Chapter 2: Newfound Strength

When Will awoke next, restrained to a bed, the Shadow Monster took control right away. It began thrashing, demanding to be let go, and for once, Will couldn't help but agree with the sentiment.

His mom, Jonathan and Nancy were apparently trying to burn its presence from Will's body. Which wasn't exactly a bad idea, save for the fact that it hurt. God, it hurt so much! He felt like he was slowly burning away from the inside. The Shadow Monster said as much, repeating over and over how much it hurt, hoping his family would feel sympathy for Will and stop.

When his mom ignored it and turned up the heat, face set in determination, Will didn't know whether he should laugh or cry. The pain got worse, and worse, and worse still, and if it didn't have control right now, Will himself would have been begging for them to stop.

But all he could do was lie there, trapped inside his own body, as the Shadow Monster struggled to free itself.

He was so tired of being weak! All of his friends were out there fighting, for him and for the sake of the world. Hell, El had saved them all last year! And yet here he was, the only one not helping, the only one being a burden. He was so, so fed up with it that he felt like screaming.

As if responding to his thoughts, an otherworldly strength suddenly filled his body. He could feel it coursing through his veins, fueling him with undiluted power and hatred. Wasn't this the height of irony? The moment he had hoped for strength, that strength had filled him. Only it wasn't his.

It was the Shadow Monster's.

His right arm broke free from its restraint, and his hand found its way around his mom's throat.

No. No no no no no.

She grabbed his hand by reflex as she gasped for breath, powerless to remove his iron grip. Jonathan also grabbed his arm, trying and failing to stop him from choking the life out of their mom. Nancy thought fast, grabbing a hot iron pole and attempting to press it to Will's skin.

Will held a brief hope that it might work, and wasn't that sad, that he'd reached the point of hoping to get burned. But the Shadow Monster saw through his eyes what she was doing, and Will's other hand broke free as well.

His muscles contracting against his will, he watched helplessly as his fist impacted with Nancy's stomach. The force of the blow threw her against the wall, and she sank to the floor with a gasp.

His mom's face was turning red.

NO!

He thought back to the story she had told him earlier, of bringing his drawing to work just to show it off. How she'd been so proud.

She was not going to die! Especially not by his own hands!

As soon as the memory ran through his mind, filling him with fiery determination, Will felt the Shadow Monster's grip on him recede, just the slightest bit. He grasped the leverage with all he had.

Slowly, his fingers started to open from around his mom's throat. It was miniscule motion, but enough so that she could breathe in small amounts of air. That minor success fueled his hope though. It was working!

He thought of other memories, ones that defined who he was. Meeting Dustin and Lucas. Playing D&D in the basement. Listening to The Clash as Jonathan told him he shouldn't pretend to be something he wasn't. Meeting Mike on the swings that day in kindergarten.

His fingers continued to loosen, and he could feel control returning to his limbs.

Come on, Will. Be strong.

His hand unclenched, and his mom fell, holding her throat and inhaling lungfuls of air.

Be like Mike. Like Jonathan. Like Mom.

He freed his legs effortlessly, the Shadow Monster's supernatural strength still filling him even as he wrestled control back from it. Jonathan and Nancy both stumbled back as he got to his feet, standing atop the bed. He ignored them both and turned toward the radiator they had set up.

Be Will the Wise!

He leapt off the bed and pressed his hands to the heater.

He screamed. It was pain like nothing he had felt before. But he didn't stop.

"Get. Out. Of. Me!"

He felt as the command was finally obeyed. The heat caused its grip on him to loosen further, and his own determination did the rest. His mouth opened as a black mist exited his body, swirling around above their heads as it grew in size. For a moment Will was terrified it would go for someone else, but the heat in the room was thankfully enough to deter it.

It fled from the cabin, the door barging open as it flew away into the night.

Will collapsed onto the floor and passed out.


He wasn't sure how much time went by, but he was guessing it wasn't long. When he came to, he was back on the bed, and his mom was gasping in joy. She wrapped his arms around him, and he returned the gesture.

Finally over, he thought, exhausted.

Only, that wasn't quite true. Jonathan grabbed his handheld radio and spoke. "Chief, are you there? Do you copy?"

He could hear Hopper's voice as he responded. "Yeah, I copy."

"Close it," Jonathan said, and Will snapped to attention.

"They're closing the gate?" he asked.

Jonathan turned to him, and only hesitated for a moment before replying. "Yeah, El's gonna close it."

Will got up and sat on the bed, his mom hovering over him like a hawk. "You had to wait until you could get that thing out of me," he said. It wasn't a question, but Jonathan nodded anyway.

Will sighed. Despite forcing the Shadow Monster out, he still felt useless. He should be out there, helping. Somehow. Any way he could.

Only, his mom would probably have an aneurism if he tried to leave right now, and he probably wouldn't get there in time to do anything. He closed his eyes, deciding to rest for a bit.

As his eyes closed though, he saw visions run through his mind. At first it terrified him, making him think that he was still connected to the Shadow Monster. But he couldn't feel it at all anymore.

Well no, that wasn't quite right. He could still feel it, just not inside of him. It was strange. He could only compare the feeling to when he'd been having his "episodes," before it had possessed him. He could feel its presence as keenly as he had back then. Only it wasn't in front of him now.

Trying to keep calm, he almost asked Jonathan or his mom if they could feel it too, but he didn't want to worry them. Instead, he focused on the visions in his head.

He could see the gate. He saw someone who could only be El, standing in front of it, holding one arm out as she tried to close it. Hopper guarded her with an assault rifle. At first she wasn't having any success, but then her expression became angry for some reason, and soon the gate began to close.

Will felt like cheering.

His joy didn't last long. Soon the horde of mini Demogorgons reached the gate, and started climbing the walls to get to them. He felt his heart constrict in fear.

Hopper noticed, and swore as he started shooting them down. All it did was slow them down though. They were too fast and too durable. Only El could take them down, but she was focused on closing the gate.

"Chief?" Jonathan asked, having heard his cursing over the radio. "Chief, do you copy? What's wrong?"

"The Demogorgons are after them," Will answered, eyes still closed. His mom, Nancy, and Jonathan all turned to him in surprise. "How do you know that?" Jonathan asked, sounding worried.

"It's ok," Will reassured him. "I'm still me."

"What? Will, what are you talking about?" his mom asked, sounding frantic. "What's happening?"

"I can help them," he said. He knew he could. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. He took a deep breath, and reached out toward the Demogorgons. He watched as they all froze.

Get away from them, he commanded, and the moment he did, he felt the Shadow Monster's fury lash out at him.

Will gasped, sweat dripping down his forehead.

"Will? Will! Tell me what's wrong!" his mom shouted.

He didn't answer. He needed to focus. Hopper had shot down all the Demogorgons while they were frozen, but they were all still very much alive. Will's mind was under onslaught from the Shadow Monster. Its primordial rage lashed against him over and over again as they both fought for control. And it was winning. Whatever this was, this—hive mind?—slowly but surely, it was regaining control from Will. He held out as best he could. He just needed a few more moments.

"Something's happening," Hopper's voice said over the radio. "They're acting strange."

It was true. Will could see in his mind's eye that the Demogorgons were shuffling around in uncertainty, struck with indecision as they were given conflicting orders.

I can't do this much longer, he realized. It's too strong. I can't beat it. But he didn't need to. He just needed to hold out until El closed the gate.

He watched in horror as the Shadow Monster sent one of its icy tendrils through the gate, trying to grab at El. El shouted in fury, holding up another arm, and a barrier formed in front of her to hold it back. Blood dripped down her nose and onto her lips as she strained to shove it back through the gate and close it at the same time.

Will took another deep breath and focused, reaching out towards the Shadow Monster this time. The very action terrified him. His heart beat loudly in his chest, and his breathing quickened.

But he had to do this. If he couldn't face this thing, then he would never move past what happened to him. He grit his teeth and he struck out against it. It recoiled, and he could feel its shock and rage as he grabbed ahold of it and helped El pull it back into the gate. Finally, after what felt like hours, they both shoved it back inside, and El closed the gate completely.

Will opened his eyes and fell back against the bed.

Soon after, Hopper spoke again over the radio. "She did it," he said, relief filling his voice.

But Jonathan, Nancy, and his mom just kept staring at Will, their jaws hanging open.

"Will," Jonathan said slowly. "What did you do?"