Author: Stephen King.
Genre: Fiction, literature, horror.
Publication Date: 1987.
Summary: They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they were grown-up men and women who had gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them could withstand the force that drew them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end and the evil without a name... It. (Refer to PART 2 and PART 3 for the rest of the quotes.)
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—it it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
♥ He laughed aloud—the sound of solitary, childish glee a bright runner in that gray afternoon—as a vagary of the flowing water took his paper boat into a scale-model rapids which had been formed by the break in the tar. The urgent water had cut a channel which ran along the diagonal, and so his boat travelled from one side of Witcham Street to the other, the current carrying it so fast that George had to sprint to keep up with it. Water sprayed out from beneath his galoshes in muddy sheets. Their buckles made a jolly jingling as George Denbrough ran toward his strange death.
♥ Over his head, a grim gust of October wind rattled the trees now almost completely unburdened of their freight of colored leaves by the storm, which had been this year a reaper of the most ruthless sort.
♥ Stupid! There were no things with claws, all hairy and full of killing spite. Every now and then someone went crazy and killed a lot of people—sometimes Chet Huntley told about such things on the evening news—and of course there were Commies, but there was no weirdo monster living down in their cellar. Still, this idea lingered. In those interminable moments while he was groping for the switch with his right hand (his left arm curled around the doorjamb in a deathgrip), that cellar smell seemed to intensify until it filled the world. Smells of dirt and wet and long-gone vegetables would merge into one unmistakable ineluctable smell, the smell of the monster, the apotheosis of all monsters. It was the smell of something for which he had no name: the smell of It, crouched and lurking and ready to spring. A creature which would eat anything but which was especially hungry for boymeat.
♥ His fear was already gone; it had slipped away from him as easily as a nightmare slips away from a man who awakes, cold-skinned and gasping, from its grip; who feels his body and stares at his surroundings to make sure that none of it ever happened and who then begins at once to forget it. Half is gone by the time his feet hit the floor; three-quarters of it by the time he emerges from the shower and begins to towel off; all of it by the time he finishes his breakfast. All gone... until the next time, when, in the grip of the nightmare, all fears will be remembered.
♥ There followed a whispered conversation of the sort which means very little to anyone save small boys: accusations of who was the biggest a-hole, who had the biggest a-hole, which a-hole was the brownest, and so on. Finally Bill said one of the forbidden words—he accused George of being a big brown shitty a-hole—and they both got laughing hard.
♥ He could barely credit what he saw; it was like something from a made-up story, or a movie where you know the animals will talk and dance. If he had been ten years older, he would not have believed what he was seeing, but he was not sixteen. He was six.
♥ "How did you get down there?"
"Storm just bleeeew me away," Pennywise the Dancing Clown said. "It blew the whole circus away. Can you smell the circus, Georgie?"
George leaned forward. Suddenly he could smell peanuts! Hot toasted peanuts! And vinegar! The white kind you put on your french fries through a hole in the cap! He could smell cotton candy and frying doughboys and the faint but thunderous odor of wild-animal shit. He could smell the cheery aroma of midway sawdust. And yet. ...
And yet under it all was the smell of flood and decomposing leaves and dark stormdrain shadows. That smell was wet and rotten. The cellar-smell.
But the other smells were stronger.
"You bet I can smell it," he said.
"Want your boat, Georgie?" Pennywise asked. "I only repeat myself because you really do not seem that eager." He held it up, smiling. He was wearing a baggy silk suit with great big orange buttons. A bright tie, electric blue, flopped down his front, and on his hands were big white gloves, like the kind Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck always wore.
"Yes, sure," George said, looking into the stormdrain.
"And a balloon? I've got red and green and yellow and blue. ..."
"Do they float?"
"Float?" The clown's grin widened. "Oh yes, indeed they do. They float! And there's cotton candy. ..."
The clown seized his arm.
And George saw the clown's face change.
What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke.
"They float," the thing in the drain crooned in a clotted, chuckling voice. It held George's arm in its thick and wormy grip, it pulled George toward that terrible darkness where the water rushed and roared and bellowed as it bore its cargo of storm debris toward the sea. George craned his neck away from that final blackness and began to scream into the rain, to scream mindlessly into the white autumn sky which curved above Derry on that day in the fall of 1957. His screams were shrill and piercing, and all up and down Witcham Street people came to their windows or bolted out onto their porches.
"They float," it growled, "they float, Georgie, and when you're down here with me, you'll float too—"
♥ She had once asked Stan why the questions that seemed so easy to her usually seemed so hard to the families on the show. "It's probably a lot tougher when you're up there under those lights," Stanley had replied, and it seemed to her that a shadow had drifted over his face. "Everything's a lot tougher when it's for real. That's when you choke. When it's for real."
♥ She sometimes drove back from the Fox Run Mall in her Volvo (Stanley drove a Mercedes diesel—teasing him, she called it Sedanley) and saw her house, set tastefully back behind low yew hedges, and thought: Who lives there? Why, I do! Mrs. Stanley Uris does! This was not an entirely happy thought; mixed with it was a pride so fierce that it sometimes made her feel a bit ill. Once upon a time, you see, there had been a lonely eighteen-year-old girl named Patricia Blum who had been refused entry to the after-prom party that was held at the country club in the upstate town of Glointon, New York. She had been refused admission, of course, because her last name rhymed with plum. That was her, just a skinny little kike plum, 1967 that had been, and such discrimination was against the law, of course, har-de-har-har-har, and besides, it was all over now. Except that for part of her it was never going to be over. Part of her would always be walking back to the car with Michael Rosenblatt, listening to the crushed gravel under her pumps and his rented formal shoes, back to his father's car, which Michael had borrowed for the evening, and which he had spent the afternoon waxing. Part of her would always be walking next to Michael in his rented white diner jacket—how it had glimmered in the soft spring night! She had been in a pale green evening gown which her mother declared made her look like a mermaid, and the idea of a kike mermaid was pretty funny, har-de-har-har-har. They had walked with their heads up and she had not wept—not then—but she had understood they weren't walking back, no, not really; what they had been doing was slinking back, slinking, rhymes with stinking like pawnbrokers, feeling like cattle-car riders, feeling oily, long-nosed, sallow-skinned; feeling like mockies sheenies kikes; wanting to feel angry and not being able to feel angry—the anger came only later, when it didn't matter. At that moment she had only been able to feel ashamed, had only been able to ache. And then someone had laughed. A high shrill tittering laugh like a fast run of notes on a piano, and in the car she had been able to weep, oh you bet, here is the kike mermaid whose name rhymes with plum just weeping away like crazy. Mike Rosenblatt had put a clumsy, comforting hand on the back of her neck and she had twisted away from it, feeling ashamed, feeling dirty, feeling Jewish.
♥ She thought the look on his face was one of gentle abstraction, perhaps mixed with minor annoyance. It was only later, replaying the scene in her mind again and again, that she began to believe it was the expression of a man who was methodically unplugging himself from reality, one cord at a time. The face of a man who was heading out of the blue and into the black.
♥ Now he had to go back to being himself, and that was hard—it got harder to do that every year. It was easier to be brave when you were someone else.
♥ Each year the world Rich lived in felt more and more like a huge electronic haunted house in which digital ghosts and frightened human beings lived in uneasy coexistence.
♥ House, acres, stocks, insurance policy, even a copy of his last will and testament. The strings that bind you tight to the map of your life, he thought.
There was a sudden wild impulse to whip out his Zippo and light it up, the whole whore's combine of wherefores and know-ye-all-men-by-these-present's and the-bearer-of-this-certificate-is-entitl
The first real terror struck him then, and there was nothing at all supernatural about it. It was only a realization of how easy it was to trash your life. That was what was so scary. You just dragged the fan up to everything you had spent the years raking together and turned the motherfucker on. Easy. Built it up or blow it away, then just take a powder.
♥ ...and how fast all of their faces faded, his gang, that pitiful bunch of losers with their little clubhouse in what had been known then as the Barrens—funny name for an area as lush with growth as that place had been. Kidding themselves that they were jungle explorers, or Seabees carving out a landing strip on a Pacific atoll while they held off the Japs, kidding themselves that they were dam-builders, cowboys, spacemen on a jungle world, you name it, but whatever you name it, don't let's forget what it really was: it was hiding. Hiding from the big kids. Hiding from Henry Bowers and Victor Criss and Belch Huggins and the rest of them. What a bunch of losers they had been—Stan Uris with his big Jew-boy nose, Bill Denbrough who could say nothing but "Hi-yo, Silver!" without stuttering so badly that it drove you almost dogshit, Beverly Marsh with her bruises and her cigarettes rolled into the sleeve of her blouse, Ben Hanscom who had been so big he looked like a human version of Moby Dick, and Richie Tozier with his thick glasses and his A averages and his wise mouth and his face which just begged to be pounded into new and exciting shapes. Was there a word for what they had been? Oh yes. There always was. Le mot juste. In this case le mot juste was whimps.
How it came back, how all of it came back... and now he stood here in this den shivering as helplessly as a homeless mutt caught in a thunderstorm, shivering because the guys he had run with weren't all he remembered. There were other things, things he hadn't thought of in years, trembling just below the surface.
A darkness. Some darkness.
♥ The light was fading. He looked at his house with the new plantings, he looked at the beach, at the water, which had taken on the cast of pale emeralds broken by a narrow track of beaten gold. And a conviction stole over him that he would never see any of this again, that he was a dead an walking.
"Going home now," Rich Tozier whispered to himself. "Going home, God help me, going home."
He put the car in gear and went, feeling again how easy it had bee to slip though an unsuspected fissure in what he had considered a sold life—how easy it was to get over onto the dark side, to sail out of the blue and into the black.
Out of the blue and into the black, yes, that was it. Where anything might be waiting.
♥ Ricky Lee's father had once told him that if a man was in his right mind, you brought him what he paid for, be it piss or poison. Ricky Lee didn't know if that was good advice or bad, but he knew that if you tended bar for a living, it went a fair piece toward saving you from being chomped into a gator-bait by your own conscience.
♥ "I'm scared almost insane by whatever else I may remember before tonight's over, but how scared I am doesn't matter, because it's going to come anyway. It's all there, like a great big bubble that's growing in my mind. But I'm going because all I've ever gotten and all I have now is somehow due to what we did then, and you pay for what you get in this world. Maybe that's why God made us kids first and built us close to the ground, because He knew you got to fall down a lot and bleed a lo before you learn that one simple reason. You pay for what you get, you own what you pay for... and sooner or later whatever you own comes back home to you."a
♥ It was Myra herself who had ended up tipping the scales away from independence. Myra had condemned him with solicitude, had nailed him with concern, had chained him with sweetness. Myra, like his mother, had reached the final, fatal insight into his character: Eddie was all the more delicate because he sometimes suspected he was not delicate at all; Eddie needed to be protected for his own dim intimations of possible bravery.
♥ Home again forever, he had thought then.
But maybe I was wrong, he thought. Maybe this isn't home, nor ever was—maybe home is where I have to go tonight. Home is the place where when you go there, you have to finally dace the thing in the dark.
♥ And suddenly she began to laugh.
Beverly Rogan sat on a low stone wall, her suitcase between her dirty feet, and laughed. The stars were out, and how bright they were! She tilted her head back and laughed at them, that wild exhilaration washing through her again like a tidal wave that lifted and carried and cleansed, a force so powerful that any conscious thought was lost; only her blood thought and it's one powerful voice spoke to her in some inarticulate way of desire, although what it was it desired she neither knew nor cared. It was enough to feel that warmth filling her up with its insistence. Desire, she thought, and inside her that tidal wave of exhilaration seemed to gather speed, rushing her onward toward some inevitable crash.
She laughed at the stars, frightened but free, her terror as sharp as pain and as sweet as a ripe October apple, and when a light came on in an upstairs bedroom of the house this stone wall belonged to, she grabbed the handle of her suitcase and fled off into the night, still laughing.
♥ "I don't understand this at all. I don't understand any of this. Why does a story have to be socio-anything? Politics... culture... history... aren't those natural ingredients in any story, if it's told well? I mean..." He lookers around, sees hostile eyes, and realizes dimly that they see this as some sort of attack. Maybe it even is. They are thinking, he realizes, that maybe there is a sexist death merchant in their midst. "I mean... can't you guys just let a story be a story?"
♥ Can an entire city be haunted?
Haunted as some houses are supposed to be haunted?
Not just a single building in that city, or the corner of a single street, or a single basketball court in a single pocket-park, the nettles basket jutting out at sunset like some obscure and bloody instrument of torture, not just one area—but everything. The whole works.
Can that be?
Haunted: "Often visited by ghosts or spirits." Funk and Wagnalls.
Haunting: "Persistently recurring to the mind; difficult to forget." Ditto Funk and Friend.
To haunt: "To appear or recur often, especially as a ghost." But—and listen!—"A place often visited: resort, den, hangout..." Italics are of course mine.
And one more. This one, like the last, if a definition of haunt as a noun, and it's the one that really scares me: "A feeding place for animals."
♥ I discovered news of old horrors in old books; read intelligence of old atrocities in old periodicals; always in the back of my mind, every day a bit louder, I heard the seashell drone of some rowing, coalescing force; I seemed to smell the bitter ozone aroma of lightnings-to-come. I began making notes for a book I will almost certainly not live to write. And at the same time I went on with my life. On one level of my mind I was and am living with the most grotesque, capering horrors; on another I have continued to live the mundane life of a small-city librarian. I shelve books; I make out library cards for new patrons; I turn off the microfilm readers careless users sometimes leave on; I joke with Carole Danner about how much I would like to go to bed with her, and he jokes back about how much she's like to go to bed with me, and both of us know that she's really joking and I'm really not, just as both of us know that she won't stay in a little place like Derry for long and I will be here until I die, taping torn pages in Business Week, sitting down at monthly acquisition meetings with my pipe in one hand and a stack of Library Journals in the other... and waking up in the middle of the night with my fists jammed against my mouth to keep in the screams.
♥ Same old Mike. A little starey in the eyes, maybe, and a little punchy from broken sleep, but not so's you'd notice without a good close look... like kissing-distance close, and I haven't been that close to anyone in a very long time. If you took a casual glance at me you might think He's been reading too many books, but that's all. I doubt you'd guess how hard the man with the mild bank-teller's face is now struggling just to hold on, to hold on to his own mind...
♥ ...the thing that has shows up every twenty-seven years or some. Sometimes it comes a little sooner, sometimes a little later... but it always comes. As one goes back the wrong notes are harder and harder to find because the records grow poorer and the moth-holes in the narrative history of the area grow bigger. But know where to look—and when to look—goes long way toward solving the problem. It always come back, you see.
♥ I think of us standing in the water, hands clasped, making that promise to come back if it ever started again—standing there almost like Druids in a ring, our hands bleeding their own promise, palm to palm. A ritual that is perhaps as old as mankind itself, an unknown tap driven into the tree of all power—the one grows on the borderline between the land of all we know and that of all we suspect.
♥ It is an attempt to pull the camera back a little, if you will—to see the whole city, a place where a nearly thirty-five thousand people work and ear and sleep and copulate and shop and drive around and walk and go to jail and sometimes disappear into the dark.
♥ Most of the old-timers he talked to then were dead by the time I started my own investigations, but they had sins, daughters, nephews, cousins. And, of course, one of the great true facts of the world is this: for every old-timer who dies, there's a new old-timer coming along. And a good story never dies; it is always passed down.
My home town. Named after the country of the same name in Ireland.
I was born here, in Derry Home Hospital; attended Derry Elementary School; went to junior high at Ninth Street Middle School; to high school at Derry High. I went to the University of Maine—"ain't in Derry, but it's just down the rud," the old-timers say—and then I came right back here. To the Derry Public Library. I am a small-town man living a small-town life, one among millions.
In 1879 a crew of lumberjacks found the remains of another crew that had spent the winter snowed in at a camp on the Upper Kenduskeag—at the tip of what the kids still call the Barrens. There were nine of them in all, all nine hacked to pieces. Heads had rolled... not to mention arms... a foot or two... and a man's penis had been nailed to one wall of the cabin.
In 1851 John Markson killed his entire family with poison and then, sitting in the middle of the circle he had made with their corpses, he gobbled an entire "white-nightshade" mushroom. His death agonies must have been intense. The two constables who found him wrote in his report that at first he believed the corpse was grinning at him; he wrote of "Markson's awful white smile." The white smile was an entire mouthful of the killer mushroom; Markson had gone on eating even as the cramps and the excruciating muscle spasms must have been wracking his dying body.
On Easter Sunday 1906 the owners of the Kitchener Ironworks, which stood where the brand-spanking-new Derry Mall now stands, held an Easter-egg hunt for "all the good children of Derry." The hunt took place in the huge Ironworks building. Dangerous areas were closed off, and employees volunteered their time to stand guard and make sure no adventurous boy or girl decided to duck under the barriers and explore. Five hundred chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in gay ribbons were hidden about the rest of the works. According to Buddinger, there was at least one child present for each of those eggs. They ran giggling and whooping and yelling through the Sunday-silent Ironworks, finding the eggs under the giant tipper-vats, inside the desk drawers of the foreman, balanced between the great rusty teeth of gear-wheels, inside the molds on the third floor (in the old photographs these molds look like cupcake tins from some giant's kitchen.) Three generations of Kitcheneres were there to watch the gay riot and to award prizes at the end of the hunt, which was to come at four o'clock, whether all the eggs had been found or not. The end actually came forty-five minutes early, at quarter past tree. That was when the Ironworks exploded. Seventy-two people were pulled dead from the wreckage before the sun went down. The final toll was a hundred and two. Eight-eight of the dead were children.
The murder rate in Derry is six times the murder rate of any other town of comparable size in New England.
...Here in Derry children disappear unexplained and unfound at the rate of forty to sixty a year. Most are teenagers. They are assumed to be runaways. I suppose some of them even are.
And during what Albert Carson would undoubtedly have called the time of the cycle, the rate of disappearance shoots nearly out of sight. In the year 1930, for instance—the year the Black Spot burned—there were better than one hundred and seventy child disappearances in Derry—and you must remember that these are only the disappearances which were reported to the police and thus documented.
♥ We went deep together.
We wet into the black together.
Would we come out of the black if we went in a second time?
I don't think so.
Please God I don't have to call them.
♥ Lightning goes off inside huge thunderheads nine miles off the starboard wing. In the stutter-flashes of light, the clouds look like huge transparent brains filled with bad thoughts.
♥ Ben Hanscom sits in his first-class seat, suspended amid the thunders at twenty-seven thousand feet, his face turned to the window, and he feels the wall of time grow suddenly thin; some terrible/wonderful peristalsis has begun to take place. He thinks: My God, I am being digested by my own past.
♥ He thought Beverly was nicer... and much prettier, although he never in a million years would have dared say such a thing to her. But still, sometimes, in the heart of winter when the light outside seemed yellow-sleepy, like a cat curled up on a sofa, when Mrs. Douglas was droning on about mathematics (how to carry down in long division or how to find the common denominator of two fractions so you could add them) or reading the questions from Shining Bridges or talking about tin deposits in Paraguay, on those days when it seemed that school would never end and it didn't matter if it didn't because all the world outside was slush... on those days Ben would sometimes look sideways at Beverly, stealing her face, and his heart would both hurt desperately and somehow grow brighter at the same time. He supposed he had a crush on her, or was in love with her, and that was why it was always Beverly he thought of when the Penguins came on the radio singing "Earth Angel"—"my darling dear/love you all the time..." Yeah, it was stupid, all right, sloppy as a used Kleenex, but it was all right, too, because he would never tell. He thought that fat boys were probably only allowed to love pretty girls inside.
♥ These were the thoughts of a child, and there was nothing surprising about that, because he was a child. The third and last thought, however, was more sophisticated—almost adult.
..He was scared, but he was also determined. He realized that for the first time in his life he had consciously committed himself to a course of action, and that also frightened him, although he didn't exactly know why—it would be long years before he would realize it was the cold-bloodedness of his calculations, the careful and pragmatic counting of the cost, with its intimations of onrushing adulthood, that had scared him even more than Henry had scared him. Henry he might be able to dodge. Adulthood, where he would probably think in such a way almost all the time, would get him in the end.
♥ ...Ben didn't care; when love comes before puberty, it can come in waves so clear and so powerful that one one can stand against its simple imperative, and Ben made no effort to do so now. He simply gave in. He felt both foolish and exalted, as miserably embarrassed as he had ever been in his life... and yet inarguably blessed. These hopeless emotions mixed in a heady brew that left him feeling both sick and joyful.
♥ He looked at the brown bag with its load of sweetness and a thought suddenly tried to surface
(you keep eating this way Beverly Marsh is never going to look at you)
..A child blind from birth doesn't even know he's blind until someone tells him. Even then he has only the most academic idea of what blindness is; only the formerly sighted have a real grip on the thing. Ben Hanscom had no sense of being lonely because he had never been anything but. If the condition had been new, or more localized, he might have understood, but loneliness both encompassed his life and overreached it. It simply was, like his double-jointed thumb or the funny little jag inside one of his front teeth, the little jag his tongue began running over whenever he was nervous.
Beverly was a sweet dream; the candy was a sweet reality. The candy was his friend. So he told the alien thought to take a hike, and it wet quietly, without making a fuss.
♥ He opened his mouth and then something—some powerful intuition—closed it again.
What was that something, exactly? Intuition. No more than that... and no less. Even children may intuit love's more complex responsibilities from time to time, and to sense that in some cases it may be kinder to remain quiet. That was part of the reason Ben closed his mouth. But there was something else as well, something not so noble. She could be hard, his mamma. She could be a boss. She never called him "fat," she called him "big" (sometimes amplified to "big for his age"), and when there were leftovers from supper she would often bring them to him while he was watching TV or doing his homework, and he would eat them, although some dim part of him hated himself for doing so (but never his mamma for putting the food before him—Ben Hanscom would not have dared to hate him mamma; God would surely strike him dead for feeling such a brutish, ungrateful emotion even for a second). And perhaps some even dimmer part of him—the far-off Tibet of Ben's deeper thoughts—suspected her motives in this constant feeding. Was it just love? Could it be anything else? Surely not. But... he wondered.
My heart burns there, too.
He wasn't crazy about it, but it was the best he could do. He was afraid that if he frigged around with it too long, worried it too much, he would end up getting the jitters and doing something much worse. Or not doing it at all. He didn't want that to happen. The moment she had taken to speak to him had been a striking moment for Ben. He wanted to mark it in his memory. Probably Beverly had a crush on some bigger boy—a sixth- or maybe even a sevethgrader, and she would think that maybe that boy had sent the haiku. That would make her happy, and so the day she got it would be marked in her memory. And although she would never know it had been Ben Hanscom who marked it for her, that was all right; he would know.
♥ Everything happened fast then, but to Ben Hanscom it all seemed slow; it all seemed to happen in a series of shutter-clicks, like action stills in a Life-magazine photo-essay. His panic was gone. He had discovered something inside him suddenly, and because it had no use for panic, that something just ate the panic whole.
♥ Ben looked toward the book room's one narrow window and saw that the light was fading rapidly from the sky. It was four o'clock and dusk was at hand. Membranes of dry snow blew around the icy jungle gym and swirled between the teetertotters, which were frozen solidly into the ground. Only the thaws of April would break those bitter winter-welds. He saw no one at all on Jackson Street. He looked a moment longer, expecting a car to roll through the Jackson-Witcham intersection, but none did. Everyone in Derry save himself and Mrs. Douglas might be dead or fled, at least from what he could see from here.
He looked toward her and saw, with a touch of real fight, that she was feeling almost exactly the same things he was feeling himself. He could tell by the look in her eyes. They were deep and thoughtful and far off, not the eyes of a schoolteacher in her forties but those of a child. Her hands were folded just below her breasts, as if in prayer.
I'm scared, Ben thought, and she's scared, too. But what are we really scared of?
He didn't know. Then she looked at him and uttered a short, almost embarrassed laugh. "I've kept you too late," she said. "I'm sorry, Ben."
"That's ok." He looked down at his shoes. He loved her a little—not with the frank unquestioning love he had lavished on Miss Thibodeau, his first-grade teacher... but he did love her.
..Mrs. Douglas looked a little reassured... and then she glanced toward the window again. "It just looks so cold out there," she said. "So... so inimical."
He didn't know the word but he knew exactly what she meant. Something just happened—what?
He had seen her, he realized suddenly, as a person instead of just a teacher. That was what had happened. Suddenly he had seen her face in an entirely different way, and because he did, it became a new face—the face of a tired poet. He could see her going home with her husband, sitting beside him in the car with her hands folded as the heater hissed and he talked about his day. He could see her making them dinner. An odd thought crossed his mind an d a cocktail-party question rose to his lips: Do you have children, Mrs. Douglas?
"I often think at this time of the year that people really weren't meant to live this far north of the equator," she said. "At least not in this latitude." Then she smiled and some of the strangeness either went out of her face or his eye—he was able to see her, at least partially, as he always had. But you'll never see her that way again, not completely, he thought, dismayed.
♥ Ben felt both frightened and exhilarated. Frightened because he could now understand stories he had read, such as Jack London's "To Build a Fire," where people actually froze to death. It would be all too possible to freeze to death on a night like this, a night when the temperature would drop to fifteen below.
The exhilaration was hard to explain. It was a lonely feeling—a somehow melancholy feeling. He was outside; he passed on the wings of the wind, and none of the people beyond the brightly lighted squares of their windows saw him. They were inside, inside where there was light and warmth. They didn't know he had passed them; only he knew. It was a secret thing.
♥ It wasn't make-up the clown was wearing. Nor was the clown simply swaddled in a bunch of bandages. There were bandages, most of them around its neck and wrists, blowing back in the wind, but Ben could see the clown's face clearly. It was deeply lined, the skin a parchment map of wrinkles, tattered cheeks, arid flesh. The skin of its forehead was split but bloodless. Dead lips grinned back from a maw in which teeth leaned like tombstones. Its gums were pitted and black. Ben could see no eyes, but something glittered far back in the charcoal pits of those puckered sockets, something like the cold jewels in the eyes of Egyptian scarab beetles. And although the wind was the wrong way, it seemed to him that he could smell cinnamon and spice, rotting cerements treated with weird drugs, sand, blood so old it had friends to flakes and grains of rust...
♥ THAT QUESTION, of course, was "Where do you get your ideas?" It was a question Bill supposed all writers of fiction had to answer—or pretend to answer—at least twice a week, but a fellow like him, who made a living by writing of things which never were and never could be, had to answer it—or pretend to—much more often than that.
...He thought now: You always knew they were asking the wrong question, even before Mike called; now you also know what the right question was. Not where do you get your ideas but why do you get your ideas. There was a pipeline, all right, but it wasn't either the Freudian or Jungian version of the subconscious that it came out of; no interior drain-system of the mind, no subterranean cavern full of Morlocks waiting to happen. There was nothing at the other end of that pipe but Derry. Just Derry.
♥ Watching the gray bike pick up speed was a little like watching a big plane roll down the runway. At first you couldn't believe such a huge waddling gadget could ever actually leave earth—the idea was absurd. But then you could see its shadow beneath it, and before you even had time to wonder if it was a mirage, the shadow was trailing out long behind it and the plane was up, cutting its way through the air, as sleek and graceful as a dream in a satisfied mind.
♥ Bill swung his leg over the high fork.
And as always, once he was on Silver he became someone else.
..Silver flew over the first curbing, and as they almost always did at that point, his feet lost contact with the pedals. He was freewheeling, now wholly in the lap of whatever god has been appointed the job of protecting small boys. He swerved into the street, doing maybe fifteen miles an hour over the posted speed of twenty-five.
It was all behind him now: his stutter, his dad's blank hurt eyes as he puttered around his garage workshop, the terrible sight of the dust on the closed piano cover upstairs—dusty because his mother didn't play anymore. The last time had been at George's funeral, three Methodist hymns. George going out into the rain, wearing his yellow slicker, carrying the newspaper boat with its glaze of paraffin; Mr. Gardener coming up the street twenty minutes later with his body wrapped in a bloodstained quilt; his mother's agonized shriek. All behind him. He was the Lone Ranger, he was John Wayne, he was Bo Diddley, he was anybody he wanted to be and nobody who cried and got scared and wanted his muh-muh-mother.
Silver flew and Stuttering Bill Denbrough flew with him; their gantry-like shadow fled behind them.
..The worst—and the best—of the trip was behind him now. He had looked at the very real possibility of his own death again and again had found himself able to look away. The bus had not crushed him; he had not killed himself and the three old ladies with their Freese's shopping bags and their Social Security checks; he had not been splattered across the tailgate of uncle Ike's old Dodge pick-up. He was going uphill again now, speed bleeding away. Something—oh, call it desire, that was good enough, wasn't it?—was bleeding away with it. All the thoughts and memories were catching up—hi Bill, gee, we almost lost sight of you for awhile there, but here we are—rejoining him, climbing up his shirt and jumping into his ear and whooshing into his brain like little kids going down a slide. He could feel them settling into their accustomed places, their feverish bodies jostling each other. Gosh! Wow! Here we are inside Bill's head again! Let's think about George! Okay! Who wants to start?
You think too much, Bill.
No—that wasn't the problem. The problem was, he imagined too much.
♥ A silence fell amid the three of them. It was not an entirely uncomfortable silence. In it they became friends.
♥ In those days his mom and dad had also been bookends on the couch, but he and George had been the books. Bill had tried to be a book between them while they were watching TV since George's death, but it was cold work. They sent the cold out from both directions and Bill's defroster was simply not big enough to cope with it. He had to leave because that kind of cold always froze his cheeks and made his eyes water.
"W-Want to h-hear a joke I heard today in s-s-school?" he had tried once, some months ago.
Silence from them. On television a criminal was begging his brother, who was a priest, to hide him.
Bill's dad glanced up from the True he was looking at and glanced at Bill with mild surprise. Then he looked back down at the magazine again. There was a picture of a hunter sprawled in a snowbank and staring up at a huge snarling polar bear. "Mauled by the Killer from the White Wastes" was the name of the article. Bill had thought, I know where there's some white wastes—right between my dad and mom on this couch.
His mother had never looked up at all.
"It's about h-how many F-F-Frenchmen it takes to sc-c-herew in a luhhh-hightbulb," Bill plunged ahead. He felt a fine mist of sweat spring out upon his forehead, as it sometimes did in school when he knew the teacher had ignored him as long as she safely could and must soon call on him. His voice was too loud, but he couldn't seem to lower it. The words echoes in his head like crazy chimes, echoing, jamming up, spilling out again.
"D-D-Do you know h-h-how muh-muh-many?"
"One to hold the bulb and four to turn the house," Zack Denbrough said absently, and turned the page of his magazine.
"Did you say something, dear?" his mother asked, and one Four Star Playhouse the brother who was a priest told the brother who was a hoodlum to turn himself in and pray for forgiveness.
Bill sat there, sweating but cold—so cold. It was cold because he wasn't really the only book between those two ends; Georgie was still there, only now it was a Georgie he couldn't see, a Georgie who never demanded the popcorn or hollered that Bill was pinching. This new version of George never cut up dickens. It was a one-armed Georgie who was palely, thoughtfully silent in the Motorola's shadowy white-and-blue glow, and perhaps it was not from his parents but from George that the big chill was really coming; perhaps it was George who was the real killer from the white wastes. Finally Bill fled from that cold, invisible brother ad into his room, where he lay face down on his bed and cried into his pillow.
♥ Bill saw his father was crying, and this increased his terror. A frightening possibility suddenly occurred to him: maybe sometimes things didn't just go wrong and then stop; maybe sometimes they just kept going wronger and wronger until everything was totally fucked up.
..He left and went creeping along the upstairs hall, hearing his mother doing her own crying down in the kitchen. The sound was shrill and helpless. Bill though, Why are they crying so far apart?
♥ He missed the little kid, that was the truth. Missed his voice, his laughter—missed the way George's eyes sometimes tipped confidently up to his own, sure that Bill would have whatever answers were required. And one surpassingly odd thing: there were times when he felt he loved George best in his fear, because even in his fear—his uneasy feelings that a zombie-George might be lurking in the closet or under the bed—he could remember loving Gorge better in here, and George loving him. In his effort to reconcile these two emotions—his love and his terror—Bill felt that he was closest to finding where final acceptance lay.
♥ George didn't care if they were pictures of people and places he knew or not; it was the idea of photography itself which fascinated him. When he had been unsuccessful at pestering anyone into giving new photos to mount he would sit cross-legged on his bed where Bill was sitting now and look at the old ones, turning the pages carefully, studying the black-and-white Kodaks. ..All these pictures, snapped by lost somebodies for lost reasons, locked up here in a dead boy's album of photographs.
♥ The final picture was George's school picture, taken in October of last year, less than ten days before he died. In it George was wearing a crew-neck shirt. His fly-away hair was slicked down with water. He was grinning, revealing two empty slots in which new teeth would never grow—unless they keep on growing after you die, Bill thought, and shuddered.
He looked at the picture fixedly for some time ad was about to close the book when what had happened in December happened again.
George's eyes rolled in the picture. They turned up to meet Bill's own. George's artificial say-cheese smile turned into a horrid leer. His right eye drooped closed in a wink: See you soon, Bill. In my closet. Maybe tonight.
Bill threw the book across the room. He clapped his hands over his mouth.
The book struck the wall and fell to the floor, open. The pages turned, although there was no draft. The book opened itself to that awful picture again, the picture which said SCHOOL FRIENDS 1957-58 beneath it.
Blood began to flow from the picture.
Bill sat froze, his tongue a swelling choking lump in his mouth, his skin crawling, his hair lifting. He wanted to scream but the tiny whimpering sounds crawling out of his throat seemed to be the best he could manage.
The flood flowed across the page and began to drip onto the floor.
Bill fled the room, slamming the door behind him.
♥ Bassey Park was silent and as still as a black-and-white photograph. Weeping willows draggled their thin tenebrous arms, and anything could be standing, slumped and insane, within their shelter.
♥ The thing's snout was long and pleated. Green fluid dripped from black gashes like vertical mouths in its cheeks. Its eyes were white and jellylike. Its webbed fingers were tipped with claws like razors. Its respiration was bubbly and deep, the sound of a diver with a bad regulator. As it saw Eddie looking, its green-black lips wrinkled back from huge fangs in a dead and vacant smile.
It shambled after him, dripping, and Eddie suddenly understood. It meant to take him back to the Canal, to carry him down into the dank blackness of the Canal's underground passage. To eat him there.
..Then batrachian hands closed around his neck and Eddie's hoarse cries were choked off; as the Creature turned him over, the chitinous hooks which sprouted from those hands scrawled bleeding marks like calligraphy into his neck. He stared into its glowing white eyes He felt the webs between its fingers pressing against his throat like constricting bands of living seaweed. His terror-sharpened gaze noted the fin, something like a rooster's comb and something like a hornpout's poisonous backfin, standing atop the Creature's hunched and plated head. As its hands clamped tight, shutting off his air, he was even able to see the way the white light from the arc-sodium lamp turned a smoky green as it passed through that membranous headfin.
"You're... not.. real," Eddie choked, but clouds of grayness were closing in now, and he realized faintly that it was real enough, this Creature. It was, after all, killing him.
And yet some rationality remained, even until the end: as the Creature hooked its claws into the soft meat of his neck, as his carotid artery let go in a warm and painless gout that splashed the thing's reptilian plating, Eddie's hands groped at the Creature's back, feeling for a zipper. They fell away only when the Creature tore his head from his shoulders with a low satisfied grunt.
And as Eddie's picture of what It was began to fade, It began promptly to change into something else.
♥ ..by the time Mike was ten Will had succeeded in conveying his own interest in the layers of Derry's history to his son. Sometimes, as when he had been trailing his fingers over the slightly pebbled surface of the stand in which the Memorial Park birdbath was set, or when he had squatted down to look more closely at the trolley tracks which grooved Mont Street in the Old Cape, he would be struck by a profound sense of time.. time as something real, as something that had unseen weight, the way sunlight was supposed to have weight (some of the kids in school had laughed when Mrs Greenguss told them that, but Mike had been too stunned by the concept to laugh; his first thought had been, Light has weight? Oh my Lord, that's terrible!)...time as something that would eventually bury him.
♥ Nothing except the fear that was suddenly suffocating him and the deadly certainty that there was something near, something watching him, gauging its chances, biding its time.
He turned, meaning to walk back to his bike—to run would be to dignify those fears and undignify himself—and then that splashing sound came again. It was a lot louder this second time. So much for dignity. Suddenly he was running as fast as he could, beating his buns for the gate and his bike, jamming the kickstand up with one heel and pedaling for the street as fast as he could. That sea-smell was all at once too thick... much too thick. It was everywhere. And the water dripping from the wet branches of the trees seemed much too loud.
Something was coming. He heard dragging, lurching footsteps in the grass.
He stood on the pedals, giving it everything, and shot out onto Main Street without looking back. He headed for home as fast as he could, wondering what in hell had possessed him to come in the first place... what had drawn him.
And then he tried to think about the chores, the whole chores, and nothing but the chores. After awhile he actually succeeded.
And when he saw the headline in the paper the next day (MISSING BOY PROMPTS NEW FEARS), he thought about the pocket knife he had thrown into the Canal—the pocket knife with the initials E.C. scratched on the side. He thought about the blood he had seen on the grass.
And he thought about those grooves which stopped at the edge of the Canal.
♥ He looks at it and suddenly a bone-deep shudder wracks his body. His hands momentarily weld themselves to the wheel of the Cadillac. He would like to believe it is the onset of some sickness, a virus or perhaps one of his mother's "phantom fevers," but he knows better. It is the city behind him, poised silently on the straight-edge that runs between day and night, and what that sign promises ahead of him. He's sick, all right, no doubt about that, but it's not a virus or a phantom fever. He has been poisoned by his own memories.
I'm scared, Eddie thinks. That was always what as at the bottom of it. Just being scared. That was everything. But in the end we turned it around somehow. We used it.
♥ He laughs seldom these days, and he certainly did not expect to find many chucks (Richie's word, meaning chuckles, as in "You had any good chucks today, Eds?") on this black pilgrimage. But, he supposes, if God is dirty-mean enough to curse the faithful with what they want most in life, He's maybe quirky enough to deal you a good chuck or two along the way.
♥ At that moment the others seemed to him like the greatest bunch of guys to chum a fellow could ever hope to have. They felt right together; they fitted neatly against each other's edges. He couldn't explain it to himself any better than that, and since it didn't really seem to need any explaining, he decided he ought to just let it be.
♥ There was even time to utter a shaky laugh at the unsuspected vividness of his imagination before the rotting hands shot out from under the porch, clawing at the rosebushes with mindless ferocity, pulling at them, stripping them, printing beads of blood on them.
The leper was crawling out. It was wearing a clown suit, he saw—a clown suit with big orange buttons down the front. It saw Eddie and grinned. Its half-mouth dropped open and its tongue lolled out. Eddie shrieked again, but no one could have heard one boy's breathless shriek under the pending of the diesel engine in the trainyard. The leper's tongue had not just dropped from its mouth; it was at least three feet long and had unrolled like a party-favor. It came to an arrow-point which dragged in the dirt. Foam, thick-sticky and yellowish, coursed along it. Bugs crawled over it.
♥ Mr Nell had asked them who thought this little trick up. He can see the give of them looking uneasily at each other, and remembers how Ben finally stepped forward, cheeks pale and eyes downcast, face trembling all over as he fought grimly to keep from blabbering. Poor kid probably thought he was going to get give-to-ten in Shawshank for back-flooding the drains on Witcham Street, Rich thinks now, but he had owned up to it just the same. And by doing that he had forced the rest of them to come forward and back him up. It was either that or consider themselves bad guys. Cowards. All the things their TV heroes were not. And that had welded them together for the last twenty-seven years. Sometimes events are dominoes. The first knocks over the second, the second knocks over the third, and there you are.
When, Richie wonders, did it become too late to turn back? When he and Stan showed up and pitched in, helping to build the dam? When Bill told them how the school picture of his brother had turned its head and winked? Maybe... but to Rich Tozier it seems that the dominoes really began to fall when Ben Hanscom stepped forward and said "I showed them how to do it. It's my fault."
♥ The idea of ghosts gave his child's mind no trouble at all. He was sure there were such things. His parents were Methodists, and Richie went to church every Sunday and to Thursday-night Methodist Youth Fellowship meetings as well. He knew a great deal of the Bible already, and he knew the Bible believed in all sorts of weird stuff. According to the Bible, God Himself was at least one-third Ghost, and that was just the beginning. You could tell the Bible believed in demons, because Jesus threw a bunch of them out of this guy. Real chuckalicious ones, too. When Jesus asked the guy who had them what his name was, the demons answered and told Him to go join the Foreign Legion. Or something like that. The Bible believed in witches, or else why would it say "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"? Some of the stuff in the Bible was even better than the stuff in the horror comics. People getting boiled in oil or hanging themselves like Judas Iscariot; the story about how wicked King Ahaz fell off the tower and all the dogs came and licked up his blood; the mass baby-murders that had accompanied the births of both Moses and Jesus Christ; guys who came out of their graves or flew into the air; soldiers who witched down walls; prophets who saw the future and fought monsters. All of that was in the Bible and every word of it was true—so said Reverent Craig and so said Richie's folks ad so said Richie. He was perfectly willing to credit the possibility of Bill's explanation..
♥ It was as if he were the ghost, a presence that spoke and moved but was not quite heard or seen, a thing vaguely sensed but still not accepted as real.
He did not like the thought that he was to blame, but the only alternative he could think of to explain their behavior was much worse: that all the love and attention his parents had given him before had somehow been the result of George's presence, and with George gone there was nothing for him... and all of that had happened at random, for no reason at all. And if you put your ear to that door, you could hear the winds of madness blowing outside.
♥ Kid wasn't too cool about staying in the lines, Richie thought, and then shuddered. The kid was never going to get any better at it, either. Richie looked at the table by the window. Mrs. Denbrough had stood up all of George's rank-cards there, half-open. Looking at them, knowing there would never be more, knowing that George had died before he could stay in the lines when he colored, knowing his life had ended irrevocably and eternally with only those few kindergarten and first-grade rank-cards, all the idiot truth of death crashed home to Richie for the first time. It was as if a large iron safe had fallen into his brain and buried itself there. I could die! his mind screamed at him suddenly in tones of betrayed horror. Anybody could! Anybody could!
♥ "The year the Sox finish in the first division will be the year you stop stuttering, mushmouth," Richie said.
"Richie!" Mrs. Tozier screamed, shocked. She nearly dropped her glass of iced tea. But both Richie and Bill Denbrough were laughing hysterically, totally cracked up. She looked from her son to Bill and back to her son again, touched by wonder that was mostly simple perplexity but partly a fear so thin and sharp that it found its way deep into her inner heart and vibrated there like a tuning-fork made of clear ice.
I don't understand either of them, she thought. Where they go, what they do, what they want... or what will become of them. Sometimes, oh sometimes their eyes are wild, and sometimes I'm afraid for them and sometimes I'm afraid of them. ...
♥ Especially Bill—Stuttering Bill, they had called him with that openness of children that is sometimes called candor, sometimes cruelty.
♥ He was washing his hands in the basin, she could see blood staining the gray fabric of his pants where they rubbed against the lip of the sink, and if his forehead touched the mirror (it was close) it would be on his skin. She made a choked noise in her throat.
He turned off the water, grabbed a towel on which two fans of blood from the drain had splashed, and began to dry his hands. She watched, near swooning, as he grimed blood into his big knuckles and the lines of his palms. She could see blood under his fingernails like marks of guilt.
..There was blood... blood everywhere... and her father didn't see it.
♥ Her father tucked her in as he always did, and kissed her forehead. Then he only stood there for a moment in what she would always think of as "his" way of standing, perhaps of being: bent slightly forward, hands plunged deep—to above the wrist—in his pockets, the bright blue eyes in his mournful basset-hound's face looking down at her from above. In later years, long after she stopped thinking about Derry at all, she would see a man sitting on the bus or maybe standing on a corner with his dinnerbucket in his hand, shapes, oh shapes of men, sometimes seen as day closed down, sometimes seen across Watertower Square in the noonlight of a clear windy autumn day, shapes of men, rules of men, desires of men: or Tom, so like her father when he took off his shirt and stood slightly slumped in front of the bathroom mirror to shave. Shapes of men.
♥ "Girls can be brave, too," Beverly said gravely...
♥ He could feel sweat, oily and hot, running down his forehead. The calliope music had gotten louder yet. It drifted and echoed down the spiral staircase. There was nothing cheery about it now. It had changed. It had become a dirge. It screamed like wind and water, and in his mind's eye Stan saw a county fair at the end of autumn, wind and rain blowing up a deserted midway, pennons flapping, tents bulging, falling over, wheeling away like canvas bats. He saw empty rides standing against the sky like scaffolds; the wind drummed and hooted in the weird angles of their struts. He suddenly understood that death was in this place with him, that death was coming for him out of the dark and he could not run.
♥ "So what if it gets more?" she asked. "What if it gets more kids?"
His eyes, a hot brown, locked with her blue ones, answering the question without speaking: So what if it does?
But Beverly did not look down or away and at last Stan dropped his own eyes... perhaps only because she was still crying, but perhaps because her concern somehow made her stronger.
♥ Neat as he was, sure as he was, he was still only an eleven-year-old boy who had that year finished the fourth grade.
He wanted to tell them that there were worse things than being frightened. You could be frightened by things like almost having a car hit you while you were riding your bike or, before the Salk vaccine, getting polio. You could be frightened of that crazyman Khrushchev or of drowning if you went out over you head. You could be frightened of all those things and still function.
But those things in the Standpipe...
He wanted to tell them that those dead boys who had lurched and shambled their way down the spiral staircase had done something worse than frighten him: they had offended him.
Offended, yes. It was the only word he could think of, and if he used it they would laugh—they liked him, he knew that, and they had accepted him as one of them, but they would still laugh. All the same, there were things that were not supposed to be. They offended any sane person's sense of order, they offended the central idea that God had given the earth a final tilt on its axis so that twilight would only last about twelve minutes at the equator and linger for an hour or more up where the Eskimos built their ice-cube houses, that He had done that and He then had said, in effect: "Okay, if you can figure out the tilt, you can figure out any damn thing you choose. Because even light has weight, and when the note of a trainwhistle suddenly drops it's the Doppler effect and when an airplane breaks the sound barrier that bang isn't the applause of the angels or the flatulence of demons but only air collapsing back into place. I gave you the tilt and then I sat back about halfway up the auditorium to watch the show. I got nothing else to say, except that two and two makes four, the lights in the sky are stars, if there's blood grownups can see it as well as kids, and dead boys are dead." You can live with fear, I think, Stan would have said if he could. Maybe not forever, but for a long, long time. It's offense you maybe can't live with, because it opens up a crack inside your thinking, and if you look down into it you see there are live things down there, and they have little yellow eyes that don't blink, and there's a stink down in that dark, and after awhile you think maybe there's a whole other universe down there, a universe where a square moon rises in the sky, and the stars laugh in cold voices, and some of the triangles have four sides, and some have five, and some of them have five raised to the fifth power of sides. In this universe there might grow roses which sing. Everything leads to everything, he would have told them if he could. Go to your church and listen to your stories about Jesus walking on the water, but if I saw a guy doing that I'd scream and scream and scream. Because it wouldn't look like a miracle to me. It would look like an offense.
Because he could say none of these things, he just reiterated: "Being scared isn't the problem. I just don't want to be involved in something that will land me in the nuthatch."
..They all laughed then, and it was a little easier.