Eddie’s heart flipped as he lay sprawled on the ground. He wasn’t quite sure if he was feeling particularly happy, sad, or anxious - but somehow he felt although something heavy were sat on his chest, suffocating him slowly. His eyes were glued together with something coppery and sticky, and his limbs felt like they were on an entirely different planet altogether. Giving small, shaky gasps as if he were a woman in labour, or perhaps having an asthma attack, he whimpered as he found he couldn’t open his eyes to see where he was. This hadn’t been part of the plan! Why was I stupid as to run away? I should have known it would’ve failed! God, now my step-dad’s probably killed me and this is Hell - where I belong for thinking such evil thoughts about him. Mom always told me I’d go to Hell for thinking bad thoughts. Well, I guess I’ll meet my step-dad when he eventually dies.
As Eddie couldn’t see his surroundings, he allowed himself to find his way around by his other senses. The scent of stale cotton candy washed over him, and it was then he realised how hungry he was. Stomach growling, Eddie attempted to sit up from his broken-doll position. No such luck. Eddie’s fingers gave little twitches as his frayed nerves and broken bones screamed with agony; resisting screams that would alert his presence, he clamped a clammy, shattered hand against his slack jaw, fractured bones grinding. He felt broken all over as though he’d taken a stumble down one hundred flights of steps. God, he’s really fucked me up this time. But where am I?
His brown eyes flew open in the darkness, brimming with tears and sparkling with a new found insanity. All of a sudden he found himself choking back a manic laugh as the blood - his blood - ran down his face. His severely deformed arm found it’s own way to his backpack and rested itself against his step-father’s -30-30. At that moment Eddie vowed to himself that he’d shoot his step-father on first sight. Surely he’d come back to finish his job killing me, just like he did with my baby brother?
Tuning in even more carefully to his surroundings, Eddie could hear a steady dripping, dropping sound. The liquid landed on something metallic with a small ‘ploosh!’ every two seconds or so. He guessed his surroundings as either his step-father’s garage, or some small outdoor nook and cranny out in the pine forests. That would make sense for the pitch-blackness if it were night time, but why on earth can I smell cotton candy? I really wish I could see right now- I’m cold and scared. My body really hurts. This must be what Dorsey felt like when step-father killed him. Now I’m going to die the same way… I’ll die of blood-loss. From being beaten to death with step-father’s hammer. Why did I deserve this? Mom was so stupid to marry this man. Didn’t she know he was mad?
Again, his stomach growled miserably with the thought of cotton candy. How long had it been since he last ate? The last time Eddie could remember eating was when he was packing a bag to run away with - he had stuffed two Tootsie Rolls, three sets of candy buttons and five red vines into the folds of his spare clothes - and had eaten them all at once upon entering the Memorial Park gates. Lamenting himself inwardly, Eddie attempted to crawl onto his belly and scrabble in the darkness for his backpack. If it weren’t for the agony crawling up and down his limbs, Eddie thought he could’ve found his pack a hundred times easier. Eventually his left calf skimmed the scratchy polyester of his backpack strap. Giving blind fumbles in the dark, Eddie attacked the zipper and groped his way inside for something to help him see.
He hissed curse words under his shaking, close to tears voice as the match he was attempting to light got blown out by a sudden draft. In surprise, he dropped his burnt-out match stick and let out a small sob. His own voice echoed all around him, bouncing of the walls of the cave and repeating and over and over. Somewhere in the dark, Eddie was sure he could hear murmured taunts of other children - laughing at him for being so childish. Mingled fear of both the dark and his step-father caught up to him and he drew his knees back up to his chest. In his foetal position, Eddie felt just a little better. Well, his agonised stomach did anyway. The rest of his body was currently giving him silent screams of protest.
Tears collected in his eyes and rolled backwards down to the hard ground, collecting on his ears and lashes. The cold salt water made his scratched-up face sting with faint pain. Eddie scrunched up his face in effort not to sob loudly like a little baby - Henry would make fun of him otherwise. Why am I worrying about what Henry would think?! He’s not even here, but God, I wish he was! He’d know how to get out of this situation. He was so brave…
Turning over on his left slightly in aid of a more comfortable position, Eddie’s hand fell into something icy cold and wet. Along with that water came a terrible smell. It was an awful stench that smelt somewhat like a blocked storm drain. Images of bloated corpses and the Creature From The Black Lagoon danced inside Eddie’s mind, driving his knees even closer to his face. Right now, he really wished he could be at home watching TV with his mom, instead of half-dead and trapped in a stinky little tunnel where his step-dad would find him and murder him. Suddenly, he had an idea; to follow the stream of water would perhaps lead to the outside world? If I can crawl along the same direction as the stream then maybe I’ll end up somewhere outside the Barrens? Then, I can run to the cops and say my step-father’s tried to murder me and bury me alive inside the sewers… As if anybody would believe that! Spitting disgustedly to the floor and adjusting to his hands and knees, Eddie let out a wince as his legs almost gave way. Trailing miserably along the floor although he were only a toddler, he spent what felt like a decade attempting to navigate the horrific underground world of the sewers. As he saw some kind of light in the oh-so far away distance, circus music began to ring teasingly in his ears. Surely he must be imagining things? What kind of sewer plays circus music? What kind of sewer sells cotton candy?!
Eddie stopped in his tracks. His eyes froze with a pure white-hot terror. A whimper escalated in his throat but he found himself too stricken with terror to even voice it. There in the dim light of the sewer’s tunnel was a clown grinning from ear to ear. Clutched in his claw-like gloved hands were a cluster of balloons not unlike those you’d see in a circus. Eddie found himself horribly defenceless, broken and on his hands and knees whereas the clown-man just stood there swaying, it’s jagged and crooked teeth bared in a sick, bloodied smile.
‘Hey there, bucko!’ the clown screeched, yellow eyes glinting like a cat’s in the dark. ‘Like it down here? We float down here… We ALL float! And now you’re here - you’ll float too!!’
Eddie’s eyes bulged.
‘We all float!’the clown repeated, eyes ablaze and wild with fury.
A scream rose in Eddie’s throat, but he felt to drained and almost fatigued with fear.He wasn’t quite sure if he were going mad, or if he were in Hell… or even if this clown was his step-father in some terrible nightmare.
The clown continued, his voice now echoing powerfully all around, ‘If it’s not to your liking, Eddie Corcoran, it could always change.’
‘Hunh?’Eddie slurred, his jaw slack with numb terror. Beads of sweat were now standing out on his paled forehead, many of them falling down into the stream of excrement in his effort to save himself from collapsing.
As if the clown had never even been there - only a mirage - Eddie found himself gazing glassily at the darkened concrete wall of the sewer pipe, hands still trailing in the filthy water. Steadily, he blinked. No, no, I’m just being stupid, Ed. There was no clown here! What the fuck would a clown be doing in the sewers?! You’re just hallucinating from lack of food… Or… or driving yourself mad with worry about the step-father. There’s no such thing as monsters!
Eddie’s stomach gave another growl in the dark. Sighing, forgetting about the clown, and maybe feeling a little faint, Eddie unzipped his pack again. He desperately hoped he hadn’t eaten all his candy on the way. Although, he had to admit he had a bit of a sweet-tooth. Unfortunately Eddie’s backpack was empty except for some stupid, old pairs of underpants! Letting out an angry groan of despair, Eddie clutched at his hair and threw his backpack across the space of the tunnel. Somewhere nearby it landed with a rather loud splash.
As if to taunt the boy, the smell of candy floss became overpowering. Everywhere Eddie could smell the candy; soft on his skin, in the filthy water, tangled in his hair, being carried in the air… He felt he would go mad if he stayed there any longer. Yet he was lost. Attempting a weak spin on his knees, Eddie was humiliated to find himself salivating at the thought of the cotton candy; his stomach cramped up and his head span at the very thought of leaving it alone. How long can I survive under here? Better question yet, exactly how long have I already been here?
The darkness rippled in his eyes, and Eddie slumped to the ground, his face half-submerged under the water’s filth.
With a blink, Eddie’s eyes came back into focus. Somewhat, he wished they hadn’t. He was still stuck in these nightmarish sewers! Mixed scents filled his nostrils and churned his stomach. Thankfully he wasn’t hungry anymore - the smell of the raw sewage had fixed that.
God I want to go home…
‘Mom! Mom!’ Eddie flinched from his nightmare, eyes rimmed with fat tears and half his face still coated with dried blood. He slapped a dazed hand to his cheek and realised with a bitterness that he was still underneath Derry. In his dream, Eddie was back home with his mother and stepfather. It was so awful that Eddie felt himself ashamedly breakdown and cry. His stepfather had been beating on his mom, and he could do nothing to stop him. Zilch. Nada. He was dead. How could a dead boy stop his father from beating on his mother? It was too late. Eddie was already gone and forgotten. Of course they’d made and raised other kids - and who could blame them? I was a terrible son. But none of them could stop Zack either… Truth be told I don’t even think they cared like I do. …Did.
I hope they’re happy now I’m dead. I hope they’re happy stepfather killed me. I deserved it. Really, truly I did. I couldn’t stick up for mom. Fuck - I couldn’t even stick up for myself - Zack was just too strong… But, I wonder if mom’s looking for me? She didn’t look for baby Dorsey. The cops found him out in our back yard. Shows how much she cares, huh? Wait… What am I talking about? I’m not really dead! Eddie, you’re just being silly and overly sensitive! Show some common sense.
‘Well,’ Eddie announced loudly to the empty sewers, ‘I don’t care if she cares. She’s nothing to me anymore.’
Somewhere along the pipes Eddie could hear laughing. He decided he was going mad.
‘Mommy, if you’re there - I’m having the best sleep I’ve ever had! Six feet underground!’
More laughing… God, what are these sewers? It’s more of a circus or a mental asylum than an underground system!
‘Hey, Zack. Come and get me! I’m waiting for you to finish me off, you pussy!’
Footsteps splashed out of Eddie’s line of vision. His heart began to palpitate, worrying it actually was his stepfather coming to kill him. ‘Daddy? A-are you there?’
As sudden as a gunshot, and probably as loud as one, came a laugh. It was a child’s laugh - gleeful and innocent, reminding Eddie of hot summer afternoons, ice cream sundaes and making mud pies at kindergarten. He shot up from his broken position, eyes darting in alarm from left to right, up and down. Who else could be lost in these sewers? Doesn’t sound like anybody I know.
‘Hello. Who is that?’ Eddie called, disgusted at how weedy and girly his voice had just sounded.
The laughing stopped. A little too quickly in Eddie’s opinion. It was almost eerie, the sudden silence. With a sudden draught, Eddie’s heart skipped a beat and he almost laughed with relief when he saw who had laughed. Still, it didn’t make the situation any less weird.
Two boys (Eddie guessed their ages at either five or six and two or three) were stood side by side, hands clasped and grinning although it were Christmas. One wore a shiny yellow raincoat, and looking closer, it seemed he only had one arm, and that was the one the other boy was holding. Eddie shuddered. He had ruddy, healthy-looking cheeks dusted with light freckles and brunette hair hidden beneath a matching yellow rain hat. His friend, it seemed, reminded Eddie of somebody a lot, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on who it was. He was a few years younger than the one-armed boy and beamed up at him although he were his older brother. Their small hands knotted together reminded Eddie of his younger sibling, Dorsey, and he felt himself swallow harshly. Now was no time to be blubbering!
‘Umm uh,’ began Eddie, suddenly lost for words. What do you say to somebody in this situation?! ‘Are you boys lost?’ The two boys glanced at each other cheekily and the youngest one with two arms snickered, pasting his spare hand across his mouth. ‘Boy, I sure am!’ Eddie added, wanting to seem more informal and approachable to the children. They might be scared, Eddie figured.
Instead of saying anything, the eldest gave a shy, almost mysterious smile. To Eddie, the smile clearly said ‘Not telling. You have to guess! Play our game, Eddie! Play our guessing game, it’s fun!’
Annoyed, ravenous and in a lot of pain, Eddie felt all these things add up and force him to explode; ‘Look, kid. Just tell me where the fucking exit is to this looney bin. I’ll give you a dollar.’
The youngest tittered, and Eddie finally realised exactly who the boy reminded him of. Patrick Hockstetter. A bit stupid really, Patrick didn’t have a brother as far as I know.
Still, they ignored him in a sly silence. Both were smiling coyly although they knew something Eddie didn’t, and Eddie was just too stupid a big kid to know it. Tears sprung to Eddie’s eyes as he considered begging. He opened his mouth to bark an order - after all, when you were that age, being the eldest gave you a certain kind of authority - and all that would come out was a mousy squeak and howls of sadness. Both boys smiles widened. The one-armed boy looked although he wanted to burst out laughing, and very nearly did if it weren’t for the youngest boy speaking; ‘We don’t tell cry babies,’ he taunted, waggling his finger in jest.
‘Hehehe!’ the eldest giggled, again reminding Eddie of Dorsey, ‘Yeah~ Act like your age, Eddie!’
Eddie was surprised that the boy knew his name. So surprised that he stopped weeping. He couldn’t ever recall seeing this boy before, yet, like the other, he seemed just so familiar! Maybe I know his older sibling or something?
The pair turned to leave - ‘Wait!’ Eddie hollered, his voice echoing all around, ‘Stay with me please!’ His dark, wet eyes widened in the dark as the two boys turned to him. He saw something, that in all honesty, he really did not want to see. Ever.
Those boys were as dead as he was.
A kind of smile formed on Eddie’s face. It was murky, yet all so clear. So muddled, yet almost logical in Eddie’s deeply confused mindset. The sewers was a circus. Not the kind where you’d sit down in some grand tent where the ringmaster would introduce daring, death-defying tightrope walkers and fearless animal tamers - no - not that kind of circus. This was just pure craziness. The kind of circus where every act was staged for disaster and all sideshows ended in certain death. In a way, Eddie supposed he knew it already. Derry was a dangerous, dark, poisoned little town filled with shitty people who were filled with shitty hate about shitty things.
Could these dead boys truly exist? Who knew? Eddie knew, and the answer was almost certainly yes. Anything could happen in Derry. He’d seen it all before in one of those double creature features he’d seen with Henry Bowers. The zombies had taken over and only wanted one thing - brains.
But that was crazy… Eddie decided he was getting too paranoid again and simply decided to ignore the boys - they were just stupid little kids, and perhaps it was the constant darkness that had led to fearing these kids.
‘We’re not going to eat you,’ Came a sweet voice from somewhere in the sewers. Choking, Eddie thought it sounded something like Veronica Grogan used to. But that would be absurd.
A girl stepped out from behind the two boys, long hair swinging with exaggerated movement, arms crossed behind her back.
‘Hi, Eddie,’ simpered Veronica shyly, ‘It’s been a while since I last saw you.’
Forgetting about the two ‘un-dead’ boys, forgetting that he was lost in the pitch black, smelly underground system of Derry, forgetting that Veronica’s mauled, dead body had been found just a few weeks earlier, forgetting that said body disappeared soon after the crime, nowhere to be seen but with a puddle of blood left behind - Eddie could only think how lucky he was to see her again. ‘Ronnie!’ He cried, almost going to hug the girl.
‘No, don’t hug me. Don’t call me ‘Ronnie’. It’s ‘Veronica’ to you.’ Veronica snapped, suddenly irritated about how forward her classmate was being right now. ‘I don’t want to be touched by somebody like you.’
Eddie’s eyes narrowed. Why was Veronica being such a bitch all of a sudden? Didn’t she know that he had almost died and could use all the kindness he could get? She never used to be so snappy, and that was one of the many reasons Eddie had felt himself falling for her. Now he could see her in a better light, he saw that her yellow and white gingham dress was torn and muddied with something a deep dark brown. That’s probably why, he thought. Nothing annoys Veronica more that having her clothes ruined. She was prissy like that.
‘Well, umm, okay. Sorry,’Eddie found himself apologising, feeling dumb in front of his crush, ‘Well, um, do you perhaps know where we are, Veronica? I’ve been lost for a while now and these stupid kids won’t tell me the way out.’
Veronica smiled. Oh god, not her too.
‘How cute!’ Veronica taunted, twirling a strand of hair around her forefinger, ‘Tell me, Eddie. Don’t you think if I knew the way out, I’d still be in this horrible place?’
Eddie said nothing. He felt too stupid. A minute passed, then finally he said something just to break the giddy silence creeping between the four, ‘Well, how long have you been here then?’
‘Weeks. I just can’t escape. It’s useless.’ Veronica sighed, tossing a sheet of brunette hair over her shoulder. ‘I want to leave. I want my daddy. But, I’ve been wondering round for days on end, and I just can’t find the exit. It’s a labyrinth in here.’
Eddie felt butterflies in his stomach. ‘I could help you… If you want, that is.’
Veronica blinked, unsure whether to trust the boy or not ‘Fine,’ She mumbled, ‘Just don’t be mean to the kids.’
In all honesty, Veronica knew exactly what had happened to end her up in the sewers - she just wanted to keep the game going was all. Hey, if she didn’t have Greta Bowie to mess around with, who else would she have to wind up? If she were to be completely honest, Veronica would admit she quite likes to see Eddie all anxious over her. She knew he had a crush on her; she knew he would do anything to please her and get in her good books, but what she didn’t know was that Eddie himself was in a particularly foul mood at this moment in time. He was on the brink of a breakdown, and not even himself knew that.
A few hours passed of useless fumbling around in the dark, muffled swearing and snarky comments. If Eddie was tired before, now he was positively dead on his feet.
‘If you don’t mind me asking, exactly why did you runaway, Veronica?’
‘Runaway?’ Veronica laughed a chime-like laugh, ‘Why would I run away, Eddie? I loved my life above the sewers.’
‘So… You didn’t run away then?’ Eddie whispered, confused, ‘Then what happened?’
Veronica grinned, her eyes glinting mischievously in the dark. They were a baby blue, and Eddie thought they looked both intelligent and calculating, although she was keeping something from him just to be malicious. Despite the beautiful colour, Veronica’s eyes were also frosty and harsh. She shook her head grimly.
‘God!’ Eddie exclaimed, just about stopping himself from stomping his foot in irritation, ‘Why won’t any of you guys tell me anything?! I’m so confused!’
Veronica kept her eyes trained on the dirty porcelain tunnel floor as she followed the path. Just then, Eddie thought he saw something a little more tender in her face. Was it sadness? Possibly.
‘I’m sorry, Eddie.’ She deadpanned, ‘It’s just… Pennywise. We aren’t supposed to tell you just yet.’ The two boys (which Eddie had forgotten about in his haste to greet Veronica) nodded their heads in agreement, each keeping close to Veronica’s side.
What’s Pennywise? Is she fucking mad?
‘I see. Okay then…’Eddie murmured, feeling rather put-out, ‘I won’t press for details then.’
‘Thank you,’Veronica said with a tight-lipped smile.’Y’know, I actually think you can be a gentleman sometimes, but don’t get too carried away with yourself.’ Eddie laughed - he wasn’t quite sure if that was a compliment or not. Perhaps it was a backhanded compliment?
Eddie felt so overjoyed with Veronica’s comment that he hadn’t noticed she had stopped directly in front of him. He stumbled into her, almost knocking her flying. She gave him a quick quizzical glare, then paused, hands on hips. Her brown hair was illuminated warmly in the sudden evening sun, casting four long shadows across the barren floor, painting the sky with shades of fiery red and filling Eddie with an amazing recovery of zest - finally, they were above ground. And God, Eddie was happy. He had never been so afraid of such a silly thing as the dark, even as a young child! But how long had he been there? He must have been out cold for some while before. Bit by bit, Eddie realised how selfish he’d been - Veronica must have been down there longer… She must have been so cold and lonely for weeks on end. How did she keep from going crazy? No wonder she was so short with me earlier. God, I’m such a jerk! I could’ve at least offered her my jacket!
Nobody said anything. Both pre-teens just took in the scenery, feeling relaxed and calm for the first time in some while. There was no noise, and nobody spoke. Only the sound of the stream trickling around their legs and the seabirds crying in the distance could be heard. The smell of the pines was fresh and welcome to Eddie. On any other day, he wouldn’t have enjoyed the scent, but after spending some age trapped in a tunnel smelling of sewage water, it was better than anything he’d ever smelt before. Eddie closed his eyes. Just to Veronica’s left, there was a flash of pale toffee brown - Veronica blinked - it was a doe! Never before had she seen something so beautiful. Giving Eddie a small nudge with her elbow, she pointed him in it’s direction with an eager smile. The doe crept past them timidly, then stopped frozen in their path, bright, dewy eyes wide with fear of the human race. It seemed to tremble like a leaf caught in wind, then her eyes connected with the children. There was a crack somewhere nearby and she was gone as fleetingly as she’d arrived.
‘This must be a good luck charm,’ Veronica whispered, beaming genuinely, ‘I think we’re going to be so lucky right now.’
Eddie turned to her, sharing her excitement. ‘She was beautiful,’ he agreed. For a moment he paused. His lower lip trembled, and then; ‘I’m so glad you’re not dead, Veronica.’
‘I-I said, ‘I’m so glad you’re not dead, Veronica.’’Eddie grimaced, suddenly feeling uneasy. Am I going mad, or does something seem not quite right?
Again, what was with that secretive smile?
‘You heard me,’ Eddie shot back defensively, ‘And I’m not saying it again. It’s embarrassing.’
Veronica’s simper didn’t waver once, ‘Oh, well that’s very sweet of you. But…’ suddenly she burst out in a fit of the giggles. Eddie’s heart started sinking and he broke out in a cold sweat. God, she really has gone crazy…
‘But,’ she repeated, louder this time, ‘Eddie!’ she cried, eyes wide, ‘I am dead!’
Oh God! I’m stuck here with a mad woman! She’s gone fucking mental!
‘Veronica,’ Eddie said in his best psychiatrist voice. His tone was calming and clearly stated, “speak to me. You can tell me anything, you know.” ‘As far as I can see, you’re pretty much alive and kicking. I really don’t think you’re dead.’ He added a charming giggle for good measure.
Veronica’s face fell. Eddie couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl - she’d obviously been lost down there in the dark for weeks and had gone insane.
‘Do you think I’m really stupid?’ Veronica hissed, face scrunching up in annoyance.
‘W-well, you’re not stupid,’ Eddie said, playing his words carefully, ‘I think you’re confused. And I can understand th-’
‘You’re wrong!’ the girl snarled, stomping her 4-cm high-heeled shoe, ‘I really am dead, and you’re just ignorant!’
With that, Eddie really had no idea what to say, what to do. Briefly he wondered how Mrs Reichs would react in this kind of situation, or Isabelle, the guidance councillor’s really pretty secretary.
He stared at Veronica, his dark eyes searching and at the same time, attempting to soothe. She was obviously very upset, and almost on the verge of being hysterical. Veronica had been wondering these empty black tunnels of Hell far longer than he had. Heck! She’d probably been here ever since the day she’d ‘died’. Just what could have happened to the poor girl?
In the sunsets warmth, Eddie noticed how feeble and skinny she’d gotten. Her skin was both paper white and paper thin, and veins stood out in her temple. Her eyes looked shrunken in their sockets, but there was no way Veronica Grogan would ever cry - she had pride!
‘C’mon. Let’s get outta here, you need to go home and rest.’Eddie said, smoothing her hair behind her ears, forgetting how she hated to be touched, ‘Your parents are probably worried sick.’ That last sentence was a lie - the Grogan family had already had a funeral, and a small casket with a bouquet of English roses and a picture of Veronica was buried - there was no body, just a lot of blood and a pair of underwear identified by laundry mark as property of Veronica Grogan.
When it seemed Veronica was frozen to the spot, Eddie made as if to grab her hand - ‘What are you doing?’ she asked, regaining her composure, eyes bright with confusion.
‘I’m taking you home, silly. You live up near all those big lardy-dar houses don’t you?’
Veronica’s face fell again, and Eddie’s heart felt crushed with sadness.
‘Why would I want to go home? It’s wonderful here!’ She yelled, grinning from ear to ear. With a little skip and a curtsy, she bounced back into the mouth of the tunnel. Her petticoats ruffled in the wind, and her waist-length hair was carried with along with it. Veronica Grogan was beautiful, no doubt, but she was screwy.
Eddie Corcoran sighed; ‘Fine, suit yourself, Ronnie. I’m going home. Please be safe here, and do think about going back home sometime - if I were your daddy, I’d be so, so worried about you.’ He turned his back on her, and set off home. But don’t worry, Eddie wouldn’t really leave her to struggle all by herself - as soon as got home the first thing he would do would be to call the police and tell them he’d just found a missing person out in the barrens.
‘It’s ‘Veronica’ not ‘Ronnie’!’ came an angry voice from ten feet away. Eddie laughed humorlessly.
Veronica watched impassively as her ex-classmate turned his back on her. Her lower lip trembled as she stomped her foot again in a sudden temper. How dare he just barge in here and declare her crazy?! Veronica wasn’t pleased - in fact, she would be in a sour mood for the rest of the day. Sadly, she didn’t have anybody to take it out on. Georgie Denbrough and Avery Hockstetter were already gone. Turning heel and splashing back into the sewer tunnel, even more mud caking against her legs and staining her dress, Veronica decided to get back to her friends. The two little boys were the only real companions she’d made down there. Everybody else was a little cold and distant, almost although they ruled the place; Veronica supposed a lot like herself, but that suited her just fine. If they wanted to be all funny about it then that was just peachy… But God, she missed Greta Bowie! The young girl half wondered if her friend missed her as they were always at odds, always arguing, but in the end she supposed they were actually great friends. She debated what Greta was doing right now (judging by the time she was either brushing her hair 100 times before she went to bed, or playing on her mother’s rocking chair, reading by sunset on her back porch) and whether she missed her as much as Veronica missed her.
Shaking her head miserably of the memories and carrying on with her seemingly endless journey, Veronica traced the edge of the tunnel with her forefinger and gave a shaky smile. It won’t be so bad forever! Hey, maybe Greta will be here soon? It’s pretty pathetic having a six and a two year old as friends. They’re more like little, annoying brothers. After all, they can’t talk about boys or party dresses!
The further she got in the sewers, the more the scenery changed.From ebony to steel and eventually a rainbow variety of colours, the crumbling claustrophobic walls transformed. Almost like a picture book, almost like a horror movie, the sewers could be anything you wanted - it all depended on your frame of mind. To Veronica, it was although she lived in Cinderella’s castle; for the narrow pitch black entrance morphed into something beautiful, something magical. Turrets, bunting and baroque-esque balconies sprouted from the ever widening walls and maze-like tunnels reminding Veronica of the time she went to Versailles with her parents. Purples, pinks, pastel blues and white erupted from the base of the walls, spreading and painting the place with colour from top to bottom. Veronica’s jaw went slack. She had never seen anything like this happen before. Not in reality, anyway. Pondering if she’d somehow slipped outside the sewers and hit her head rather hard, Veronica stopped to catch her breath. It was simply gorgeous but the girl couldn’t help but feel something was wrong... Her vision was blurry and everything felt although it was being viewed through a gauze veil. As her eyes fell in and out of focus, Veronica could distantly recognise that somebody was watching her closely.
At the sudden sound of music, Veronica flinched back to the real world, her tearful eyes wide with fear. She wished Eddie was still here. Sure, he was stupid… Sure, he was poor - but he had made her feel safe, even just for a little while. The music sounded either very European or very circus-y to Veronica. She racked her brains back to those many boring music lessons at Derry Elementary and could recognise an accordion and a xylophone somewhere in there. Straining her eyes to see where the melody could be coming from, Veronica knew it was all in vain. She knew deep down she was going as mad as Henry Bowers used to be… Either that, or the place was haunted! The girl kicked herself for thinking that, suddenly becoming very afraid.
‘Georgie?’ she called half-heartedly, simply hearing multiples of herself chanting through the structure. ‘Avery?’
Giggling rang maddeningly through the sewers, bouncing off the walls and vibrating through the place, causing Veronica to jump in surprise. She still wasn’t properly used to this place. Letting out a little cry as a hand fell on her shoulder, Veronica’s eyes darted to the left to see a gloved hand pressing against her. She whipped around, eyes wider than ever before and caught sight of a clown hovering less than two metres from her face, it’s ghastly hand detached from it’s body. Veronica clutched her paling face in pure white-hot terror, not quite sure if her mind was playing tricks on her.
I don’t want to be insane, her mind raced. I don’t want to be insane. I don’t want to be insane. I don’t want to be insane! I don’t want to be insane! I don’t want to be insane!!
The clown gave a roar of high-pitched laughter with sickening, childish glee, it’s eyes almost luminescent in the sudden darkness and it’s face mere inches away from Veronica’s. Like a candle being blown out, the clown faded away into a smoke screen.
Hello there, Veronica! Veronica could hear a voice although she wasn’t entirely sure if it was just in her head or if she was actually listening to somebody speaking. We all float down here, and now you do too! The voice was more of a shriek-ish gargle than like any human voice Veronica had ever heard before. Just the sound of it made her skin burst out in goosebumps.
‘Who are you?’
I am Pennywise the Dancing Clown. I am eternal child.
‘Oh…’Veronica wasn’t entirely certain of what to say next. Sure she was terrified. She couldn’t even see who she was speaking too and half wondered if she really had gone insane.
‘Well, why am I here?’
You can’t escape, child. Even if you find the exit you won’t ever want to leave.
Annoyed that the clown hadn’t even answered her question, Veronica pressed on; ‘How do you know I won’t want to leave? You don’t know what I’m thinking.’
A terrible choking laugh rang through Veronica’s ears. Oh, but I know everything you’re thinking. I know everything! There is nothing I don’t know about you! This statement gave Veronica the chills. She decided to say nothing after that.
It was true that something down here had stopped Veronica from leaving... That was what disturbed her most of all. Not only that, but Veronica was finding her family to be nothing more than a distant memory. Eddie had said that they’d missed her something awful - Eddie had said they were worried about her; what a lie. How could he be so cruel? Had her family even bothered looking for her? Veronica doubted it as much as she doubted Beverly Marsh was a secret millionaire.
‘You still haven’t answered my question, Pennywise. Why am I down here?’
More freakish laughter. This time it made her feel belittled and stupid rather than intimidated. ‘Tell me!’
Oh what a poor little rich girl… So sad and lonely despite her luxuries. Poor little tyke had no true friends, she was only forced to be with Greta Bowie at her mother’s Ladies Club… How sad for you!
Veronica’s cheeks flushed with anger. ‘This place isn’t as great as you think! It’s real disgusting and such a cheap knockoff from the real Versailles!’
Suddenly the girl wished she hadn’t said that. As fast as the scenery had changed earlier, the paint came seeping back into the walls, leaving the world in black and white once again. The turrets exploded; the bunting got torn down in a sudden gust, the balconies crumbled and faded, landing in the murky stream with a large splash. Surrounded by complete darkness, Veronica wondered where the ghastly clown had disappeared to. The rotten, dank smell of the sewers filled her nostrils and made her gag as sewer water gushed around her legs. Slowly the water rose to the middle of her calves, forcing her to raise her dress a little to keep it from getting even more wet and filthy. Losing her navigation, the young girl dizzily waded her way over to the ceramic tube walls. It was so hard to keep her balance as the water was running so fast. Small lumps of something pale and cold kept hitting her legs and getting tangled with the hem of her dress. Wondering what they were, Veronica scooped one up in her cupped hands and cleared the muck from the lump with her fingertips.
‘Oh! Oh my goodness!’ She dropped the lump in horror. It was a lump of flesh! Vomit ran through the girls fingers as she heaved, hands covering her paled face. Veronica just couldn’t believe this place. Apparently there was no way out either… She’d found the exit earlier with Eddie but why hadn’t she been able to leave? It was almost although somebody had taken over her mind as she stood in the tunnels mouth side-by-side with Eddie Corcoran. It didn’t take a genius to realise who. Pennywise. Veronica wished she hadn’t ever gone to the corner shop that day back in early May. That day had changed everything - one minute she was buying ice cream from some old man in the store - the next, she was lying face-first in filth, her dress completely ruined and hopelessly lost. Best to just suck up to this Pennywise character and do whatever he says. He could be dangerous. He sounds as mad as Henry Bowers!
With Veronica, pride always breaks through her mother’s mentality to be impassive and sweet to everybody. Veronica was no doormat. When Patrick Hockstetter pulled her hair during Algebra, she had yelled at him to stop and caused a commotion with stupid Mrs Reichs. When Trashmouth loudly called her a ‘rich-bitch’ in front of Beverly Marsh, causing her to giggle like the little piglet she was, did you expect Veronica Grogan to simply smile and nod? That time when Bowers had given Greta an Indian-burn, Veronica had very nearly kicked him where it hurts. All of those times Veronica had proved to both herself and her parents that she could be independent and stand up for herself when others weren’t quite so kind and gentle. Today she felt as submissive and powerless as a rag doll. Pennywise had gotten deep into her psyche and Veronica found she would do anything he said, anything at all. Even if it’s just to stay alive in this dark and frightening place.
My, my… This certainly is no place for a princess like you, Ronnie.
‘Don’t… don’t call me ‘Ronnie’. I hate that.’
Ah, but don’t you secretly love it when Eddie Corcoran calls you that?
Veronica flushed at this lie, ‘No way! Not at all!’
It was all silent for a minute and then… Aren’t you lonely down here all lonesome on your ownsome? Veronica could almost hear the amusement in the clown’s high-pitched wheeze.
‘I don’t think so. I have Georgie and Avery if I want them.’
Veronica couldn’t even see her hand in front of her face anymore, it was that dark. Briefly she knew it was night outside, guessing the time from 10pm-1 or 2am. As her sense of sight was now disabled by her permanent state of darkness, Veronica found she could no longer move about the place without getting hurt. Was this what it was like to go mad? Veronica sometimes heard of some horrible cases in the newspapers where some poor girl or woman had been kidnapped by a mad-man - forced to live forever in constant darkness in a small box or coffin, taken out every once in a while to be tortured and tormented. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but that is how Veronica feels right now.
Do you really? Where are they now, bucko?! Hmm?
‘Well… They’re just over there of course.’ Veronica had no idea where ‘just over there’ was - she had no idea where she was herself with the place being so suffocatingly dark. She didn’t want to cry for fear that the clown would take advantage of that and make her situation a whole lot worse. What made matters worse was that Veronica didn’t want to go home anymore; she didn’t want to be anywhere but the false wonderland that Pennywise had shown her earlier. She’d been bad by snapping at him, and this darkness was her punishment. How long would it last before she could be back there again? Veronica was sick of standing in one spot for hours, unable to look at anything but the colour black and forced to wade around in the murky sewage water. ‘Um, Pennywise? Look, I’m sorry I made you mad. I do really like it down here.’
Lights flashed in Veronica’s eyes, dazzling and fazing her both at the same time. The sewers erupted with a bright white light almost like a car’s headlights. Feeling giddy and elated, Veronica began to giggle quietly to herself, feeling her grip on reality slide even further down hill. These were the dead-lights she often heard Georgie murmur about to his younger friend.
This what you wanted, Ronnie?