Dreaming Underground (Chapter 1: Tears)
At least that stupid clown wasn’t there anymore.
But that begged the question, where had it gone? It didn’t seem to still be in the house with him, but how could he know for sure? And even though it wasn’t in the room with him, he still didn’t feel safe. How could he? - hearing the manic laughter of some insane, malevolent monster resonating from deep within his skull, and while the voice that ever so sweetly commanded him to take the pills that were no longer where they were supposed to be was suffocating him from inside his own head. Pennywise may not have been there in a physical sense, but he was still haunting Eddie’s mind.
Even curling up in a ball and pretending none of it was happening was difficult, the agony in his arm making even the smallest movements into trying tasks. Feeling his breathing becoming increasingly shallow at the thought, he reached up with his uninjured arm and breathed into his inhaler, thankful that he’d managed to hold onto it during the struggle (unfortunately the same could not be said for his medication, which Pennywise had personally thrown out of a first-floor window and which he would not be scrabbling around in a pile of rubbish for; he’d just have to get his hands on some new ones – if he ever managed to get out of the house).
He hadn’t heard screams or shouts for quite some time (and in fact the last ones he’d heard were his own) leading him to believe that there were only two real possibilities as to what had happened to his friends since he’d gotten trapped there: the first being that they’d simply abandoned him to save themselves and the second being that they were all dead – murdered at the hands of the monster that had trapped him there. He wasn’t sure which one was worse. This realisation prompted him to breathe into his inhaler once more.
And if they had all left him to die, the worst part was that not a single one of them had decided to come back for him – not even Richie.
The floor he was lying on was utterly repulsive and he wanted his pills now more than ever but it was hopeless. They were all gone. Just like his friends, it seemed.
But he did have one last thing that never failed to give him hope. Keeping his broken arm resting on his chest he dug his free hand into his pocket and took out something he’d never let anyone else see. In his hand was the scrappy remains of a bracelet he’d been given as a young child – around six years old – and never went anywhere without, though he had lost it for a while a few years back, which was how it ended up with missing beads and frayed threads.
He held it in his hand for a short while, rubbing his thumb across the beads and playing with the black and yellow threads – that had, he was certain, once been different colours altogether. To his dismay, along with the hope it always gave him, this time came sorrow as his mind wandered back to how he’d been left in the house of a monstrous being alone, with no way to escape or even defend himself against an attack. And without his pills to give him strength, he felt weaker and more helpless than he ever had done before.
That’s when the tears started threatening to fall and with each passing moment – and with every longing thought of his friends, and one in particular, who had still not returned to him – they grew closer and closer to carrying out the deed. Though he wouldn’t have been inclined to admit it to anyone else, he had already cried that day. Of course he had. And his so-called fragility was well known to everyone who’d ever met him, but nobody else needed to know just how weak he felt.
It knew. And Eddie was well aware of that fact.
While it may have also brought him an overpowering feeling of self-hatred and despair, the bedraggled old bracelet that was missing most of its beads but had never lost its memories had done its job, filling him with a sense of determination that was just enough to get him to momentarily block out the pain and stand up off the dirty grey floor. There had to be a way out and if no-one else was going to show it to him, Eddie didn’t have a choice; he had to get out of there.
Except that before he could take a single step, an unseen force hit him like a ton of bricks on the back of his head, knocking him to the floor once again. This time, he didn’t get back up.
It felt like a dream. God only knew how long he’d been out for, but once he came around, it suddenly didn’t matter that he was in more pain now than he had been before, that the shattered bones in his arm wouldn’t stop reminding him of their condition for a single second, or that the room Niebolt House seemed to have melted away around him and that an even dirtier, more sickening environment had appeared in its place.
None of that mattered because Richie was there, standing just a metre or so in front of him.
And because of that, it took Eddie a while to realise he was lying on his back in a sewer, covered in God knows what. It was all so repulsive that he heard his mother’s voice yelling at him from inside his head again, reminding him of how sick he was – something he’d never be able to forget – and his lungs started to constrict inside his chest, his heart hammering away against his ribcage like it was trying to break through the bones. He instinctively felt around for his inhaler, only to find that it wasn’t where he’d left it.
Anxiously glancing up at Richie with eyes brimming with tears and desperation, he caught a glimpse of his inhaler lying in waste by Richie’s feet. The look on his friend’s face was incomprehensible – his eyes oozed concern, but he didn’t seem to be as worried for him as he usually would be, and yet his lips were curling into a smile that seemed almost sinister, like he was enjoying his friend’s distress. Richie was weird (there was no denying that) but this wasn’t like him at all.
Eddie’s suspicions only intensified when he watched his grinning friend raise a foot and crush his inhaler right in front of him a moment later.
Eddie’s heart immediately sank, his eyes widening as he became the personification of shock and horror. But he didn’t scream. His voice was too hoarse, his throat too sore from all the crying and screaming he’d already done that day to make another sound – and besides, Richie was still Richie, no matter how strangely he was behaving; he must have had explanation for his actions, even if he didn’t understand it straight away. That was just something you got used to when you were friends with someone like Richie Tozier for so long.
His thoughts were almost instantly distracted from the fragments of his demolished inhaler scattered amongst the repulsive water of the sewer when his friend darted closer to him without warning, offering his hand and helping him up. Wincing at the pain in his broken arm, his bones complaining of the ever so slight movement, Eddie reached out and took his hand without hesitation.
“Don’t worry about that,” Richie advised him, his eyes flickering over to the broken pieces of plastic floating about in the shallow water. “You don’t need it. You’re stronger than that… You don’t need your pills either, you know,” he added after a moment, his gaze returning to meet with his friend’s.
What happened next was a blur for Eddie as his closest companion’s behaviour became even more erratic. Something stuck into his foot as he was shoved backwards (he probably just stepped on one of the pieces of what used to be his inhaler), his back crashing hard into the wall behind him. The pain in his arm escalated, immediately taking his attention away from the discomfort in his foot, but then another feeling attacked his senses.
Not pain or agony, or disgust or discomfort, but something… warm, something just as intense as the pain coursing through every fibre of his being but much more enjoyable. He didn’t understand at first. He wasn’t sure if even Richie did at the time. All he knew was that suddenly his best friend’s lips were on his, moving against them slowly, and he didn’t mind. Before he could even comprehend what he was doing, Eddie found himself kissing him back.
For a moment it seemed like nothing else mattered – not his broken arm or the monstrous clown that was still terrorising them, or even the question as to how the two of them had ended up there in the sewer when the last thing he could remember was feeling abandoned in the house on Niebolt Street.
But this sort of bliss and happiness, for Eddie Kaspbrak – as for all the losers – was never anything but short-lived and disappointing.
When Richie finally pulled away, his hands returning to his sides instead of Eddie’s, his hair had already begun turning orange and the smile on his suddenly cracked, pale face looked even more sadistic now than Eddie had imagined. In fact, he no longer looked like Richie at all, but It.
And all he found himself thinking was I’ve just given my first kiss to a freaking demonic clown.