This, ladies and gentlemen, is an AU. This is a BIIIIIIIG AU. This is the product of my initial impression that Bob Gray/Pennywise was actually a separate entity to It. The thought stuck, and eventually budded into this. This is something that I have beaten over the head, crumbled into pieces, and molded into this...thing. I give you the story of a Bob Gray who was a separate entity that was eventually swallowed whole.
There were not many things that happened in Weston, Maine that were private. While Weston was growing, it was still a small town by all accounts, and so when Bob Gray's wife died giving birth to their son, who turned out to be stillborn, everyone knew. The man was a wreck. A quiet miserable wreck and they were surprised that he had not followed them out. He had wanted that baby; he and his wife had wanted it with all their hearts, and they were both taken away.
He was in so much pain. He wanted to smile, he wanted to laugh, he wanted to see them laugh, her laugh, his son laugh. It had been a boy. He would sit at the park in his suit, a bottle clutched weakly in one hand, watching the children and their parents run and play and laugh. He almost wanted to weep. He had wanted that. So much.
But Bob was not one to stay bitter for long and when the circus came in he found his calling while watching the clowns. The children loved them, laughing and following the garishly-dressed men and women as they handed out balloons and juggled and laughed. The clowns with their painted-on smiles, their painted-on joy. It would be perfect. He would get what he had always wanted, and so he watched, and so he learned.
When the clowns from the circus understood his plight, listened to his tale and the men and women underneath the makeup understood what had happened, they were more than willing to bring him into the fold. He was looking for an escape; they were willing to give him one. They taught him everything he needed to know, grinning and laughing at the way his hoarse voice would crack awful jokes and the corny laugh that would follow. They knew that his delivery was perfect, said he had a knack for it. He loved the sound of that.
He had never had a knack for anything.
Soon they declared him ready and asked what he had in mind for a stage name. So it was that the character 'Pennywise the Dancing Clown' was born and the children began to love him, even more so when they realized they knew the man under the heavy makeup and ridiculous costume. While he was known for being a bit of a drunk, he was a friendly one, one of the reasons he had turned to it in the first place. If he couldn't be happy sober, well…he'd found another way, if only temporary.
The circus eventually travelled on and Bob went with it, leaving the only memories he had behind. No family and the only friends his fellow circus dwellers. He was well and truly cut off, but a patch of bitterness remained in his heart, no matter how hard he tried to shake it. It was there when he entertained the children, doing tricks and telling jokes. It was there when he watched their parents, and one day it was there in the wrong town.
Derry was another small town, but whereas the people in Weston were more willing to laugh, the people in Derry somehow seemed…shut off. They weren't so much unenthused as they were wary. It was not long before the rest of the circus began to have a bit of understanding as to why. Something was…off. They weren't all that sure what it was, even; just something seemed troubling, tickling at the edges of their consciousness. The one who felt it most was Bob.
It was a tugging, leeching sensation, something that made him edgy and slightly hindered him from his usual over-the-top performances. The others noticed, but they had maintained a discreet distance over the months they had known him. He just reeked of sadness when they talked to him and attempted to see how he was, what his story was. But he was successful at his job.
At the moment Gray stood in the silvery-white of his clown costume, orange pompoms on the front for buttons and oversized orange shoes feeling more familiar to him than he figured they should. The clown makeup was still something he was having difficulty with. He figured he would never quite get used to the fake, painted-on grin.
There was one other thing he was known for aside from his rough voice and his jokes and tricks; it was the balloons, and how the children loved the balloons! Pennywise was popular amongst them for the colorful things, reds, and yellows and blues, all bright and happy colors that he would give out with a smile and a laugh.
But still the feeling of uneasiness grew, and still he was cut off, even though Gray did not know it. Or, they thought he did not know it. He was not blind, and while he had at one point been a drunk, with his new purpose, bringing those children such laughter…he had been sober. He could see it. But he never said anything, and that bitter feeling was strengthened.
It was this very feeling that caught the attention of something in Derry that was only just beginning to awaken. This something woke up nearly every twenty-five years, and It always woke up hungry.
Bob Gray crouched in front of the crying child, his smile kept friendly, being sure to make it reach his eyes, a balloon held out in front of him like a shield. The first time this had happened he had been surprised-surely all children should like clowns. And yet he had discovered this was not the case. There were some who were terrified of them, and he had learned how to deal with it.
The boy in front of him was in a corner of Derry that seemed as though it would never be properly removed of all wildlife, let alone properly drained. It was green, and very pretty. But something seemed off about it…
"Aw, come on, bucko, don't you want a balloon? It's red, such a pretty shade of red; do you like red, Timmy?"
Timmy looked up at him in surprise, unaware and unsure how he knew his name, but he stopped crying, looking at the balloon that bobbed in front of him with uncertain curiosity. "How…how did you know my name?"
"I, Timmy, am Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Your father wanted to apologize for not being able to come to the circus, but he wanted me to give you this." Bob did not say that the boy's father had desperately run into the tent, nearly frantic with worry because he could not find his son. Timmy had left home and his father had been certain he would not be seen again. Bob couldn't let another man go through that feeling; he had been looking for the boy all day, and he had finally found him.
The boy wiped his eyes carefully, looking at the clown, looking at the balloon, and slowly, carefully reached his hand out, not to take the balloon as Bob had originally suspected, but for a handshake. Gray let out his usual rasping laugh which made more people laugh with him than he could count, and grasped the hand, shaking firmly as the boy looked at him solemnly and stated quietly, "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Pennywise, sir…"
"And a wonderful pleasure to meet you. Do you want that balloon now? It floats!"
Timmy looked up at the red floating object and looked back down at him, wrinkling his nose slightly. "I don't like red."
This made Pennywise laugh all the harder, and he grinned at him. "Well then, let's see about finding you a different colored balloon then, shall we?"
Timmy couldn't help but grin back. With that, easy as pie, the two of them walked back to the rest of the circus and the father who was waiting. When the man spotted his son he fell to his knees, nearly in tears, thanking the clown who had brought him back, accepting the cheerful blue balloon that the clown handed him, listening to the cheesy introduction, and taking his son home.
Bob went through the rest of the day knowing, just knowing that something was off. He couldn't see it, but he could feel it. Something that made the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, but like any true performer, he never let it show. He could not afford to- their happiness was his, and were he not to make them happy he would be feeling just as bereft.
But, as is the nature of things, the circus eventually came to an end, people leaving to go home and Gray began the usual task of packing the various odds and ends away, not quite ready to travel on, not quite leaving everything helter-skelter. They removed makeup and stage props easily, those that had been working on gathering people to the circus, the clowns being the main ones, retreating to their trailers and tents.
Gray had barely set foot into his trailer when he realized that something was very wrong. He didn't know what it was; it was somehow beyond his understanding, but he could feel it, brooding, twisted, slipping at the edge of his consciousness. He had a moment to take a careful step forward, and then everything went black, deep, dark, impenetrable black.
It was deep, total, and somehow there was a voice whispering in it, but the whisper was slowly growing, turning to an indecipherable mass, but one thing was repeated, a question. A question without words, deep, throbbing, and then everything was gone. It was only later that he thought that he had heard something else, something somehow even deeper, but for the moment there was nothing.
So….you're Bob Gray…my, what a sad, sad life you've had…
What? What is this, who...who are you?
I am your mind. You've been ignoring me lately; I figured I'd remind you that I existed.
Nah, I'm just kidding. As if I could be something as pathetic as your mind. No, I, I am Eternal. You…well, you were merely dust. Now…now you're something more. You're me, well…in me, and you're going to help me.
How…who are you?
I am everything you were ever afraid of.
And it was true. Bob realized that it was true; the darkness, while whole, was somehow illuminated, and in that light…in that light he could feel something stirring. Something evil, ancient, something that awakened some primal instinct to flee, but he could not move.
He could not move, something holding him in place, feeling the waves of malevolence and amusement rippling across, ripping into his mind, laughing its way into his heart, and in a moment of terror and pain, something tore, and he knew no more.
Bob Gray woke up with a shout, making the rest of the troupe of clowns gathered around him jump. He sat up, looking around, fear in his eyes, and then he realized where he was, who was around him, and slumped back to the ground, heart hammering in his chest, mouth turned down at the corners.
"Cripes, Bob, you almost gave us a heart attack. You alright?"
Gray stared around at them, feeling the sticky and uncomfortable feeling of sweat mixing with the clown makeup and smearing down his face. "Yeah…yeah, I'm okay." As he said it, he found it to be true. He was alive, there was no voice, there was no darkness…there was none of that light. He gave a slight smirk, shaking his head slightly and then laughed, "Probably overworking myself."
"Psh, yeah right, Gray; you do the bare minimum and then you're off."
They laughed, safety and familiarity held in the sound; how Bob loved laughter.
But in the darkness, when everything was quiet and no one was moving, and no one was laughing, Gray began to see things in the shadows, and feel a stirring of true fear, and someone else's amusement.
And then, it began to rain.