh-look in the deep wuh-water,” Bill said.
“Shouldn’t Eddie be the one to dive into the deep water?” Stan said, “He can suck on his aspirator like those tanks the deep-sea divers use… he could search the whole Quarry with that thing between his lips,” and if they weren’t so preoccupied with finding Beverly’s necklace then they might’ve had a good round of chucks at Stan’s joke. He got a short chorus of laughter anyway, and a splash from Eddie, which was for effect more than anything else, since Stan was too far from them to even be close to within splashing range.
Had he always been that far away?
Suddenly, they were looking and Bill was about thirty strokes from where he had been previously, and even farther from Eddie now. The sun moved behind the clouds and Stan could have sworn that the water had been a little warmer. Probably just his imagination, his father always said he had an overactive one… always brimming with stories and silly tales of ghosts and nightmares.
He didn’t think any more about it and easily transitioned from treading water to breaststroke. He was a good swimmer, better than Bill, even. Stan was fairly decent at athletics, he didn’t particularly enjoy the types that made him sweat - like Eddie and his running. Eddie sprinted like nothing Stan had ever seen. A little Tasmanian devil, Beverly would call him. Eddie never particularly minded being sticky and red-faced for a while afterwards. He never seemed to need his aspirator afterwards. No… Stan wasn’t fond of all that. He liked swimming, sure - but he loved baseball - and he was good at it, too.
But, they’re not playing baseball… they’re swimming. Stan thought he should ask the group if they should head to the Derry Leisure Center and rent out a court. It only cost a dollar for an hour - he was sure that they could scrape that amount of change together. Stan didn’t think about it for long, a glint catching his eye from beneath the water.
Stan stopped and stared at the space for a while - but the water was pretty murky at the bottom… a dull brownish-colour from sand and God knows what else… shit , Ben reckoned. Stan knew it wasn’t true, but the fact that Ben had said it had always popped into his mind whenever he watched the murky water consume his feet. And it’s about to consume his hand, too - since he couldn’t get a clear enough view of what had glinted, he was going to have to palm uselessly at the rocky bottom.
So he did, with a great big breath and with the grace that only Stanley Uris could manage; he dove down into the water. Beverly could swim underwater with her eyes open, Bill could too, for a bit… but Stan could not. The water felt heavy on his eyes and they always burned afterwards. It only occurred to Stan as he was halfway between the surface and the rocky bottom, that he could have easily shouted for Bill to look underwater for a bit… but this was mid-dive… mid-propellation. So he continued, arms stretched out, fingers pointed out to await the first touch of stone.
He made contact. Slimy contact. The rocks thick with algae and all sorts of bottomfeeders. Stan didn’t like it one bit, but soldiered on, only barely letting his fingers grace over the rocks. His hands searched and searched and searched. He kept having to kick his legs to keep himself sunk, the air in his lungs trying to lurch him to the surface.
Would he even feel the key if he were to ghost over it? Water has a way of numbing everything else… wrapping around you and nullifying all your senses… like some type of alien pod from one of Bill’s Science Fiction movies. Stan couldn’t really expand on the comparison past that, since he didn’t really care for those movies. It did feel somewhat alien… the slimy-fuzzy rocks.
Stan’s fear of his senses being too dampened by the water to feel much was soon proven to be null when his fingers made contact with something. What was that? It wasn't a rock - that’s for sure. Not slimy either, though… it doesn’t feel much like a key. Oh, God… I hope it isn’t like something from one of Bill’s horror movies… dismembered bodies and zombies and all sorts … nothing short of ghastly.
Stan, who knew in his head that it didn’t feel much like a key at all, made a split-second decision to wrap his hand tight around the object before he was forced to surface. He had decided that the chance of this strange, foreign object being Beverly’s key - no matter how low - was bigger than the chance of him ever finding out if he were to leave it lying amongst the scuttlebugs and sandy water of the Quarry bed.
He broke water quickly, taking urgent breaths of air. He had been down longer than he thought, it seems. His chest blew in and out of itself as it tried to desperately take in air. The sheer power of it had alerted Bill, who was dipping in and out of the water’s surface with a lot less gravitas than Stan.
Bill’s genuine concerns washed over Stan’s ears as he barely managed to right himself. But he did, and he wiped the water from his eyes with the heel of his left hand.
“Duh-did you find it?”
Stan blinked and grimaced in discomfort. He always managed to get water in his eyes. The world slowly bubbled into view, and Stan watched as Bill doggy-paddled over to him. The object lay heavy in his hand. A part of him felt he shouldn’t look. He shouldn’t see whatever this is. He should just let go and let it sink to the bottom again… to be tucked into a bed of algae and consumed with it.
He didn’t, of course. He didn’t drop it back down after almost heaving up a lung to find it. He moved his left hand into the water to work to keep him afloat and he looked…
A pair of glasses. A pair of thick, barely rounded-off square glasses with lenses so thick it made the guppies in the water through it look like cod. Stan couldn’t help but feel discontented. Not because it should have been a key… in fact, looking for Beverly’s key had left his mind entirely and if you were to ask him about it he would stare back dumbly in response. No… he was missing something. There was something he was forgetting. That’s the trouble with forgetting things… you always remember you forgot something… but you’re never quite able to remember what that something was. Like not remembering a person’s face, but being able to pick their shadow out of a crowd. It was teasing. It was nothing short of mental torture. Stan stared at the pair of glasses. I’m close… I’m so close…
You are close Stanley. Do not let yourself forget.
Stan fell through the water. The glasses flushed out of his hands. Everything flew out from between his fingers. The air… the water… the algae-covered rocks… the murky sandy water… the tiles. Tiles? Roof tiles. Beams. Wooden beams. Sickly and green and splintered. Dust. So much dust. It covered the air and dulled the light and refracted off itself like waves colliding on the beachfront. Stairs. Down each single one. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. Like a sack of potatoes. Rotten, rooting, foul-smelling potatoes.
Pristine white runners.
Pristine white runners.
They belonged to Stan. He kept them meticulously clean - he was a meticulous boy. They bleached the light around them, cutting through the decay of even the air itself inside Twenty-Nine Neibolt Street.
He had been here all along. He had never left at all. It was the dead of winter, hardly even the memory of summer in his head. The Quarry water hadn’t pulled his curls to his neck in months - and he definitely did not find a pair of glasses there.
Stanley had to go up the stairs. He somehow knew this. They creaked and groaned with every step, no matter how light and tentative he took them. The handrail had coated his hand in aged cobwebs like cotton candy nightmares. He flailed his wrist to try and free the silk threads from his hand, sticky webs clinging to his skin, layering and entrapping him. He continued onwards nonetheless, not deterred by it.
The upstairs landing seemed to creep up on him and he felt a breath of shock leave his mouth when he stepped up on to it. The upstairs was a lot darker… both in relation to light and in relation to…. something else. He struggled to breathe properly, like his lungs were filling up empty. He tried looking back down the stairs, but it was painted with inky blackness. He couldn’t see past the fifth step or so at all, like it was a black hole beyond that point. He could no longer hear Beverly’s muffled talking or Eddie’s occasional puff on his aspirator. In fact, he couldn’t hear anything. The silence was deafening. No noise from the breeze of the wind knocking against loose boards on the windows… none of the gentle rumblings of cars driving past… no little whistling noises from the draft… nothing. Stan could hear his blood pumping in his ears and every time he shifted his weight it felt disruptive. It felt wrong.
He was intruding on something. The creaking of the floorboards under his cautious steps was furious. Stan felt like he was breaking bottles in a graveyard. He was disrupting something... someone. This knowledge was undisputed. A gnawing feeling of truth surrounded the notion. It wasn’t a feeling… not so much an inkling either - it was a simple fact, undisputed and so glaringly obvious that it was hardly worth mentioning at all. The sky is blue. Fire is hot. Flowers bloom in Springtime. Stanley Uris is stepping into something much, much bigger than him... something equally wanderlusting as haunting.
A slapping noise that Stan could have picked out from a mile away splintered through the stale air. It shattered something. A tangible feeling of… something good. Hope? Peace? A type of salubrious homecoming that Stan couldn’t describe. It shattered it. The distinct sound of birds wings slapping as they flapper to the ground. A sound only Stan Uris could identify so on-point first try.
The magpies were pecking at the ground of the hallway to Stan’s right. He hadn’t moved from the landing from where he ascended, two directions split his advancement. The left or the right. The magpies were on his right. There were no open windows.
One for sorrow…
Two for mirth…
Three for a funeral…
Four for a birth.
Stan’s belly ached with dread. Birth is good, it’s good - it’s a good premonition, one of luck and one of health…
Why does it feel so laced with deception… it feels like a prank. These birds…such strong feelings of enmity are billowing through my britches and yet… I have to follow them. Surely not… surely I don’t.
Your instincts are not a decorative aspect of your Biology - follow them and trust them.
So he did. The birds were gone all of a sudden. Stan didn’t hear them go and they left no indication they had been there at all. No feathers… no shit… nothing. Stan went to the door. Not a door…. the door. This was significant somehow. This door, which Stanley - even in the pits of his stomach, where his gut had been pulling him towards this particular door - had no idea of its true importance. This door… with its fractured wood and paint long bled into the air… this door would change his life. This door would open little Stan Uris to an entirely new type of living. No longer would his biggest fear be something as childish as the zombies from Bill’s horror movies… no longer would his dreams and ambitions be the childish nature of ‘a Doctor… or maybe a Lawyer’ - more akin to ‘dear God, just please let me see the sunrise tomorrow’. A world equally as brimming with love, adoration, new types of wonder and the smallest things showering him in bewilderment as it is shadowed by hurt, pain and a type of fear that no group of people have ever been subjected to before. A type of fear that exists in the thrums of the universe… within the webbings of the cosmos and bleeds through rivers and seas and burns light through the sky. So primal and so out of touch to the tiny human brain that there are no words … no arrangement of stupid, shitty human words in any language… Greek...Latin...even the grunting of the cavemen….no disjointed slapstick of words could ever even begin to allude to the true horror of IT. Which, Stanley will soon know all too well.
He opened the door.
A room, a perfectly normal room stood before him. Four walls, a ceiling. Except for the fact that it was devoid of furniture. With one exception
A very, overwhelmingly unsettling exception. The dolls. Hundreds of them, all lined up in neat little rows, parting at the center like the aisle of a church. They were all facing the aisle. Stanley couldn’t help the flush of fear that raised his skin into goosebumps, but who could blame him? These dolls… every single one of them different from the next, different hair, different clothes - even different sizes. Stan let his eyes wash over the unsettling scene before him. A sea of dolls.
A strange clink- ing sound.
Stan jumped a little, clutching at the bird book he had stuffed into the back pocket of his pants but remembering the magpies from moments ago, he dropped his hands back to his sides. The sound had spooked him… he was, after all, in a room solely designed to be a horrific shrine to a plethora of … unnervingly realistic dolls. He should go - he really should go… this is spooky. Stan Uris didn’t like this one bit… but the words he had heard from somewhere in his own head… something else’s voice had resurfaced but in his own thinking-voice this time.
Follow my instincts.
Stan’s instincts, completely against his will and as much as it made his gut twist to think about - were telling him to investigate the noise. So he did - he walked through the… aisle of dolls. There were so many. All of them so … painfully realistic. They looked almost real - Stan wonders how much money these would have cost. A lot, he bets - especially the big one that he was walking past now, it was as tall as his stomach. It was the most unsettling. Partly due to the sheet that was draped over its head, it wasn’t centered, so it covered past its shoulders then draped down at the back like a veil - party because it seemed to be some collector’s edition Chucky doll - from that Child’s Play film that Bill had insisted they all watch. Stan had hated it.
A whole collection of feelings ripped through him. It made him stagger to a hard stop.
SORROW HELPLESSNESS LONELY IT’S COLD IT’S SO COLD IT’S SO DARK I’M SO SCARED DARK HELP ME PLEASE I’M SORRY PLEASE HELP I’M SORRY I DIDN’T MEAN TO GO I DIDN’T MEAN IT I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME I WANT TO GO HOME IWANT TO GO HOME I WANTTO GO HOME IWANTTOGO HOME I WANTTO GOHOME IWANTTOGOHOMEIWANTTOGOHOMEIWANTTOGOHOMEIWANTTOGOHOMEIWAN
Stan wrenched himself away and almost tripped over himself in his haste to move on.
A sharper, more angry CLINK-ing noise pulled his head from the covered doll. He was almost thankful for it, thankful even for the strum of fear that coursed through him because of it. He knew fear… he could understand fear. He couldn’t understand whatever series of emotions just washed over him because of that… thing, whatever it was.
Stan walked through the parting of dolls. It led to a table, a small one - kind of looked more like a podium than a table. In fact, it was the perfect size for the little wooden box that sat atop of it. This box was important. Very important. Stan felt as though he was walking towards the Holy Grail - he could feel it in his bones. The box itself was about as run-down and dilapidated as every other part of this horror house - if not moreso. It was barely held together by thick, rusted nails that seemed to be one small draft of wind away from unlodging completely. It looked… battered, somewhat. Like it had been thrown about and hit and tossed around with reckless abandon. Some of the planks of wood were split, caved in by force. Some of the planks of wood bowed outwards … as if something inside … no. Surely not.
Stan wanted to tuck his hands into the pockets of his winter coat, turn on his heels and walk straight back out at the prospect of having to open this box. He had to. He knew this. Stan… wasn’t the bravest boy - not like Bill, who ran headfirst into danger, who bit back at Henry Bowers even if it cost him the colour of his cheek or the blood from his nose. Stan wasn’t brave, he got frightened a lot, he got offended a lot - which was much worse to Stan than being frightened. There was one thing that Stan was though, a very valuable strength which would be the cornerstone of his victories. Stan was confident. Confident in himself and his decisions, in his strengths and his skills. Most importantly, now… Stan was confident of the importance of opening this box.
With two hands, one caked in dust from the handrail of the stairs, Stan pressed his hands to the top lip of the box, the hinges were at the back - he had seen. He pushed. He lifted the lid and let it swing back with a hearty thunk. The hinges broke right in two from rust and the lid of the box clattered noisily to the floor. Stan didn’t hear it. All he could see was what lay in front of him.
This doll, unlike all the other dolls - was not perfect. It was not clean and polished. This doll, with a mop of wiry, hay-like black hair and dirty freckles painting its face was a horrific caricature of what all the rest of the dolls seemed to be. Its face had a glaring hole in the side of its cheek, shattered porcelain… so it looked, anyway. Cracks ran up from the hole to its temple, and down diagonally across its mouth, stopping just above the jaw. Its face was… sickly blue. Almost green, if Stan had squinted. The worst thing about this doll… was not the cracks… not the cobwebs and spiders which had made home on its bare body...not the dead, empty eyes which seemed to be staring right at Stan. No… the doll was teeming with maggots. Horrible, wretched things that grew fat with dead flesh. Stan suppressed a gag when a particularly fat one crawled out of the doll’s parted mouth.
This doll, as offensive to Stan’s senses as it may have been. Will soon be the most important thing in Stan’s life - in many, many senses of the word.
Stan may not have known that, but a part of him definitely sensed it because, despite the disgusting creatures covering the doll, Stan found himself reaching in. He could hardly believe it himself. The doll was heavy enough, clearly made out of something expensive. If it was of such value, why was it shoved in a battered box… why was it left for the rot and decay to have at it? Stan couldn’t fully understand. Maybe he will someday, he thinks it might become clear to him soon.
Stan felt embarrassment creeping up his cheeks as he held the doll the way one would a newborn, but it felt wrong to hold it any differently. He was almost … it’s almost too embarrassing to even say… he was almost afraid he would hurt it.
Something clicked. Two paths, destined to cross… they had met their target. Like two independent pieces of twine, destined to be knotted together to hold down something so much bigger than themselves. Such tiny, almost dismissable pieces of rope… essential to bearing down the entire universe. For this brief second… with Stan holding the other half of the puzzle in his arms… the universe stood still, in awe at the impossibility of it all. With so many things looming over the pair to prevent this. Prevent the two pieces of the puzzle fitting together - they had done it. They had done the near impossible.
At the window which Stan hadn’t previously noticed, had it been there at all? A lone magpie flew into it with a bolt-rattling thud. It fell to the ground and it lay there, dead on the grass.
Stan’s shock barely lasted a moment before his senses were caught in on a loud shouting from downstairs - a place Stan had forgotten even existed. It seemed so loud now… Bill shouting and Ben’s panicked answers… a parade of thunderous footsteps below him, like animals running from slaughter. Perhaps they were, since not seconds later did his name catch on his ears.
"Where are you?”
“Upstairs!” Stan said back, his voice carrying almost purposefully down to the rest of them.
Eddie, panicked and face half-blighted with energy, hurtled himself up half of the flight of stairs in only a couple of strides, his footsteps making heavy, imposing thump ing noises, “Belch Huggins’ car just pulled up! We gotta get outta here, move your ass, Stanley, before they see our bikes and torch the fucking house down!”
Panicked indeed. Panicked rightly so. Stan moved briefly to put the doll back before the thought of his actions caught up with him, he couldn't. No way could he leave the doll here. There’s nothing on Earth which could ever push him to leave this doll behind. So, Stanley Uris - the boy who folds his socks and irons his underwear - unzipped his Winter coat, stuffed the doll inside of it, zipped it back up and hauled ass out of the doll room, down the stairs and out of the wretched house.
The group collected their bikes and made wind as fast as they could, fire burning in their lungs and their legs crying out as they tried to out-cycle the eyeline of the resident bullies of Derry, Bill cried out a soaring, “Hi-yo Silver, away!” Even as his chest lurched for breath. They cycled out of Neibolt street, out of the vortex of Number Twenty-Nine and away from the heavy clouds which had pulled in around it.
Outside the decaying walls of Twenty Nine, where a dead magpie laid not moments ago, there was nothing but grass.
I'd like to thank everyone for reading and especially to Hal @birdboyinthedeadlights for being kind enough to trudge through this and Beta it for me!
Please leave comments and kudos if you enjoyed and dont forget to smash that mothafuckin' like button
‘The turtle? What in the goddamn hell did ‘the Turtle’ know?’ Stan thought as he tore through the entryway of the Uris household, up the carpeted stairs, and through his bedroom door. ‘What the hell was that? God? Is that it, was I hearing God? No… God surely wouldn’t pull my guts up to a stupid porcelain doll. I need to get it out it’s so gross oh good grief oh no-’
Stan flustered with the zip of his coat, his hands so frantic that he kept knocking it out of his own way. The maggots were crawling under his skin, he could feel them. The thought made him blow out a shaky breath to suppress his heaving gut. Gotcha. He ripped the zip down with enough force to blow the bottom of it out and send the little silver key ripping off the chain. He didn’t even think twice about dropping it to the floor because he suddenly realised - if his coat opened - there was nothing to support the doll and as much as the cold, maggot-coated puppet creature made him squirm, he definitely didn’t want it smashing all over his bedroom floor.
Stan managed to grab it by its wrist, barely in time to stop its legs colliding with the ground. It hung limply - well, how else had he expected it to hang? The doll slowly rotated in his grasp, clearly its shoulder was some sort of ball joint. It turned slowly, as if being propelled by the lightest breeze… until it stopped dead. Right where its lopsided head had lined its eyes up perfectly with Stan’s own. Stan held the doll a little further from himself and looked desperately around his room for something, anything to deposit the doll in.
The issue was, however, everything in Stan’s room already had its place. Perfectly manicured to be as functional is it was nice to look at. Stan didn’t have a particularly large room by any means. He had a fairly decent sized bed, though. Somewhere between a twin and a double - but not quite as big as a double. He wasn’t sure what the term for it was, but it was big enough plenty for sleepovers. Eddie or Ben or Bill would fit in nicely beside him, with enough room for them to turn over without brushing against each other all that much. Beverly wasn’t allowed to spend the night at their sleepovers, to the upset of the rest of the group. Beverly always remembered all of the rules at game night, without her it was a lot of guessing and house-rules made up on the spot.
The bed was pushed up against the wall, his only window breaching the end of it. Sometimes, when Stan was having difficulties sleeping, he would take his pillows and put them on the end of his bed and crack his curtains open. He would fall asleep with the counts of stars in his head and the moonlight paling on his skin. Sometimes he would sit at the footboard, a pillow softening the harsh wood at his back and read his books or do his homework while looking out the window. Something about looking out of the window provided him comfort and he always found himself drawn to a particular house that he could just barely ever see. It was maybe three streets down the way, bracketed between other houses and big, heavy trees - but he could see a small part of the house, a little dormer window. Something about it… seeing only this little window in between a chorus of other houses and an underline of heavy maple trees. The dormer was painted a rich blue. Stan didn’t think the rest of the house is painted as such, he would have noticed it by the colour while cycling around Derry if it had.
The light was never on, he noticed. He wondered if anyone lived there at all.
The rest of Stan’s room was little to wander at. Neat and tidy. A bedside table which had nothing but a little silver table lamp on it. Its drawers empty apart from his retainer and a box of tissues. His dresser had a pair of photo frames and a little baseball trophy he had received when his Elementary school made it to the district finals. Its newest addition was a little potted aloe vera plant that Bill had given him. ‘Muh-muh-maybe it’ll make your ruh-ruh-room look lived-in and luh-luh-less like a catalogue puh-picture’. His bookshelf, was of course, more or less full and ordered alphabetically. Not so much as a speck of dust was ever out of place in Stanley’s room with its baby blue wallpaper and its soft chestnut floor.
A maggot fell from the doll’s mouth and onto Stan’s boot.
Stan took another steeled breath and forced himself not to squirm. They were on his skin they were on his skin they were on his skin. Stan felt the wriggling fat little things crawling all over him. Every little patch of skin he had was being ravaged by them. Stan took a stiff step towards the door beside his end table - his ensuite.
Stan was never as grateful for an ensuite as he was now - he could never have been able to deal with sharing a bathroom with someone.... and a toilet. The thought made his stomach curl at the best of times. Now, his stomach is curling for a different type of reason altogether, mainly the maggot that was writing on his foot. He grimaced. This was perhaps the most disgusting situation Stanley had ever been introduced to. Maggots were the very symbol of rot and decay and wretchedness - and he had one crawling on his damned boot. Stan looked at the doll in his arms and his head jumped between it and his foot. He caught notice of a little fat pebble of white worming on his jumper and he made a very gut-decision to rush to place the doll in the tub. Despite his haste, he was gentle.
Stan lifted the toilet lid and kicked the maggot off of his boot and into the water. God they were all over him. He could feel them. He yanked the cupboard of the sink open and pulled out a pair of yellow rubber gloves, Stan kept about half a dozen pairs under the sink for cleaning. He ripped the pack open with his teeth and shoved his hands into them as quickly as he could. With that, Stan meticulously went over every single inch of himself and picked off any of the wormy little….. things as he could. From his jumper, to his scarf, down his pant legs and through the inside and outside of his coat - all in all he had lifted four from his person and flicked them into the toilet. He double-checked.
Then he was satisfied that he was in the clear. Stan shed his coat and hung it on the hook of the door.
He could almost… feel the doll boring holes into him. God, he was ridiculous. Stan scrubbed at his face. It’s just a stupid doll. There was no reason to even bring it home, why did I do that? What am I gonna do with it? I can’t just keep it in my room. I definitely can’t give it away. The thought made his stomach burn. That’s the issue - what was it about this stupid hunk of porcelain that had him feeling all types of emotions. Emotions and feelings that no other person has ever truly felt… and why do I know that? Why do I feel that truth inside me? How could that possibly be true and yet… Stan turned to look at the doll. Their eyes met. I know.
The voice echoed in his head again. Not the way it had at Neibolt… just a memory of it.
Follow your instincts.
Stan wasn’t quite sure why, but he followed the advice. No harm could come of it, he reasoned. Maybe he was a little right - but he was equally a little wrong… but who was Stanley Uris to know that yet?
Stan thought briefly about boiling water over his kitchen stove and sinking the doll in it to kill the maggots but he felt bad at the thought of it. Whether the feeling was extended towards to doll or the maggots, he wasn't sure. Instead, Stanley hopped down the stairs and into the garage for Pesticide. His mother had used it for the pink carnations in their almost obsessively-manicured front lawn after a sudden bout of insects had gnawed through many of their petals. The insects were unlike anything Stanley or his mother had ever seen. Caterpillar-looking things with sharp, beetle-like pincers and a splodge of red on the back of its almost impossibly black body. After Stanley and his mother had sprinkled the dusty pesticide around the coronations, they immediately began to contort within themselves. Writhing around like salted slugs. ‘Leave for twenty - forty minutes’ the box had said. So they did. They hadn’t been able to find any bodies of the horrible insects when they returned.
Maybe the pesticide wasn’t all that great after all, Stan thought as he rounded out from the garage and into the hallway which would lead him to the stairs.
Being away from the doll had given him some breathing room, which for some reason, was difficult to do with the doll near him. What exactly had happened in Neibolt? Stan had so many questions flickering though his head but they all flickered through it so quickly that he hadn’t been able to even lay thoughts on a tangible question. The voice? The Turtle? The quarry? And God… the dolls. The dolls were … strange. Strange in a different way than his doll. Well, not his doll. The doll he had stolen. Oh God… he had stolen a doll from the collection. Would he be cursed? Would he-
Stan near collided into his mother - worries blinding his surroundings. Andrea was a pleasant woman, comforting and graceful. Everyone always said Stan resembled his mother more than his father. He didn’t particularly think much of it, if anything, he would be a little offended that people say he looks like a girl, Stan would later appreciate the dirty blonde curls that people would say shone like gold in the Summer… and the dimple on his left cheek.. and the little triangle of freckles he has on his stomach, which his mother had told him once she had in the same place. His mother smiled at him and steadied him with a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Stanley? What are you getting up to? I heard you running up the stairs when you came in,” She said, not in the scolding way that Bill’s mother would speak to her son, or low warning tone that Mrs. Kaspbrak would use - Andrea just asked because she would quite like to know and Stan respected that greatly.
“Sorry, mom. My - uh… my coat got dirty and I wanted to take it off,” Stan said, stumbling over himself for an excuse for his heavy footsteps, feeling a little guilty for lying.
“Oh no,” She frowned and squeezed his shoulder a little, “Would you like me to take it to the Laundromat for you?”
“No, it’s fine. I cleaned it already,” He said.
Andrea smiled and pat the crown of his head but her smile faltered, “You’re not wearing your kippah.”
Stan squirmed under her gaze. He didn’t wear it out anymore - he hadn’t in a while, not since Patrick Hockstettar had ripped it from his head when he had been at the urinal and dropped it into the basin beside Stan and promptly started to relieve himself on it. The entire ordeal had been equally as upsetting as it was disgusting. The fact that Patrick had stared him down the entire time had made him all too hasty to zip himself up and run out of the toilets. He knew what that look meant.
It’ll be you next, Stanley Urine.
The humiliation had made him cower. He knew he shouldn’t let the Bowers gang force him to leave a piece of himself in his dresser drawer, but it had made him an easy target and the Bowers gang seemed to take it as a personal offense whenever Stan wore it.
“No, mom… I forgot,” He lied.
“Stanley… you understand how it would look,” She said, meeting his eye, “If members of the congregation were to see the Rabbi’s son without his kippah. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, mom. I slept in this morning and forgot, is all.”
She considered him for a moment before nodding and reaching over to press a kiss into his curls, “If you don’t like wearing it, I won’t say to your father. You can take it off around me, if you wish,” She said into his hair.
Stan found himself wrapping his arms around her and squeezing a quick hug. She thought Stan was ashamed… or falling away from religion. That wasn’t it at all, he thinks anyway. He’d have to come back to that thought after he figures out this whole ‘Turtle’ business.
“It’s alright, I don’t mind wearing it - I swear.”
“Alright,” She pulled away from him and smoothed out her dress as she rose back to height. She straightened Stan’s jumper as she did so - before Stan even had a chance to do so himself, “Now… do tell me what you’re doing with a box of pesticide tucked under your arm.”
Stan took the box from his armpit and looked over the gaudish yellow packaging. Stanley had found himself becoming fairly good at lying. He had to lie about all sorts to all sorts of people.
‘No Father, I didn’t lose my Kippah - the pin pulled the thread of it… that’s why I need a new one...’
‘No Miss, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about Beverly Marsh smoking behind the bleachers. I don’t think she’s ever touched a cigarette in her life…’
‘Sorry I’m home late, I was in the library and lost track of time...’
The words fell all too easy from his mouth, not without a lace of guilt, “I found a bug-eating my aloe vera plant earlier… I just want to make sure there are no others along with it.”
She nodded and tapped the top of the box, “Make sure to dilute it, otherwise you’ll just kill the plant, too.”
“Mix it in with some warm water and use it to water your plant,” She looked out towards their front lawn, “I learnt that the hard way ...almost all of my carnations died…”
“The garden still looks nice,” He said, “It always looks nice.”
This made her beam with pride, she gave Stan a genuine smile that one creep onto Stan’s face along with it, “Thank you,” She looked at him for a moment, the way mother’s often do when they look at their children, chest swimming and overflowing suddenly with a very special type of love. She stopped herself before she would begin to cry, “Go on, go take care of your plant. I love you, Ahuv.”
“I love you too,” And with that, Stan went back up the stairs and into his ensuite.
He set the box on the floor and knelt down beside the tub, taking a moment to make sure no creepy-crawlies had decided to venture up and out of the tub when he was gone. They hadn’t. Stan undressed the doll. It was wearing a simple pair of shorts and a cheap-looking t-shirt. Stan had never heard of Freese’s Department Store. Stan forced the plug into the bath and turned on the hot tap. Stan felt it grow from cold to warm over his fingertips, the pipes sputtering every now and again. It then grew from warm to hot. Then hot to very hot. Stan considered the doll for a moment and turned the knob a little for cold. It seemed to run warm enough to dissolve the pesticide, at least.
Cool enough to not burn the doll... Stan was growing exasperated at himself for these thoughts. He felt like there was a child with an overactive imagination caught inside of him, caring about not hurting this glorified puppet. He still pulled the doll away from the tap when he noticed the water was spluttering out directly onto its face. The hole in the side of its face had unnaturally spluttered out water when Stan moved it but Stan paid it little mind and focused more on emptying the remainder of the box of pesticide under the stream of water. It fizzed a little as it made contact before dissipating under the movement of the water. The remainder of the box had actually been about nine-tenths of it, and Stanley still doubted whether or not it would be enough.
A handful of maggots floated out of the hole of the mouth of the doll as the water finally covered the doll. They were dead and Stan shot back.
Absolutely revolting. What on Earth have I gotten myself into?
Stan leaned over the tub and turned the taps off. The water continued to ripple for a bit as it settled. Stan was leaning directly over the doll. His hair fell down his face and shadowed it as he looked down into the rippling water. The doll’s face warped and warbled through the motions… and Stan could swear the doll looked less blue-green than it had when he first saw it. It looked more… pink. More flesh-like, even.
The rippling water made the doll appear to blink at him for a moment and Stan felt his hands twitch. There was something deeply unsettling about it. Not scary, necessarily. It didn’t really scare him. There was just something overtly… off about it. Something that just kept Stan a little on edge whenever he looked at it. Stan wondered if the voice would tell him why. The voice didn’t tell him anything. Stan knew it wouldn’t. The voice was gone. For now? Forever? Stan wasn’t sure. Maybe he should try.
Stan decided to try when he showers. He had pulled off his jumper and his shirt before he decided to drop a towel over the doll. He didn’t like the way it was looking at him when he was undressing. It wasn’t looking at him, of course - it was a doll. But it was just lying there, underwater. Stan always somehow managed to meet its dark eyes. He wonders if it was like one of those paintings that follow you around the room with its eyes. He isn’t quite certain if that’s possible with a 3D object, though. Deep down he knew it wasn’t. He ignored that part of his rationale and finished undressing and got into the shower.
Stan let the spray of the water drench his hair and drip down his face. He grabbed his loofah and scrubbed away at his skin. The dust, the dirt, the grime, the shadows of Neibolt; he wanted it all gone. As the water rushed down him and collected the soap to be pulled to the drain, Stan could feel his skin lighten away from dark grime and ashy dust. There hadn’t been any on his skin in the first place, of course, but Stanley had learnt a long time ago that letting the feelings come and go was a lot easier than trying to change the way his mind approaches disorder and uncleanliness.
He continued his shower until his mind was a little lighter, knowing he was clean with shampoo froth running down the nape of his neck.
His mind felt lighter, freer.
He could try again. Stan pulled his head back to clear his face of suds and wiped at his eyes. He blinked them open and took a spare glance over to the bathtub, the bath towel clung to the doll. Stan turned back to the shower. Stan tried to rationalise it all, grasping at straws to explain the series of events that lead him to having a broken doll lying in his bathtub. Hallucinations, perhaps?
It was a weak reach for an explanation. Stanley knew better. He knew they were no hallucinations. The power and the authoritative gust that blew through his insides with the voice left no room for dispute. It was a fact that felt like the core of reality. If Stan were to pick and pull at it… it would unravel. The galaxies would unweb and the planets would pop out of order and fall through the bottom of the universe. The cosmos would ember and fizzle out into nothing.
But how did he know that?
These facts were the simple facts of reality - secret not through whispers and sealed lips, but through being untold. A secret not between people but between the whispers of the forest on a breezy night and between the wash of gust over a silent ocean. Between the final wink of sunlight over the horizon and the dark side of the moon. Between the very fabric of time and the grounds of the Earth. Nothing that would ever suggest a young boy such as Stanley Uris would be privy to it.
Why do I know who you are? Why did you speak to me?
Are you God?
Stan knocked his head into the tiles with frustration. Do you care if I wear my kippah?
Why did I bring the doll home?
The drain below his feet spluttered up some of the suds with a heavy gurgling sound.
Stan batted away the suds around it with his foot but nothing seemed amiss, so he finished his shower and stepped out of the comforting glass box and into the open vulnerability of his bathroom. Stan decides, quite unlike him, to dry himself off and put on his sleep clothes in his bedroom rather than in the warm steam of the bathroom. He leaves the bathroom light on when he leaves.
As Stan curls into his bed, he hears the pipes in the house clatter and ring through the walls and briefly wonders why his parents would decide to put the heating on at this hour. And when he hears a strange high-pitched sound like fork on a china plate swallowed by the lapping of water he simply turns away from it and sleeps facing the wall.
THE URIS RESIDENCE, 05:52AM
Stanley Uris did not have a pleasant nights sleep. He woke up feeling as though he had barely closed his eyes, with sweat sticking his pyjamas to his skin and matting his hair to his forehead. His blankets had been twisted and wrought in his sleep and they twisted awkwardly around his legs.
He woke up suddenly and with a start. Panic crept up from his toes all the way up to his ears which strained and prickled at every little noise. Birds singing, humming of the streetlamps, ticking of the big clock in the hallway. They were like darts of poison launched into his eardrums.
Stan had woken up in the brunt of a nightmare and as soon as he had collected the memory of it, it had fallen from his mind into whatever strange place forgotten dreams and nightmares go. Wherever that place is, it can stay there, Stan thought. He wiped sweat from his upper lip and got out of bed.
It had been the worst nightmare of his life - even if he couldn’t remember it. His gut was still heavy with a concoction of terrible feelings. It wasn’t dissimilar to the way he felt when he walked past that large doll in Neibolt. It was different though…..different and yet overwhelmingly familiar. Like how sadness on Eddie wears with downcast eyes and a soft voice and swells into anger before it crowns with tears, like a feather being swept into a riptide. And yet sadness on Bill wears with red stinging eyes and a sticky throat and all too many silent strings of wet down his cheeks, heavy and prominent like a fat storm cloud. The same underlying emotions but with very different presentations.
Stan dragged himself to the bathroom and the light nearly blinded him when he opened the door. He took a minute to collect himself before blinking through the splotches on his retinas. He washed his face and as he let the water drip down his jaw and into the sink. With his hands gripping the edge of it, he looked over the doll in the bathtub which Stan suspected had something to do with his restless night.
He said as much, with a quiet voice that Stan could barely even hear in his own head, “I bet this is all because of you. You’re cursed,” He wiped his face off with a towel and folded it back over the rack and stepped towards the tub. The towel had sunk away from the doll and twisted around its legs. Stan looked into its eyes. The doll looked back.
“Maybe not cursed. Haunted?”
Stan reckons he should probably set about finishing the cleaning job, so he lifted the doll from under its armpits and set it upright in the tub. Stan pulled the plug and waited for all the dead maggots which had floated to the top of the water to be sucked down the drain out of Stan’s sight and out of his mind. He did a once-over of the doll. He felt a little embarrassed as he opened up its legs to make sure none had lodged themselves in the joint of its hip.
“Sorry ...normally I’d take you out for dinner first,” Stan said. It didn’t make him feel much less embarrassed. He reached up to grab the facecloth that he had just been using on himself and ran it under the tap of the bath. He rubbed it gently at the doll’s face, taking extra care where it had cracked and shattered. He wiped carefully at its mouth-
The crack had gone through it, had it not? Stan swore the crack from the gaping hole had extended past its mouth and down to its chin. Stan wiped at it again, as if it would magically appear. It didn’t.
Stan sat back on his heels, “If you are haunted, just please be a friendly ghost,” He paused for a bit and moved back to wash the doll, worrying that the overnight bath hadn’t been enough to lift off the dirt and dust of Neibolt House, “My dad will be so mad if I brought home a demon.”
Stan continued to scrub at the doll and even though he doubted that there was all that much to clean at all, it made him feel better knowing he had washed over every inch of the doll. Even over all the little joints of its fingers. Stan scrubbed over the dolls chest for a good minute or so before he realised the ‘flecks of dirt’ that he had been trying to get rid of had in fact been freckles. That unsettles him a little. He’s known freckles on the face of dolls… he can understand the logic behind that. He can’t wrap his head around why someone would go through the trouble of painting freckles onto the chest of a doll. No one would see it underneath its clothes.
Ah yes, clothes. The doll should have clean clothes. For now, Stan wrapped the doll in a towel and laid him to the side while he ripped open a fresh pair of gloves and scrubbed the bathtub. The gentle sliver of sun thickening through the window told Stan that he didn’t have much longer before he would have to leave for school.
Stan finished scrubbing the bath and deposited the gloves into his wastebasket and lifted the doll into his room and onto his lap as he sat down on his bed. There, Stan towel-dried its hair as best he could. He couldn’t quite tell what it was made of but it seemed to work more or less the same as his own hair as it frizzed slightly with static. Cleaning it made it seem almost curly, not matted and dry as it had been beforehand.
When Stan was happy enough that the hair wouldn’t drip with water or grow damp and smelly in the cold air, he wrapped the doll in a fresh towel and perched him on the reading chair that sat in the corner of his room, in between his desk and his bookshelf. Stan didn’t dare think of what his friends would say if they discovered his concerns about the modesty of a doll. He didn’t have to think because he knew what their reactions would be all too well.
Stan went back to the bathroom and collected the clothes he had removed from the doll. They’re awfully plain. It was an odd choice in apparel for a doll, granted but Stan was hardly here to judge whatever strange reasonings that the collector had going through his head. Stan simply folded them up and slipped them into his backpack.
He would stop at the Laundromat on his way home from school. Sure, it was a little out of his way - having to take the turn off of Main Street opposite from where he lives but it was hardly as though he was planning on cycling up to Bangor. Stan shuffled some of his schoolbooks around inside his backpack to make room for the clothes and he felt his neck pringle at the feeling of being watched. He didn’t turn around.
“I’m going to wash your clothes at the Laundromat. It’s called Bubbley’s, it’s about four blocks down off of Main Street… I’d say I’ll be back around five o’clock, provided none of my friends have made plans-” he cut himself off. He truly was losing his mind, talking to the doll. He said as such to the empty air in front of him and shook his head at himself for being so silly.
Stan hoped that he would have enough spare change for it, it didn’t cost a whole lot… but Stan didn’t have a whole lot. If not, he supposes he could just hand-wash it and let it dry over the heater although with the cold and damp air it would probably take quite a while. All that mattered was for the doll to have clean clothes. Stan reassures himself that it’s because he doesn’t want anything dirty in his room, which may be true, but he knows by the haphazard glance over his shoulder at the doll sitting on his chair that it was more for it than for himself. He zipped up his backpack and made his way out the door. He faulted at the threshold. He turned back and grabbed his kippah from his dresser and pinned it in place.
The doll watched him as he left.
BUBBLEY’S LAUNDROMAT, 4:15PM
Stan was alone. He sat on one of the uncomfortable plastic benches of Bubbley’s Laundromat. The lights of the Laundromat were glaring and cold and seemed to bubble out into the dusk with heavy globs of fluorescent light. Stan is sitting doing homework, passing the time as the doll’s tiny clothes spin around rather lonely in the dryer. The dryer is humming lowly, a sound which Stan had always somewhat liked… it fills the silence but not obnoxiously so. It muffles the silence without pulling much attention to itself. Stan didn’t even mind the occasional thump that would come from the dryer - the dryers were old and Stan was empathetic and patient enough to understand.
He hadn’t intended to go alone. Stanley didn’t really like going many places alone - alone made you a target, not just to the Bower’s gang - but to himself. It was a lot easier to fall into his head when he was alone. That was Stanley - a boy stuck in his own head with little but anxieties to show for it. He had asked Bill and he smiled apologetically and said he was going to see a new horror film at the Aladdin with Eddie. Eddie looked equally as perturbed as he did excited about it. He asked Beverly and she smiled with tired eyes and said she had to be home straight after school and Stan understood. Well, not really. None of them really understood but none of them felt the need to ask and Beverly didn’t feel the need to tell. He asked Ben who looked as though he was about to say yes before suddenly remembering something and changed his answer before it had been half-way out his lips.
The light above Stan flickered and buzzed. The heavy snowfall outside melted to rain and the sound of rain bouncing off of the window harmonized with the dryer. Stan felt anxiety bubbling in his throat, which he deemed rather peculiar because Stanley liked the sound of the rain pattering off of windows and pounding down on roofs and washing down over the pavements. For some reason, the sound just filled him with nerves.
Stan tried to concentrate on his homework but it proved fruitless as his brain was flush with images of water. Quick, almost too quick to identify splashes of water. It was murky and overcoming, bubbling around him violently like a jacuzzi cranked up to the highest setting. Stan got a flash of something else. Something sinister. Two eyes stared into his gut… amber and cold with hate and hot with desire… they were closing in. They were bubbling up through the bubbles and webbing and pulsing around the frantic shifting of the water. They were getting closer. They were human in appearance but he knew better. Closer and closer and closer until it grabbed his ankle and-
Bing ! The cycle had finished.
Stan slammed the textbook that he had been holding shut. His fingers indented in the cover where he had been holding it.
And just like that… the fear and torment that had washed over him had left as soon as it came. Like watching a horror movie and near wetting your pants during, then feeling nothing but giddiness as soon as the theatre doors open and the light comes flooding in. Stan wasn’t left with giddiness, though. He was left with a boatload of questions and a frustratingly short list of answers.
Did the Turtle show him that?
No. Stan would know if the Turtle spoke to him. This was no act of the strange Turtle creature that has made Stan second-guess his righteous holding of the Torah. This was something else. Something different altogether, something heavy with grief...lonely, even.
Outside, the rain had become snow again, and Stan was left wondering whether it had been raining at all.
He packed up his school things neatly and tried his best to smooth over the harsh indents of his textbook and slipped them back into his backpack. He opened the dryer and the smell of artificial lavender offended his senses. Stan hated the smell of the cheap stuff the Laundromat provided - his mother used one that smelt of fresh linen and lilies - a lot less sweet and a lot less flamboyant.
He pulled the clothes out and examined them carefully. They seemed to have cleaned fairly well. The top - which Stan had originally thought was grey - turned out to be a sort of blue-ish, washed-out colour. Stan closed the top of the dryer and folded the little clothes and slid them carefully into his backpack. He was a little concerned that they would crease but there was little he could do about that.
Stan left the laundromat and hunched himself to breathe into his scarf. The snow wasn’t light and melodic like in those terrible Hallmark Christmas movies that Ben insists on making them watch. Ben loves them, Stan thinks he’s seen the same movie about six times but no… it’s a different movie. Every time. They’re all the same to him. Anyway, the snow wasn’t like that - it wasn’t blissful and romantic and it didn’t pepper itself in Stan’s hair for him to dust off when he walked into the warmth of his front door with a bowl of hot soup waiting to warm his belly. The snow was heavy and stung with the cold of it on his face. The ground was wet with a mushy mix of ice and snow. Stan had saddled himself and cycled but he only got to the end of the block before he was skidding out of control every so often, having to stomp his foot down to steady himself, so he walked his bike beside him.
The streetlamps barely lit his way, the snow was clouding the light too much for it to help Stan’s vision all that much which only became all the more concerning when he arrived at his shortcut. Across the play park.
See, Stan could go around it, but with the roadworks down the road beside it having blocked off his path, he would have to walk the whole way around the block of houses which would add not only time to his journey but it was out of the line of sight of the roads and Stan deemed it unsafe - who knows what kind of trouble could be waiting for him in alleyways?
Stan steeled himself and walked his bike through the gate of the park. It was all gated off - only by a fence waist-height, but it was restrictive all the same. Stan kept his head down to look at his footing, making sure to avoid any patches of ice or rocks that could send him sprawling. Stan wonders if Eddie and Bill are shivering their butts off in the Aladdin; which never turned their heat on to save on electric bills. Eddie could only imagine Eddie firing off about hypothermia and pneumonia Bill shoving the straw of his soda into his mouth on an inhale to get him to be quiet.
Stan’s mind stayed peacefully away from thoughts of turtles and dolls as he thought about his friends for a bit. He also thought about the homework he had been working through and he wondered if someone would be able to help him through a question he found exceptionally difficult. Stan almost walked into the swingset but he didn’t have all that much time to feel surprised by it.
The heavy and frantic crunching of snow caught his attention all too late as something collided purposefully into the back of him. Stan fell to the ground and barely had time to put his hands out in front of him to break his fall. He let out a shout as he fell. It was echoed by a twisted and harsh laugh. A laugh Stan knew all too well, he recognised it with a drop of his stomach.
Henry pressed a boot into the small of Stan’s back. Hard. Hard enough for Stan to huff his last breath of air into the ground and try to claw away.
“If it isn’t Stanley Urine. What’re you doin’ out on your own in the dark? You meetin’ up with your little friends?” Henry’s voice was mocking and grated every part of Stan’s body. Stan wormed under his shoe but Henry only pressed down harder, “You gone deaf and dumb, flamer? Answer me.”
“Yes.” Stan lied through gritted teeth, he twisted his head to look at Henry - an action he wished he hadn’t done. Henry looked half-mad… like Stan had given him some sort of great offense. Which he hadn’t, after all, Stan had simply been walking home. Henry Bowers is a boy so caught up in his own spiteful little world that he sees anyone enjoying themselves, he takes it personally. If Henry has to be miserable then so does everyone else and hey, Stan was an easy target. All of them were.
“Where are ya’s going? You all gonna take turns havin’ a ride on the town bicycle?” Henry said. Stan’s hands fisted in the snow.
“Don’t call her that.” That was Beverly. His friend. Stan didn’t like when Henry called Ben fatty or tits , or when he called Bill stuttering Bill or retard and he especially didn’t like it when he called Eddie fairy or a fruit . But Stan hated whenever Henry - or anyone, for that matter - spoke about Beverly like that. She always got this sad, far-away look on her face that she thinks none of them notice. They do. They all notice.
Henry let out a laugh at that. It was cold and short. He lunged forward and pressed his knee into Stan’s back and forced his face into the snow. Henry’s hand bruised into the side of Stan’s face and the snow burned the other side of it. Stan muffled the quick, instinctual cry of pain that had almost came out of him. He sucked his lips into his mouth and made little ‘mmmph’ noises instead.
“What’re you gonna do, cry? You gonna cry?” Henry twisted Stan’s face hard into the snow. It was burning so much. The snow wasn’t soft, it wasn’t powdery and pillowy. It was hard and icy, near frozen solid. It cut coldness into his face and Stan could swear it was rubbing his fucking skin off. Stan kicked violently at Henry and tried to force his arms, which were crushed under himself, to lift him up off of the ground for leverage. It didn’t work. Henry was too strong, had too much power. Henry had him in such a position that Stan was utterly helpless. Helpless to whatever Henry Bowers had planned for him. The thought cast his mind back to Ben, with a scar on his stomach still red and angry.
Henry could do whatever the hell he wanted right now and there was no one around to stop him.
Stan did let out a sudden and violent hitch of breath at that and his eyes began to water. Henry could kill him. Henry has said he was going to kill him. Henry was so unhinged and such a brute that he probably wouldn’t think twice about it. He could take the knife from his jeans and stab Stan in the stomach and leave him to stain into the snow.
Stan forgot Henry carried a knife. A great big heavy bowie knife. A sob wrecked out of him and he fought against Henry again.
“Holy shit -” Henry grabbed the fat of Stan’s cheeks in hand and pulled , lifting Stan’s head off of the ground so he could get a better look. Stan screwed his eyes shut. “You are! You’re crying!” Henry let out a barking laugh and he slammed Stan’s head into the ground. Stan’s head exploded into fiery shots of pain and he grappled weakly at the ground, “God… you’re such a fucking faggot.”
Stan gave up grappling against the snow. He was. He was a faggot.
He was a great big ol’ fairy and he hated not being able to deny it. He had thoughts for a while but he hadn’t known until they started to grow up and get things like body hair and body odour and erections and suddenly Bill was very interested in girls - in Beverly , for a while but that had stopped almost as quickly as it had started. Stan found himself admiring the men in movies rather than panting at the half-naked ladies. Appreciating men he saw walking down the street in tight-fitting shirts and aftershave that was dark and musky. He even looked at Bill and found himself staring at his strong calves as he tore across Derry on Silver or gazing a little too long at Eddie’s smattering of freckles. Beverly had freckles too and Stan could see her beauty, but it didn’t entrance him… it didn’t pull him in.
Stan could almost argue that this was a bed of his own doing. But deep in his gut, he knew that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair on himself.
“Bet you and all the other little queers go and suck each other off, huh?”
Stan didn’t reply. He knew not to reply. You just take what Henry gives you and you thank the universe if you walk away without any bruises.
Henry’s hand suddenly shot into Stan’s hair - and Stan felt ice scale up his back when he realised what Henry was reaching for.
“I doubt your Daddy will be pleased about his son sucking off the other Derry poofs with his jew-cap on,” and with that, Henry ripped it from Stan’s head. Stan cried out as the pins pulled painfully at his hair when they were yanked out.
“Give it back!” His voice was quiet and cracked when he spoke, wet with tears.
Henry took the kippah in his hand and used it to scoop up a mound of snow. Stan barely had time to close his eyes before Henry smashed it into his cheek and began rubbing. Hard. Stan let out an anguished cry as Henry scrubbed at his face for so long that the snow had melted. Stan's cheek was blistered with red and he fought against Henry with as much strength as he could muster.
Henry threw the kippah away and with a mighty swingback he slapped Stan’s ear with his open palm as hard as he could.
Stan’s eyes blew open and a choked sound left his throat.
That’s done it. Stan was deaf. Henry had burst his eardrum. The ringing was deafening and Stan found himself growing near faint. His vision blackened around the edges. Stan lay limp in the snow and that, for reasons unclear to even Bowers himself, only infuriated him more.
“You stupid fuckin’ freak! I’m gonna burn down your family’s entire fuckin’ freak church like they did to that Negro shithole back when Derry was normal. Your days are numbered, you and your faggot friends!” Henry’s voice cascaded into great big bellows, shouting so loud that Stan prayed someone would hear him. But this was Derry… if anyone had heard Henry Bowers screaming bloody murder at Stan, no one cared. Henry spat on Stan’s face and Stan tried to wipe it on his shoulder. Get it off, get it off, get it off.
Henry laughed, maniacal and near crazed with anger, “I’ll get it for you,” and with that, Henry grabbed a fistful of snow and continued scrubbing Stan’s cheek with it.
Fistful after fistful of snow was scrubbed into Stan’s cheek. Stan screamed and cried and kicked at Henry with the pain of it. It seared his cheeks. He swears he could feel it in his teeth. He swears that Henry scrubbed right through his cheek and into his mouth. The pain was unbearable. He hardly noticed the ringing in his ears and the shooting pain coming from his eardrum. Henry Bowers scrubbed and scrubbed and laughed all the while doing it.
Just when Stan was sure he was going to die from the pain - a cop car slowly pulled onto the street, in clear view of both boys. It drove slow, barely edging its way down the street at all. With a sharp swear, Henry jumped up, using Stan’s face as leverage and kicking him swiftly in the ribcage as he scampered off - a kid being caught by Mommy and Daddy playing with something he shouldn’t be.
Stan didn’t even have the energy to watch Henry run off. He just lay where he was for a moment. The cop car stopped as it drove past Stan. It stopped and through the heavy fluster of snow he could see movement inside the car. It then drove away again as slowly as it had driven up.
With the knowledge that no one was going to help him, Stan shakily stood up on his own two feet and wiped away his tears with the heel of his hand. It was hard to wipe away tears when they hadn’t yet stopped but he kept doing it anyway. The pain in his face was overwhelming. Stan picked up his bike and walked it down the last remaining blocks until he was on Main Street, he could barely see where he was going, his eyes near blind with pain.
As he got onto Main Street which was a blizzard of lights and gaudy decorations and streetlamps that seemed to cut through the snow a lot better than the last ones had, Stan walked down the pavement, not even catching the attention of any of the adults who walked past him. Stan cupped his face and tried his best to warm his scrubbed cheek with one hand and walked his bike with the other. When he pulled his hand away he noticed it painted red with his own blood.
Every loud rev of a car engine made Stan jump and look over his shoulders with the fear that it would be Belch Huggins’. It never was but Stan still crumpled into himself a little as the car would drive past… just in case.
Stan walked home, like a wounded animal, skittish and with his tail between his legs. Stan parked his bike up at the bike stand beside his front door and crept in as silently as he could. He toed off his boots at the door and tiptoed in his socks up to his room and when the door shut behind him he shucked off his backpack and he crumpled like a paper doll against the door and cried.
He cried big, fat tears that stung his cheek when they passed. He cried because he had been alone, he had been afraid and he had been hurt. Stan hated being afraid. He hated it. It made him feel weak and childish and yet he had little control over it. Beverly had once told him that being brave is more about doing things despite your fear, not because it hadn’t been there at all. Stan told her that may be true, but it’s hard to feel brave when you’re on the bridge of pissing your pants. Everyone had laughed at that. Stan had only been half-kidding.
He was truly afraid that Henry would kill him, or hurt him so badly he wouldn’t be able to move and he would rot into the ground before anyone cared enough to look for him. Stan almost slapped himself for that. His friends would look for him. Saying otherwise felt like an insult to their character.
Stan had been alone. Somehow this kept replaying in his head and his tears soon ran dry as he mulled the word over and over. The word felt wrong. It felt sickly and it made Stan feel like there was something desperately out of place in his world.
He opened his eyes and he met eyes with the doll. Only it wasn’t on the seat where Stan had left him. He was sitting on the floor, against the footboard of Stan’s bed. The doll really was fucking haunted, wasn’t it? Oh geez, his dad will really be pissed if he finds out.
Stan wiped at his eyes and laughed a little to himself. Bringing a haunted doll home. God, maybe Stan’s going to star in the next horror film at the Aladdin. Stan had the initiative to get up now. Something to do. Stanley quite liked having things to do. He picked himself off the floor and quickly went and washed his face in the sink. His was blistering red where it was bleeding, although the bleeding had stopped by now. Stan’s face would be littered with little scabs for the better part of a week or two but he’ll live. Stan stopped washing his face as soon as he was able and didn’t give his reflection a second glance as he shut the bathroom door behind him.
Stan changed into his pajamas. He was freezing. Stan opened the third drawer of his dresser and pulled on a heavy knitted sweater. It was a little big for him, but it wore well in bed which is pretty much the only reason he had ever kept it in the first place. The sleeves were soft and didn’t irritate the cuts on his face when he pressed his hand against it to warm his cheek up. It didn’t really work all that much.
Stan, who admittedly, was still sniffling a little, finally walked to the doll and hoisted it up by the armpits. He walked it to the bed and laid it down. Embarrassed, he flicked his bedsheet over it to cover its naked body. Could a doll be naked? Is it even a body? Stan’s own thoughts were confusing him. Stan got the clothes out of his backpack as quick as he good and he pulled the shorts onto the doll while it was still under the blanket - giving it some level of modesty.
As Stan sits the doll up to put its arms through the shirt holes, Stan thinks he begins to lose his mind a little. He starts talking to it.
“Bet you were cold all day, huh?” Stan pulls the shirt over its head. Its hair had dried in loose waves, not as curly as Stan’s - but waves enough. He fusses over the shirt for a bit, tugging it this way and that to try and get it to sit properly. He felt the doll looking at him throughout. It didn’t unsettle him as much as it should have, though. In fact, he found some weird sort of comfort in it.
Tonight is a night for sleeping with the sky in his sights, Stan thinks. He says it aloud too, giving the doll an explanation for why he was leaning over it to grab his pillow from the head of his bed. He flipped the blanket so the buttons were facing the right direction and crawled into the bed. He decided the doll would be safest on the windowsill, so he spends a fairly lengthy amount of time trying to balance it on the sill. The doll may have been a little big for it, but somehow Stan managed to get it balanced enough. It never occurred to him to put the doll back on the chair, or on the ground, even.
“Your back is going to be pretty cold, up against the window like that. Sorry… but you’re a doll so I don’t think you’re susceptible to frostbite,” Stan said quietly, looking more into the sky as he lay himself down properly. His face still burned with snow. “Me, on the other hand…” Stan let himself trail off as he stared out into the sky. The snow had stopped and the air was peacefully still. It was a full moon tonight, Stan noticed. He wondered if the movie that Eddie and Bill had watched was a werewolf one… he laughed to himself at that. He could imagine them both looking out their windows now, just like Stan, and shitting their britches noticing the full moon. Especially Eddie. Stan doesn’t really understand why the kid went with Bill to the movies… Eddie hates that spooky stuff… it scares him senseless. Stan figured Bill had offered to pay for his popcorn - usually that’s enough to persuade him.
The sky was dark, but it had that city-glow about it… never quite reaching pitch black… always with the melancholic bluey haze about the sky that never really goes away. Stan thinks that blue-ish haze is going to follow him no matter where he moves to, in the future, of course.
“There are no stars tonight...,” Stan starts but a harsh clinking stalls the words in his throat. He spares a look at the doll. Its neck had contorted a bit and it was more hunched over, its neck - instead of facing into the room like Stan had faced him - was now facing the window. Stan swallowed thickly. It fell. Stan was supporting it with its head in the corner of the wall and the window and it gave out and the neck turned and it moved. That’s it. Stan didn’t have an explanation for why the doll’s eyes were now upwards… looking up to the stars. Stan continued his sentence, “Sometimes if a star is really bright you can see it. You have to really look, though. Derry has a lot of light pollution, so my Dad says, so we don’t get to see the stars much. You do in the country… every year my Scouts group go on a camp trip down to the Maine Conservational Nature Park and it’s miles and miles away from anybody. The sky is ink black… so black you’d think you’d gone blind…. But then you look up,” Stan paused, remembering the feeling of looking up into oblivion… with the cosmos staring back, “and there are hundreds . More stars than you could ever count. It’s amazing.”
Stan took another look at the doll and thumped his head against the pillow, “I’m losing my mind…. I really am. Henry must’ve knocked something out of place when he slammed my head into the ground.”
Stan felt something twang inside of him. Like pulling on a taut piece of twine. It reverberated inside of him and it followed him to the doll. Stan really was starting to think he was losing his mind.
“That keeps happening. All this weird stuff…” Stan sought through his brain, “the voice… that damned voice - The Turtle . I don’t know why I know it’s a turtle - but it is! And it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It told me there were seven of us, but there’s not… there are five of us. Me, Bill, Eddie, Ben, and Beverly. Five,” Stan counted out for the doll, “And yet… it feels wrong. The Turtle said seven. So it has to be seven. Then we went into the house where I found you, the turtle told me to go up the stairs and then I followed the magpies and… there you were,” Stan spoke softly, as though there had been some sort of melancholic shift, “You were dirty and broken and covered in maggots in some beat-up ol’ box in Neibolt House-”
Stan was interrupted by the sound of a child crying from outside his window, presumably. Unmistakable but distant and drowned out. Like an echo from an empty stadium arena. It sunk in Stan’s stomach.
“The voice... I don’t know exactly what it is. If it’s God or if it’s something bigger...but it lead me to you. I don’t know why the universe wanted me to take home some shattered raggedy-ann wannabe but… it did,” Stan said.
He didn’t feel much like talking about it anymore. It was too confusing and too heavy of a thing for him to wrap his head around with a ringing ear and a splintering headache, “You’re just a doll… you’re not much help.”
Just as Stan was about to roll over to sleep something outside his window caught his eye. Above that one dormer window was a star. Brighter than what Stan had ever seen from his bedroom window before. He let out a soft ‘ wow ’ and set himself up to look at it. He scooted to the windowsill and rested his chin on it… just staring at the brightest star that he had seen in a long time. You didn’t get them like this in Derry. Not with the lights. Against all odds… it was here.
“My Mom used to tell me this rhyme to help me sleep,” He said, “I used to have a lot of trouble sleeping and my Mom told me to lie in bed and wait for the stars to come up - because the first star is special. The first star is magic,” Stan laced his voice with the same wonder that he felt when his Mom had told him that, “I would sit for hours just waiting for the first star to come out. I used to cry and pace around the room and toss and turn until I near wore scorch marks on my mattress cover. It was relaxing… I would wait patiently for it. When it did come out… when I spotted the first star of the night, Mom told me a rhyme to say.”
Stan racked his brain to remember it. It had been that long since he had even thought about waiting for the stars to come out and making wishes on them that he had nearly forgotten it. You don’t forget things like this though, things like this are taught to us for a reason.
“Starlight, star bright,
first star I see tonight,
I wish I may,
I wish I might,
Have this wish I wish tonight.”
Stan felt a wave of peace wash over him. It reminded him so fondly of his youth… sitting up making wishes and telling his Mother all the toys and games that he had wished for. Sometimes his darling Mother would slip one of the toys under his pillow a few days later. Stan reckons he’s the first and only person to ever cry over a game of checkers.
“It’s a little dumb, isn’t it?” He sighs to himself, “I used to think the wishes came true. Believed it with no doubt. I guess that’s the great thing about being a kid… you’ll believe anything you’re told. You get cynical when you grow up… maybe that’s why the adults are all so miserable.”
Stan took a last look at the star and turned himself back over in bed. “Forget the adults - I’m miserable. None of my friends are in my class… I get snow rubbed into my face until it bleeds just because I’m Stanley, I guess. And now… now I’ve got some sort of psychic powers like in Eddie’s X-Men comics! And you’re a part of it. There’s something about you that’s important,” Stan let out a heavy sigh of defeat as he closed his eyes for the night.
“I just wish I had a way of finding out what’s going on.”
And with that, Stan let himself fall into a deep sleep. Unaware of the star, which had been burning a regular starlike colour… now burned a deep blue. Bluer than Stan’s baby blue walls… bluer than the blue-ish haze of the skyline… bluer than the doll’s Freese’s Department Store tee. Bluer than anything blue that the little town of Derry had ever seen. More blue than the human brain could even comprehend. It was a cosmic colour. A colour only the deepest part of the ocean and the clearest part of the sky could ever even begin to conceptualize. The doll began to glow. Not with light. The doll began to glow with life.
When Stan would wake up, not an hour later with a full bladder that needed relieving, he would stumble and trip over something on his bedroom floor and as he fumbles his hand down on the light switch, Stan would see what would soon become the answers to all his queries, lying face-down on his bedroom floor.
Stan would see the doll, no longer really a doll. A lot more human. A lot more alive . And Stan would scream... and near piss himself when the ‘doll’ screamed back.
Sorry for the long wait! Thank you all for supporting this fic, it's very near and dear to my heart.