‘Are you alright, man?!’ Mike.
‘Hey, Stan! What the fuck happened?’ Richie.
‘Stanny! It’s alright, everything’s fine. Jus… just don’t go to sleep. We’ll get you to hospital if you need it…’ Ben.
‘Stan! Stan! Listen to me!’ Beverly.
‘Just take it easy. We’ll look after you. Everything will be fine, buddy, so don’t worry.’ Eddie.
Stan lay fazed and rattled on the grass of Memorial Park, Derry. He could only half hear the soothing voices of his six closest friends, but to be perfectly honest all he wanted to do was sleep. Sleep forever under six feet of earth. Stan had finally had enough. He was the weakest of the Losers club and boy - didn’t everyone know it?!
‘E-e-enough!’ Bill’s voice rang loudest of all. ‘E-eh-everyone just b-back off, okay?’
Murmurs of ‘fuck you’ and ‘whatever’ were heard by Bill but that doesn’t mean he took any notice of them. To Bill, Stan’s weakened state meant that he’d really want to be left alone. He could see in Stan’s eyes that all he wanted was some peace and quiet. Beads of sweat stood out on his deathly pale face as he unconsciously muttered the names of birds under his breath. Blue tit… Black bird… Speckled dove… Sparrow… Stan looked as close to a panic-attack as Bill had ever seen a person. He rocked himself gently, trembling arms clasped tightly to his gasping body, nails gripping his once-clean shirt as tight as death. His hair was soaking wet and he hadn’t even bothered to dry his face of the water and pond muck. This was very unusual for Stanley Uris. He loved to be clean more than Richie loved doing voices - more than Ben liked to read.
‘Wait - Bill’s right,’ began Richie, fiddling with his thumbs as he spoke, ‘Give him some space, guys… He doesn’t look so hot.’ Trashmouth gave his gang a knowing nod and a smile, positive what he was doing was right. Immediately the other five backed away a few metres, leaving Richie to look after his closest friend. It had annoyed them of course but they wanted the best for Stan.
‘Hey there, man,’ Richie said, suddenly feeling conscious of all the Loser’s eyes on him and him alone. He had an audience. Placing a comforting hand on Stan’s shoulder, he leaned closer and made his tone as gentle as possible; ‘You want to tell us what happened?’
Stan attempted a croak but all that would come out was vomit. Richie averted his eyes respectably, his own stomach turning. The rest of the Losers club stared with sympathetic eyes. With tears in his own eyes, Stan shook his head miserably - there was no way he could speak anytime soon without heaving all his guts up over his new shoes. Heat prickled his skin and sweat ran down his cheeks, mingling with the tears despite how cold Stan was feeling. Ben began to bite his hangnail as Stan’s shivering became violent.
‘Perhaps we should take him to the hospital?’ Ben fretted, his face pinched with worry and almost as pale as Stan’s own.
‘Yeah, and get Patrick sent to Juniper Hills,’ Beverly snapped, causing Ben’s heart to sink. ‘Do that… and don’t you realise Bowers will never get off our cases? It will make him a million times more angry with us if we rat Patrick out and get him sent away.’
‘S-so w-w-we’re jus-just gonna l-l-l-l-let H-h-h-Hockstetter skip free?’ Bill hissed, never usually taking that tone with Beverly Marsh.
Beverly shot him an icy glare, obviously disgusted, ‘I don’t know! We can’t let them know what happened though! Aren’t they gonna ask us all kinds of questions if we turn up with Stan having hypothermia in the middle of summer?! Oh yes! Sorry, I forgot! We were just simply hanging around the Arctic when Stan caught his death!’
Her deeply sarcastic tone would have made Richie laugh on any other day - but today was much too serious for so much as a snicker. ‘We can’t just leave him to go home like this, Beverly! He needs to see a doctor or he’ll get sick.’ Ben murmured before Richie could so much as open his mouth. ‘Stan? Do you think you need a doctor?’
Stan managed a brave smile - so brave despite how terrified he was feeling that Beverly almost felt she could cry for the boy - his smile turning to a frozen look of terror as he realised he couldn’t find his Bird-spotting Manual. Whimpers escalated from his throat causing his friends to whip around in fear, wondering what he could have seen behind them.
‘What’s wrong?’ Mike asked solemnly, realising there was no danger just Stan panicking as a late reaction to the trauma he’d just faced. ‘Can you see somethin’?’
Stan shook his head vigorously at Mike and went back to mouthing the names of birds. Green finch, yellow canary, robin… Starling… Seagull…
All six of the Losers exchanged anxious looks. Obviously Stan needed some kind of medical attention; he was damn near hysteria! Every few minutes he would start fresh blubbering in fits and bursts, eventually stopping and then picking up where he left off from last time. Richie rubbed his back in comfort, not quite certain how he could help his friend without hurting him.
‘S-s-Stan… W-w-we n-nuh-need y-you t-to tell u-uh-uh-us what happened s-so w-w-w-w-we c-c-can help you.’
The eleven year-old glanced up at his friend and leader, feeling like a small kid in comparison to Big Bill. His eyes filled with fresh tears as he weakly rasped; ‘Hockstetter drowned me… He nearly… killed me.’
‘We know it was Hockstetter,’ Richie said a little too loudly for Stan’s comfort, suddenly irritated in his moment of worry, ‘But what did you do to provoke him?’
‘He didn’t do anything! It was that big, crazy Hockstetter doing everything Henry tells him to! Don’t you think Patrick would drown Stan if he didn’t have some massive crush on Henry Bowers?’
There were some murmurs of agreement. Stan could still only hear some parts of the conversation - they got tangled and confused in his brain that just couldn’t seem to stay focused on the real world. Instead of listening to his friends, Stan focused on bird song in the distance. Somehow he felt calmer listening to their singing.
Stan began to warily get to his hands and knees. His friends stared as he trembled to his feet, using Richie as a make-shift crutch. Still trembling like a leaf, the young boy slowly began to get a grip on the situation; Patrick had tried to kill him and failed. Patrick was insane. Stan was still alive and Patrick had gotten free… A glare formed on Stan’s face, mirroring his friends’ equally furious expressions. I don’t want to be the weaker member of the Losers Club any longer. I want to be as brave and strong as Big Bill. Why should we be so afraid of Patrick Hockstetter? He’s just some fanatical crazy boy with a big crush on someone as equally mad as him! I want Patrick and Henry to get what’s coming to them… I want them to be sent away... I’m sick of living my life afraid that Henry Bowers might be around the next corner. Next year I want 7th grade to be a happy memory. I don’t want to be anywhere near those loons. If I’m in their class, I swear I’ll just-
‘I’m fine. Really… I just needed a moment,’ Stan whispered hoarsely.
Nobody believed him. Instead of trying to persuade him to let them take care of him, the Losers club each went their separate ways home, each as downhearted as the next. Both Richie and Ben wrapped their arms around his middle and trailed at a comfortable pace back to Stan’s home. If they went any faster Stan would begin to complain and clutch at his wet shirt in anxiety. About twenty minutes later when they eventually reached Stan’s house, his mother hardly said a word to them; instead, gave Stan one look and burst into tears, obviously sensing something awful had happened from both the atmosphere and the sirens wailing in the distance. His father joined her at the door and frowned worriedly, his brow deepening and the corners of his mouth sagging so much that Ben himself felt he would begin to cry just like Stan’s mother. Not one asked what happened and instead took their traumatised son off the two boys and turned back to the parlour, hardly even thanking them for their help. All they could get out of him was the same lines over and over: ‘I lost my Bird-spotting Manual… I lost my book. I want it back.’ Any other day, being probably the most sensible and logical boy in Derry, Stan would admit he was being ridiculous. Today, he just didn’t care to be mature and laid-back - he almost died and his bird book was missing. All he could do was cry along with his mother. Right now, he didn’t even know what he was crying about; he was safe, he was now warm, his mother had given him something to soothe his stomach and some herbal tea, his father had promised him a brand new bird-spotting book and a pair of top-class binoculars to make up for the ones that broke and not only that - but Mrs Uris had called the police and reported the incident so there was no way Stan could wind up getting hurt like that again. Yet, he refused to tell her just who hurt him so there wasn’t much the police could do for them…
Laying in bed without his book by his bedside table, Stan couldn’t concentrate on falling asleep. Typically that was something that came naturally to him. His mother began to grow worried over time; Stan still not telling her what caused him to panic so much. He’d only tell her it was because he misplaced his bird bible, and that she shouldn’t be so worried about him all the time. Despite all his fussing and excuses, Mrs Uris wondered if it were something to do with the paedophile stalking Derry, killing both boys and girls by random. If he’d been abused, why wouldn’t he tell her? Mrs Uris bit down on her nails and cried, desperately hoping that her son hadn’t been attacked by some horrible monster of a man. What she didn’t know however (many other parents of Derry included) was that actually, that ‘paedophile monster’ was a real monster living in the sewers. Once you get past adolescence you stop believing in those kinds of things. After all, it’s not always the adults that know best. Sometimes kids can be right too, you know?
None of Stan’s friends found sleep easy to come by that night. The situation had been close. Too close. Who was to say Henry and Patrick couldn’t have succeeded if it weren’t for Patrick being such a weakling? Sure he was pudgy. Sure he was only five-foot-five... But he was crazy alright! Don’t crazy people like Hockstetter have no sense of hurting or being hurt?