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"Guys I don't think this is a good idea." I cautioned. "We can't just let them have him! They'll kill him." Beverly yelled at me. I shied away, not wanting her to know that I'd rather have a stranger killed than me. I'm a coward, I know.

But I'd never met Mike Hanlon, and really I didn't care to. I had too many friends to account for. If something happened to one of them... I don't know what I'd do.

The first thing I saw when we stepped into the clearing was Henry Bowers pinning Mike onto the ground.

He held a rock up above his head. I'd bet my left arm he would've killed that kid if we'd never showed up.

Before anyone could stop her, Beverly picked up a rock. It was decently sized— enough to make a dent...

Then, she hurled it at Henry Bowers, hitting him right in the forehead. "Nice throw." Stan said quietly. "Thanks." She muttered.

"You losers are trying too hard! She'll do you! You just have to ask nicely— like I did." He rubs his hand on the front of his pants slowly.

I tried to hide in the back of the group. But he spotted me anyway.


But before he could finish, Ben screeched and catapulted a rock, hardly hitting him, but still enough to cause him pain.

"What the fuck?" Henry muttered. Beverly threw another rock. "ROCK WAR!!" Richie yelled, then got hit in the head. "You okay?" Eddie asked. "Yeah." He responded.

They took turns throwing rocks at the other group and they threw rocks back.

It's the first time I'd ever seen Eddie dirty as he went into the muddy water just to throw rocks at them.

I backed away, knowing what would happen if I stayed. Stan turned around, making eye contact with me.

When I turned around to run off, he followed.

"What are you doing?" He asked, cutting me off. "Shit— I couldn't stay. He already saw me. He's gonna tell my brother, who'll kill me. I'm sorry." I apologized.

"You don't have to be sorry... I get it." He put a hand on my shoulder. It was awkward.

"Hey— let's go to that parade thing." He suggested. "Okay, sure." I smiled and stood up.

He stared at me for a second before grabbing my hand. "Is this okay?" He asked. "Yeah." I intertwined our fingers and started to walk towards town.

The parade was nice to watch. I almost forgot about the drama with the others. I almost forgot that I would have to go home soon after that.

Stan's hand didn't leave mine until a group of cheering kids ran up to us.

"Where were you guys? We kicked their asses!" Richie exclaimed.

Stan explained the situation to the group all while I practically hid behind him, nodding every so often.

"You can stay the night at my house." Ben offered. "I know my mom would probably be on the fence but—"

"No, no.... I think it'll be worse if I don't go home."

"What's wrong with your family? Everyone who lives with you sound fucking crazy." Richie stated loudly.

Beverly smiled softly at me.

"They're alright. Good people. Better than my dad at least." Beverly told them.

I silently thanked her.

I didn't know where everyone got it from, but apparently being batshit crazy ran in my family. I absolutely loathed it.

Walking down the halls and hearing people call you a psycho? Not fun.

"I'm getting ice cream? You want some?" Richie asked me and Eddie.

"I'll go with you." I said, running to catch up with him.

Before we could cross the street, Richie stopped me.

"I think we need to talk about your little crush on Stan." He said, crossing his arms.

"What? That's ridiculous." I exclaimed pretending not to get it.

We crossed, getting to the vender.

"Besides. We all know you like Eddie." I dropped my voice to a whisper. "Are you kidding? Two vanillas and what—?"

"A chocolate." I told the vender.

"Who's the other vanilla for hmmm?" I bumped his shoulder with mine.

Richie cursed, his face turning red as he fumbled with the money in his pocket.

"Shut the fuck up." He snarled, giving me the finger.

"Did I make Richie Tozier flustered?" I asked loudly. Some people turned to watch.

"Just don't tell anyone, okay? It's not like I need everybody to know."

I pretended to zip my lips and throw out the key, then grabbed the chocolate cone from the vender.

Richie banded Eddie the ice cream then ran to steal some band guy's instrument.

Bill pointed at a poster of a new missing kid. Betty Ripsom's poster was underneath it. "It's like they forgot about her. It's terrible." I said quietly.

Eddie was zoned out, staring at Richie.

"What're you guys talking about?" Eddie asked, handing Richie his ice cream, "What they always talk about." Richie said with an eye roll. "I actually think it will end, for a little while, at least." Ben said.

"What do you mean?"

"As I was going over my Derry research and I charted out all the big events.... the ironworks explosion in 1908, the Bradley gang in 35, and the black spot in 62, and now kids being.... I realized this stuff seems to happen every 27 years." He explained.

"Okay so let me get this straight... it comes out from wherever to eat kids for like a year... and then what?  It just goes into hibernation?" Eddie asked, clearly confused.

"Maybe it's like... what do you call it? Cicadas. You know the bugs that come out every 17 years." Stan suggested. I nodded in agreement, licking my ice cream.

"My grandfather says this town is cursed. He says that all the bad things that happen in this town are because of one thing... an evil thing that feeds off the people in Derry."

"But it can't be one thing... we all saw something different." Mike shrugged. "Maybe... or maybe it knows what scares us most and that's what we see."

My breath hitched. I remembered the clown I saw in Neibolt that day.

"I- I saw a lepor. He was like a walking infection." Eddie said quietly.

Stan's breathing got slightly faster. He looked nervous.

"I saw a clown— I-in that creepy Neibolt house. It had blood on it's face." I told them.

"But you didn't... because it isn't real. None of this is. Not Eddie's lepor, or Bill seeing Georgie, or that clown, or the woman I keep seeing—"

"Is she hot?" Richie asked. "No Richie! She's not hot! Her face is all messed up. None of this makes any sense. They're all like bad dreams." He said.

"I don't think so. I know the difference between bad dreams and real life, okay?" Mike argued. "What'd you see? You saw something too?" Eddie asked Mike.

"Yes. You guys know that burnt down house on Harris avenue? I was inside when it burned down. Before I was rescued.... my mom in dad were trapped in the next room over from me... they were pounding and pushing on the door, trying to get to me... but it was too hot. When the firemen found them, the skin on their hands had melted down to the bone. We're all afraid of something. . ." Mike finished. "Got that right." Richie said.

"Why Rich? What are you afraid of?" Richie adjusted his glasses and turned towards the stage behind us. A clown in obnoxious makeup stood there, getting ready for his next show.


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