Disclaimer: I do not own IT
A/N: I just wish to announce that Chapter 13: One day is worth two tomorrows, is not canon anymore to the story. I will delete it and everything which was contained in it will no longer remain relevant to the story. That means Cassie is not dead in the near future. I wrote that when I was experiencing a major writer's block and my dumbass thought that it would help me, but I realized that it just messed everything up. So, I repeat, chapter 13 will be deleted and everything that was contained in that chapter will not matter anymore.
Thank you for your attention!
Chapter 14: A Snake in the Grass
The streets were filled with joy and cheering even before the group met up together near the alley by the pharmacy store. It was ironic, really, considering the large number of children that had gone missing over the course of the last weeks. No one seemed like they were worried, or at least wary of the recent disappearances. Having your existence easily forgotten as if you were a fly amongst many other equally-obnoxious insects wasn't a thought that comforted Cassie in the slightest. Being forgotten and discarded as though she was but a temporary and expendable object in a world filled with discord wasn't something she thought about often, but the thought nevertheless managed to sneak into her head on occasion.
When they stood there in the alley with missing posters on the brick walls, however, the thought didn't waste any time making its way into her mind. Even though it was over eighty degrees outside and raving hot in the air, chills went up and down her arms, causing goosebumps to erupt. Listening to Richie trying his best (and failing miserably) at playing the tuba belonging to one of the orchestra-members didn't put her mind at any ease either, though a chuckle did escape her. Readjusting her hat, Cassie reached forward to one of the missing posters and ripped it off the wall as to examine it closer. The face of a boy named Edward Corcoran, aged thirteen, had gained the misfortune of ending up with his picture on one of those posters.
"Who was he?" she asked and glanced over at Bill, curious as to get a suitable answer. Having not been in Derry for more than a couple of weeks in total, she lacked the necessary information regarding all of the inhabitants of the town. She swore she had seen this boy's face from somewhere before, possibly another poster from elsewhere in town, but she wasn't certain.
"He was a schoolmate," Stanley explained, growing increasingly pale. "They say they found part of his hand all chewed up near the Standpipe." That was all it took before Cassie put the poster back on the wall again, deciding that it would be best not to let his face become forgotten more than it already seemed like, judging by the careless and frivolous attitudes belonging to the rest of that godforsaken town. The thought of that hideous clown chewing on a piece of meat like a ravenous animal produced a gag-reflex that threatened to come into view, but she managed to conceal it just in time.
"He asked to borrow a pencil once," Ben added, not looking any less uneasy. Bill then flipped the picture of Edward Corcoran up and revealed the image of Betty Ripsom, the one whose mother showed up during the last day of school in desperate search of her daughter. Had she forgotten about her now? Had the memories of her child disappeared from the woman's mind by now? Was her existence nothing but a passing dream? Cassie didn't dare imagine a mother, someone who acknowledged themselves as such, forgetting their own child. Even though her own relationship with her mother was far from perfect, she couldn't imagine that Claudia would ever forget her so easily if she went missing.
"I-It's like she's been f-forgotten because Corcoran's missing," Bill found it hard to pronounce the words required to build that sentence, but not due to his stuttering.
"Is it ever gonna end?" Stanley asked, but none of them answered.
Unbeknownst to her, at the time, Cassie could feel the anger radiating from her. Forgetfulness towards something like missing people wasn't excusable unless medical reasons were involved, like Alzheimer or dementia. Her grandfather on her father's side had received it due to his old age several years before he passed away, but he had always been able to recall her face in spite of his affliction. She was struck with melancholia when he died, and her father's dismissive attitude towards his death caused her to develop resentment towards him to a certain degree.
"In other words," she uttered slowly, weighing her words carefully before speaking. "She doesn't exist anymore."
"T-T-That's not wha- what I m-meant." Bill quickly said, feeling a weight drop on his chest. His mind wandered over to Georgie, who was still missing and nowhere to be found unless he took the initiative himself. His parents wouldn't, so who else would but him? Before he could say anything else, the sound of Richie poorly playing the tuba across the road caught the Hayes girl's attention and the promptly shifted her face away from Bill and to Richie, who had by now been deprived of the instrument by the orchestra-member and was less than pleased about it.
"Richie!" she yelled over at him, waving her arms exasperatedly over to him. "Quit the shit and come over here!" As Richie's attention was mildly shifted away from trying to fight over the right of the tuba over to the rest of the group, the orchestra-member seized the opportunity and snatched the instrument from the Tozier boy's grip. After a mild amount of swearing, the four-eyed boy gave up and made his way over to the rest of them, accompanied by Eddie who had just returned from purchasing himself and Richie some ice-cream. Under ordinary circumstances, Cassie wouldn't have minded anything sweet, but given their current surroundings, now was not the time to indulge in her sweet-tooth.
"What are you guys talking about?" Eddie asked and took a generous amount of his ice-cream and stuffed it into his mouth, but before anyone could answer his inquiry, Richie beat them to it with an attitude that didn't sound too enthusiastic. Not that anyone could criticize him for it. They weren't enthusiastic either.
"What they always talk about?" And with that, he snatched the other ice-cream from Eddie and started eating as well.
"I actually think it will end," Ben suddenly said, a glint of hope in his eyes. Everyone turned to him, equally curious as to what he was implying. "For a little while, at least."
Beverly raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
Ben shifted in his stance, leaning a little more of his weight on one foot than the other whilst crossing his arms over his chest. He took a deep breath and it seemed as though the rest of the group mimicked this to a certain degree. Discussing anything even mildly associated with the monster that had plagued them all equally much. "So, I was going over all my Derry research, and I charted out all the big events. The ironwork-explosions in 1908, the Bradley Gang in '35, and the Black Spot in '62. And now kids being…." He paused for a brief moment, gathering his words before mustering the courage to speak them aloud. "I realized this stuff seems to happen-"
"Every twenty-seven years." Bill and Ben said in unison, having reached the same conclusion. Cassie exchanged a quick look with Beverly, standing the closest to her, and they both mutually agreed that this had exceeded something neither of them expected. Though she never believed she would admit it out loud, Cassie was mildly hoping that they were all just insane and had yet to be locked up in an asylum. At least, it was preferable to them actually being pursued by some sort of … demonic entity. She wasn't a believer in the divine, but if there existed a shape-shifting monster that could take on the appearance of whatever someone feared the most, then the thought of some old guy up in the skies couldn't be too far-fetched, could it?
"So, let me get this straight," Cassie breathed out, feeling more irritated than frightened for some reason. "Out of all the years that I've been alive, this motherfucker decided to appear the very year my dumbass mom and dad decided to move us here?"
Ben shrugged and the rest of the group seemed to lighten up a little bit. "Pretty much," he said, not quite sure about wat to say. He wanted to move away now and grow forty somewhere else than this town, and given that he too just recently moved there, he concluded that the timing was far from perfect for him too.
Cassie sighed. They all knew that this wasn't going to end well for either of them, but admitting so out loud felt like a bold move. "Well, shit."
"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 was the first one to speak up after the group had relocated beneath the Paul Bunyan statue. Like always, the place was crowded primarily of children with toys, balloons, and were occupied with other frivolous activities. True enough, the weather was beautiful, it was the 4th of July, it was practically the ideal summer day. Had everything been different and they weren't being pursued by some outdated Ronald McDonald, the prospect of spending their time on said games did seem tempting.
However, they weren't that lucky. Whereas Richie, Eddie, and Bill were sitting by their bicycles, Bev, Stan, Mike, Ben, and Cassie were occupying the bench on their own. Cassie was sitting next to Bev on top of the bench's back, listening intently to where this was going, even though she didn't enjoy it any more than the rest of them did. It didn't help that a clown was standing on top of the stage not too far away from them, entertaining kids with balloons and whatnot. A knot of dread formed itself in her stomach but she tried to keep it hidden.
"Maybe it's like, what do you call it? Cicadas?" Stan suggested, looking at the rest of them. "You know, the bugs that come out once every seventeen years?"
"I would rather deal with a bug than whatever the fuck this asshole is." Cassie said sardonically, earning her a chuckle from Bev. "Then again, I suppose that's we have Richie for."
"Hey!" Richie exclaimed offended, to which she merely shrugged.
Mike, having remained silent for a long time now, finally decided that it was time to bring up his own tale from home. One that his grandfather had brought up on numerous occasions in the past for now reason but to scare him, or so he thought. "My grandfather thinks this town is cursed," he said, eyeing his surroundings. The rest of them were now staring sharply at him, mutually agreeing that, considering the recent disappearances and that clown, it wasn't too far from the truth. "He says that all the bad things that happen in this town are because of one thing."
"At least one of the grown-ups in this place has a brain," Cassie inputted, thinking thoroughly at those words. "Did he specify what, exactly, that thing was?"
"No," Mike shook his head, verifying a sharp no. "I always thought that he was just exaggerating. But he says that he thinks it's an evil thing that feeds off the people of Derry."
Stan seemed confused for a moment and turned to Mike, eyebrows raised. "But it can't be one thing." His eyes trailed over to the others. "We all saw something different." It was true. As soon as he said this, the others began to feel uneasy, more so than expected. Cassie's head was filled with the image of her mother slitting her own throat, the blood soaking the floor like rivers. But it didn't make any sense…. Why was that the thing she saw?
"Maybe." Mike agreed. "Or maybe It knows what scares us most and that's what we see."
At the mention of this, Cassie thought about what she had seen again. For the majority of her life, she had been the most terrified of clowns, ironically enough, so something didn't add up. With their exaggerated facial expressions, the paint covering their faces, those idiotic costumes that seemed like it just wanted to piss her off. That was the thing she was most terrified of, not…
Eddie hesitated before he spoke up. "I saw a leper," Chills were running up his forearms and leaving goosebumps, even in the blazing sun. The thought of that leper made him want to vomit. "He was like a walking infection." Cassie remembered the placebo pills which she had found with him, and a part of her regretted not telling him the truth then and there. In some way, she contributed to making his fear of inflictions and illnesses worse, but there was no time now to change it.
"But you didn't," Stan contradicted him. Everyone's eyes fell on top of him as if expecting an explanation. He proceeded. "Because it isn't real. None of this is. Not Eddie's leper, or Bill seeing Georgie, or the woman I keep seeing." His gaze fell to the ground with vehement discomfort.
"A woman?" Cassie looked at him in disbelief. Out of the entire group, she didn't imagine Stan being gynophobic, though the image of him screaming when seeing one did have her let out a vague and inaudible snicker.
"She hot?" Richie asked, an amused look in his eyes.
Stan, as well as the majority of everyone else, looked at him as though he couldn't be serious. "No, Richie! She's not hot!"
"Of course, she couldn't be," Cassie let out, putting both of her arms behind her head with a carefree attitude. "If he had been afraid of beautiful girls, he wouldn't have been able to stick around long enough to be acquainted with either Bev or me. Maybe you too to an extent, Four-Eyes."
Eddie burst out into laughter and smiles began to show up with everyone else as well. It felt good to have the mood a little up, even under such dire circumstances. However, when Stan continued describing the woman in such gruesome details, mutual silence befell them and resulted in their lack of liveliness once more. "Her face is all messed up." He struggled to speak again after saying such. His facial features were inflicted with dread and fear, something they all had experienced recently. "None of this makes any sense. They're all like… Bad dreams."
"Bad dreams can't just jump into reality and start attacking us," Cassie intervened, shaking her head at his suggestion.
"That's true," Mike agreed, turning to Stan. "I know the difference between a bad dream and real life, okay?" None of them really had to guess about where this was coming from. They had all experienced something strange, something horrible, but whether or not it truly was a fragment of reality or their own minds was something they couldn't quite debunk just yet. Mike, however, seemed to take into personal account the words he had said and none of them remained oblivious towards this. They all turned to glance at him, curious.
"What'd you see? You saw something too?" Eddie asked, knowing fully well that asking someone about their worst fears would be considered inconsiderate, but they all had to know. Mike had yet to disclose what he had seen to the rest of them, as had Cassie. She, however, wasn't feeling in the mood of discussing the dreadful sight which unfolded in her own home that day. She wished to tell them all, sure, but as she looked down at her hands, the words struggled to form themselves inside of her. Letting the others speak first about their encounter would perhaps make it much easier for her to admit it.
"Yes," Mike admitted, growing vague in response. He felt a heavy weight on his chest as he recalled what had happened that day so many years ago, and how seeing it once more did little to ease anything. "Do you guys know that burned-down house on Harris Avenue?" When none objected against the knowledge, Cassie took that as her cue to keep silent and listen, even though she didn't know the location of that said house. "I was inside when it burned down."
He briefly paused, closing his eyes. "Before I was rescued, my mom and dad were trapped in the next room over from me. They were pushing and pounding on the door, trying to get to me." He hesitated again before continuing, the pain visible even though his face revealed no emotions. "But it was too hot. When the firemen finally found them, the skin on their hands had melted down to the bone." He glanced up at them again. "We're all afraid of something."
The sound of crackers wheezing behind them had them all shift their heads back towards the stage where that dreaded clown stood in a crowd of children. "Got that right," Richie said and eyed the ugly clown discomfortingly, to which the clown turned to him and reached a balloon-animal towards him.
Another knot materialized itself in Cassie's stomach and she quickly turned around and away from the clown. "Ugly fucker," she cursed to herself, but fortunately none heard her.
However, they all noticed Richie's uneasiness. "Why, Rich? What are you afraid of?"
Richie was silent for a moment, something none of them expected, and then readjusted his glasses over the bridge of his nose. "Clowns."
"You're afraid of clowns?" Cassie asked and jumped off the bench and to her feet. "Isn't that ironic? What exactly did you see?"
"I saw the clown, alright?" Richie snapped, though with no real hostility or malice. "It stood there outside my house, waving at me with hands that looked like they belonged to Stan after tickling his–"
"Alright, enough." Stan quickly said, sounding vaguely embarrassed. "But what did it do to you? Did it say anything?"
Richie shook his head. "No, it just fucking stood there and waved at me from the front of my house, grinning. It didn't say shit, that's all it did. When I tried getting my mom to look at it, the crackhead was gone."
"Consider yourself lucky, then," Cassie said, feeling a little irritable all of the sudden. "At least you didn't see your currently missing sibling, or a bathroom full of blood, or some kind of nasty-looking hag." If that clown could take the shape of whatever they feared the most, then there was probably no limit to what kind of extent It would reach. Cassie reached for her hat and took it off, letting her dark hair into the sun. She turned to the others. "But we still don't know shit about it. Why does it appear every twenty-seven years? Where is it now? Why doesn't anyone seem to notice all of these disappearances? Why the hell does It use a name like Bob Gray–"
"Bob Gray?" Eddie asked curiously. "Who is Bob Gray?"
"Apparently, that's another name It goes by."
"You saw It?"
"What did you see?" Beverly asked.
Cassie opened her mouth to answer the Marsh girl's inquiry, believing that she would be ready to speak about the experience. However, no sound escaped her and she abruptly adverted her eyes to the ground. "I saw the clown too," she admitted, and although that wasn't the entire thing, she wasn't lying. "He called himself Bob Gray and looked just like any wannabe-clown with balloons and all. It wasn't until I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach that I knew something wasn't right, so I bolted."
"He didn't do anything to you."
"L-Look," Bill stuttered, stepping off his bike. "I-I've noticed s-something that s-seems connected to this."
"What is it?" Ben asked.
"I-If we all get to me, I can- I can show you."
They all agreed then and there to meet up at his place. It was time to figure out a way to end this.