After rereading the book (and realizing it was finally time to buy a new copy since mine is older than I am), I thought I'd come back through and totally revamp this little oneshot.
Erin Vicananza believed in a lot of things—Tooth Fairies and Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and little elves that danced in the gardens, and even the angels her preacher said lived in Heaven and watched over little girls like her as long as they didn't sin. Sometimes she would close her eyes and imagine what her guardian angel might look like even as her teacher goes on and on about sight words. That belief is why, on the last day of school, things that gave her comfort suddenly made her tummy feel all tight. It was like when she ate too many cookies at Christmas time and she spent the rest of the night huddled up by the toilet with her mama holding a damp washrag against her forehead. Only she didn't have her mama to offer comfort this time around, not when the strange things started to happen around the town.
On the last day of school, her parents took her and her big brother shopping for a cheap toy after passing their classes, the toy shop in the mall being Erin's favorite place to go. She would run right over to the dolls while her brother ran to the skateboards ("I gotta be able to keep up with Johnny, Ma"). It was easy for the six-year-old to pick out the doll she wanted, a pretty one with dark brown ringlets that almost matched hers.
She was turning around and about to run to her parents when she first saw the funny man. He was as tall as her daddy and slim, dressed in a shiny suit with bright orange pom-poms down the front of it. He was a clown. He was like the ones that came through town during the festival in Bassey Park, but this one didn't have the funny smile, this one scared her and it was coming closer.
Breath caught in her throat, Erin watched on in horror as the big clown came closer and closer to her, a bunch of red balloons clutched in its hand. It crouches down in front of her, the white greasepaint shimmering under the harsh lighting, teeth yellow and rotten as he smiles down at her. The smile, if it could really be called that, reminded her of the stray dog that runs around Derry, its teeth always drawn back whenever some kid tried to catch it or pet it. Dangerous, her mind screamed at her.
"Hello, Erin," the clown says, voice loud and deep. "A nice day for buying a new dollie, isn't it?" Hesitantly, she gives a nod in answer and tries to find her parents in the crowd. "I'll bet a pretty little girl like yourself would love a balloon!"
"No, thank you," she whispers, clutching the plastic and cardboard box closer to her chest. Several feet away, her mother looked in Erin's direction and grinned. Why is she grinning, Erin wondered. Can't she see the scary clown with the bad smile? Doesn't she realize this stranger is trying to talk to me? "I gotta go to my mama."
"That's just fine, Erin, just fine! I'll see you tonight and we can talk some more, okie dokie?" It's not until the clown had disappeared—vanished with just a smell of decay left behind to prove she wasn't crazy—that she found the strength the run over to her parents and fling herself up into her daddy's arms. As long as her daddy had her, then nothing could make her scared or hurt her.
"You're such a baby," Tommy says, scowling up at her. "Can't even go to a toy store without crying."
"Shut up," Erin snaps, stubbornly wiping the tears off her face. She couldn't be seen doing such baby stuff when her big brother was around, not if she wanted to prove that she was old enough to see the horror pictures with him and Johnny Feury at the Aladdin. "I'm not a baby!"
"That's enough," their mother interrupts, sending the pair a stern look. When her daddy sets her back on her feet, Erin sees her brother get a funny expression on his face. It was like he was curious but scared, like when their cousin wanted to know what happened if you stuck a fork in their brand-new toaster.
"Erin where'd you get that balloon?" Her brows draw together and it's not until she follows Tommy's gaze that she realizes there's a bright red balloon tied to one of the straps of her backpack.
Moonlight shines into the dark bedroom, the clouds that passed in front of the moon causing the shadows to spring into life. There was no face there tonight, but that didn't stop Erin from clutching her blankets tightly as she waited. It was the same thing every night since she saw that clown, the bad things coming out at night the second her parents were sound asleep.
As the voices start across the hall in the bathroom, she brings the covers up over her head to muffle the noise. Her parents don't hear the disjointed screaming coming from the drains or see the shadows coming together as one solid, black, screeching mass like Erin did. She was certain Tommy did too, but her older brother stayed silent in the mornings and left as soon as he could, getting far from any drains as possible.
She doesn't remember ever bringing the covers down, but suddenly she can see again and she feels as though she'd been frozen solid like the statue in front of City Center. The shadows come together in the corner of her room, first taking on the shape of the shark that had scared her brother so badly and then the clown that had become so familiar to her. The shadow gains the silvery hue of a clown suit, bright buttons going down the front, and then she could make out the red of his hair that stuck out all over its head.
Erin can't even scream as a white-gloved hand comes down on her shoulder, helpless to do anything as it sits her upright in the bed. She could hear the whispers becoming one voice, small like her own voice and belonging to the little boy that had just walked into her bedroom. He looked to be around her own age, brown hair tousled beneath the hood of his bright yellow rain slicker.
Promises of balloons and candy fill her ears, but she knows that it is all a lie. This little boy whispered and hissed beside her, swaying from side to side like he was trying to hypnotize her, the left sleeve of his slicker empty of the arm. Her eyes focused on the dark red dripping from the sleeve, collecting in a small pool beside her bed.
"You'll float," the boy tells her. "You'll float just like I do, Erin." He was smiling, teeth visible through the torn flesh of his cheek. In the moonlight, he was a dark gray color and some the skin beneath his eyes were beginning to sag. "We can float just like that balloon Mr. Gray gave you!"
She knows, way deep down in her heart, that the little boy isn't real just like the shadow can't possibly be real. If her parents can't see it, then it's obviously just her imagination, but the feeling of sharp nails digging into her shoulder through soft cloth felt real enough. She wanted to scream for her parents or even her big brother, but it stuck in her throat like a wad of bubblegum, only a faint wheeze escaping.
"Now, now," the clown says, other hand reaching forward," we'll have none of that. A word to the wise, little miss, I don't like a dinner that ruins the ambiance." Both hands are on her shoulders now and still the scream is stuck tight, her limbs frozen solid. As the glowing eyes appear, she closes her own. The night little Erin Vicananza died was twenty-seven years on the nose that Georgie Denbrough had his arm torn off by the clown in the sewers. Two weeks later, Johnny would be found dead near the Barrens and a month after that, Tommy Vicananza would see Jaws in the Canal.
Her parents would find bloodstained sheets instead of their daughter the next morning, a small pool of crimson dotting the wood floor from the door to the bed. Alana Vicananza would wander around the house for years afterwards, giving her son the same cold shoulder as many other parents as the events played out that summer; Jameson Vicananza would put in more hours at his job, moving the remnants of his family to Bangor after the flood of 1985. Neither of them were sure why their son flinched away whenever he saw red balloons in a crowd or why he refused to take a shower alone for the first year. Then, as the years wore on, it's as though Erin had never existed.
In the end, she was just another victim.