It

Page 149


(he sees the ghosts he sees the ghosts HE SEES)


"We'll find it," George said and Bill could smell Its breath and it was a smell like exploded animals lying on the highway at midnight. As George's mouth yawned, he could see things squirming around inside there. "It's still down here, everything floats down here, we'll float, Bill, we'll all float-"


George's fishbelly hand closed on Bill's neck.


(HE SEES THE GHOSTS WE SEE THE GHOSTS THEY WE YOU SEE THE GHOSTS-)


George's contorted face drifted toward Bill's neck.


"-float-"


"He thrusts his fists against the posts!" Bill cried. His voice was deeper, hardly his own at all, and in a searing flash of memory Richie remembered that Bill only stuttered in his own voice: when he pretended to be someone else, he never did.


The George-thing recoiled, hissing, Its hand going to Its face in a warding-off gesture.


"That's it!" Richie screamed deliriously. "You got It, Bill! Get It! Get It! Get It!"


"He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts!" Bill thundered. He advanced on the George-thing. "You're no ghost! George knows I didn't mean for him to die! My folks were wrong! They took it out on me and that was wrong! Do you hear me?"


The George-thing abruptly turned, squealing like a rat. It began to run and ripple under the yellow slicker. The slicker itself seemed to be dripping, running in bright blots of yellow. It was losing Its shape, becoming amorphous.


"He thrusts his fists against the posts, you son of a bitch!" Bill Denbrough screamed, "and still insists he sees the ghosts!" He leaped at It and his fingers snagged in the yellow rainslicker that was no longer a rainslicker. What he grabbed felt like some strange warm taffy that melted under his fingers as soon as he had closed his fist around it. He fell to his knees. Then Richie yelled as the guttering match burned his fingers and they were plunged into darkness again.


Bill felt something begin to grow in his chest, something hot and choking and as painful as fiery nettles. He gripped his knees and drew them up to his chin, hoping it would stop the pain, or perhaps ease it; he was dimly thankful for the dark, glad that the others couldn't see this agony.


He heard a sound escape him-a wavering moan. There was a second; a third. "George!" he cried. George, I'm sorry! I never meant for anything b-b-b-bad to huh-huh-happen!"


Perhaps there was something else to say, but he could not say it. He was sobbing then, lying on his back with one arm over his eyes, remembering the boat, remembering the steady beat of the rain against his bedroom windows, remembering the medicines and the tissues on the nighttable, the faint ache of fever in his head and in his body, remembering George, most of all that: remembering George, George in his yellow hooded slicker.


"George, I'm sorry!" he cried through his tears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please, I'm suh-suh-SORRY-"


And then they were around him, his friends, and no one lit a match, and someone held him, he didn't know who, Beverly maybe, or maybe Ben, or Richie. They were with him, and for that little while the darkness was kind.


10


DERRY / 5:30 A.M.


By 5:30 it was raining hard. The weather forecasters on the Bangor radio stations expressed mild surprise and tendered mild apologies to all the people who had made plans for picnics and outings on the basis of yesterday's forecasts. Tough break, folks; just one of those odd weather patterns that sometimes developed in the Penobscot Valley with startling suddenness.


On WZON, meteorologist Jim Witt described what he called an "extraordinarily disciplined" low-pressure system. That was putting it mildly. Conditions went from cloudy in Bangor to showery in Hampden to drizzly in Haven to moderate rain in Newport. But in Derry, only thirty miles from downtown Bangor, it was pouring. Travellers on Route 7 found themselves moving through water that was eight inches deep in places, and beyond the Rhulin Farms a plugged culvert in a dip had covered the highway with so much water that the highway was actually impassable. By six that morning the Derry Highway Patrol had orange DETOUR signs on both sides of the dip.


Those who waited under the shelter on Main Street for the first bus of the day to take them to work stood looking over the railing at the Canal, where the water was ominously high in its concrete channel. There would be no flood, of course; all agreed on that. The water was still four feet below the high-water mark of 1977, and there had been no flood that year. But the rain came down with steady pounding persistence, and thunder grumbled in the low clouds. Water ran down Up-Mile Hill in streams and roared in the stormdrains and sewers.


No flood, they agreed, but there was a patina of unease on every face.


At 5:45 a power-transformer on a pole beside the abandoned Tracker Brothers" Truck Depot exploded in a flash of purple light, spraying twisted chunks of metal onto the shingled roof. One of the flying chunks of metal severed a high-tension wire, which also fell on the roof, spluttering and twisting like a snake, shooting an almost liquid stream of sparks. The roof caught fire in spite of the downpour, and soon the depot was blazing. The power-cable tumbled from the roof to the weedy verge that led around to the lot where small boys had once played baseball. The Derry Fire Department rolled for the first time that day at 6:02 A.M. and arrived at Tracker Brothers" at 6:09. One of the first firemen off the truck was Calvin Clark, one of the Clark twins with whom Ben, Beverly, Richie, and Bill had gone to school. His third step away from the truck brought the sole of his leather boot down on the live line. Calvin was electrocuted almost instantly. His tongue popped out of his mouth and his rubber fireman's coat began to smolder. He smelled like burning tires at the town dump.


At 6:05 A.M... residents of Merit Street in the Old Cape felt something that might have been an underground explosion. Plates fell from shelves and pictures from walls. At 6:06, every toilet on Merit Street suddenly exploded in a geyser of shit and raw sewage as some unimaginable reversal took place in the pipes which fed the holding tanks of the new waste-treatment plant in the Barrens. In some cases these explosions were strong enough to tear holes in bathroom ceilings. A woman named Anne Stuart was killed when an ancient gear-wheel catapulted from her toilet along with a gout of sewage. The gearwheel went through the frosted glass of the shower door and passed through her throat like a terrible bullet as she washed her hair. She was nearly decapitated. The gear-wheel was a relic of the Kitchener Ironworks, and had found its way into the sewers almost three-quarters of a century before. Another woman was killed when the sudden violent reversal of sewage, driven by expanding methane gases, caused her toilet to explode like a bomb. The unfortunate woman, who was sitting on the John at the time and reading the current Banana Republic catalogue, was torn to pieces.


At 6:19 A.M... a bolt of lightning struck the so-called Kissing Bridge, which spanned the Canal between Bassey Park and Derry High School. The splintered pieces were thrown high into the air and then rained down into the swiftly moving Canal to be carried away.


The wind was rising. At 6:30 A.M... the gauge in the lobby of the courthouse building registered it at just over fifteen miles an hour. By 6:45, it had risen to twenty-four miles an hour.


At 6:46 A.M... Mike Hanlon awoke in his room at the Derry Home Hospital. His return to consciousness was a kind of slow dissolve-for a long time he thought he was dreaming. If so, it was an odd sort of dream-an anxiety dream, his old psych prof Doc Abelson might have called it. There seemed to be no overt reason for the anxiety, but it was there all the same; the plain white room seemed to shriek menace.


He gradually realized that he was awake. The plain white room was a hospital room. Bottles hung over his head, one full of clear liquid, the other a deep dark red one. Whole blood. He saw a blank TV set bolted to the wall and became aware of the steady sound of rain beating against the window.


Mike tried to move his legs. One moved freely but the other, his right leg, wouldn't move at all. The feeling in that leg was very faint, and he realized it was tightly bandaged.


Little by little it came back. He had settled down to write in his notebook and Henry Bowers had turned up. A real blast from the past, a golden gasser. There had been a fight, and -


Henry! Where had Henry gone? After the others?


Mike groped for the call-bell. It was draped over the head of the bed, and he had it in his hands when the door opened. A nurse stood there. Two buttons of his white tunic were unbuttoned and his dark hair was mussed, giving him a rumpled Ben Casey look. He wore a Saint Christopher medal around his neck. Even in his soupy, only-three-quarters-awake state, Mike placed him immediately. In 1958, a sixteen-year-old girl named Cheryl Lamonica had been killed in Derry, killed by It. The girl had had a fourteen-year-old brother named Mark, and this was him.


"Mark?" he said weakly. "I have to talk to you."


"Shhh," Mark said. His hand was in his pocket. "No talk."


He walked into the room, and as he stood at the foot of the bed, Mike saw with a hopeless chill how blank Mark Lamonica's eyes were. His head was slightly cocked, as if hearing distant music. He took his hand out of his pocket.


There was a syringe in it.


"This will put you to sleep," Mark said, and began to walk toward the bed.


11


UNDER THE CITY / 6:49 A.M.


"Shhhhh!" Bill cried suddenly, although there had been no sound except their own faint footsteps.


Richie struck a light. The walls of the tunnel had moved away, and the five of them seemed very small in this space under the city. They huddled together and Beverly felt a dreamy sense of deja vu as she observed the gigantic flagstones on the floor and the hanging nets of cobweb. They were close now. Close.


"What do you hear?" she asked Bill, trying to look everywhere as the match in Richie's hand burned down, expecting to see some new surprise come lurching or flying out of the darkness. Rodan, anyone? The alien from that gruesome movie with Sigourney Weaver? A great scuttering rat with orange eyes and silver teeth? But there was nothing-only the dusty smell of the dark, and, far away, the thunder of running water, as if the drains were filling up.


"S-S-Something ruh-ruh-wrong," Bill said. "Mike-"


"Mike?" Eddie asked. "What about Mike?"


"I felt it, too," Ben said. "Is it... Bill, did he die?"


"No," Bill said. His eyes were hazy and distant, unemotional-all of his alarm was in his tone and the defensive posture of his body. "He... H-H-He... " He swallowed. There was a click in his throat. His eyes widened "Oh Oh no-!"


"Bill?" Beverly cried, alarmed. "Bill, what is it? What-"


"Gruh-gruh-grab my hub-hands!" Bill screamed. "Kwuh-kwuh-quick!"


Richie dropped the match and seized one of Bill's hands. Beverly grabbed the other. She groped with her free hand, and Eddie grasped it feebly with the hand at the end of his broken arm. Ben grasped his other hand and completed the circle by holding Richie's hand.


"Send him our power!" Bill cried in that same strange, deep voice. "send him our power, whatever You are, send him our power! Now! Now! Now!"


Beverly felt something go out from them and toward Mike. Her head rolled on her shoulders in a kind of ecstasy, and the harsh whistle of Eddie's breathing merged with the headlong thunder of water in the drains.


12


"Now," Mark Lamonica said in a low voice. He sighed-the sigh of a man who feels orgasm approaching.


Mike pushed the call-button in his hands again and again. He could hear it ringing at the nurses" station down the hall, but no one came. With a kind of hellish second sight he understood that the nurses were sitting around down there, reading the morning paper, drinking coffee, hearing his call-bell but not hearing it, hearing but not responding, they would respond only later when it was all over, because that was how things worked in Derry. In Derry some things were better not seen or heard... until they were over.


Mike let the call-button fall from his hands.


Mark bent toward him, the tip of the syringe glittering. His Saint Christopher medal swung hypnotically back and forth as he drew the sheet down.


"Right there," he whispered. The sternum." And sighed again.


Mike suddenly felt power wash into him-some primitive power that crammed his body like volts. He stiffened, fingers splaying out as if in a convulsion. His eyes widened. A grunt jerked out of him, and that sense of dreadful paralysis was driven from him as if by a roundhouse slap.


His right hand pistoned out toward the nighttable. There was a plastic pitcher there and a heavy cafeteria-style water-glass beside it. His hand closed around the glass. Lamonica sensed the change; that dreamy, pleased light disappeared from his eyes and was replaced by wary confusion. He drew back a bit, and then Mike brought the glass up and smashed it into his face.


Lamonica screamed and staggered backward, dropping the syringe. His hands went to his spouting face; blood ran down his wrists and splashed on his white tunic.


The power left as suddenly as it had come. Mike looked dully at the shards of broken glass on the bed and his hospital johnny and his own bleeding hand. He heard the quick, light sound of crepe-soled shoes in the hall, approaching.


Now they come, he thought, Oh yes, now. And after they're gone, who'll show


up? Who'll show up next?


As they burst into his room, the nurses who had sat calmly on station as his call-bell rang frantically, Mike closed his eyes and prayed for it to be over. He prayed his friends were somewhere under the city, he prayed they were all right, he prayed they would end it.


He didn't know exactly Who he prayed to... but he prayed nonetheless.


13


UNDER THE CITY / 6:54 A.M.


"He's a-a-all ruh-right," Bill said presently.


Ben didn't know how long they had stood in the darkness, holding hands. It seemed to him that he had felt something-something from them, from their circle-go out and then come back. But he did not know where that thing-if it existed at all-had gone, or done.


"Are you sure, Big Bill?" Richie asked.


"Y-Y-Yes." Bill released Richie's hand and Beverly's. "But we h-have to finish this as kwuh-quick as we c-can. C-Come oh-oh-on."


They went on, Richie or Bill periodically lighting matches. We don't have so much as a pea-shooter among us, Ben thought. But that's part of it, too, isn't it? Chud. What does that mean? What was It, exactly? What was Its final face? And even if we didn't kill It, we hurt It. How did we do that?


The chamber they walked through-it could no longer be called a tunnel-grew larger and larger. Their footfalls echoed. Ben remembered the smell, that thick zoo smell. He became aware that the matches were no longer necessary-there was light now, light of a sort: a ghastly effulgence that was growing steadily stronger. In that marshy light, his friends all looked like walking corpses.

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