Both boys didn’t stop running until they hit Patrick’s house about two miles away. The humidity was killing them and Patrick would have laughed if he weren’t so terrified and out of breath - Henry looked although he wouldn’t stop running until he reached Mexico! He clutched Patrick’s sweaty palm with his own and dug slitted moons into his skin with his long, dirty nails. Tearing down the road, the slight breeze in his face, Henry Bowers felt half-spooked, half-exhilarated and wild with the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Patrick stumbled clumsily behind him, a stitch digging into both his sides and a burning sensation in his throat and lungs. Twice the younger boy tripped over and the eldest simply hauled him up to continue running. Giving a laugh-sob every few seconds, anyone would have thought Henry Bowers had gone even more insane - if that were even possible. He backhanded the sweat running off his face every now and again, his skin going slick with how hot the weather was lately.
Whilst Patrick fumbled with the front door, Henry danced agitatedly on the spot. Seemingly the door just couldn’t open fast enough for him. When the boy finally managed to unlatch the door, his peer burst through into the hallway, almost knocking over Patrick’s mother on his way in. Josephine gave him a questioning glance but decided it was best to keep her mouth shut. Patrick yelled over his shoulder that he couldn’t talk right now and whipped past his mom and up the stairs before she could even say hello. Instead of being angry she simply laughed. After all, boys will be boys, always so full of energy and raring to go.
Henry padded up the stairs, throwing his loafers off when he reached Patrick’s room and opening the door without invitation. He’d never seen Patrick’s room before and certainly wasn’t expecting this. Had Patrick’s parents ever even been in here?! Henry doubted it very much… It was too…well weird, to say the least. Like any other teenage boy’s bedroom, Patrick’s sure was messy, just like Henry’s own. Patrick’s room was rather small, but also considered cosy by Henry’s standards. The wallpaper was old-looking and consisted of thin red, navy blue and off-white stripes. His bed was single and freshly made with his nightwear neatly folded on top and a sad-looking teddy bear laying stranded across his pillows. The window offered a view of Patrick’s back yard; a double swing-set was sat there rotting in the middle of the lawn, presumably constructed when Avery was still breathing. Overgrown wildflowers twisted and twined around the long forgotten play area, and the grass could have came up to the boy’s middle if he ever went out there (Patrick’s parents avoided going out there at all costs. It was too depressing). Henry’s eyes widened as he caught glance of what was tacked to Patrick’s walls. Multiple pieces of paper were cello-taped wily-nilly to the striped wallpaper. On closer inspection, they seemed to be a part of Patrick’s collection of doodles that Henry had found once at the dump. Tracing his finger over the details, Henry noticed there were a lot of hand-drawn pictures of himself. In some of them he had his switch-blade, and in others, much to Henry’s embarrassment, he would be surrounded by hearts. He could tell it was him by his trademark greaser hairstyle, but also because they almost always had the initials ‘HB’ printed around them in Patrick’s trembling, left-handed script. Despite being slightly creeped out, Henry felt himself feeling rather flattered to have so many picture of himself on Patrick’s wall. Nearby was a picture of Victor and Belch too! Henry joyfully pointed them out to Patrick who smiled and nodded, telling him how hard it was to get Belch’s curls just right. There were also a lot of doodles of animals; dogs and cats in particular. One picture caught Henry’s interest - a teenage girl with dark hair and blue eyes was clasping the lead of a Great Dane, obviously struggling to keep a hold of him - he briefly wondered if that was Patrick’s next door neighbour. He had seen her around before but he didn’t think she went to their school. Feeling slightly miffed that there were as many pictures of her as there were of him, Henry turned his attention to other things.
Sifting through Patrick’s collection of records, Henry finally found the one he had been looking for. ‘Hound dog’ by Elvis Presley. Henry grinned as he saw Patrick’s record player, obviously brand new and hardly used by the looks of it. Without even asking, the greaser slid the disk out the protective sleeve and slotted it into place in the music player, slipping the needle onto the vinyl and cranking the handle. He drummed his hands against the cabinet in time to the music, telling his friend how much better things were with music playing in the background.
Eyes bulging almost comically as he caught sight of something rather sinister, Henry burst out laughing, obviously Pennywise was long forgotten. Patrick had quite an assortment of dead beetles and other interesting artifacts. Each were encased in a glass box to preserve their tiny bodies from decay. They ranged in size from about the size of a pea, to the size of a tennis ball. Henry guessed Patrick would be interested in taxidermy when he grew older, being an eccentric science collector or a dead-thing enthusiast. He’d already seen Patrick’s disgusting pencil-case collection of mutilated flies at school, but it still came as a shock to see him displaying them so openly like this. What did his mother think of this? She didn’t seem like the kind that would allow her son to collect dead things... Henry cast his eyes over each of them, marvelling at how well-preserved they were. His favourite one was an emerald green colour. It’s hard outer shell changed colour from that beautiful vivid green to metallic hues of red, orange, silver and salmon depending on how he held it to the light. Patrick knowingly told him it were an Emerald Jewel Beetle with a nod of his head, his eyes shining with his passion for his oddball collection.
However, one one side of the room was a chest of drawers. On top was something science-y that caught his eye especially. It looked like some samples of hair. Henry didn’t want to snoop too much… He didn’t want Patrick to think he was weird for checking out his underwear drawer, so instead he pretended to wipe dust off the dark wood with his forefinger. Particles of the dust flew into the air at Henry’s sudden stride, floating around in the golden sunset from Patrick’s bedroom window. Moving closer towards the drawer, he saw that Patrick had a collection of different samples of hair. For one disturbing second, Henry almost thought it were his own hair and gave a little scream of repulse. Upon closer inspection, it seemed that the hair wasn’t actually hair at all - it was fur. Animal fur… Henry felt sick. A lump formed in his throat. One clump of fur was white and wiry; Henry presumed from some small, yappy dog. Written alongside it was the name ‘Mr. Chops’. Next to that lot of fur was another clump, black and fluffy, labelled ‘Princess’. In total there were about two dozen sets of fur, each arranged in neat rows of six. Resisting the urge to puke, Henry knew exactly where the fur came from and why Patrick would collect such a strange thing. The beetles, yes. Henry could almost understand them. They were pretty and made Patrick look kind of like some intelligent professor. The animal fur… No, that was just too much.
‘You sick fuck,’Henry chuckled darkly, running a hand through his own hair for comfort. He then realised that he was almost trapped in Patrick’s bedroom with nobody but Patrick’s wacky parents to rescue him if things started getting weird or scary.
‘I love you too, Henry,’ Patrick simpered jokingly, suddenly feeling distantly uncomfortable having Henry inspect his bedroom like this. That was much too private.
‘Yeah, I can tell you do,’ Henry taunted, jabbing a finger at the many pictures of himself on the wall, ‘Stalker…’ he added with a hint of a smirk.
‘Don’t act like you don’t love it,’ Patrick tittered, swaying on the spot, ‘Besides… I make you look so much hotter than you already are!’
‘Well, thanks. Wait! Hey, you little punk!’
Patrick giggled as Henry wrestled him onto the bed, pinning him down next to his teddy bear and kneeling on his chest. Patrick felt almost winded as Henry was being so rough with him. Instead of beating him like Patrick was anticipating, Henry wrapped his hands around his neck. For one frightening second, Patrick thought he was going to be strangled to death and closed his eyes, knowing there was no way he could stop it - however, instead of the burning pain of strangulation he felt the giddy, prickly, hellishly torturous pain of being tickled. Being extremely ticklish, Patrick couldn’t help but scream and yell his head off, swearing and begging Henry that he’d do anything to make him stop. His teddy bear somehow got trapped underneath his body and Patrick could feel its beady eyes digging into the nape of his neck. Still, Henry’s hands moved not so gently across Patrick’s body; scratching, jabbing and grabbing at his neck, underarms, stomach and feet. Tears pooled in Patrick’s green eyes and his face turned a postbox red as he continued screaming for mercy and giggling. Downstairs, Henry could hear movement from Josephine - obviously she was wondering why her only son was screaming like that. Hopefully she wouldn’t come up there and ruin all their fun.
‘H-h..hahaha- Henry! S-stop! Puh- hahaha… Puh-lease! I think I’m gonna be sic-’
‘Hey, what’s this?’ Henry asked, now laying directly on top of Patrick, squashing both him and the poor teddy bear. From in between the slither of space between the mattress and the bed frame, Henry could see the corner of something poking out. It was quite fat for a wad of paper and it was folded up to take less space. Henry guessed it was a comic book and slid it out before Patrick could say no. Henry looked at the front cover and dropped the magazine all of a sudden, spluttering with pained laughter. This wasn’t a comic book! It was something far more for adult tastes, and Henry wondered how hard Patrick had to search to find this kind of magazine. No newsagent in Derry sold homo-erotic materials - especially to minors! ‘Wow… Patrick!’
‘Give it back, Henry!’ Patrick yelled, still trapped underneath him for the umpteenth time this summer, ‘You… You can’t read this - it’s private!’ His older friend saw an almost desperate look in his eyes… but that didn’t mean he was going to let off so easily! Patrick’s face had turned back to beetroot-red and Henry was immensely satisfied with how uncomfortable he was making him feel. Shifting his weight so that Patrick became completely and utterly trapped, Henry pinned his forearms on top of Patrick’s although to disable him from grabbing the magazine back.
‘I would… but actually…’ Henry paused, choosing his manipulative words carefully, ‘I want to read this now. Can I read it, Patrick? I know you’d like me to really.’
Patrick chose to say nothing. Instead, he watched impassively as Henry scanned the cover with his eyes. In this months issue, a young man (Patrick guessed he was in his early twenties) stood topless, flexing all his muscles to the camera. The photographer had managed to capture all the handsome, smooth crevices of his biceps and abs with the black and white print. Patrick knew this cover photo was his favourite by far. His plump lips were slightly parted and in perfect imitation of the magazine’s heart-throb, Elvis Presley. The man’s hair was dark and slicked back in a DA just like Henry’s, only neater and more styled.
Henry glanced at Patrick just to see his reaction. The greaser wasn’t really embarrassed to look at this kind of imagery - after all, he saw topless men all the time, both at school when they were getting changed for PE and at home when his dad had people helping him on the farm during summer. Patrick however was a different case. An almost hyperactive smile formed on his lips and Henry knew that could either mean he was feeling ashamed, or he was about to do something they’d both regret. Smirking and turning to the next page, Henry wasn’t expecting the magazine to be so filled with greasers. The next page displayed another young man laying on the hood of a car, half naked wearing only his thin, white and flimsy underpants. Henry choked up laughing, especially seeing as the guy had hair exactly like Victor’s!
‘That’s enough, Henry!’ Patrick warned, suddenly taking on the tone of a school teacher.
Henry glared down at him, seemingly forgetting what kind of magazine he was reading; ‘No. Fuck off, Patrick. I’m reading this whether you like it or not!’
Patrick watched as Henry studied the next picture. His brow furrowed. Patrick hoped he hadn’t seen the one he thought he was looking at… That one would be way too humiliating. Nope. Seemingly it was a different one that was less revealing. Lowering the magazine down slightly to his eye level, Patrick saw the one he had glared at was actually the picture of the two greaser boys kissing open-mouthed. Patrick’s lips twisted into a smug smirk remembering the few amount of times he’d just managed to steal a kiss from Henry.
Carefully flicking the glossy pages, the next picture almost made Henry drop the magazine on Patrick’s face. ‘Alright,’ Henry huffed, feeling all the colour rise to his cheeks, ‘I’ve had enough now… That was fucking disturbing… I’ll have nightmares for months now all thanks to you!’
‘You liked it,’ Patrick said forcefully, his face suddenly going emotionless. Henry scoffed in reply. ‘Oh, yeah, Hockstetter. How can you tell?’
‘Well… For one…’ Patrick pointed in between Henry’s legs. Henry went a dull red, suddenly wishing he’d never taunted Patrick like that. Patrick always knew how to get his revenge… ‘And secondly, you wouldn’t stop reading it even when I told you not to,’ he finished smugly, his expression finally deciding on complacency.
It was at that moment that Josephine Hockstetter decided to bring her son and his friend some snacks. She figured they’d be ravenous after playing baseball out in the park all day. What she didn’t know was that they actually went down to Sundae’s for the shock of their life, and that was the reason they came in sweating so much. Not because they were playing baseball… She should have known really - Patrick didn’t have an athletic bone in his body. ‘Hey, boys,’ she cooed, entering her son’s room without knocking. Their family had a no secrets policy, you see. That was installed not long after Avery died just in case. She paused with her manicured hand still on the door handle, obviously surprised at what she was seeing. Being a rather ditsy woman, Josephine rubbed her eyes and gave a little unbelieving giggle. ‘Um, what are you guys doing?’ she asked, her tone not quite as sweet as usual.
Henry had to admit what she was seeing must have looked rather suspicious. After all, he was still lying flush on top of Patrick, his arms folded and his chin resting on Patrick’s chest. Patrick himself had his legs spread apart where Henry’s abdomen lay against his own, and clenched in her son’s trembling hands was a homo-erotic magazine that she had no idea where on earth he could have found it.
‘Is that what all the screaming was about…?’ she enquired, her expression slightly mystified, slightly fazed. Josephine’s lipsticked mouth looked like she had sucked a lemon.
Both Henry and Patrick found they couldn’t quite explain what was going on. What both boys knew, however, was that they would be in deep, deep trouble when she noticed what they’d been reading. Instead of being honest, Bowers swiftly rolled off Patrick, collecting the magazine and sitting on it in one smooth movement. He was wearing that same fake smile that Josephine would see so often at the clinic.
Mrs Hockstetter placed her hands on hips; ‘What was that magazine boys?’ with an almost innocent tone she then chirruped, ‘Can I see?’
Patrick felt his world turning back to grey again - he sighed, shrugging his shoulders in a ‘suit yourself’ gesture despite the firm poker face he was displaying. Besides him, Henry visibly tensed up, his bony elbows digging right into Patrick’s sides, reminding him rightfully how much strife he’d be in later with his father if Patrick’s mom ratted him out. Narrowing his eyes, Henry slid the magazine from under his legs and handed it to the woman, obviously not very happy with his current situation.
‘Thank you, Henry.’
Henry said nothing and kept his eyes lowered. In all honesty he felt too embarrassed to look her in the eye after what just happened. Reminding himself that it could be a whole lot worse, Henry then risked a glance at Mrs Hockstetter’s face. He’d seen her earlier this morning when he’d dropped by Patrick’s house to take him out for dinner; instead of her typical motherly beam he’d been rewarded with then, she was now wearing a worried frown, her eyes flickering disconcertingly over each page as she wondered why her son would have hold of this magazine. When she’d stopped after what felt like an eternity to the boys, finally getting the the final and most sensual picture, Mrs Hockstetter closed the bimonthly with a shuddering gasp. Henry and Patrick exchanged a quick glance.
‘Why do you have this, Patrick?’ she then asked, her tone melodramatic and shaky with a mother’s natural impulse to worry. Patrick could see she was close to tears and mentally begged her not to cry in front of Henry.
Before Patrick could respond, Henry had already cut across, ‘That’s not his, ma’am. It’s um, actually mine.’ Despite being an absolute menace at school, Henry found he could have really good manners at the best of times. That was all part and parcel of having a true psychopathic personality confused with his day-to-day personality. ‘So don’t have a bird at Patrick, this is all my fault…’
Josephine stared.Patrick blinked.
Henry couldn’t stand being there any longer. He wanted to simply run away but something was holding him back. Was it the terror he had faced in Sundae’s? Was it the urge to suddenly scream that the magazine was all Patrick’s, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with him?
‘Well… Thank you for being honest, sweetheart…’
‘Fine,’ was all that Henry said in reply - and with that he left. Patrick warily watched him cross the road from his bedroom window, secretly admiring him for standing up for him like that and taking all the blame. Josephine didn’t mention the magazine again after Henry had left and instead asked Patrick what he’d like for tea. Feeling miserable, Patrick numbly mumbled that he’d like fried chicken with some fries and locked himself in his room until his father came home from work.